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A PLOT DISCOVERED;
IN FIVE ACTS;
BY THOMAS OTWAY.
AS PERFORMED AT THE THEATRES-ROYAL,
DRURY-LANE AND COVENT-GARDEN.
PRINTED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE MANAGERS
FROM THE PROMPT BOOK.
BY MRS. INCHBALD.
PRINTED FOR LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME, AND
BROWN, PATERNOSTER ROW.
The author of this popular tragedy died in the reign of Charles the second. He was the son of a clergyman, and was born at Trotting, in Sussex, where his father resided, in 1651.
Otway received his early education at a school near Winchester, and then became a commoner of Christ Church, Oxford. Soon after his return from the university, his passionate admiration of dramatic amusements induced him to venture his abilities on the stage, as an actor : in this attempt he wholly mistook the department of the theatre, which his talents were calculated to grace: but not till he had changed the profession of a comedian for that of a soldier, and had served in Flanders as a cornet of horse, did he try the force of his genius in the art, by which he has procured his renown.
« Venice Preserved" is the favourite work of Otway. It is played repeatedly every year; except when an order from the Lord Chamberlain forbids its representation, lest some of the speeches of Pierre should be applied, by the ignorant part of the audience, to certain men, or assemblies, in the English state.
The story of this play is taken from St. Real's Conspiracy of the Marquis de Bedamar, and the Duke d'Ossuna, against the republic of Venice: and, amongst a great deal of political declamation, anger, and fury, is interwoven the tenderest and most pathetic distress. It is Otway's highest praise, that be moves his audience to pity, more than any other dramatic writer.
The passion of love, finely portrayed on the stage, is supposed to engage every heart, because it is
supposed that every heart has already been softened by its power. But, although an audience be chiefly composed of the unmarried part of society, still conjugal love has a deeper interest in the bosom of every auditor than any other affection. The connubial state of Jaffier and Belvidera causes that sympathy in their grief from beholders, which neither the harmonious numbers of the poet, nor the exquisite acting of the performers, could awaken, merely on the part of two lovers. Some passages of this tragedy have, however, been attributed to the sentiments which the author's own sufferings inspired, rather than to the fictitious woes of those, his creatures of imagination.
Though the poverty of authors be proverbial, Ot. way appears to have been among the poorest and most destitute of all the class. The following lines, spoken by Jaffier, were, probably, written with the exact feelings which his own distresses had aroused.
" There's not a wretch, that lives on common charity,
“Tell me why, good Heaven, “ Thou mad'st me what I am, with all the spirit, “Aspiring thoughts, and elegant desires, “ That fill the happiest man?
Why have I sense to know the curse that's on me?
It is reported, that the author of " Venice Preserved" perished for want of food: and whatsoever well-disposed person shall read his Dedication of this very tragedy to the Duchess of Portsmouth (one of King Charles's mistresses), wherein he calls her “The pious mother of a prince, whose blooming virtues declare the mighty stock he comes from"such reader will own, that, if he were starved to death, the event at least did some honour to hisi patroness ;-as it showed her proper contempt for his base flattery,