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Lewis thus treat of the naarriage between their children.”
Bri. Good Monsieur Lewis, I esteem myself
Lewis. Monsieur Brisac
Bri. You may, my lord, securely,
So much for Fletcher. Cibber changes the names of the two old gentlemen into
those of Charino and Antonio, and thus
Ant. Without compliment, my old friend, I shall think myself much honored in your alliance: our families are both ancient, our children young, and able to support them; and I think the sooner we set them to work the better.
Cha. Sir, you offer fair and nobly, and shall find I dare meet you in the same line of honor: and I hope, since I have but one girl in the world, you wont think me a troublesome old fool, if I endeavour to bestow her to her worth: therefore, if you please, before we shake hands, a word or two by the bye, for I have some considerable questions to ask you.
Ant. Ask 'em.
Cha. And you are willing that one of them should marry my daughter.
Cha. And you are also content that the said Angellina shall survey them both, and (with my allowance) take to her lawful husband, which of 'em she pleases.
Cha. And you farther promise, that the person by her (and me) so chosen, (be it older or younger) shall be your sole heir; that is to say, shall be in conditional possession, of at least three parts of your estate.
You know the conditions, and this you positively promise ?
Ant. To perform.
Cha. Why then as the last token of my full consent and approbation, I give you my hand.
Ant. There's mine.
“ Strike out an expression or two of Fletcher's,” exclaims the indignantly triumphant editor, “and a couple of graziers would put more sense into an ox bargain.”
-The instance here adduced, however unfavourable to modern taste, is calculated to make an impression not very unjust.
Various observations will doubtless be made by the reader on the perusal of these early dramatists. He will particularly remark their entire disregard of the unities, which though sometimes revolting, from it's extreme licentiousness, perpetually affords situations highly calculated for poetic exertions. There is another point of still more importance. They were inore fortunate than writers of the same class at present in having a much wider range for the choice of their subjects. The laws of the drama being not so precisely fixed gave them every latitude, even to the most licentious fiction, in the selection of their plots. Such plots were mostly taken from some popular romance, or dependant upon magical powers, and if it be difficult to re
present men as acting in fictitious situations so as to impress an audience with the belief, that if the situations could occur, the mode of action would be precisely that displayed on the stage, we must at the same time feel that the judgment of criticism is less rigid, where our experience of human nature gives us no exact rule by which to decide, and that there are occasionally beauties in the very formation of such plots, which in some degree compensate for other errors. At present the sole province of the drama is considered to be the representation of real life, or if the imagination or romance be consulted, it is to supply the stage merely with a vehicle for splendid decoration. That our modern rule is unnecessarily severe may be sufficiently proved by the “Tempest and Midsummer Night's Dream” of Shakespeare,
The Faithful Sheperdess” of Fletcher, and “ The Picture” of Massinger, each of which plays is crouded with every excellence,
, and we may fairly conclude, that if it were relaxed, we should still be favored with dramatic efforts from the higher class of genius, which now shrinks with alarm from the severity of a criticism avowedly founded upon every man's own experience.
One modern author has indeed made some attempts to recall ideal beings to the drama, and in one of his plays he has eminently succeeded. Generally speaking however, the introduction of ghosts is, I think, the least pleasing of this style of dramatic composition.
The political commotions and the temper of the times which marked the period between the middle of the reign of Charles I. and the restoration, as they were unfavorable to literature in general, so were they peculiarly hostile to the drama. We judge of the truth of this assertion by the fact, that the abolition of all play-houses for ever was an article positively insisted upon in the preliminaries to the treaty of Uxbridge. The age however immediately succeeding the restoration amply paid for this attack. The people of England in- . deed at this time exhibited a most striking instance upon the largest possible scale of the tendency of the human mind to rush between extremes. They who but a few years before had displayed a real or affected regard for religion in the most trivial circumstances of life, who in a solemn treaty had stipulated the abolition of the theatre, amongst whom the cold and cheerless