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the three hundred and eighty-fifth led to the spiteful, but just, sarcasm representation of a “Lord Dun- of Dennis, on the absurdity of a dreary,” or the five hundredth of a slavish adherence to the Aristotelian
Peep. of Day,” or a “ Colleen unities. “A pretty thing," he says, Bawn." In Greece, the dramatic " to see Sempronius and the conperformances orly took place during spirators select a public room in a few days in the spring, or pending Cato's own house, in which to plan the Dionysiac festivals, and in one and arrange their schemes against theatre, which was also the temple of his life, where any lackey or menial a god. With us, they go through the servant accidentally passing could not whole year, and have not the most fail to overhear and report the imremote connexion with religious rites. pending treason.". In London there are twenty-eight In “Iphigenia" the scene of action theatres devoted to every conceivable was supposed to pass in the Grecian form of dramatic entertainment. In camp at Aulis, in front of AgamemAthens, the most approved plays non's tent. Just before the end, were seldom repeated, and never in when the gods had been propitiated the same year. The audiences con by the sacrifice of the heroine, the ducted themselves much as they do curtains were drawn aside, and disat present. They hissed or ap- covered the Grecian fleet in full sail plauded the poet or the performer at from the bay of Aulis, with a favourpleasure, and very insolently, soine-able wind. Critics reared their crests, times going so far as to pelt a bad and were prepared to cavil and deactor with stones. We have not dis- nounce, but the manager forestalled covered that they occasionally sub- and silenced them by this passage stituted oboli for the less costly mis in his preface-“At the conclusion siles, as the Dublin boys in the gal- there is a change of scene. This, leries were wont to use penny pieces, at first, may startle some; but we when we first made their acquaint- have ample evidence to show, that ance some forty years since.
in the ancient Greek theatres, the In 1845, the management of Covent scenes, when necessary, were changed; Garden, inoved chiefly by the popu- and very ingenious and complicated larity of Mendelssohn's music, re- mechanism was lised for the purpose. suscitated the “ Antigope” of So- The Eumenides' of Æschylus, the phocles, after a long sleep of two 'Edipus Coloneus,' the “ Ajax,' and thousand two hundred years, and pre- 'Philoctetes' of Sophocles --all resented it to the London public, in a quire, and must have had changes of new English version, and in all its scenery. On this point we are borne classical severity. The experiment out by the opinions of Müller, Schlewas eminently successful for a time, gel, Franklin, Donaldson, in his in a pecuniary sense, but, nevertheless, Theatre of the Greeks,' and other was not tried again with any other competent authorities." play. In Dublin, the brilliant per- Donaldson says particularly-" To formance of Miss Helen Faucit, an produce the requisite transformations actress of far superior talent to the various means were employed. Decoraoriginal representative of Antigone tions were introduced before the proin the English metropolis, created scenic buildings, which masked them such a sensation that the Irish from the view, and substituted a manager ventured on the “Iphigenia prospeet suitable to the play. These of Aulis,” of Euripides, in the follow- decorations were formed of wood-work ing year. Many of our readers will below ; above were paintings on canrecollect the effect produced by these vas representing our scenes, and like magnificent revivals. In “Antigone," them so arranged on perspective printhe scene represented the vestibule ciples as to produce the proper illuof Creon's palace at Thebes, and sion. No expense or skill seems to never changed, which led to an er- have been spared in the preparation roneous impression that such was an of these scenic representations ; nay, inflexible canon of the Greek stage. it is not improbable that even living Addison thought so long before, trees were occasionally introduced to when he confined the entire action heighten the effect." of “ Cato" to the hall of the Roman The stage machinery appears to patriot's residence at Utica, which have comprehended all that modern ingenuity has devised. Gods descend- Taurominiuin, is one of the finest ed from above, heroes and semi- specimens of a Roman theatre now deities flitted across from side to remaining in Europe. It stands outside, and denizens of Tartarus rose side the modern town, on the top of froin below. By a contrivance as in ge- a lofty hill, and is in wonderful prenious as any of the mechanical suhtle- servation. The audience part exactly ties recently employed in the “Tem- faces Mount Etna, distant in a direct pest” and “* A Midsummer Night's line about fifty miles ; but in that Dream,” Aurora was caught up, and clear atmosphere every object, both whirled through the clouds, bearing in outline and detail, is as distinctly in her arms the dead body of her son defined as if it lay within a few yards Memnon. In comedy, the scene was of the spectator's feet. If an erupmore frequently changed than in tion occurred during the perforinance, tragedy. To conceal the stage during and eruptions were more frequent in this operation, a curtain, wound round those days than now, they suspended a roller beneath the stage, was drawn the play. We learn from old records, up through a slit between the front that they drew aside the screen which and the proscerium.
