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commentators are much at variance with respect to their nature. In general it may be assumed, that the theatres of the ancients were constructed on excellent acoustic principles.

Even the lowest tier of the amphitheatre was raised considerably above the orchestra, and opposite to it was the stage, at an equal degree of elevation. The hollow semicircle of the orchestra was unoccupied by spectators, and was designed for another purpose. However, it was otherwise with the Romans, though indeed the arrangement of their theatres does not at present concern us.

The stage consisted of a strip which stretched from one end of the building to the other, and of which the depth bore little proportion to this breadth. This was called the _logeum_, in Latin _pulpitum_, and the middle of it was the usual place for the persons who spoke. Behind this middle part, the scene went inwards in a quadrangular form, with less depth, however, than breadth. The space thus enclosed was called the _proscenium_. The front of the logeum towards the orchestra was ornamented with pilasters and small statues between them. The stage, erected on a foundation of stonework, was a wooden platform resting on rafters. The surrounding appurtenances of the stage, together with the rooms required for the machinery, were also of wood. The wall of the building, directly opposite to the seats of the spectators, was raised to a level with the uppermost tier.

The scenic decoration was contrived in such a manner, that the principal and nearest object covered the background, and the prospects of distance were given at the two sides; the very reverse of the mode adopted by us. The latter arrangement had also its rules: on the left, was the town to which the palace, temple, or whatever occupied the middle, belonged; on the right, the open country, landscape, mountains, sea-coast, &c. The side-scenes were composed of triangles which turned on a pivot beneath; and in this manner the change of scene was effected. According to an observation on Virgil, by Servius, the change of scene was partly produced by revolving, and partly by withdrawing. The former applies to the lateral decorations, and the latter to the middle of the background. The partition in the middle opened, disappeared at both sides, and exhibited to view a new picture. But all the parts of the scene were not always changed at the same time. In the back or central scene, it is probable, that much which with us is only painted was given bodily. If this represented a palace or temple, there was usually in the proscenium an altar, which in the performance answered a number of purposes.

The decoration was for the most part architectural, but occasionally also a painted landscape, as of Caucasus in the _Prometheus_, or in the _Philoctetes_, of the desert island of Lemnos, and the rocks with its cavern. From a passage of Plato it is clear, that the Greeks carried the illusions of theatrical perspective much farther than, judging from some wretched landscapes discovered in Herculaneum, we should be disposed to allow.

In the back wall of the stage there was one main entrance, and two side doors. It has been maintained, that from them it might be discovered whether an actor played a principal or under part, as in the first case he came in by the main entrance, but in the second, entered from either of the sides. But this should be understood with the proviso, that this must have varied according to the nature of the piece. As the middle scene was generally a palace, in which the principal characters generally of royal descent resided, they naturally came on the stage through the great door, while the servants dwelt in the wings. But besides these three entrances, which were directly opposite to the spectators, and were real doors, with appropriate architectural decorations, there were also four side entrances, to which the name of doors cannot properly apply: two, namely, on the stage on the right and the left, towards the inner angles of the proscenium, and two farther off, in the orchestra, also right and left. The latter were intended properly for the chorus, but were likewise not unfrequently used by the actors, who in such cases ascended to the stage by one or other of the double flight of steps which ran from the orchestra to the middle of the logeum. The entering from the right or the left of itself indicated the place from which the dramatic personages must be supposed to come. The situation of these entrances serves to explain many passages in the ancient dramas, where the persons standing in the middle see some one advancing, long before he approaches them.

Somewhere beneath the seats of the spectators, a flight of stairs was constructed, which was called the Charonic, and by which, unseen by the audience, the shadows of the departed, ascended into the orchestra, and thence to the stage. The furthermost brink of the logeum must sometimes have represented the sea shore. Moreover the Greeks in general skilfully availed themselves even of extra-scenic matters, and made them subservient to the stage effect. Thus, I doubt not, but that in the _Eumenides_ the spectators were twice addressed as an assembled people; first, as the Greeks invited by the Pythoness to consult the oracle; and a second time as the Athenian multitude, when Pallas, by the herald, commands silence during the trial about to commence. So too the frequent appeals to heaven were undoubtedly addressed to the real heaven; and when Electra on her first appearance exclaims: “O holy light, and thou air co-expansive with earth!” she probably turned towards the actual sun ascending in the heavens. The whole of this procedure is highly deserving of praise; and though modern critics have censured the mixture of reality and imitation, as destructive of theatrical illusion, this only proves that they have misunderstood the essence of the illusion which a work of art aims at producing. If we are to be truly deceived by a picture, that is, if we are to believe in the reality of the object which we see, we must not perceive its limits, but look at it through an opening; the frame at once declares it for a picture. Now in stage-scenery we cannot avoid the use of architectural contrivances, productive of the same effect on dramatic representation as frames on pictures. It is consequently much better not to attempt to disguise this fact, but leaving this kind of illusion for those cases where it can be advantageously employed, to take it as a permitted licence occasionally to step out of the limits of mere scenic decoration. It was, generally speaking, a principle of the Greeks, with respect to stage imitation, either to require a perfect representation, and where this could not be accomplished, to be satisfied with merely symbolical allusions.

The machinery for the descent of gods through the air, or the withdrawing of men from the earth, was placed aloft behind the walls of the two sides of the scene, and consequently removed from the sight of the spectators. Even in the time of Aeschylus, great use was already made of it, as in the _Prometheus_ he not only brings Oceanus through the air on a griffin, but also in a winged chariot introduces the whole choir of ocean nymphs, at least fifteen in number. There were also hollow places beneath the stage into which, when necessary, the personages could disappear, and contrivances for thunder and lightning, for the apparent fall or burning of a house, &c.

To the hindmost wall of the scene an upper story could be added; whenever, for instance, it was wished to represent a tower with a wide prospect, or the like. Behind the great middle entrance there was a space for the Exostra, a machine of a semicircular form, and covered above, which represented the objects contained in it as in a house. This was used for grand strokes of theatrical effect, as we may see from many pieces. On such occasions the folding-doors of the entrance would naturally be open, or the curtain which covered it withdrawn.

A stage curtain, which, we clearly see from a description of Ovid, was not dropped, but drawn upwards, is mentioned both by Greek and Roman writers, and the Latin appellation, _aulaeum_, is even borrowed from the Greeks. I suspect, however, that the curtain was not much used at first on the Attic stage. In the pieces of Aeschylus and Sophocles, the scene is evidently empty at the opening as well as the conclusion, and seems therefore to have required no preparation which needed to be shut out from the view of the spectators. However, in many of the pieces of Euripides, and perhaps also in the _Oedipus Tyrannus_, the stage is filled from the very first, and presents a standing group which could not well have been assembled under the very eyes of the spectators. It must, besides, be remembered, that it was only the comparatively small proscenium, and not the logeum, which was covered by the curtain which disappeared through a narrow opening between two of the boards of the flooring, being wound up on a roller beneath the stage.

The entrances of the chorus were beneath in the orchestra, in which it generally remained, and in which also it performed its solemn dance, moving backwards and forwards during the choral songs. In the front of the orchestra, opposite to the middle of the scene, there was an elevation with steps, resembling an altar, as high as the stage, which was called the _Thymele_. This was the station of the chorus when it did not sing, but merely looked on as an interested spectator of the action. At such times the choragus, or leader of the chorus, took his station on the top of the thymele, to see what was passing on the stage, and to converse with the characters there present. For though the choral song was common to the whole, yet when it took part in the dialogue, one usually spoke for all the rest; and hence we may account for the shifting from _thou_ to _ye_ in addressing them. The thymele was situated in the very centre of the building; all the measurements were made from it, and the semicircle of the amphitheatre was described round it as the centre. It was, therefore, an excellent contrivance to place the chorus, who were the ideal representatives of the spectators, in the very spot where all the radii converged.

The tragical imitation of the ancients was altogether ideal and rhythmical; and in forming a judgment of it, we must always keep this in view. It was ideal, in so far as it aimed at the highest grace and dignity; and rhythmical, insomuch as the gestures and inflections of voice were more solemnly measured than in real life. As the statuary of the Greeks, setting out, with almost scientific strictness, with the most general conception, sought to embody it again in various general characters which were gradually invested with the charms of life, so that the individual was the last thing to which they descended; in like manner in the mimetic art, they began with the idea (the delineation of persons with heroical grandeur, more than human dignity, and ideal beauty), then passed to character, and made passion the last of all; which, in the collision with the requisitions of either of the others, was forced to give way. Fidelity of representation was less their object than beauty; with us it is exactly the reverse. On this principle, the use of masks, which appears astonishing to us, was not only justifiable, but absolutely essential; far from considering them as a makeshift, the Greeks would certainly, and with justice too, have looked upon it as a makeshift to be obliged to allow a player with vulgar, ignoble, or strongly marked features, to represent an Apollo or a Hercules; nay, rather they would have deemed it downright profanation. How little is it in the power of the most finished actor to change the character of his features! How prejudicial must this be to the expression of passion, as all passion is tinged more or less strongly by the character. Nor is there any need to have recourse to the conjecture that they changed the masks in the different scenes, for the purpose of exhibiting a greater degree of joy or sorrow. I call it conjecture, though Barthélemy, in his _Anacharsis_, considers it a settled point. He cites no authorities, and I do not recollect any. For the expedient would by no means have been sufficient, as the passions often change in the same scene, and this has reduced modern critics to suppose, that the masks exhibited different appearances on the two sides; and that now this, now that side was turned towards the spectators, according to circumstances. Voltaire, in his Essay on the Tragedy of the Ancients and Moderns, prefixed to _Semiramis_, has actually gone this length. Amidst a multitude of supposed improprieties which he heaps together to confound the admirers of ancient tragedy, he urges the following: _Aucune nation_ (that is to say, excepting the Greeks) _ne fait paraître ses acteurs sur des espèces d’échasses, le visage couvert d’un masque, qui exprime la douleur d’un côté et la joie de l’autre._ After a conscientious inquiry into the authorities for an assertion so very improbable, and yet so boldly made, I can only find one passage in Quinctilian, lib. xi. cap. 3, and an allusion of Platonius still more vague. (Vide _Aristoph. ed. Küster, prolegom._ p. x.) Both passages refer only to the new comedy, and only amount to this, that in some characters the eyebrows were dissimilar. As to the intention of this, I shall say a word or two hereafter, when I come to consider the new Greek comedy. Voltaire, however, is without excuse, as the mention of the cothurnus leaves no doubt that he alluded to tragic masks. But his error had probably no such learned origin. In most cases, it would be a fruitless task to trace the source of his mistakes. The whole description of the Greek tragedy, as well as that of the cothurnus in particular, is worthy of the man whose knowledge of antiquity was such, that in his Essay on Tragedy, prefixed to _Brutus_, he boasts of having introduced the Roman Senate on the stage in _red mantles_. No; the countenance remained from beginning to end the very same, as we may see from the ancient masks cut out in stone. For the expression of passion, the glances of the eye, the motion of the arms and hands, the attitudes, and, lastly, the tones of the voice, remained there. We complain of the loss of the play of the features, without reflecting, that at such a great distance, its effect would have been altogether lost.

We are not now inquiring whether, without the use of masks, it may not be possible to attain a higher degree of separate excellence in the mimetic art. This we would very willingly allow. Cicero, it is true, speaks of the expression, the softness, and delicacy of the acting of Roscius, in the same terms that a modern critic would apply to Garrick or Schröder. But I will not lay any stress on the acting of this celebrated player, the excellence of which has become proverbial, because it appears from a passage in Cicero that he frequently played without a mask, and that this was preferred: by his contemporaries. I doubt, however, whether this was ever the case among the Greeks. But the same writer relates, that actors in general, for the sake of acquiring the most perfect purity and flexibility of voice (and not merely the musical voice, otherwise the example would not have been applicable to the orator), submitted to such a course of uninterrupted exercises, as our modern players, even the French, who of all follow the strictest training, would consider a most intolerable oppression. For the display of dexterity in the mimetic art, without the accompaniment of words, was carried by the ancients in their pantomimes, to a degree of perfection quite unknown to the moderns. In tragedy, however, the great object in the art was the due subordination of every element; the whole was to appear animated by one and the same spirit, and hence, not merely the poetry, but the musical accompaniment, the scenical decoration, and training of the actors, all issued from the poet. The player was a mere instrument in his hands, and his merit consisted in the accuracy with which he filled his part, and by no means in arbitrary bravura, or ostentatious display of his own skill.

As from the nature of their writing materials, they had not a facility of making many copies, the parts were learnt from the repeated recitation of the poet, and the chorus was exercised in the same manner. This was called _teaching a play_. As the poet was also a musician, and for the most part a player likewise, this must have greatly contributed to the perfection of the performance.

