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This tragedy was first acted in the year 1680, and, for a hundred years, had possession of the stage, and the hearts of the public.

There is a domestic interest in the fable, characters, and occurrences of this play, which forces attention and admiration; whilst it partakes of a certain horror, not perfectly consonant with delicacy, which forbids its final effect to be gratifying.

Dr. Johnson had just observed of Otway's “Orphan,”—“ That it had pleased for near a century, through all the vicissitudes of dramatic fashion,” when fashion cast it aside. But there appears to be such a degree of good taste, and even good manners, in no longer giving countenance to its representation, that it is to be hoped, its present mode of treatment will never change.--Yet, some wholesome lessons will infallibly be learned in the perusal of this faulty work.

It is uncivil to say, to a whole dramatis personæ, that “ they are all guilty of-speaking falsehood;"

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and yet, excepting old Acasto, and his young daughter, Serina, this may be said to every personage in the tragedy—therefore, it is proper it should be a tragedy, as such despicable conduct deserves exemplary punishment.

But the guilt of Castalio's falsehood is so ponderous, that the offences against truth, committed by his associates, are light in the balance with his duplicity-the wicked origin from whence came all subsequent deceit.

Otway borrowed his plot from the history of Brandon, in a novel, called, “ English Adventures." After having chosen such a hazardous subject, few poets could have treated it even with his decorumnone could have rendered it so pathetic.

In those parts of the drama, where the peculiar tendency of the story has not beguiled him into licentiousness, he is chiefly to blame, in having made Chamont so exactly that which Acasto calls him,

an ungrateful ruffian”—and for having made Serina so sudden in her love, and so unabashed in the repeated declaration of it, before all her friends. She appears even more amorous than idiots are generally supposed to be. She wants capacity for a foil, and must not be named with the charming Monimia.

Many objections have been made by the critics, to the improbability of that mistake of one brother for the other, which produces the most fatal event of the whole play—but amongst the mistakes of the selfsame kind, which Shakspeare, and a number of other dramatists, have introduced in their works, this, by Otway, is far the most natural of any that has yet been invented.

The author's disappointment, both as a soldier, and a courtier, may be traced in most of his dramas. He servilely flattered the court in his dedications, prologues, and epilogues; but when he spoke by the lips of his characters, then he spoke from his heart-And in the person of Pierre, in “ Venice Preserved,” as in Acasto here, he has breathed the spirit and the sufferings of poor Thomas Otway.

He had been a cornet of horse, before he was an author, and had served with the army in Flanders; but, on some account, was cashiered. That his offence was not of a disgraceful nature, may be conceived by the following lines in an epilogue to one of his plays; wherein he treats the circumstance of his dismission, too boldly, and too lightly, to admit the suspicion, that any humiliating imputation was, in consequence, attached to his character.

“But which amongst ye is there to be found,
Will take his three day's pawn, for fifty pound?
Or, now he is cashier'd, will fairly venture,
To give him ready money for's debenture ?
Therefore, when he receiv'd the fatal doom,
This play came forth, in hopes his friends would

To help a poor, disbanded soldier home.”

Dr. Johnson throws some doubt on the received opinion, that Otway was starved; or, rather, choked to death, by hastily devouring food, after long deprivation. But if this admirable poet did not perish from the immediate want, or eager swallowing of nourishment, it is certain, that his health and strength were wasted through poverty, and the difficulty of obtaining even the ordinary subsistence which cherishes life.

The author of “The Orphan"-a drama which melted every bosom with compassion for the sufferings of human nature, however deservedly inflicted—was driven to the lowest haunts of the poor, to shield him from the contempt, to which his necessitous state would have reduced him, from the rich.- Near the close of his days, it is allowed by all his biographers, he took shelter from this threatened scorn, in a little public house on Tower Hill, where he expired—if not with hunger, or too violent an appetite in devouring a piece of bread which charity had bestowed, with grief and pining abstinence.

This man, who is acknowledged to have painted the passions, especially the passion of love, more powerfully than any other dramatic author, was never in high esteem with his cotemporary writers. But Addison, who lived after him, and felt no prejudice from jealousy of a rival brother, has said of Otway

“ He has followed nature in the language of his tragedies, and, therefore, shines in the passionate parts, more than any of our English poets.”



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