occupied the back of the stage, and The greatest disadvantage under exhibited the blazing volcano, as if which the Greek and Roman actors set in a frame. The effect is describedl laboured, next to the size of the thea- as having been most singular and tres, was the necessity of wearing a impressive. More years ago than the mask, which entirely shrouded the writer of this notice likes to chronicle, expression of the features, while the he was quartered in Sicily, and went pipe through which they spoke inter- with some brother officers from Mesfered sailly with the modulation of sina to see an eruption which suddenly the voice. The mask was supposed burst forth, and to ascend to the to reflect the character personified by crater. At about eleven o'clock, on a the wearer; it was made of bronze beautiful autumnal night, he sat in or copper, and so contrived as to in- the centre seat of the theatre at Taorcrease the power of utterance, and to mina, and witnessed the magnificent enable the actor to be heard at the spectacle furnished by nature and extremities of the vast area in front not by art, so powerfully stamped on of which he stood. The buskin added his imagination by the descriptions formidably to his height; and this he had read, and far, indeed, exceeded contrivance Tertullian again empha- by the reality, which he had little tically denounces, in his treatise, prospect of ever enjoying. “De Spectaculis," as of diabolic ori- When the Western Empire went gin, intended as a deliberate contra- down before the avalanche of barbardiction of the beautiful and simply ism which swept away its landmarks, intelligible expression of our Saviour, and night fell upon the world, the “Which of you by taking thought drama, with its kindred arts, subsided can adil one cubit to his stature ?” into a sleep of centuries, leaving nei“For this,” says the wild African ther vestiges nor fruits, beyond the enthusiast,“ the devil invented high- eulogiuuns contained in the writings heeled shoes, and exalted the actors of a few poets, philosophers, and on buskins, to convict Christ of false- scholars, and the scanty fragments hood, because he said, no one could which have escaped annihilation. The make himself taller."
reliquiäe of the Greek tragedies we Without the varying expression of have already named. Of the fifty the eye, the play of the features, and comedies of Aristophanes, we possess the changing tones of the voice, what only eleven. Of the one hundred and could the acting of the ancients have eight effusions of the purer muse of been? It is mentioned, that Roscius Menander, we have nothing beyond a often threw aside the mask, cast away few isolated passages. In the glowthe pipe, and gave his natural powers ing days of Rome, more than one full play. If he did so, he was a wiser thousand plays were in general circuman than his generation, and had a lation, of which the names and writers truer feeling of the art dramatic than have equally perished, leaving only was possessed by the great majority the small residuum of twenty comeof his contemporaries.
dies by Plautus, out of one hundred At Taormina, in Sicily, the ancient and thirty; and the six of Terence, a
trifling balance of one hundred and times fancy that his prophetic mind,
Ralph Roister Doister,” now settled British Museum, we find that not to have been the first regular English many years later they had increased play, “Gammer Gurbon's Needle,” totwenty-three. Either number seems
Corloduc," and "A Midsummer incredible, and much more in proporNight's Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet," tion than we have now, judging by and “Hamlet,” the narrow interval the comparatively small amount of scarcely exceeds thirty years. population at the earlier epochs.