We may safely allow that the task of the modern player, who must change his person without concealing it, is much more difficult; but this difficulty affords no just criterion for deciding which of the two the preference must be awarded, as a skilful representation of the noble and the beautiful.

As the features of the player acquired a more decided expression from the mask, as his voice was strengthened by a contrivance attached to the mask, so the cothurnus, consisting of several soles of considerable thickness, as may be seen in the ancient statues of Melpomene, raised his figure considerably above the usual standard. The female parts were also played by men, as the voice and general carriage of women would have been inadequate to the energy of tragic heroines.

The forms of the masks, [Footnote: We have obtained a knowledge of them from the imitations in stone which have come down to us. They display both beauty and variety. That great variety must have taken place in the tragical department (in the comic we can have no doubt about the matter) is evident from the rich store of technical expressions in the Greek language, for every gradation of the age, and character of masks. See the _Onomasticon_ of Jul. Pollux. In the marble masks, however, we can neither see the thinness of the mass from which the real masks were executed, the more delicate colouring, nor the exquisite mechanism of the fittings. The abundance of excellent workmen possessed by Athens, in everything which had a reference to the plastic arts, will warrant the conjecture that they were in this respect inimitable. Those who have seen the masks of wax in the grand style, which in some degree contain the whole head, lately contrived at the Roman carnival, may form to themselves a pretty good idea of the theatrical masks of the ancients. They imitate life, even to its movements, in a most masterly manner, and at such a distance as that from which the ancient players were seen, the deception is most perfect. They always contain the white of the eye, as we see it in the ancient masks, and the person covered sees merely through the aperture left for the iris. The ancients must sometimes have gone still farther, and contrived also an iris for the masks, according to the anecdote of the singer Thamyris, who, in a piece which was probably of Sophocles, made his appearance with a black eye. Even accidental circumstances were imitated; for instance, the cheeks of Tyro, streaming blood from the cruel conduct of his stepmother. The head from the mask must no doubt have appeared somewhat large for the rest of the figure; but this disproportion, in tragedy at least, would not be perceived from the elevation of the cothurnus.] and the whole appearance of the tragic figures, we may easily suppose, were sufficiently beautiful and dignified. We should do well to have the ancient sculpture always present to our minds; and the most accurate conception, perhaps, that we can possibly have, is to imagine them so many statues in the grand style endowed with life and motion. But, as in sculpture, they were fond of dispensing as much as possible with dress, for the sake of exhibiting the more essential beauty of the figure; on the stage they would endeavour, from an opposite principle, to clothe as much as they could well do, both from a regard to decency, and because the actual forms of the body would not correspond sufficiently with the beauty of the countenance. They would also exhibit their divinities, which in sculpture we always observe either entirely naked, or only half covered, in a complete dress. They had recourse to a number of means for giving a suitable strength to the forms of the limbs, and thus restoring proportion to the increased height of the player.

The great breadth of the theatre in proportion to its depth must have given to the grouping of the figures the simple and distinct order of the bas-relief. We moderns prefer on the stage, as elsewhere, groups of a picturesque description, with figures more closely crowded together, and partly concealing one another, and partly retiring into the distance; but the ancients were so little fond of foreshortening, that even in their painting they generally avoided it. Their movement kept time with the rhythmus of the declamation, and in this accompaniment the utmost grace and beauty were aimed at. The poetical conception required a certain degree of repose in the action, and the keeping together certain masses, so as to exhibit a succession of _statuesque_ situations, and it is not improbable that the player remained for some time motionless in one attitude. But we are not to suppose from this, that the Greeks were contented with a cold and feeble representation of the passions. How could we reconcile such a supposition with the fact, that whole lines of their tragedies are frequently dedicated to inarticulate exclamations of pain, with which we have nothing to correspond in any of our modern languages?

It has been often conjectured that the delivery of their dialogue resembled the modern recitative. For such a conjecture there is no other foundation than the fact that the Greek, like almost all southern languages, was pronounced with a greater musical inflexion than ours of the North. In other respects their tragic declamation must, I conceive, have been altogether unlike recitative, being both much more measured, and also far removed from its studied and artificial modulation.

So, again, the ancient tragedy, because it was accompanied with music and dancing, [Footnote: Even Barthélemy falls into this error in a note to the 70th Chapter of _Anacharsis_.] has also been frequently compared with the opera. But this comparison betrays an utter ignorance of the spirit of classical antiquity. Their dancing and music had nothing but the name in common with ours. In tragedy the primary object was the poetry, and everything else was strictly and truly subordinate to it. But in the opera the poetry is merely an accessory, the means of connecting the different parts together; and it is almost lost amidst its many and more favoured accompaniments. The best prescription for the composition of an opera is, take a rapid poetical sketch and then fill up and colour the outlines by the other arts. This anarchy of the arts, where music, dancing, and decoration are seeking to outvie each other by the profuse display of their most dazzling charms, constitutes the very essence of the opera. What sort of opera-music would it be, which should set the words to a mere rhythmical accompaniment of the simplest modulations? The fantastic magic of the opera consists altogether in the revelry of emulation between the different means, and in the medley of their profusion. This charm would at once be destroyed by any approximation to the severity of the ancient taste in any one point, even in that of the costume; for the contrast would render the variety in all the other departments even the more insupportable. Gay, tinselled, spangled draperies suit best to the opera; and hence many things which have been censured as unnatural, such as exhibiting heroes warbling and trilling in the excess of despondency, are perfectly justifiable. This fairy world is not peopled by real men, but by a singular kind of singing creatures. Neither is it any disadvantage that the opera is brought before us in a language which we do not generally understand; the words are altogether lost in the music, and the language which is most harmonious and musical, and contains the greatest number of open vowels for the airs, and distinct accents for recitative, is therefore the best. It would be as incongruous to attempt to give to the opera the simplicity of the Grecian Tragedy, as it is absurd to think of comparing them together.

In the syllabic composition, which then at least prevailed universally in Grecian music, the solemn choral song, of which we may form to ourselves some idea from our artless national airs, and more especially from our church-tunes, had no other instrumental accompaniment than a single flute, which was such as not in the slightest degree to impair the distinctness of the words. Otherwise it must hare increased the difficulty of the choruses and lyrical songs, which, in general, are the part which _we_ find it the hardest to understand of the ancient tragedy, and as it must also have been for contemporary auditors. They abound in the most involved constructions, the most unusual expressions, and the boldest images and recondite allusions. Why then should the poets have lavished such labour and art upon them, if it were all to be lost in the delivery? Such a display of ornament without an object would have been very unlike Grecian ways of thinking.

In the syllabic measures of their tragedies, there generally prevails a highly finished regularity, but by no means a stiff symmetrical uniformity. Besides the infinite variety of the lyrical strophes, which the poet invented for each occasion, they have also a measure to suit the transition in the tone of mind from the dialogue to the lyric, the anapest; and two for the dialogue itself, one of which, by far the most usual, the iambic trimeter, denoted the regular progress of the action, and the other, the trochaic tetrameter, was expressive of the impetuousness of passion. It would lead us too far into the depths of metrical science, were we to venture at present on a more minute account of the structure and significance of these measures. I merely wished to make this remark, as so much has been said of the simplicity of the ancient tragedy, which, no doubt, exists in the general plan, at least in the two oldest poets; whereas in the execution and details the richest variety of poetical ornament is employed. Of course it must be evident that the utmost accuracy in the delivery of the different modes of versification was expected from the player, as the delicacy of the Grecian ear would not excuse, even in an orator, the false quantity of a single syllable.


Essence of the Greek Tragedies–Ideality of the Representation–Idea of Fate–Source of the Pleasure derived from Tragical Representations–Import of the Chorus–The materials of Greek Tragedy derived from Mythology– Comparison with the Plastic Arts.

We come now to the essence of Greek tragedy. That in conception it was ideal, is universally allowed; this, however, must not be understood as implying that all its characters were depicted as morally perfect. In such a case what room could there be for that contrast and collision which the very plot of a drama requires?–They have their weaknesses, errors, and even crimes, but the manners are always elevated above reality, and every person is invested with as high a portion of dignity as was compatible with his part in the action. But this is not all. The ideality of the representation chiefly consisted in the elevation of every thing in it to a higher sphere. Tragic poetry wished to separate the image of humanity which it presented to us, from the level of nature to which man is in reality chained down, like a slave of the soil. How was this to be accomplished? By exhibiting to us an image hovering in the air? But this would have been incompatible with the law of gravitation and with the earthly materials of which our bodies are framed. Frequently, what is praised in art as _ideal_ is really nothing more. But this would give us nothing more than airy evanescent shadows incapable of making any durable impression on the mind. The Greeks, however, in their artistic creations, succeeded most perfectly, in combining the ideal with the real, or, to drop school terms, an elevation more than human with all the truth of life, and in investing the manifestation of an idea with energetic corporeity. They did not allow their figures to flit about without consistency in empty space, but they fixed the statue of humanity on the eternal and immovable basis of moral liberty; and that it might stand there unshaken, formed it of stone or brass, or some more massive substance than the bodies of living men, making an impression by its very weight, and from its very elevation and magnificence only the more completely subject to the laws of gravity.

Inward liberty and external necessity are the two poles of the tragic world. It is only by contrast with its opposite that each of these ideas is brought into full manifestation. As the feeling of an internal power of self-determination elevates the man above the unlimited dominion of impulse and the instincts of nature; in a word, absolves him from nature’s guardianship, so the necessity, which alongside of her he must recognize, is no mere natural necessity, but one lying beyond the world of sense in the abyss of infinitude; consequently it exhibits itself as the unfathomable power of Destiny. Hence this power extends also to the world of gods: for the Grecian gods are mere powers of nature; and although immeasurably higher than mortal man, yet, compared with infinitude, they are on an equal footing with himself. In Homer and in the tragedians, the gods are introduced in a manner altogether different. In the former their appearance is arbitrary and accidental, and communicate to the epic poem no higher interest than the charm of the wonderful. But in Tragedy the gods either come forward as the servants of destiny, and mediate executors of its decrees; or else approve themselves godlike only by asserting their liberty of action, and entering upon the same struggles with fate which man himself has to encounter.

This is the essence of the tragical in the sense of the ancients. We are accustomed to give to all terrible or sorrowful events the appellation of tragic, and it is certain that such events are selected in preference by Tragedy, though a melancholy conclusion is by no means indispensably necessary; and several ancient tragedies, viz., the _Eumenides_, _Philoctetes_, and in some degree also the _Oedipus Coloneus_, without mentioning many of the pieces of Euripides, have a happy and cheerful termination.

But why does Tragedy select subjects so awfully repugnant to the wishes and the wants of our sensuous nature? This question has often been asked, and seldom satisfactorily answered. Some have said that the pleasure of such representations arises from the comparison we make between the calmness and tranquillity of our own situation, and the storms and perplexities to which the victims of passion are exposed. But when we take a warm interest in the persons of a tragedy, we cease to think of ourselves; and when this is not the case, it is the best of all proofs that we take but a feeble interest in the exhibited story, and that the tragedy has failed in its effect. Others again have had recourse to a supposed feeling for moral improvement, which is gratified by the view of poetical justice in the reward of the good and the punishment of the wicked. But he for whom the aspect of such dreadful examples could really be wholesome, must be conscious of a base feeling of depression, very far removed from genuine morality, and would experience humiliation rather than elevation of mind. Besides, poetical justice is by no means indispensable to a good tragedy; it may end with the suffering of the just and the triumph of the wicked, if only the balance be preserved in the spectator’s own consciousness by the prospect of futurity. Little does it mend the matter to say with Aristotle, that the object of tragedy is to purify the passions by pity and terror. In the first place commentators have never been able to agree as to the meaning of this proposition, and have had recourse to the most forced explanations of it. Look, for instance, into the _Dramaturgie_ of Lessing. Lessing gives a new explanation of his own, and fancies he has found in Aristotle a poetical Euclid. But mathematical demonstrations are liable to no misconception, and geometrical evidence may well be supposed inapplicable to the theory of the fine arts. Supposing, however, that tragedy does operate this moral cure in us, still she does so by the painful feelings of terror and compassion: and it remains to be proved how it is that we take a pleasure in subjecting ourselves to such an operation.

