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from behind the scenes the sounding of trumpets, and the shouts of fighting armies. But, I add farther, that these warlike instruments, and even their prescutations of fighting on the stage, are no more than necessary to produce the effects of an heroic play; that is, to raise the imagination of the audience, and to persuade them, for the time, that what they behold on the theatre is really performed. The poet is then to endeavour an absolute dominion over the minds of the spectators; for, though our fancy will contribute to its own deceit, yet a writer ought to help its operation : And that the Red Bull has formerly done the same, is no more an argument against our practice, than it would be for a physician to forbear an approved medicine, because a mountebank has used it with success.
Thus I have given a short account of heroic plays. I might now, with the usual eagerness of an author, make a particular defence of this. But the common opinion (how unjust soever) has been so much to my advantage, that I have reason to be satisfied, and to suffer with patience all that can be urged against it.
For, otherwise, what can be more easy for me, than to defend the character of Almanzor, which is one great exception that is made against the play? "Tis said, that Almanzor is no perfect pattern of heroic virtue, that he is a contemner of kings, and that he is made to perform impossibilities.
I must therefore avow, in the first place, from whence I took the character. The first image I had of hin, was from the Achilles of Homer; the next from Tasso's Rinaldo, (who was a copy of the former) and the third from the Artaban of Monsieur Calpranede, who has imitated both. The original of these, Achilles, is taken by Homer for his hero; and is described by him as one, who in strength
and courage surpassed the rest of the Grecian army; but, withal, of so fiery a temper, so impatient of an injury, even from his king and general
, that when his mistress was to be forced from him by the command of Agamemnon, he not only disobeyed it, but returned him an answer full of contumely, and in the most opprobrious terms he could imagine ; they are Homer's words which follow, and I have cited but some few amongst a multitude.
Οινοβαρές, κυνός όμματ' έχων, κραδίην δ' ελάφοιο.-Ι1. α. ν. 223.
Δημοβόρος βασιλεύς, &c.-ΙΙ. α. V. 23i. Nay, he proceeded so far in his insolence, as to draw out his sword, with intention to kill him ;
"Έλκετο δ' εκ κολεοΐο μέγα ξίφος.--1. α. ν. 194. and, if Minerva had not appeared, and held his hand, he had executed his design; and it was all she could do to dissuade him from it. The event was, that he left the army, and would fight no more. Agamemnon gives his character thus to Nestor;
'Αλλ' όδ' ανήρ εθέλει περί πάντων έμμεναι άλλων,
11. a. v. 287, 288. and Horace gives the same description of him in his Art of Poetry.
-Honoratum si fortè reponis Achillem,
Jura neget sibi nata, nihil non arroget armis. Tasso's chief character, Rinaldo, was a man of the same temper; for, when he had slain Gernando in his heat of passion, he not only refused to be judged by Godfrey, his general, but threatened that if he came to seize him, he would right himself by arms upon him ; witness these following lines of Tasso :
Venga egli, o mandi, io terrò fermo il piede:
Per lor diporto, alle nemiche genti. You see how little these great authors did esteem the point of honour, so much magnified by the French, and so ridiculously aped by us. They made their heroes men of honour; but so, as not to divest them quite of human passions and frailties : they content themselves to shew you, what men of great spirits would certainly do when they were provoked, not what they were obliged to do by the strict rules of moral virtue. For my own part, I declare myself for Homer and Tasso, and am more in love with Achilles and Rinaldo, than with Cyrus and Oroondates. I shall never subject my characters to the French standard, where love and honour are to be weighed by drams and scruples : Yet, where I have designed the patterns of exact virtues, such as in this play are the parts of Almahide, of Ozmyn, and Benzayda, I may safely challenge the best of theirs.
But Almanzor is taxed with changing sides : and what tie has he on him to the contrary? He is not born their subject whom he serves, and he is injured by them to a very high degree. He threatens them, and speaks insolently of sovereign power; but so do Achilles and Rinaldo, who were subjects and soldiers to Agamemnon and Godfrey of Bulloigne. He talks extravagantly in his passion; but, if I would take the pains to quote an hundred passages of Ben Jonson's Cethegus, I could easily shew you, that the rhodomontades of Almanzor are neither so irrational as his, nor so impossible to be put in execution ; for Cethegus threatens to destroy nature, and to raise a new one out of it; to kill all the senate for his part of the action; to look Cato
dead; and a thousand other things as extravagant he says, but performs not one action in the play.
But none of the former calunnies will stick; and, therefore, it is at last charged upon me, that Almanzor does all things; or if you will have an absurd accusation, in their nonsense who make it, that he performs impossibilities : they say, that being a stranger, he appeases two fighting factions, when the authority of their lawful sovereign could not. This is indeed the most improbable of all his actions, but it is far from being impossible. Their king had made himself contemptible to his people, as the history of Granada tells us; and Almanzor, though a stranger, yet was already known to them by his gallantry in the Juego de torros, his engagement on the weaker side, and more especially by the character of his person and brave actions, given by Abdalla just before ; and, after all, the greatness of the enterprise consisted only in the daring, for he had the king's guards to second him : But we have read both of Cæsar, and many other generals, who have not only calmed a mutiny with a word, but have presented themselves single before an army of their enemies; which upon sight of them has revolted from their own leaders, and come over to their trenches. In the rest of Almanzor's actions you see him for the most part victorious; but the same fortụne has constantly attended many heroes, who were not imaginary. Yet, you see it no inheritance to him ; for, in the first place, he is made a prisoner; and, in the last, defeated, and not able to preserve the city from being taken. If the history of the late Duke of Guise be true, he hazarded more, and performed not less in Naples, than Almanzor is feigned to have done in Granada.
I have been too tedious in this apology; but to make some satisfaction, I will leave the rest of my play exposed to the criticks, without defence.
The concernment of it is wholly passed from me, and ought to be in them who have been favourable to it, and are somewhat obliged to defend their opinions. That there are errors in it, I deny not;
Ast opere in tanto fas est obrepere somnum. But I have already swept the stakes : and, with the common good fortune of prosperous gamesters, can be content to sit quietly ; to hear my fortune cursed by some, and my faults arraigned by others; and to suffer both without reply.