Malone, who was an anxious, as When Gossen wrote his “School of well as a careful inquirer, says, that Abuse,” in 1579, it seems that plays there are only thirty-four regular were usually acted on Sundays. plays now extant which were printed Afterwards they were performed on before 1592, about which time Shake- that and other days indiscriminately. speare commenced dramatic writing. Gossen says-“The players, because Between 1592 and 1600 twenty-four they are allowed to play every Sunmore were published or exhibited, day, make four or five Sundays at some of which were probably written least in every week.” Malone rebefore any of Shakespeare's. The marks—“From the silence of Prynne pedigree to Dry.len’s alteration of on this point, it has been supposed * Troilus and Cressida” was spoken that the practice of exhibiting playson by Betterton, as representing the the Lord's day was discontinued in Ghost of Shakespeare. Dryden makes 1633; but I doubt whether this con
jecture be well founded, for it appears “I found not, but created first the stage.” had not been abolished in the third
from a contemporary writer that it Dr. Johnson observes, in his preface: year of Charles the First, 1627–8 :"The greater part of Shakespeare'sexcellence was the product of his own
And seldom have they leisure for a play,
Or masque, except upon God's holiday.' genius. He found the English stage in a state of the utmost rudeness, But if plays had been commonly neither character nor dialogue were attended on Sundays, Prynne would yet understood.” Dr. Johnson, in all never have passed over such a leadprobability, was but little acquainted ing, argument against the stage. with the plays written before those Besides, le himself allows (p. 642), of Shakespeare. Dryden's assertion is that there were seldom any plays or certainly wrong. Shakespeare did not masks at Court, even upon Săturcreate the English stage, although day nights. he improved immeasurably what he Prynne's famous book, which we found. Some of the thirty plays enu- recommend no one to waste time in merated hy Malone as written before reading, should it come across them, 1592, were as regular as those of is a thick, squatquarto of 1,016 closely Shakespeare, however inferior in all compressed pages, which took three other respects. It must have been a years to write and four to print. This sad mortification to the great bard to bitter Puritan figures prominently in see his delicate and refined creations Disraeli's catalogue of authors who of female beauty, mental and per- have ruined their publishers. His sonal, his Juliets, Rosalinds, Violas, heavy lucubrations were as endless as Ophelias, and Imogens, consigned to they were unsaleable. The title of boys or bearded men; and we some- the work we are now speaking of
contains a good epitome of what fol- position of Heaven. He was so far lows: "Histriomastix, the Players' from conceiving his book to be a libel, Scourge, or Actors' Tragedie; where- that he presented a copy to Mr. in is largely evidence, by divers argu- Attorney-General Noy himself, who ments, by the authorities of sundry forthwith cited him before that texts of Seripture, of fifty-five Synods, righteous and fair-dealing court, the of seventy-one Fathers, of numerous Star Chamber. Noy stated that Councils, &c., &c., that stage-plays although Mr. Prynne knew very well are sinful, heathenish, lewd, ungodly that the Queen, the Lords of the spectacles, and most pernicious cor- Council, and the Ladies of the Bedruptions, condemned in all ages as chamber, were sometimes spectators intolerable mischiefs to churches, to of masks and dances, yet he tad republics, to the manners, minds, and railed not only against stage-plays souls of men ; and that the profession and dancing, but against all such as of play-poets, of stage-players, toge- beheld them. That in his libel he ther with the penning, acting, and had made use of infamous terms frequenting of stage.plays, are un- against His Majesty, had cast an lawful, infamous, and misbecoming to aspersion on the Queen, and railing Christians; besides other particulars and uncharitable censures against all concerning dancing, diving,
Christian people. Pryone was senhealth-drinking, &c., &c. By William tenced to stand in the pillory in two Prynne, an Utter (outer) Barrister of places, to lose a portion of both his Lincoln's Inn.” Dr. Styles, a kindred ears, to pay a fine of five thousand spirit, calls Prynne's work, “in more pounds to the King, and to be imrespects than one, a most formidable prisoned for life ; which cruel senvolume.” Does the worthy divine tence was carried out to the letter, mean to be latently jocular ?
and would have been even more The essence of the book may be cruel had the advice of the Earl of compressed in a syllogism :
Dorset been followed, who proposed, Whatever has been condemned by in addition, that he should be branded the Fathers and Councils ought not on the forehead and slit in the nose. to be tolerated in a Christian country; Neale, in his “History of the Puri
But the stage has been condemned tans," says, very justly, “Prynne's by the Fathers and Councils.
book is a most tedious and heavy Ergo-the stage ought not to be affair, so that it was not likely many tolerated.
would be induced to read it. This To this there is a short answer:- circumstance shows the weakness, as We are not bound by the authority the severity of the punishment does and interpretation of the Fathers and the wickedness, of those who treated Councils, but solely by reason and him with such barbarity. But Prynne the Scriptures.