Others have been pleased to say that we are attracted to theatrical representations from the want of some violent agitation to rouse us out of the torpor of our every-day life. Such a craving does exist; I have already acknowledged the existence of this want, when speaking of the attractions of the drama; but to it we must equally attribute the fights of wild beasts among the Romans, nay, even the combats of the gladiators. But must we, less indurated, and more inclined to tender feelings, require demi-gods and heroes to descend, like so many desperate gladiators, into the bloody arena of the tragic stage, in order to agitate our nerves by the spectacle of their sufferings? No: it is not the sight of suffering which constitutes the charm of a tragedy, or even of the games of the circus, or of the fight of wild beasts. In the latter we see a display of activity, strength, and courage; splendid qualities these, and related to the mental and moral powers of man. The satisfaction, therefore, which we derive from the representation, in a good tragedy, of powerful situations and overwhelming sorrows, must be ascribed either to the feeling of the dignity of human nature, excited in us by such grand instances of it as are therein displayed, or to the trace of a higher order of things, impressed on the apparently irregular course of events, and mysteriously revealed in them; or perhaps to both these causes conjointly.

The true reason, therefore, why tragedy need not shun even the harshest subject is, that a spiritual and invisible power can only be measured by the opposition which it encounters from some external force capable of being appreciated by the senses. The moral freedom of man, therefore, can only be displayed in a conflict with his sensuous impulses: so long as no higher call summons it to action, it is either actually dormant within him, or appears to slumber, since otherwise it does but mechanically fulfil its part as a mere power of nature. It is only amidst difficulties and struggles that the moral part of man’s nature avouches itself. If, therefore, we must explain the distinctive aim of tragedy by way of theory, we would give it thus: that to establish the claims of the mind to a divine origin, its earthly existence must be disregarded as vain and insignificant, all sorrows endured and all difficulties overcome. With respect to everything connected with this point, I refer my hearers to the Section on the Sublime in Kant’s _Criticism of the Judgment_ (_Kritik der Urtheilskraft_), to the complete perfection of which nothing is wanting but a more definite idea of the tragedy of the ancients, with which he does not seem to have been very well acquainted.

I come now to another peculiarity which distinguishes the tragedy of the ancients from ours, I mean the Chorus. We must consider it as a personified reflection on the action which is going on; the incorporation into the representation itself of the sentiments of the poet, as the spokesman of the whole human race. This is its general poetical character; and that is all that here concerns us, and that character is by no means affected by the circumstance that the Chorus had a local origin in the feasts of Bacchus, and that, moreover, it always retained among the Greeks a peculiar national signification; publicity being, as we have already said, according to their republican notions, essential to the completeness of every important transaction. If in their compositions they reverted to the heroic ages, in which monarchical polity was yet in force, they nevertheless gave a certain republican cast to the families of their heroes, by carrying on the action in presence either of the elders of the people, or of other persons who represented some correspondent rank or position in the social body. This publicity does not, it is true, quite correspond with Homer’s picture of the manners of the heroic age; but both costume and mythology were handled by dramatic poetry with the same spirit of independence and conscious liberty.

These thoughts, then, and these modes of feeling led to the introduction of the Chorus, which, in order not to interfere with the appearance of reality which the whole ought to possess, must adjust itself to the ever- varying requisitions of the exhibited stories. Whatever it might be and do in each particular piece, it represented in general, first the common mind of the nation, and then the general sympathy of all mankind. In a word, the Chorus is the ideal spectator. It mitigates the impression of a heart- rending or moving story, while it conveys to the actual spectator a lyrical and musical expression of his own emotions, and elevates him to the region of contemplation.

Modern critics have never known what to make of the Chorus; and this is the less to be wondered at, as Aristotle affords no satisfactory solution of the matter. Its office is better painted by Horace, who ascribes to it a general expression of moral sympathy, exhortation, instruction, and warning. But the critics in question have either believed that its chief object was to prevent the stage from ever being altogether empty, whereas in truth the stage was not at all the proper place for the Chorus; or else they have censured it as a superfluous and cumbersome appendage, expressing their astonishment at the alleged absurdity of carrying on secret transactions in the presence of assembled multitudes. They have also considered it as the principal reason with the Greek tragedians for the strict observance of the unity of place, as it could not be changed without the removal of the Chorus; an act, which could not have been done without some available pretext. Or lastly, they have believed that the Chorus owed its continuance from the first origin of Tragedy merely to accident; and as it is plain that in Euripides, the last of the three great tragic poets, the choral songs have frequently little or no connexion with the fable, and are nothing better than a mere episodical ornament, they therefore conclude that the Greeks had only to take one more step in the progress of dramatic art, to explode the Chorus altogether. To refute these superficial conjectures, it is only necessary to observe that Sophocles wrote a Treatise on the Chorus, in prose, in opposition to the principles of some other poets; and that, far from following blindly the practice which he found established, like an intelligent artist he was able to assign reasons for his own doings.

Modern poets of the first rank have often, since the revival of the study of the ancients, attempted to introduce the Chorus in their own pieces, for the most part without a correct, and always without a vivid idea of its real import. They seem to have forgotten that we have neither suitable singing or dancing, nor, as our theatres are constructed, any convenient place for it. On these accounts it is hardly likely to become naturalized with us.

The Greek tragedy, in its pure and unaltered state, will always for our theatres remain an exotic plant, which we can hardly hope to cultivate with any success, even in the hot-house of learned art and criticism. The Grecian mythology, which furnishes the materials of ancient tragedy, is as foreign to the minds and imaginations of most of the spectators, as its form and manner of representation. But to endeavour to force into that form materials of a wholly different nature, an historical one, for example, to assume that form, must always be a most unprofitable and hopeless attempt.

I have called mythology the chief materials of tragedy. We know, indeed, of two historical tragedies by Grecian authors: the _Capture of Miletus_, of Phrynichus, and the _Persians_, of Aeschylus, a piece which still exists; but these singular exceptions both belong to an epoch when the art had not attained its full maturity, and among so many hundred examples of a different description, only serve to establish more strongly the truth of the rule. The sentence passed by the Athenians on Phrynichus, in which they condemned him to a pecuniary fine because he had painfully agitated them by representing on the stage a contemporary calamity, which with due caution they might, perhaps, have avoided; however hard and arbitrary it may appear in a judicial point of view, displays, however, a correct feeling of the proprieties and limits of art. Oppressed by the consciousness of the proximity and reality of the represented story, the mind cannot retain that repose and self-possession which are necessary for the reception of pure tragical impressions. The heroic fables, on the other hand, came to view at a certain remoteness; and surrounded with a certain halo of the marvellous. The marvellous possesses the advantage that it can, in some measure, be at once believed and disbelieved: believed in so far as it is supported by its connexion with other opinions; disbelieved while we never take such an immediate interest in it as we do in what wears the hue of the every-day life of our own experience. The Grecian mythology was a web of national and local traditions, held in equal honour as a sequence of religion, and as an introduction to history; everywhere preserved in full vitality among the people by ceremonies and monuments, already elaborated for the requirements of art and the higher species of poetry by the diversified manner in which it has been handled, and by the numerous epic or merely mythical poets. The tragedians had only, therefore, to engraft one species of poetry on another. Certain postulates, and those invariably serviceable to the air of dignity and grandeur, and the removing of all meanness of idea, were conceded to them at the very outset. Everything, down to the very errors and weaknesses of that departed race of heroes who claimed their descent from the gods, was ennobled by the sanctity of legend. Those heroes were painted as beings endowed with more than human strength; but, so far from possessing unerring virtue and wisdom, they were even depicted as under the dominion of furious and unbridled passions. It was an age of wild effervescence; the hand of social order had not as yet brought the soil of morality into cultivation, and it yielded at the same time the most beneficent and poisonous productions, with the fresh luxuriant fulness of prolific nature. Here the occurrence of the monstrous and horrible did not necessarily indicate that degradation and corruption out of which alone, under the development of law and order, they could arise, and which, in such a state of things, make them fill us with sentiments of horror and aversion. The guilty beings of the fable are, if we may be allowed the expression, exempt from human jurisdiction, and amenable to a higher tribunal alone. Some, indeed, have advanced the opinion, that the Greeks, as zealous republicans, took a particular pleasure in witnessing the representation of the outrages and consequent calamities of the different royal families, and are almost disposed to consider the ancient tragedy in general as a satire on monarchical government. Such a party- view, however, would have deadened the sympathy of the audience, and consequently destroyed the effect which it was the aim of the tragedy to produce.

Besides, it must be remarked that the royal families, whose crimes and consequent sufferings afforded the most abundant materials for affecting tragical pictures, were the Pelopidae of Mycenae, and the Labdacidae of Thebes, families who had nothing to do with the political history of the Athenians, for whom the pieces were composed. We do not see that the Attic poets ever endeavoured to exhibit the ancient kings of their country in an odious light; on the contrary, they always hold up their national hero, Theseus, for public admiration, as a model of justice and moderation, the champion of the oppressed, the first lawgiver, and even as the founder of liberty. It was also one of their favourite modes of flattering the people, to show to them Athens, even in the heroic ages, as distinguished above all the other states of Greece, for obedience to the laws, for humanity, and acknowledgment of the national rights of the Hellenes. That universal revolution, by which the independent kingdoms of ancient Greece were converted into a community of small free states, had separated the heroic age from the age of social cultivation, by a wide interval, beyond which a few families only attempted to trace their genealogy. This was extremely advantageous for the ideal elevation of the characters of Greek tragedy, as few human things will admit of a very close inspection without betraying some imperfections. To the very different relations of the age in which those heroes lived, the standard of mere civil and domestic morality is not applicable, and to judge of them the feeling must go back to the primary ingredients of human nature. Before the existence of constitutions,–when as yet the notions of law and right were undeveloped,–the sovereigns were their own lawgivers, in a world which as yet was dependent on them; and the fullest scope was thus given to the energetic will, either for good or for evil. Moreover, an age of hereditary kingdom naturally exhibited more striking instances of sudden changes of fortune than the later times of political equality. It was in this respect that the high rank of the principal characters was essential, or at least favourable to tragic impressiveness; and not, as some moderns have pretended, because the changing fortunes of such persons exercise a material influence on the happiness or misery of numbers, and therefore they alone are sufficiently important to interest us in their behalf; nor, again, because internal elevation of sentiment must be clothed with external dignity, to call forth our respect and admiration. The Greek tragedians paint the downfall of kingly houses without any reference to its effects on the condition of the people; they show us the man in the king, and, far from veiling their heroes from our sight by their purple mantles, they allow us to look, through their vain splendour, into a bosom torn and harrowed with grief and passion. That the main essential was not so much the regal dignity as the heroic costume, is evident from those tragedies of the moderns which have been written under different circumstances indeed, but still upon this supposed principle: such, I mean, as under the existence of monarchy have taken their subject from kings and courts. Prom the existing reality they dare not draw, for nothing is less suitable for tragedy than a court and a court life. Wherever, therefore, they do not paint an ideal kingdom, with the manners of some remote age, they invariably fall into stiffness and formality, which are much more fatal to boldness of character, and to depth of pathos, than the monotonous and equable relations of private life.

A few mythological fables alone seem originally marked out for tragedy: such, for example, as the long-continued alternation of crime, revenge, and curses, which we witness in the house of Atreus. When we examine the names of the pieces which are lost, we have great difficulty in conceiving how the mythological fables (such, at least, as they are known to us,) could have furnished sufficient materials for the compass of an entire tragedy. It is true, the poets, in the various editions of the same story, had a great latitude of selection; and this very fluctuation of tradition justified them in going still farther, and making considerable alterations in the circumstances of an event, so that the inventions employed for this purpose in one piece sometimes contradict the story as given by the same poet in another. We must, however, principally explain the prolific capability of mythology, for the purposes of tragedy, by the principle which we observe in operation throughout the history of Grecian mind and art; that, namely, the tendency which predominated for the time, assimilated everything else to itself. As the heroic legend with all its manifold discrepancies was easily developed into the tranquil fulness and light variety of epic poetry, so afterwards it readily responded to the demands which the tragic writers made upon it for earnestness, energy, and compression; and whatever in this sifting process of transformation fell out as inapplicable to tragedy, afforded materials for a sort of half sportive, though still ideal representation, in the subordinate species called the _satirical drama_.

I hope I shall be forgiven, if I attempt to illustrate the above reflections on the essence of Ancient Tragedy, by a comparison borrowed from the plastic arts, which will, I trust, be found somewhat more than a mere fanciful resemblance.

The Homeric epic is, in poetry, what bas-relief is in sculpture, and tragedy the distinct isolated group.

