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to the Ancients under the name of the old Comedy, but having neither name nor existence, properly speaking, among the Moderns. Of which we máy say, as Mr. Dryden did, but with less proprietý, of Comedy, That it " is a sharp manner of instruction for the

vulgar, who are never well amended, till

they are more than sufficiently exposed." [Pref. to Trans. of Fresnoy, p. xix.]

2. Though tragedy and comedy respect the same general END, yet pursuing it by different means, hence it comes to pass, their CHARACTERs are wholly different. For tragedy, aiming at pleasure, principally through the affections, whose flow must not be checked and interrupted by any counter impressions: and comedy, as we have seen, addressing itself principally to our natural sense of resemblance and imitation; it follows, that the ridiculous can never be associated with tragedy, without destroying its nature, though with the serious comic it very well consists.

And here the practice coincides with the rule. All exact writers, though they constantly mix grave and pleasant scenes together in the same comedy, yet never presume to do this in tragedy, and so keep the two species of tragedy and comedy themselves perfectly distinct. But,

3. It is quite otherwise with comedy and farce. These almost perpetually run into each other. And yet the reason of the thing demands as intire and perfect a separation in this case, as in the other. For the perfection of comedy lying in the accuracy and fidelity of universal representation, and farce professedly neglecting or rather purposely transgressing the limits of common nature and just decorum, they clash entirely with each other. And comedy must so far fail of giving the pleasure, appropriate to its design, as it allies itself with farce; while farce, on the other hand, forfeits the use, it intends, of promoting popular ridicule, by restraining itself within the exact rules of Nature, which Comedy observes.

But there is little occasion to guard against this latter abuse. The danger is all on the other side. And the passion for what is now called Farce, the shadow of the Old Comedy, has, in fact, possessed the modern poets to such a degree that we have scarcely one example of a comedy, without this


mixture. If any are to be excepted from this censure in Moliere, they are his Misanthrope and Tar

tuffe, which are accordingly, by common allowance, the best of his large collection. In proportion as his other plays have less or more of this farcical turn, their true value hath been long since determined.

Of our own comedies, such of them, I mean, as are worthy of criticism, Ben Jonson's Alchymist and Volpone bid the fairest for being written in this genuine unmixed manner. Yet, though their merits are very great, severe Criticism might find something to object even to these. The ALCHYMIST, some will think, is exaggerated throughout, and so, at best, belongs to that species of comedy, which we have before called particular and partial. At least, the extravagant pursuit so strongly ex posed in that play, hath now, of a long time, been forgotten; so that we find it difficult to enter fully into the humour of this highlywrought character. And, in general, we may remark of such characters, that they are a strong temptation to the writer to exceed the bounds of truth in his draught of them at first, and are further liable to an imperfect, and even unfair sentence from the reader afterwards. For the welcome reception, which these pictures of prevailing local folly meet with on the stage,' cannot but induce the poet, almost

without design, to inflame the representation: And the want of archetypes, in a little time, makes it pass for immoderate, were it originally given with ever so much discretion and justice. So that whether the Alchymist be farcical or not, it will appear, at least, to have this note of Farce, “ That the principal character is exaggerated." But then this is all we must affirm. For as to the subject of this Play's being a local folly, which seems to bring it directly under the denomination of Farce, it is but just to make a distinction. Had the end and purpose of the Play been to expose Alchymy, it had been liable to this objection. But this mode of local folly, is employed as the means only of exposing another folly, extensive as our Nature and coeval with it, namely Avarice. So that the subject has all the requisites of true Comedy. It is just otherwise, we may observe, in the Devil's an Ass; which therefore properly falls under our censure. For there, the folly of the time, Projects and Monopolies, are brought in to be exposed, as the end and purpose of the comedy,

On the whole, the Alchymist is a Comedy in just form, but a little Farcical in the extension of one of its characters.

The VOLPONE, is a subject so manifestly fitted for the entertainment of all times, that it stands in need of no vindication. Yet neither, I am afraid, is this Comedy, in all respects, a complete model. There are even some Incidents of a farcical invention ; particularly the Mountebank Scene and Sir Politique's Tortoise are in the taste of the old comedy; and without its rational purpose. Besides, the humour of the dialogue is sometimes on the point of becoming inordinate, as may be seen in the pleasantry of Corbaccio's mistakes through deafness, and in other instances. And we shall not wonder that the best of his plays are liable to some objections of this sort, if we attend to the character of the writer. For his nature was severe and rigid, and this in giving a strength and manliness, gave, at times too, an intemperance to

His taste for ridicule was strong but indelicate, which made him not overcurious in the choice of his topics. And lastly, his style in picturing characters, though masă terly, was without that elegance of hand, which is required to correct and allay the force of so bold a colouring. Thus, the biass of his nature leading him to Plautus rather 'than Terence for his model, it is not to be wondered that his wit is too frequently caustic; his raillery coarse; and his humour excessive.

his satyr.

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