was not yet tamed. He continued to Prynne's book has been quoted and write against prelacy in prison, until relied upon ever since it appeared, for a virulent pamphlet, entitled, down to our own age, by the antago- “News from Ipswich," he was again nists of the theatre, as their Tela- sentenced by the Star Chamber to a monien shield. It is evident that he second fine of five thousand pounds, to had amassed a vast congeries of crude lose the remainder of his ears in a and profitless learning, but he had second pillory, and to be branded on little judgment, and not an atom of each cheek with the letters, S. Li, sigcandour, while his mind was soured nifying seditious libeller. We may and his understanding perverted by bless our stars that there is no Star ultra-fanaticism. He gravely argues Chamber now. Prynne regained his that players, representing imaginary liberty under the Protectorate, beevents and characters, are by their came member for Newport, opposed profession hypocrites, and that all Cromwell, and assisted in the restoracting is hypocrisy. He attributes ation of Charles the Second, whomade the fall of the scaffolds in Paris him Chief Keeper of the Records in the Garden, where crowds were assem- Tower, where his Majesty said he bled to see a bear-beating, and many would find ample occupation in abuslives were lost, not to the excess of ing the Catholics. He did so, unrepressure, which the fabric was unable mittingly, until his death in 1669. to bear, but to the miraculous inter- The early Christian fathers, as might be expected, were vehement time; but, as we have already binted, opponents of the theatre. But what in the Ludi Scenici, the intrigues of was the theatre they denounced ? the gods and heroes were represented No longer the intellectual drama of on the stage with the utmost licence. the age of Pericles and Demosthenes, The outrageous mixture of exhibiof Lælius and Cicero, which contained tions which occurred in the second, high precepts of morality and religion, third, and fourth centuries, the exbut the lowest order of games, and traordinary jumble of opposite relifilthy exhibitions of the arenas to gions, and this blending together an which they had declined. Well might audience half Christian and half Papious minds exclaim against anything gan, forms a union of circumstances springing from an art which had been such as can never occur again ; and, corrupted to such disgusting abuses, on this ground, the view taken by the and we find it difficult to credit the early fathers of the stage, as they historian Gibbon, when he tells us, witnessed it, cannot by reasonable quoting from Procopius, that Theo- minds be applied to the dramatic art, dora, afterwards elevated by Justinian as it stood when condemned by Prynne to the Imperial throne, exhibited her- and Collier. self on the public stage at Constantin- But, moreover, the venerable fa. ople in a state of primitive nudity, thers, in their zeal with hold the wearing only the narrow girdle which impurities of the ancient playwrights the law prescribed. The reasonable from the community at large, do not advocate of the stage shudders when appear to have carried their scruples he thinks that such low sensuality so far as to reject the aid of mistaken can in any way be connected with genius, when it could assist themthe art he believes to be both use- selves or strengthen their arguments. ful and instructive; but he is con- Their heavy tomes, especially those soled by ascertaining that these abuses of Justin Martyr, Clemens of Alexoccurred when the world was sunk in andria, and Eusebius, are frequently general profligacy, and nothing can enlivened by quotations from lost be said to flourish when only its plays, the Greek comic writers in baser attributes are hailed with particular, which are to be found noapplause.
where else. To the more enlightened Sir Walter Scott, in his article on taste, or lucky partiality of Chrysosthe drama, in the supplement to the tom, we owe the preservation of Ari"Encyclopædia Britannica," says, “It stophanes. Continually engaged in must be noticed, that the early fa- argumentative and controversial writthers' exprobation of the theatre is ings, there were somewho occasionally founded, first, upon its origin as con- condescended to quote a passage, as nected with heathen superstition; and it served their purpose, from these secondly, on the beastly and abomin- proscribed sources, either to help out able licence practised in the panto- their wit or illustrate their meaning. mimes, which, although they made Notwithstanding this expedient lino part of the regular drama, were cence, we could scarcely expect to presented in the same place, and be- find avowed dramatists amongst the fore the same audience. "We avoid early fathers; but towards the end of your shows and games, says Tertul- the fourth century, Gregory Nazianlian, “because we doubt the warrant zen, surnamed “the Divine," a poet of their origin ; they savour of super- as well as an archbishop, supplied the stition and idolatry, and we dislike place of the pagan plays, banished the entertainment, as abhorring the from the stage at Constantinople, by heathen worship on which they are the introduction of dramas from stofounded. It was not only the con- ries in the Old and New Testament. nexion of the theatre with pagan su- He wrote many of these compositions, perstition that offended the primitive one of which-his tragedy, called Church, but also the profligacy of Xplotos Flaoxwn, or “Christ's Passion,” some of the entertainments which is still extant. In the prologue, it is were exhibited.”. There cannot be said to be an imitation of Euripides. much objected to in the regular Roman Speaking of this, Milton says, in dramas in this particular; since even his preface to “Samson Agonistes," Collier allows them to be more deco- “Gregory Nazianzen, a father of the rous than the British stage of his own church, thought it not unbecoming