The poetry of Homer, sprung from the soil of legend, is not yet wholly detached from it, even as the figures of a bas-relief adhere to an extraneous backing of the original block. These figures are but slightly raised, and in the epic poem all is painted as past and remote. In bas- relief the figures are usually in profile, and in the epos all are characterized in the simplest manner in relief; they are not grouped together, but follow one another; so Homer’s heroes advance, one by one, in succession before us. It has been remarked that the _Iliad_ is not definitively closed, but that we are left to suppose something both to precede and to follow it. The bas-relief is equally without limit, and may be continued _ad infinitum_, either from before or behind, on which account the ancients preferred for it such subjects as admitted of an indefinite extension, sacrificial processions, dances, and lines of combatants, &c. Hence they also exhibited bas-reliefs on curved surfaces, such as vases, or the frieze of a rotunda, where, by the curvature, the two ends are withdrawn from our sight, and where, while we advance, one object appears as another disappears. Reading Homer is very much like such a circuit; the present object alone arresting our attention, we lose sight of that which precedes, and do not concern ourselves about what is to follow.

But in the distinct outstanding group, and in Tragedy, sculpture and poetry alike bring before our eyes an independent and definite whole. To distinguish it from natural reality, the former places it on a base as on an ideal ground, detaching from it as much as possible all foreign and accidental accessories, that the eye may rest wholly on the essential objects, the figures themselves. These figures the sculptor works out with their whole body and contour, and as he rejects the illusion of colours, announces by the solidity and uniformity of the mass in which they are constructed, a creation of no perishable existence, but endowed, with a higher power of endurance.

Beauty is the aim of sculpture, and repose is most advantageous for the display of beauty. Repose alone, therefore, is suitable to the single figure. But a number of figures can only be combined together into unity, _i.e., grouped_ by an action. The group represents beauty in motion, and its aim is to combine both in the highest degree of perfection. This can be effected even while portraying the most violent bodily or mental anguish, if only the artist finds means so to temper the expression by some trait of manly resistance, calm grandeur, or inherent sweetness, that, with all the most moving truth, the lineaments of beauty shall yet be undefaced. The observation of Winkelmann on this subject is inimitable. He says, that “beauty with the ancients was the tongue on the balance of expression,” and in this sense the groups of Niobe and Laocoön are master- pieces; the one in the sublime and severe; the other in the studied and ornamental style.

The comparison with ancient tragedy is the more apposite here, as we know that both Aeschylus and Sophocles produced a Niobe, and that Sophocles was also the author of a Laocoön. In the group of the Laocoön the efforts of the body in enduring, and of the mind in resisting, are balanced in admirable equipoise. The children calling for help, tender objects of compassion, not of admiration, recal our eyes to the father, who seems to be in vain uplifting his eyes to the gods. The wreathed serpents represent to us that inevitable destiny which often involves all the parties of an action in one common ruin. And yet the beauty of proportion, the agreeable flow of the outline, are not lost in this violent struggle; and a representation, the most appalling to the senses, is yet managed with forbearance, while a mild breath of gracefulness is diffused over the whole.

In the group of Niobe there is the same perfect mixture of terror and pity. The upturned looks of the mother, and the mouth half open in supplication, seem yet to accuse the invisible wrath of heaven. The daughter, clinging in the agonies of death to the bosom of her mother, in her childish innocence has no fear but for herself: the innate impulse of self-preservation was never more tenderly and affectingly expressed. On the other hand, can there be a more beautiful image of self-devoting, heroic magnanimity than Niobe, as she bends forward to receive, if possible, in her own body the deadly shaft? Pride and defiance dissolve in the depths of maternal love. The more than earthly dignity of the features are the less marred by the agony, as under the rapid accumulation of blow upon blow she seems, as in the deeply significant fable, already petrifying into the stony torpor. But before this figure, thus _twice_ struck into stone, and yet so full of life and soul,–before this stony terminus of the limits of human endurance, the spectator melts into tears.

Amid all the agitating emotions which these groups give rise to, there is still a something in their aspect which attracts the mind and gives rise to manifold contemplation; so the ancient tragedy leads us forward to the highest reflections involved in the very sphere of things it sets before us–reflections on the nature and the inexplicable mystery of man’s being.


Progress of the Tragic Art among the Greeks–Various styles of Tragic Art –Aeschylus–Connexion in a Trilogy of Aeschylus–His remaining Works.

Of the inexhaustible stores possessed by the Greeks in the department of tragedy, which the public competition at the Athenian festivals called into being (as the rival poets always contended for a prize), very little indeed has come down to us. We only possess works of three of their numerous tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and of these but a few in proportion to the whole number of their compositions. The extant dramas are such as were selected by the Alexandrian critics as the foundation for the study of the older Grecian literature, not because they alone were deserving of estimation, but because they afforded the best illustration of the various styles of tragic art. Of each of the two older poets, we have seven pieces remaining; in these, however, we have, according to the testimony of the ancients, several of their most distinguished productions. Of Euripides we have a much greater number, and we might well exchange many of them for other works which are now lost; for example, for the satirical dramas of Achaeus, Aeschylus, and Sophocles, or, for the sake of comparison with Aeschylus, for some of Phrynichus’ pieces, or of Agathon’s, whom Plato describes as effeminate, but sweet and affecting, and who was a contemporary of Euripides, though somewhat his junior.

Leaving to antiquarians to sift the stories about the waggon of the strolling Thespis, the contests for the prize of a he-goat, from which the name of tragedy is said to be derived, and the lees of wine with which the first improvisatory actors smeared over their visages, from which rude beginnings, it is pretended, Aeschylus, by one gigantic stride, gave to tragedy that dignified form under which it appears in his works, we shall proceed immediately to the consideration of the poets themselves.

The tragic style of Aeschylus (I use the word “style” in the sense it receives in sculpture, and not in the exclusive signification of the manner of writing,) is grand, severe, and not unfrequently hard: that of Sophocles is marked by the most finished symmetry and harmonious gracefulness: that of Euripides is soft and luxuriant; overflowing in his easy copiousness, he often sacrifices the general effect to brilliant passages. The analogies which the undisturbed development of the fine arts among the Greeks everywhere furnishes, will enable us, throughout to compare the epochs of tragic art with those of sculpture. Aeschylus is the Phidias of Tragedy, Sophocles her Polycletus, and Euripides her Lysippus. Phidias formed sublime images of the gods, but lent them an extrinsic magnificence of material, and surrounded their majestic repose with images of the most violent struggles in strong relief. Polycletus carried his art to perfection of proportion, and hence one of his statues was called the Standard of Beauty. Lysippus distinguished himself by the fire of his works; but in his time Sculpture had deviated from its original destination, and was much more desirous of expressing the charm of motion and life than of adhering to ideality of form.

Aeschylus is to be considered as the creator of Tragedy: in full panoply she sprung from his head, like Pallas from the head of Jupiter. He clad her with dignity, and gave her an appropriate stage; he was the inventor of scenic pomp, and not only instructed the chorus in singing and dancing, but appeared himself as an actor. He was the first that expanded the dialogue, and set limits to the lyrical part of tragedy, which, however, still occupies too much space in his pieces. His characters are sketched with a few bold and strong touches. His plots are simple in the extreme: he did not understand the art of enriching and varying an action, and of giving a measured march and progress to the complication and denouement. Hence his action often stands still; a circumstance which becomes yet more apparent, from the undue extension of his choral songs. But all his poetry evinces a sublime and earnest mind. Terror is his element, and not the softer affections, he holds up a head of Medusa before the petrified spectators. In his handling Destiny appears austere in the extreme; she hovers over the heads of mortals in all her gloomy majesty. The cothurnus of Aeschylus has, as it were, the weight of iron: gigantic figures stalk in upon it. It seems as if it required an effort for him to condescend to paint mere men; he is ever bringing in gods, but especially the Titans, those elder divinities who typify the gloomy powers of primaeval nature, and who had been driven long ago into Tartarus before the presence of a new and better order of things. He endeavours to swell out his language to a gigantic sublimity, corresponding to the vast dimensions of his personages. Hence he abounds in harsh compounds and over-strained epithets, and the lyrical parts of his pieces are often, from their involved construction, extremely obscure. In the singular strangeness of his images and expressions he resembles Dante and Shakspeare. Yet in these images there is no want of that terrific grace which almost all the writers of antiquity commend in Aeschylus.

Aeschylus flourished in the very freshness and vigour of Grecian freedom, and a proud sense of the glorious struggle by which it was won, seems to have animated him and his poetry. He had been an eye-witness of the greatest and most glorious event in the history of Greece, the overthrow and annihilation of the Persian hosts under Darius and Xerxes, and had fought with distinguished bravery in the memorable battles of Marathon and Salamis. In the _Persians_ he has, in an indirect manner, sung the triumph which he contributed to obtain, while he paints the downfall of the Persian ascendancy, and the ignominious return of the despot, with difficulty escaping with his life, to his royal residence. The battle of Salamis he describes in the most vivid and glowing colours. Through the whole of this piece, and the _Seven before Thebes_, there gushes forth a warlike vein; the personal inclination of the poet for a soldier’s life, shines throughout with the most dazzling lustre. It was well remarked by Gorgias, the sophist, that Mars, instead of Bacchus, had inspired this last drama; for Bacchus, and not Apollo, was the tutelary deity of tragic poets, which, on a first view of the matter, appears somewhat singular, but then we must recollect that Bacchus was not merely the god of wine and joy, but also the god of all higher kinds of inspiration.

Among the remaining pieces of Aeschylus, we have what is highly deserving of our attention–a complete _Trilogy_. The antiquarian account of the trilogies is this: that in the more early times the poet did not contend for the prize with a single piece, but with three, which, however, were not always connected together in their subjects, and that to these was added a fourth,–namely, a _satiric drama_. All were acted in one day, one after another. The idea which, in relation to the tragic art, we must form of the trilogy, is this: a tragedy cannot be indefinitely lengthened and continued, like the Homeric Epos for instance, to which whole rhapsodies have been appended; tragedy is too independent and complete within itself for this; nevertheless, several tragedies may be connected together in one great cycle by means of a common destiny running through the actions of all. Hence the restriction to the number three admits of a satisfactory explanation. It is the thesis, the antithesis, and the synthesis. The advantage of this conjunction was that, by the consideration of the connected fables, a more complete gratification was furnished than could possibly be obtained from a single action. The subjects of the three tragedies might be separated by a wide interval of time, or follow close upon one another.

The three pieces which form the trilogy of Aeschylus, are the _Agamemnon_, the _Choephorae_ or, we should call it, _Electra_, and the _Eumenides_ or _Furies_. The subject of the first is the murder of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra, on his return from Troy. In the second, Orestes avenges his father by killing his mother: _facto pius et sceleratus eodem_. This deed, although enjoined by the most powerful motives, is, however, repugnant to the natural and moral order of things. Orestes, as a prince, was, it is true, called upon to exercise justice, even on the members of his own family; but we behold him here under the necessity of stealing in disguise into the dwelling of the tyrannical usurper of his throne, and of going to work like an assassin. The memory of his father pleads his excuse; but however much Clytemnestra may have deserved her death, the voice of blood cries from within. This conflict of natural duties is represented in the _Eumenides_ in the form of a contention among the gods, some of whom approve of the deed of Orestes, while others persecute him, till at last Divine Wisdom, in the persona of Minerva, balances the opposite claims, establishes peace, and puts an end to the long series of crime and punishment which have desolated the royal house of Atreus.

A considerable interval takes place between the period of the first and second pieces, during which Orestes grows up to manhood. The second and third are connected together immediately in order of time. Upon the murder of his mother, Orestes flees forthwith to Delphi, where we find him at the commencement of the _Eumenides_.

In each of the two first pieces, there is a visible reference to the one which follows. In _Agamemnon_, Cassandra and the chorus, at the close, predict to the haughty Clytemnestra and her paramour, Aegisthus, the punishment which awaits them at the hands of Orestes. In the _Choephorae_, Orestes, upon the execution of the deed of retribution, finds that all peace is gone: the furies of his mother begin to persecute him, and he announces his resolution of taking refuge in Delphi.

The connexion is therefore evident throughout; and we may consider the three pieces, which were connected together even in the representation, as so many acts of one great and entire drama. I mention this as a preliminary justification of the practice of Shakspeare and other modern poets, to connect together in one representation a larger circle of human destinies, as we can produce to the critics who object to this the supposed example of the ancients.

In _Agamemnon_, it was the intention of Aeschylus to exhibit to us a sudden fall from the highest pinnacle of prosperity and renown into the abyss of ruin. The prince, the hero, the general of the combined forces of the Greeks, in the very moment of success and the glorious achievement of the destruction of Troy, the fame of which is to be re-echoed from the mouths of the greatest poets of all ages, in the very act of crossing the threshold of his home, after which he had so long sighed, and amidst the fearless security of preparations for a festival, is butchered, according to the expression of Homer, “like an ox in the stall,” slain by his faithless wife, his throne usurped by her worthless seducer, and his children consigned to banishment or to hopeless servitude.

With the view of giving greater effect to this dreadful reverse of fortune, the poet endeavours to throw a greater splendour over the destruction of Troy. He has done this in the first half of the piece in a manner peculiar to himself, which, however singular, must be allowed to be impressive in the extreme, and well fitted to lay fast hold of the imagination. It is of importance to Clytemnestra that she should not be surprised by the sudden arrival of her husband; she has therefore arranged an uninterrupted series of signal fires from Troy to Mycenae, to announce to her that great event. The piece commences with the speech of a watchman, who supplicates the gods for a deliverance from his labours, as for ten long years he has been exposed to the cold dews of night, has witnessed the changeful course of the stars, while looking in vain for the expected signal; at the same time he sighs in secret over the corruption which reigns within the royal house. At this moment he sees the long- wished-for beacon blazing up, and hastens to announce it to his mistress. A chorus of aged persons appears, and in their songs they go through the whole history of the Trojan War, through all its eventful fluctuations of fortune, from its origin, and recount all the prophecies relating to it, and the sacrifice of Iphigenia, by which the sailing of the Greeks was purchased. Clytemnestra explains to the chorus the joyful cause of the sacrifice which she orders; and the herald Talthybius immediately makes his appearance, who, as an eye-witness, relates the drama of the conquered and plundered city, consigned as a prey to the flames, the joy of the victors, and the glory of their leader. With reluctance, as if unwilling to check their congratulatory prayers, he recounts to them the subsequent misfortunes of the Greeks, their dispersion, and the shipwreck suffered by many of them, an immediate symptom of the wrath of the gods. It is obvious how little the unity of time was observed by the poet,–how much, on the contrary, he avails himself of the prerogative of his mental dominion over the powers of nature, to give wings to the circling hours in their course towards the dreadful goal. Agamemnon now arrives, borne in a sort of triumphal car; and seated on another, laden with booty, follows Cassandra, his prisoner of war, and concubine also, according to the customary privilege of heroes. Clytemnestra greets him with hypocritical joy and veneration; she orders her slaves to cover the ground with the most costly embroideries of purple, that it might not be touched by the foot of the conqueror. Agamemnon, with wise moderation, refuses to accept an honour due only to the gods; at last he yields to her solicitations, and enters the palace. The chorus then begins to utter its dark forebodings. Clytemnestra returns to allure, by friendly speeches, Cassandra also to destruction. The latter is silent and unmoved, but the queen is hardly gone, when, seized with prophetic furor, she breaks out into the most confused and obscure lamentations, but presently unfolds her prophecies more distinctly to the chorus; in spirit she beholds all the enormities which have been perpetrated within that house–the repast of Thyestes, which the sun refused to look upon; the ghosts of the mangled children appear to her on the battlements of the palace. She also sees the death which is preparing for her lord; and, though shuddering at the reek of death, as if seized with madness, she rushes into the house to meet her own inevitable doom, while from behind the scene we hear the groans of the dying Agamemnon. The palace opens; Clytemnestra stands beside the body of her king and husband; like an insolent criminal, she not only confesses the deed, but boasts of and justifies it, as a righteous requital for Agamemnon’s sacrifice of Iphigenia to his own ambition. Her jealousy of Cassandra, and criminal connexion with the worthless Aegisthus, who does not appear till after the completion of the murder and towards the conclusion of the piece, are motives which she hardly touches on, and throws entirely into the background. This was necessary to preserve the dignity of the subject; for, indeed, Clytemnestra could not with propriety have been portrayed as a frail seduced woman–she must appear with the features of that heroic age, so rich in bloody catastrophes, in which all passions were violent, and men, both in good and evil, surpassed the ordinary standard of later and more degenerated ages. What is more revolting–what proves a deeper degeneracy of human nature, than horrid crimes conceived in the bosom of cowardly effeminacy? If such crimes are to be portrayed by the poet, he must neither seek to palliate them, nor to mitigate our horror and aversion of them. Moreover, by bringing the sacrifice of Iphigenia thus immediately before us, the poet has succeeded in lessening the indignation which otherwise the foul and painful fate of Agamemnon is calculated to awaken. He cannot be pronounced wholly innocent; a former crime recoils on his own head: besides, according to the religious idea of the ancients, an old curse hung over his house. Aegisthus, the author of his destruction, is a son of that very Thyestes on whom his father Atreus took such an unnatural revenge; and this fateful connexion is vividly brought before our minds by the chorus, and more especially by the prophecies of Cassandra.

I pass over the subsequent piece of the _Choephorae_ for the present; I shall speak of it when I come to institute a comparison between the manner in which the three poets have handled the same subject.

The fable of the _Eumenides_ is, as I have already said, the justification of Orestes, and his absolution from blood-guiltiness: it is a trial, but a trial where the accusers and the defenders and the presiding judges are gods. And the manner in which the subject is treated corresponds with its majesty and importance. The scene itself brought before the eyes of the Greeks all the highest objects of veneration that they acknowledged.

It opens in front of the celebrated temple at Delphi, which occupies the background; the aged Pythia enters in sacerdotal pomp, addresses her prayers to all the gods who at any time presided, or still preside, over the oracle, harangues the assembled people (represented by the actual audience), and goes into the temple to seat herself on the tripod. She returns full of consternation, and describes what she has seen in the temple: a man, stained with blood, supplicating protection, surrounded by sleeping women with snaky hair; she then makes her exit by the same entrance as she came in by. Apollo now appears with Orestes, who is in a traveller’s garb, and carries a sword and olive-branch in his hands. He promises him his farther protection, enjoins him to flee to Athens, and commends him to the care of the present but invisible Mercury, to whose safeguard travellers, and especially those who were under the necessity of journeying by stealth, were usually consigned.

Orestes goes off at the side which was supposed to lead to foreign lands; Apollo re-enters his temple, which remains open, and the Furies are seen in the interior, sleeping on the benches. Clytemnestra’s ghost now ascends by the charonic stairs, and, passing through the orchestra, appears on the stage. We are not to imagine it a haggard skeleton, but a figure with the appearance of life, though paler, with the wound still open in her breast, and shrouded in ethereal-coloured vestments. She calls on the Furies, in the language of vehement reproach, and then disappears, probably through a trap-door. The Furies awake, and not finding Orestes, they dance in wild commotion round the stage, while they sing the choral song. Apollo again comes out of the temple, and drives them away, as profaning his sanctuary. We may imagine him appearing with the sublime displeasure of the Apollo of the Vatican, with bow and quiver, but also clad with tunic and chlamys.

The scene now changes; but as the Greeks on such occasions were fond of going the shortest way to work, the background probably remained unchanged, and was now supposed to represent the temple of Minerva, on the Areopagus, while the lateral decorations were converted into Athens and its surrounding landscape. Orestes now enters, as from foreign land, and, as a suppliant, embraces the statue of Pallas standing before the temple. The chorus (who, according to the poet’s own description, were clothed in black, with purple girdles, and serpents in their hair, in masks having perhaps something of the terrific beauty of Medusa-heads, and marking too their great age on the principles of sculpture) follows close on his steps, but for the rest of the piece remains below in the orchestra. The Furies had at first behaved themselves like beasts of prey, furious at the escape of their booty, but now, hymning with tranquil dignity the high and terrible office they had among mortals, they claim the head of Orestes, as forfeited to them, and devote it with mysterious charms to endless torment. At the intercession of the suppliant, Pallas, the warrior-virgin, appears in a chariot drawn by four horses. She inquires the cause of his invocation, and listens with calm dignity to the mutual complaints of Orestes and his adversaries, and, at the solicitation of the two parties, finally undertakes, after due reflection, the office of umpire. The assembled judges take their seats on the steps of the temple–the herald commands silence among the people by sound of trumpet, just as in a real trial. Apollo advances to advocate the cause of his suppliant, the Furies in vain protest against his interference, and the arguments for and against the deed are debated between them in short speeches. The judges cast their ballots into the urn, Pallas throws in a white one; all is wrought up to the highest pitch of expectation; Orestes, in agony of suspense, exclaims to his protector–

O Phoebus Apollo, how will the cause be decided?

The Furies on the other hand:

O Night, black Mother, seest thou these doings?

Upon counting the black and white pebbles, they are found equal in number, and the accused, therefore, by the decision of Pallas, is acquitted. He breaks out into joyful thanksgiving, while the Furies on the other hand declaim against the overbearing arrogance of these younger gods, who take such liberties with those of Titanic race. Pallas bears their rage with equanimity, addresses them in the language of kindness, and even of veneration; and these so indomitable beings are unable to withstand the charms of her mild eloquence. They promise to bless the land which is under her tutelary protection, while on her part Pallas assigns them a sanctuary in the Attic domain, where they are to be called the _Eumenides_, that is, “the Benevolent Goddesses.” The whole ends with a solemn procession round the theatre, with hymns of blessing, while bands of children, women, and old men, in purple robes and with torches in their hands, accompany the Furies in their exit.

Let us now take a retrospective view of the whole trilogy. In the _Agamemnon_ we have a predominance of free-will both in the plan and execution of the deed: the principal character is a great criminal, and the piece ends with the revolting impressions produced by the sight of triumphant tyranny and crime. I have already pointed out the allusions it contains to a preceding destiny.

The deed committed in the _Choephorae_ is partly enjoined by Apollo as the appointment of fate, and partly originates in natural motives: Orestes’ desire of avenging his father, and his brotherly love for the oppressed Electra. It is only after the execution of the deed that the struggle between the most sacred feelings becomes manifest, and here again the sympathies of the spectators are excited without being fully appeased.

From its very commencement, the _Eumenides_ stands on the very summit of tragical elevation: all the past is here, as it were, concentrated into a focus. Orestes has become the mere passive instrument of fate; and free agency is transferred to the more elevated sphere of the gods. Pallas is properly the principal character. That opposition between the most sacred relations, which often occurs in life as a problem not to be solved by man, is here represented as a contention in the world of the gods.

And this brings me to the pregnant meaning of the whole. The ancient mythology is in general _symbolical_, although not _allegorical_; for the two are _certainly_ distinct. Allegory is the personification of an idea, a poetic story invented solely with such a view; but that is symbolical which, created by the imagination for other purposes, or possessing an independent reality of its own, is at the same time easily susceptible of an emblematical explanation; and even of itself suggests it.

The Titans in general symbolize the dark and mysterious powers of primaeval nature and mind; the younger gods, whatsoever enters more immediately within the circle of consciousness. The former are more nearly allied to original chaos, the latter belong to a world already reduced to order. The Furies denote the dreadful powers of conscience, in so far as it rests on obscure feelings and forebodings, and yields to no principles of reason. In vain Orestes dwells on the just motives which urged him to the deed, the cry of blood still sounds in his ear. Apollo is the god of youth, of the noble ebullition of passionate indignation, of bold and daring action. Accordingly this deed was commanded by him. Pallas is thoughtful wisdom, justice, and moderation, which alone can allay the conflict of reason and passion.

Even the sleep of the Furies in the temple is symbolical; for only in the sanctuary, in the bosom of religion, can the fugitive find rest from the torments of conscience. Scarcely, however, has he ventured forth again into the world, when the image of his murdered mother appears, and again awakes them. The very speech of Clytemnestra betrays its symbolical import, as much as the attributes of the Furies, the serpents, and their sucking of blood. The same may be said of Apollo’s aversion for them; in fact, this symbolical character runs through the whole. The equal cogency of the motives for and against the deed is denoted by the equally divided votes of the judges. And if at last a sanctuary within the Athenian territory is offered to the softened Furies, this is as much as to say that reason is not everywhere to enforce its principles against involuntary instinct, that there are in the human mind certain boundaries which are not to be passed, and all contact with which even every person possessed of a true sentiment of reverence will cautiously avoid, if he would preserve peace within.

So much for the deep philosophical meaning which we need not wonder to find in this poet, who, according to the testimony of Cicero, was a Pythagorean. Aeschylus had also political views. Foremost of these was the design of rendering Athens illustrious. Delphi was the religious centre of Greece, and yet how far it is thrown into the shade by him! It can shelter Orestes, indeed, from the first onset of persecution, but not afford him a complete liberation; this is reserved for the land of law and humanity. But, a further, and in truth, his principal object was to recommend as essential to the welfare of Athens the Areopagus [Footnote: I do not find that this aim has ever been expressly ascribed to Aeschylus by any ancient writer. It is, however, too plain to be mistaken, and is revealed especially in the speech of Pallas, beginning with the 680th verse. It agrees, moreover, with the account, that in the very year when the piece was represented, (Olymp. lxxx. 1.) a certain Ephialtes excited the people against the Areopagus, which was the best guardian of the old and more austere constitution, and kept democratic extravagance in check. This Ephialtes was murdered one night by an unknown hand. Aeschylus received the first prize in the theatrical games, but we know that he left Athens immediately afterwards, and passed his remaining years in Sicily. It is possible that, although the theatrical judges did him justice, he might be held in aversion by the populace, and that this induced him, without any express sentence of banishment, to leave his native city. The story of the sight of the terrible chorus of Furies having thrown children into mortal convulsions, and caused women to miscarry, appears to be fabulous. A poet would hardly have been crowned, who had been the occasion of profaning the festival by such occurrences.], an uncorruptible yet mild tribunal, in which the white ballot of Pallas given in favour of the accused is an invention which does honour to the humanity of the Athenians. The poet shows how a portentous series of crimes led to an institution fraught with blessings to humanity.

But it will be asked, are not extrinsic aims of this kind prejudicial to the pure poetical impressions which the composition ought to produce? Most undoubtedly, if pursued in the manner in which other poets, and especially Euripides, have followed them out. But in Aeschylus the aim is subservient to the poetry, rather than the poetry to the aim. He does not lower himself to a circumscribed reality, but, on the contrary, elevates it to a higher sphere, and connects it with the most sublime conceptions.

In the _Oresteia_ (for so the trilogy or three connected pieces was called,) we certainly possess one of the sublimest poems that ever was conceived by the imagination of man, and, probably, the ripest and most perfect of all the productions of his genius. The date of the composition of them confirms this supposition: for Aeschylus was at least sixty years of age when he brought these dramas on the stage, the last with which he ever competed for the prize at Athens. But, indeed, every one of his pieces that has come down to us, is remarkable either for displaying some peculiar property of the poet, or, as indicative of the step in art at which he stood at the date of its composition.

I am disposed to consider the _Suppliants_ one of his more early works. It probably belonged to a trilogy, and stood between two other tragedies on the same subject, the names of which are still preserved, namely the _Egyptians_ and the _Danaidae_. The first, we may suppose, described the flight of the _Danaidae_ from Egypt to avoid the detested marriage with their cousins; the second depicts the protection which they sought and obtained in Argos; while the third would contain the murder of the husbands who were forced upon them. We are disposed to view the two first pieces as single acts, introductory to the tragical action which properly commences in the last. But the tragedy of the _Suppliants_, while it is complete in itself, and forms a whole, is yet, when viewed in this position, defective, since it is altogether without reference to or connexion with what precedes and what follows. In the _Suppliants_ the chorus not only takes a part in the action, as in the _Eumenides_, but it is even the principal character that attracts and commands our interest. This cast of the tragedy is neither favourable for the display of peculiarity of character, nor the exciting emotion by the play of powerful passions; or, to speak in the language of Grecian art, it is unfavourable both to _ethos_ and to _pathos_. The chorus has but one voice and one soul: to have marked the disposition common to fifty young women (for the chorus of _Danaidae_ certainly amounted to this number,) by any exclusive peculiarities, would have been absurd in the very nature of things: over and above the common features of humanity such a multitude could only be painted with those common to their sex, their age, and, perhaps, those of their nation. In respect to the last, the intention of Aeschylus is more conspicuous than his success: he lays a great stress on the foreign descent of the _Danaidae_; but this he does but assert of them, without allowing the foreign character to be discovered in their words and discourse. The sentiments, resolutions, and actions of a multitude, and yet manifested with such uniformity, and conceived and executed like the movements of a regular army, have scarcely the appearance of proceeding freely and directly from the inmost being. And, on the other hand, we take a much stronger interest in the situations and fortunes of a single individual with whose whole character we have become intimately acquainted, than in a multitude of uniformly repeated impressions massed as it were together. We have more than reason to doubt whether Aeschylus treated the fable of the third piece in such a way that Hypermnestra, the only one of the _Danaidae_ who is allowed to form an exception from the rest, became, with her compassion or her love, the principal object of the dramatic interest: here, again, probably, his chief object was by expressing, in majestic choral songs, the complaints, the wishes, the cares, and supplications of the whole sisterhood, to exhibit a kind of social solemnity of action and suffering.

In the same manner, in the _Seven before Thebes_, the king and the messenger, whose speeches occupy the greatest part of the piece, speak more in virtue of their office than as interpreters of their own personal feelings. The description of the assault with which the city is threatened, and of the seven leaders who, like heaven-storming giants, have sworn its destruction, and who, in the emblems borne on their shields, display their arrogance, is an epic subject clothed in the pomp of tragedy. This long and ascending series of preparation is every way worthy the one agitating moment at which Eteocles, who has hitherto displayed the utmost degree of prudence and firmness, and stationed, at each gate, a patriotic hero to confront each of the insolent foes; when the seventh is described to him as no other than Polynices, the author of the whole threatened calamity, hurried away by the Erinnys of a father’s curse, insists on becoming himself his antagonist, and, notwithstanding all the entreaties of the chorus, with the clear consciousness of inevitable death, rushes headlong to the fratricidal strife. War, in itself, is no subject for tragedy, and the poet hurries us rapidly from the ominous preparation to the fatal moment of decision: the city is saved, the two competitors for the throne fall by each other’s hands, and the whole is closed by their funeral dirge, sung conjointly by the sisters and a chorus of Theban virgins. It is worthy of remark that Antigone’s determination to inter her brother, notwithstanding the prohibition with which Sophocles opens his own piece, which he names after her, is interwoven with the conclusion of this play, a circumstance which, as in the case of the _Choephorae_, immediately connects it with a new and further development of the tragic story.

I wish I could persuade myself that Aeschylus composed the _Persians_ to comply with the wish of Hiero, King of Syracuse, who was desirous vividly to realize the great events of the Persian war. Such is the substance of one tradition; but according to another, the piece had been previously exhibited in Athens. We have already alluded to this drama, which, both in point of choice of subject, and the manner of handling it, is undoubtedly the most imperfect of all the tragedies of this poet that we possess. Scarcely has the vision of Atossa raised our expectation in the commencement, when the whole catastrophe immediately opens on us with the arrival of the first messenger, and no further progress is even imaginable. But although not a legitimate drama, we may still consider it as a proud triumphal hymn of liberty, clothed in soft and unceasing lamentations of kindred and subjects over the fallen majesty of the ambitious despot. With great judgment, both here and in the _Seven before Thebes_, the poet describes the issue of the war, not as accidental, which is almost always the case in Homer, but (for in tragedy there is no place for accident,) as the result of overweening infatuation on the one hand, and wise moderation on the other.

The _Prometheus Bound_, held also a middle place between two others– the _Fire-bringing Prometheus_ and the _Prometheus Unbound_, if we dare reckon the first, which, without question, was a satiric drama, a part of a trilogy. A considerable fragment of the _Prometheus Unbound_ has been preserved to us in a Latin translation by Attius.

The _Prometheus Bound_ is the representation of constancy under suffering, and that the never-ending suffering of a god. Exiled in its scene to a naked rock on the shore of the earth-encircling ocean, this drama still embraces the world, the Olympus of the gods, and the earth, the abode of mortals; all as yet scarcely reposing in security above the dread abyss of the dark primaeval powers–the Titans. The idea of a self-devoting divinity has been mysteriously inculcated in many religions, in dim foreboding of the true; here, however, it appears in most fearful contrast to the consolations of Revelation. For Prometheus does not suffer from any understanding with the power which rules the world, but in atonement for his disobedience to that power, and his disobedience consists in nothing but the attempt to give perfection to the human race. He is thus an image of human nature itself; endowed with an unblessed foresight and riveted to a narrow existence, without a friend or ally, and with nothing to oppose to the combined and inexorable powers of nature, but an unshaken will and the consciousness of her own lofty aspirations. The other productions of the Greek Tragedians are so many tragedies; but this I might say is Tragedy herself: her purest spirit revealed with all the annihilating and overpowering force of its first, and as yet unmitigated, austerity.

There is little of external action in this piece. Prometheus merely suffers and resolves from the beginning to the end; and his sufferings and resolutions are always the same. But the poet has, in a masterly manner, contrived to introduce variety and progress into that which in itself was determinately fixed, and has in the objects with which he has surrounded him, given us a scale for the measurement of the matchless power of his sublime Titan. First the silence of Prometheus, while he is chained down under the harsh inspection of _Strength_ and _Force_, whose threats serve only to excite a useless compassion in Vulcan, who is nevertheless forced to carry them into execution; then his solitary complainings, the arrival of the womanly tender ocean nymphs, whose kind but disheartening sympathy stimulates him to give freer vent to his feelings, to relate the causes of his fall, and to reveal the future, though with prudent reserve he reveals it only in part; the visit of the ancient Oceanus, a kindred god of the Titanian race, who, under the pretext of a zealous attachment to his cause, counsels submission to Jupiter, and is therefore dismissed with proud contempt; next comes Io, the frenzy-driven wanderer, a victim of the same tyranny as Prometheus himself suffers under: to her he predicts the wanderings to which she is still doomed, and the fate which at last awaits her, which, in some degree, is connected with his own, as from her blood, after the lapse of many ages, his deliverer is to spring; then the appearance of Mercury, as the messenger of the universal tyrant, who, with haughty menaces, commands him to disclose the secret which is to ensure the safety of Jupiter’s throne against all the malice of fate and fortune; and, lastly, before Prometheus has well declared his refusal, the yawning of the earth, which, amidst thunder and lightning, storms and earthquake, engulfs both him and the rock to which he is chained in the abyss of the nether world. The triumph of subjection was never perhaps more gloriously celebrated, and we have difficulty in conceiving how the poet in the _Prometheus Unbound_ could have sustained himself on the same height of elevation.

In the dramas of Aeschylus we have one of many examples that, in art as well as in nature, gigantic productions precede those that evince regularity of proportion, which again in their turn decline gradually into littleness and insignificance, and that poetry in her earliest appearance attaches itself closely to the sanctities of religion, whatever may be the form which the latter assumes among the various races of men.

A saying of the poet, which has been recorded, proves that he endeavoured to maintain this elevation, and purposely avoided all artificial polish, which might lower him from this godlike sublimity. His brothers urged him to write a new Paean. He answered: “The old one of Tynnichus is the best, and his compared with this, fare as the new statues do beside the old; for the latter, with all their simplicity, are considered divine; while the new, with all the care bestowed on their execution, are indeed admired, but bear much less of the impression of divinity.” In religion, as in everything else, he carried his boldness to the utmost limits; and thus he even came to be accused of having in one of his pieces disclosed the Eleusinean mysteries, and was only acquitted on the intercession of his brother Aminias, who bared in sight of the judges the wounds which he had received in the battle of Salamis. He perhaps believed that in the communication of the poetic feeling was contained the initiation into the mysteries, and that nothing was in this way revealed to any one who was not worthy of it.

In Aeschylus the tragic style is as yet imperfect, and not unfrequently runs into either unmixed epic or lyric. It is often abrupt, irregular, and harsh. To compose more regular and skilful tragedies than those of Aeschylus was by no means difficult; but in the more than mortal grandeur which he displayed, it was impossible that he should ever be surpassed; and even Sophocles, his younger and more fortunate rival, did not in this respect equal him. The latter, in speaking of Aeschylus, gave a proof that he was himself a thoughtful artist: “Aeschylus does what is right without knowing it.” These few simple words exhaust the whole of what we understand by the phrase, powerful genius working unconsciously.


Life and Political Character of Sophocles–Character of his different Tragedies.

The birth of Sophocles was nearly at an equal distance between that of his predecessor and that of Euripides, so that he was about half a life-time from each: but on this point all the authorities do not coincide. He was, however, during the greatest part of his life the contemporary of both. He frequently contended for the ivy-wreath of tragedy with Aeschylus, and he outlived Euripides, who, however, also attained to a good old age. To speak in the spirit of the ancient religion, it seems that a beneficent Providence wished in this individual to evince to the human race the dignity and blessedness of its lot, by endowing him with every divine gift, with all that can adorn and elevate the mind and the heart, and crowning him with every imaginable blessing of this life. Descended from rich and honourable parents, and born a free citizen of the most enlightened state of Greece;–there were birth, necessary condition, and foundation. Beauty of person and of mind, and the uninterruped enjoyment of both in the utmost perfection, to the extreme term of human existence; a most choice and finished education in gymnastics and the musical arts, the former so important in the development of the bodily powers, and the latter in the communication of harmony; the sweet bloom of youth, and the ripe fruit of age; the possession of and unbroken enjoyment of poetry and art, and the exercise of serene wisdom; love and respect among his fellow citizens, renown abroad, and the countenance and favour of the gods: these are the general features of the life of this pious and virtuous poet. It would seem as if the gods, to whom, and to Bacchus in particular, as the giver of all joy, and the civilizer of the human race, he devoted himself at an early age by the composition of tragical dramas for his festivals, had wished to confer immortality on him, so long did they delay the hour of his death; but as this could not be, they loosened him from life as gently as was possible, that he might imperceptibly change one immortality for another, the long duration of his earthly existence for the imperishable vitality of his name. When a youth of sixteen, he was selected, on account of his beauty, to dance (playing the while, after the Greek manner, on the lyre) at the head of the chorus of youths who, after the battle of Salamis (in which Aeschylus fought, and which he has so nobly described), executed the Paean round the trophy erected on that occasion. Thus then the beautiful season of his youthful bloom coincided with the most glorious epoch of the Athenian people. He held the rank of general as colleague with Pericles and Thucydides, and, when arrived at a more advanced age, was elected to the priesthood of a native hero. In his twenty-fifth year he began to exhibit tragedies; twenty times was he victorious; he often gained the second place, but never was he ranked so low as in the third. In this career he proceeded with increasing success till he had passed his ninetieth year; and some of his greatest works were even the fruit of a still later period. There is a story of an accusation being brought against him by one or more of his elder sons, of having become childish from age, and of being incapable of managing his own affairs. An alleged partiality for a grandson by a second wife is said to have been the motive of the charge. In his defence he contented himself with reading to his judges his _Oedipus at Colonos_, which he had then just composed (or, according to others, only the magnificent chorus in it, wherein he sings the praises of Colonos, his birth-place,) and the astonished judges, without farther consultation, conducted him in triumph to his house. If it be true that the second _Oedipus_ was written at so late an age, as from its mature serenity and total freedom from the impetuosity and violence of youth we have good reason to conclude that it actually was, it affords us a pleasing picture of an old age at once amiable and venerable. Although the varying accounts of his death have a fabulous look, they all coincide in this, and alike convey this same purport, that he departed life without a struggle, while employed in his art, or something connected with it, and that, like an old swan of Apollo, he breathed out his life in song. The story also of the Lacedaemonian general, who having entrenched the burying-ground of the poet’s ancestors, and being twice warned by Bacchus in a vision to allow Sophocles to be there interred, dispatched a herald to the Athenians on the subject, I consider as true, as well as a number of other circumstances, which serve to set in a strong light the illustrious reverence in which his name was held. In calling him virtuous and pious, I used the words in his own sense; for although his works breathe the real character of ancient grandeur, gracefulness, and simplicity, he, of all the Grecian poets, is also the one whose feelings bear the strongest affinity to the spirit of our religion.

One gift alone was denied to him by nature: a voice attuned to song. He could only call forth and direct the harmonious effusions of other voices; he was therefore compelled to depart from the hitherto established practice for the poet to act a part in his own pieces. Once only did he make his appearance on the stage in the character of the blind singer Thamyris (a very characteristic trait) playing on the cithara.

As Aeschylus, who raised tragic poetry from its rude beginnings to the dignity of the Cothurnus, was his predecessor; the historical relation in which he stood to him enabled Sophocles to profit by the essays of that original master, so that Aeschylus appears as the rough designer, and Sophocles as the finisher and successor. The more artificial construction of Sophocles’ dramas is easily perceived: the greater limitation of the chorus in proportion to the dialogue, the smoother polish of the rhythm, and the purer Attic diction, the introduction of a greater number of characters, the richer complication of the fable, the multiplication of incidents, a higher degree of development, the more tranquil dwelling upon all the momenta of the action, and the more striking theatrical effect allowed to decisive ones, the more perfect rounding off of the whole, even considered from a merely external point of view. But he excelled Aeschylus in something still more essential, and proved himself deserving of the good fortune of having such a preceptor, and of being allowed to enter into competition in the same field with him: I mean the harmonious perfection of his mind, which enabled him spontaneously to satisfy every requisition of the laws of beauty, a mind whose free impulse was accompanied by the most clear consciousness. To surpass Aeschylus in boldness of conception was perhaps impossible: I am inclined, however, to believe that is only because of his wisdom and moderation that Sophocles appears less bold, since he always goes to work with the greatest energy, and perhaps with even a more sustained earnestness, like a man who knows the extent of his powers, and is determined, when he does not exceed them, to stand up with the greater confidence for his rights [Footnote: This idea has been so happily expressed by the greatest genius perhaps of the last century, that the translator hopes he will be forgiven for here transcribing the passage: “I can truly say that, poor and unknown as I then was, I had pretty nearly as high an idea of myself and of my works, as I have at this moment, when the public has decided in their favour. It ever was my opinion, that the mistakes and blunders both in a rational and religious point of view, of which we see thousands daily guilty, are owing to their ignorance of themselves. To know myself, had been all along my constant study. I weighed myself alone; I balanced myself with others; I watched every means of information to see how much ground I occupied as a man and as a poet; I studied assiduously nature’s design in my formation– where the lights and shades in my character were intended.”–_Letter from Burns to Dr. Moore, in Currie’s Life._–TRANS.]. As Aeschylus delights in transporting us to the convulsions of the primary world of the Titans, Sophocles, on the other hand, never avails himself of divine interposition except where it is absolutely necessary; he formed men, according to the general confession of antiquity, better, that is, not more moral and exempt from error, but more beautiful and noble than they really are; and while he took every thing in the most human sense, he was at the same time open to its higher significance. According to all appearance he was also more temperate than Aeschylus in his use of scenic ornaments; displaying perhaps more of taste and chastened beauty, but not attempting the same colossal magnificence.

To characterize the native sweetness and gracefulness so eminent in this poet, the ancients gave him the appellation of the Attic bee. Whoever is thoroughly imbued with the feeling of this peculiarity may flatter himself that a sense for ancient art has arisen within him; for the affected sentimentality of the present day, far from coinciding with the ancients in this opinion, would in the tragedies of Sophocles, both in respect of the representation of bodily sufferings, and in the sentiments and structure, find much that is insupportably austere.

When we consider the great fertility of Sophocles, for according to some he wrote a hundred and thirty pieces (of which, however, seventeen were pronounced spurious by Aristophanes the grammarian), and eighty according to the most moderate account, little, it must be owned, has come down to us, for we have only seven of them. Chance, however, has so far favoured us, that in these seven pieces we find several which were held by the ancients as his greatest works, the _Antigone_, for example, the _Electra_, and the two on the subject of _Oedipus_; and these have also come down to us tolerably free from mutilation and corruption in their text. The _Oedipus Tyrannus_, and the _Philoctetes_, have been generally, but without good reason, preferred by modern critics to all the others: the first on account of the artifice of the plot, in which the dreadful catastrophe, which so powerfully excites the curiosity (a rare case in the Greek tragedies), is inevitably brought about by a succession of connected causes; the latter on account of the masterly display of character, the beautiful contrast observable in those of the three leading personages, and the simple structure of the piece, in which, with so few persons, everything proceeds from the truest and most adequate motives. But the whole of the tragedies of Sophocles are separately resplendent with peculiar excellencies. In _Antigone_ we have the purest display of feminine heroism; in _Ajax_ the sense of manly honour in its full force; in the _Trachiniae_ (or, as we should rather name it, the _Dying Hercules_), the female levity of Dejanira is beautifully atoned for by her death, and the sufferings of Hercules are portrayed with suitable dignity; _Electra_ is distinguished by energy and pathos; in _Oedipus Coloneus_ there prevails a mild and gentle emotion, and over the whole piece is diffused the sweetest gracefulness. I will not undertake to weigh the respective merits of these pieces against each other: but I own I entertain a singular predilection for the last of them, because it appears to me the most expressive of the personal feelings of the poet himself. As this piece was written for the very purpose of throwing a lustre on Athens, and his own birth-place more particularly, he appears to have laboured on it with a special love and affection.

_Ajax_ and _Antigone_ are usually the least understood. We cannot conceive how these pieces should run on so long after what we usually call the catastrophe. On this subject I shall hereafter offer a remark or two.

Of all the fables of ancient mythology in which fate is made to play a conspicuous part, the story of Oedipus is perhaps the most ingenious; but still many others, as, for instance, that of Niobe, which, without any complication of incidents, simply exhibit on a scale of colossal dimensions both of human arrogance, and its impending punishment from the gods, appear to me to be conceived in a grander style. The very intrigue which is involved in that of Oedipus detracts from its loftiness of character. Intrigue in the dramatic sense is a complication arising from the crossing of purposes and events, and this is found in a high degree in the fate of Oedipus, as all that is done by his parents or himself in order to evade the predicted horrors, serves only to bring them on the more surely. But that which gives so grand and terrible a character to this drama, is the circumstance which, however, is for the most part overlooked; that to the very Oedipus who solved the riddle of the Sphinx relating to human life, his own life should remain so long an inextricable riddle, to be so awfully cleared up, when all was irretrievably lost. A striking picture of the arrogant pretension of human wisdom, which is ever right enough in its general principles, but does not enable the possessor to make the proper application to himself.

Notwithstanding the severe conclusion of the first _Oedipus_ we are so far reconciled to it by the violence, suspicion, and haughtiness in the character of Oedipus, that our feelings do not absolutely revolt at so horrible a fate. For this end, it was necessary thus far to sacrifice the character of Oedipus, who, however, raises himself in our estimation by his fatherly care and heroic zeal for the welfare of his people, that occasion him, by his honest search for the author of the crime, to accelerate his own destruction. It was also necessary, for the sake of contrast with his future misery, to exhibit him in his treatment of Tiresias and Creon, in all the haughtiness of regal dignity. And, indeed, all his earlier proceedings evince, in some measure, the same suspiciousness and violence of character; the former, in his refusing to be quieted by the assurances of Polybos, when taunted with being a suppositious child, and the latter, in his bloody quarrel with Laius. The latter character he seems to have inherited from both his parents. The arrogant levity of Jocasta, which induces her to deride the oracle as not confirmed by the event, the penalty of which she is so soon afterwards to inflict upon herself, was not indeed inherited by her son; he is, on the contrary, conspicuous throughout for the purity of his intentions; and his care and anxiety to escape from the predicted crime, added naturally to the poignancy of his despair, when he found that he had nevertheless been overtaken by it. Awful indeed is his blindness in not perceiving the truth when it was, as it were, brought directly home to him; as, for instance, when he puts the question to Jocasta, How did Laius look? and she answers he had become gray-haired, otherwise in appearance he was not unlike Oedipus. This is also another feature of her levity, that she should not have been struck with the resemblance to her husband, a circumstance that might have led her to recognize him as her son. Thus a close analysis of the piece will evince the utmost propriety and significance of every portion of it. As, however, it is customary to extol the correctness of Sophocles, and to boast more especially of the strict observance of probability which, prevails throughout this _Oedipus_, I must here remark that this very piece is a proof how, on this subject, the ancient artists followed very different principles from those of modern critics. For, according to our way of thinking, nothing could be more improbable than that Oedipus should, so long, have forborne to inquire into the circumstances of the death of Laius, and that the scars on his feet, and even the name which he bore, should never have excited the curiosity of Jocasta, &c. But the ancients did not produce their works of art for calculating and prosaic understandings; and an improbability which, to be found out, required dissection, and did not exist within the matters of the representation itself, was to them none at all.

The diversity of character of Aeschylus and Sophocles is nowhere more conspicuous than in the _Eumenides_ and the _Oedipus Coloneus_, as both these pieces were composed with the same aim. This aim was to glorify Athens as the sacred abode of law and humanity, on whose soil the crimes of the hero families of other countries might, by a higher mediation, be at last propitiated; while an ever-during prosperity was predicted to the Athenian people. The patriotic and liberty-breathing Aeschylus has recourse to a judicial, and the pious Sophocles to a religious, procedure; even the consecration of Oedipus in death. Bent down by the consciousness of inevitable crimes, and lengthened misery, his honour is, as it were, cleared up by the gods themselves, as if desirous of showing that, in the terrible example which they made of him, they had no intention of visiting him in particular, but merely wished to give a solemn lesson to the whole human race. Sophocles, to whom the whole of life was one continued worship of the gods, delighted to throw all possible honour on its last moments as if a more solemn festival; and associated it with emotions very different from what the thought of mortality is in general calculated to excite. That the tortured and exhausted Oedipus should at last find peace and repose in the grove of the Furies, in the very spot from which all other mortals fled with aversion and horror, he whose misfortune consisted in having done a deed at which all men shudder, unconsciously and without warning of any inward feeling; in this there is a profound and mysterious meaning.

Aeschylus has given us in the person of Pallas a more majestic representation of the Attic cultivation, prudence, moderation, mildness, and magnanimity; but Sophocles, who delighted to draw all that is godlike within the sphere of humanity, has, in his Theseus, given a more delicate development of all these same things. Whoever is desirous of gaining an accurate idea of Grecian heroism, as contrasted with the Barbarian, would do well to consider this character with attention.

In Aeschylus, before the victim of persecution can be delivered, and the land can participate in blessings, the infernal horror of the Furies congeals the spectators’ blood, and makes his hair stand on end, and the whole rancour of these goddesses of rage is exhausted: after this the transition to their peaceful retreat is the more wonderful; the whole human race seems, as it were, delivered from their power. In Sophocles, however, they do not ever appear, but are kept altogether in the background; and they are never mentioned by their own name, but always alluded to by some softening euphemism. But this very obscurity, so exactly befitting these daughters of night, and the very distance at which they are kept, are calculated to excite a silent horror in which the bodily senses have no part. The clothing the grove of the Furies with all the charms of a southern spring completes the sweetness of the poem; and were I to select from his own tragedies an emblem of the poetry of Sophocles, I should describe it as a sacred grove of the dark goddesses of fate, in which the laurel, the olive, and the vine, are always green, and the song of the nightingale is for ever heard.

Two of the pieces of Sophocles refer, to what in the Greek way of thinking, are the sacred rights of the dead, and the solemn importance of burial; in _Antigone_ the whole of the action hinges on this, and in _Ajax_ it forms the only satisfactory conclusion of the piece.

The ideal of the female character in _Antigone_ is characterized by great austerity, and it is sufficient of itself to put an end to all the seductive representations of Grecian softness, which of late have been so universally current. Her indignation at Ismene’s refusal to take part in her daring resolution; the manner in which she afterwards repulses Ismene, when repenting of her former weakness, she begs to be allowed to share her heroic sister’s death, borders on harshness; both her silence, and then her invectives against Creon, by which she provokes him to execute his tyrannical threats, display the immovable energy of manly courage. The poet has, however, discovered the secret of painting the loving heart of woman in a single line, when to the assertion of Creon, that Polynices was an enemy to his country, she replies:

My love shall go with thine, but not my hate. [Footnote: This is the version of Franklin, but it does not convey the meaning of the original, and I am not aware that the English language is sufficiently flexible to admit of an exact translation. The German, which, though far inferior to the Greek in harmony, is little behind in flexibility, has in this respect great advantage over the English; and Schlegel’s “_nicht mitzuhassen, mitzulieben bin ich da_,” represents exactly _Outoi synechthein alla symphilein ephyn_.–TRANS.]

Moreover, she puts a constraint on her feelings only so long as by giving vent to them, she might make her firmness of purpose appear equivocal. When, however, she is being led forth to inevitable death, she pours forth her soul in the tenderest and most touching waitings over her hard and untimely fate, and does not hesitate, she, the modest virgin, to mourn the loss of nuptials, and the unenjoyed bliss of marriage. Yet she never in a single syllable betrays any inclination for Haemon, and does not even mention the name of that amiable youth [Footnote: Barthélemy asserts the contrary; but the line to which he refers, according to the more correct manuscripts, and even according to the context, belongs to Ismene.]. After such heroic determination, to have shown that any tie still bound her to existence, would have been a weakness; but to relinquish without one sorrowful regret those common enjoyments with which the gods have enriched this life, would have ill accorded with her devout sanctity of mind.

On a first view the chorus in _Antigone_ may appear weak, acceding, as it does, at once, without opposition to the tyrannical commands of Creon, and without even attempting to make the slightest representation in behalf of the young heroine. But to exhibit the determination and the deed of Antigone in their full glory, it was necessary that they should stand out quite alone, and that she should have no stay or support. Moreover, the very submissiveness of the chorus increases our impression of the irresistible nature of the royal commands. So, too, was it necessary for it to mingle with its concluding addresses to Antigone the most painful recollections, that she might drain the full cup of earthly sorrows. The case is very different in _Electra_, where the chorus appropriately takes an interest in the fate of the two principal characters, and encourages them in the execution of their design, as the moral feelings are divided as to its legitimacy, whereas there is no such conflict in Antigone’s case, who had nothing to deter her from her purpose but mere external fears.

After the fulfilment of the deed, and the infliction of its penalties, the arrogance of Creon still remains to be corrected, and the death of Antigone to be avenged; nothing less than the destruction of his whole family, and his own despair, could be a sufficient atonement for the sacrifice of a life so costly. We have therefore the king’s wife, who had not even been named before, brought at last on the stage, that she may hear the misfortunes of her family, and put an end to her own existence. To Grecian feelings it would have been impossible to consider the poem as properly concluding with the death of Antigone, without its penal retribution.

The case is the same in Ajax. His arrogance, which was punished with a degrading madness, is atoned for by the deep shame which at length drives him even to self-murder. The persecution of the unfortunate man must not, however, be carried farther; when, therefore, it is in contemplation to dishonour his very corpse by the refusal of interment, even Ulysses interferes. He owes the honours of burial to that Ulysses whom in life he had looked upon as his mortal enemy, and to whom, in the dreadful introductory scene, Pallas shows, in the example of the delirious Ajax, the nothingness of man. Thus Ulysses appears as the personification of moderation, which, if it had been possessed by Ajax, would have prevented his fall.

Self-murder is of frequent occurrence in ancient mythology, at least as adapted to tragedy; but it generally takes place, if not in a state of insanity, yet in a state of agitation, after some sudden calamity which leaves no room for consideration. Such self-murders as those of Jocasta, Haemon, Eurydice, and lastly of Dejanira, appear merely in the light of a subordinate appendage in the tragical pictures of Sophocles; but the suicide of Ajax is a cool determination, a free action, and of sufficient importance to become the principal subject of the piece. It is not the last fatal crisis of a slow mental malady, as is so often the case in these more effeminate modern times; still less is it that more theoretical disgust of life, founded on a conviction of its worthlessness, which induced so many of the later Romans, on Epicurean as well as Stoical principles, to put an end to their existence. It is not through any unmanly despondency that Ajax is unfaithful to his rude heroism. His delirium is over, as well as his first comfortless feelings upon awaking from it; and it is not till after the complete return of consciousness, and when he has had time to measure the depth of the abyss into which, by a divine destiny, his overweening haughtiness has plunged him, when he contemplates his situation, and feels it ruined beyond remedy:–his honour wounded by the refusal of the arms of Achilles; and the outburst of his vindictive rage wasted in his infatuation on defenceless flocks; himself, after a long and reproachless heroic career, a source of amusement to his enemies, an object of derision and abomination to the Greeks, and to his honoured father,–should he thus return to him–a disgrace: after reviewing all this, he decides agreeably to his own motto, “gloriously to live or gloriously to die,” that the latter course alone remains open to him. Even the dissimulation,–the first, perhaps, that he ever practised, by which, to prevent the execution of his purpose from being disturbed, he pacifies his comrades, must be considered as the fruit of greatness of soul. He appoints Teucer guardian to his infant boy, the future consolation of his own bereaved parents; and, like Cato, dies not before he has arranged the concerns of all who belong to him. As Antigone in her womanly tenderness, so even he in his wild manner, seems in his last speech to feel the majesty of that light of the sun from which he is departing for ever. His rude courage disdains compassion, and therefore excites it the more powerfully. What a picture of awaking from the tumult of passion, when the tent opens and in the midst of the slaughtered herds he sits on the ground bewailing himself!

As Ajax, in the feeling of inextinguishable shame, forms the violent resolution of throwing away life, Philoctetes, on the other hand, bears its wearisome load during long years of misery with the most enduring patience. If Ajax is honoured by his despair, Philoctetes is equally ennobled by his constancy. When the instinct of self-preservation comes into collision with no moral impulse, it naturally exhibits itself in all its strength. Nature has armed with this instinct whatever is possessed of the breath of life, and the vigour with which every hostile attack on existence is repelled is the strongest proof of its excellence. In the presence, it is true, of that band of men by which he had been abandoned, and if he must depend on their superior power, Philoctetes would no more have wished for life than did Ajax. But he is alone with nature; he quails not before the frightful aspect which she exhibits to him, and still clings even to the maternal bosom of the all-nourishing earth. Exiled on a desert island, tortured by an incurable wound, solitary and helpless as he is, his bow procures him food from the birds of the forest, the rock yields him soothing herbs, the fountain supplies a fresh beverage, his cave affords him a cool shelter in summer, in winter he is warmed by the mid-day sun, or a fire of kindled boughs; even the raging attacks of his pain at length exhaust themselves, and leave him in a refreshing sleep. Alas! it is the artificial refinements, the oppressive burden of a relaxing and deadening superfluity which render man indifferent to the value of life: when it is stripped of all foreign appendages, though borne down with sufferings so that the naked existence alone remains, still will its sweetness flow from the heart at every pulse through all the veins. Miserable man! ten long years has he struggled; and yet he still lives, and clings to life and hope. What force of truth is there in all this! What, however, most moves us in behalf of Philoctetes is, that he, who by an abuse of power had been cast out from society, when it again approaches him is exposed by it to a second and still more dangerous evil, that of falsehood. The anxiety excited in the mind of the spectator lest Philoctetes should be deprived of his last means of subsistence, his bow, would be too painful, did he not from the beginning entertain a suspicion that the open-hearted and straight-forward Neoptolemus will not be able to maintain to the end the character which, so much against his will, he has assumed. Not without reason after this deception does Philoctetes turn away from mankind to those inanimate companions to which the instinctive craving for society had attached him. He calls on the island and its volcanoes to witness this fresh wrong; he believes that his beloved bow feels pain in being taken from him; and at length he takes a melancholy leave of his hospitable cavern, the fountains and the wave-washed cliffs, from which he so often looked in vain upon the ocean: so inclined to love is the uncorrupted mind of man.

Respecting the bodily sufferings of Philoctetes and the manner of representing them, Lessing has in his _Laocoön_ declared himself against Winkelmann, and Herder again has in the _Silvae Criticae_ (Kritische Wälder) contradicted Lessing. Both the two last writers have made many excellent observations on the piece, although we must allow with Herder, that Winkelmann was correct in affirming that the Philoctetes of Sophocles, like Laocoön in the celebrated group, suffers with the suppressed agony of an heroic soul never altogether overcome by his pain.

The _Trachiniae_ appears to me so very inferior to the other pieces of Sophocles which have reached us, that I could wish there were some warrant for supposing that this tragedy was composed in the age, indeed, and in the school of Sophocles, perhaps by his son Iophon, and that it was by mistake attributed to the father. There is much both in the structure and plan, and in the style of the piece, calculated to excite suspicion; and many critics have remarked that the introductory soliloquy of Dejanira, which is wholly uncalled-for, is very unlike the general character of Sophocles’ prologues: and although this poet’s usual rules of art are observed on the whole, yet it is very superficially; no where can we discern in it the profound mind of Sophocles. But as no writer of antiquity appears to have doubted its authenticity, while Cicero even quotes from it the complaint of Hercules, as from an indisputable work of Sophocles, we are compelled to content ourselves with the remark, that in this one instance the tragedian has failed to reach his usual elevation.

This brings us to the consideration of a general question, which, in the examination of the works of Euripides, will still more particularly engage the attention of the critic: how far, namely, the invention and execution of a drama must belong to one man to entitle him to pass for its author. Dramatic literature affords numerous examples of plays composed by several persons conjointly. It is well known that Euripides, in the details and execution of his pieces, availed himself of the assistance of a learned servant, Cephisophon; and he perhaps also consulted with him respecting his plots. It appears, moreover, certain that in Athens schools of dramatic art had at this date been formed; such, indeed, as usually arise when poetical talents are, by public competition, called abundantly and actively into exercise: schools of art which contain scholars of such excellence and of such kindred genius, that the master may confide to them a part of the execution, and even the plan, and yet allow the whole to pass under his name without any disparagement to his fame. Such were the schools of painting of the sixteenth century, and every one knows what a remarkable degree of critical acumen is necessary to discover in many of Raphael’s pictures how much really belongs to his own pencil. Sophocles had educated his son Iophon to the tragic art, and might therefore easily receive assistance from him in the actual labour of composition, especially as it was necessary that the tragedies that were to compete for the prize should be ready and got by heart by a certain day. On the other hand, he might also execute occasional passages for works originally designed by the son; and the pieces of this description, in which the hand of the master was perceptible, would be naturally attributed to the more celebrated name.