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afraid, the single authority, it has to lean on, is a very short hint, slightly dropped by the chorus in the Greek poet on a very different occasion. It is in the entrance of that scene, where the mangled body of Hippolytus is brought upon the stage; on the sight of which the chorus very naturally breaks out,
Καὶ μὲν ὁ τάλας ὅδε δὴ ςείχει
Ξανθόν τε κάρα διαλυμανθείς.
and yet, as the reader of just taste perceives, nothing beyond a single reflexion could have been endured even here.
III. The next song of the chorus may seem directly copied from Euripides. Yet the two occasions will be found extremely different. In Seneca, Theseus, under the conviction of his son's guilt, inveighs bitterly against him, and at last supplicates the power of Neptune to avenge his crimes. The chorus, as anticipating the effects of this imprecation, arraigns the justice of the Gods. In the Greek poet, the father, under the like circumstances, invokes the same avenging power, and, as some immediate relief to his pronounces the sentence of banishment, and urges the instant execution of it, against him. Hippolytus, unable to contend any longer with his father's fury, breaks out into that most tender complaint (than which nothing was ever more affecting in tragedy)
Αρηρεν, ὡς ἔοικεν, ὦ τάλας ἐγώ. &c.
containing his last adieu to his country, companions, and friends. The chorus, touched with the pathos of this apostrophe, and commiserating his sad reverse of fortune, enters with him into the same excess of lamentation, and, as the first expression of it, lets fall this natural sentiment, "That though "from coolly contemplating the divine superinten"dency of human affairs, there results abundant "confidence and security against the ills of life, yet "when we look abroad into the lives and fortunes of men, that confidence is apt to fail us, and we "find ourselves discouraged and confounded by the promiscuous and undistinguishing appointments "of good and ill." This is the thought, which Seneca hath imitated, and, as his manner is, outraged in his chorus of the third act:
O magna parens, Natura, Deúm, &c.
But the great difference lies here. That, whereas in Euripides this sentiment is proper and agreeable to the state and circumstances of the chorus, which is ever attentive to the progress of the action, and is most affected by what immediately presents itself to observation; in Seneca it is quite foreign and impertinent; the attention of the chorus naturally turning, not on the distresses of Hippolytus, which had not yet commenced, but on the rashness and unhappy delusion of Theseus, as being that, which had made the whole subject of the preceding scene. But the consequence of that delusion, it will be said, was obvious. It may be so. But the chorus, as
any sensible spectator, is most agitated by such reflexions, as occur to the mind from those scenes of the drama, which are actually passing before it, and not from those which have not yet taken place.
IV. What was remarked of the second song of the chorus will be applicable to the fourth, which is absurdly founded on a single reflexion in the Greek poet, but just touched in a couple of lines, though much more naturally introduced. Theseus, plunged in the deepest affliction by the immature death of Phædra, and not enduring the sight of the supposed guilty author of it, commands him into banishment, "Lest, as he goes on, his former triumphs and "successes against the disturbers of mankind, "should in consequence of the impunity of such "unprecedented crimes, henceforth do him no ho"nour." The chorus, struck with the distressful situation of the old king, and recollecting with him the sum of his former glories, is made to exclaim, Οὐκ οἶδ' ὅπως εἴποιμ ̓ ἂν εὐτυχεῖν τινα
Θνητῶν· τὰ γὰρ δὴ πρῶτ ̓ ἀνέγραπται πάλιν. i. e. there is henceforth no such thing, as human happiness, when the first examples of it are thus sadly reversed. Which casual remark Seneca seizes and extends through a whole chorus; where it visibly serves to no other end, but to usurp a place, destined for far more natural and affecting sentiments.
If I have been rather long upon this head, it is because I conceive this critique on the Hippolytus
will let the reader, at once,, into the true character of Seneca; which, he now sees, is that of a mere declamatory moralist. So little deserving is he of the reputation of a just dramatic poet.
196. ILLE BONIS FAVEATQUE, &c.] The chorus, says the poet, is to take the side of the good and virtuous, i. e. is always to sustain a moral character. But this will need some explanation and restriction. To conceive aright of its office, we must suppose the chorus to be a number of persons, by some probable cause assembled together, as witnesses and spectators of the great action of the drama. Such persons, as they cannot be wholly uninterested in what passes before them, will very naturally bear some share in the representation. This will principally consist in declaring their sentiments, and indulging their reflexions freely on the several events and distresses as they shall arise. Thus we see the moral, attributed to the chorus, will be no other than the dictates of plain sense; such as must be obvious to every thinking observer of the action, who is under the influence of no peculiar partialities from affection or interest. Though even these may be supposed in cases, where the character, towards which they draw, is represented as virtuous.
A chorus, thus constituted, must always, it is evident, take the part of virtue; because this is the natural and almost necessary determination of mankind, in all ages and nations, when acting freely
and unconstrained. But then it is to be observed, 1. That this moral character, or approbation of virtue, must also be considerably influenced by the common and established notions of right and wrong; which, though in essential points, for the most part, uniformly the same under all circumstances, yet will, in some particular instances, be much distorted by the corrupt principles and practices of different countries and times. Hence the moral of the stage will not be always strictly philosophical; as reflecting to us the image not of the sage's speculation, but, of the obvious sense of common, untutor'd minds. The reader will find this observation applied to the case of the chorus in the Medea, in note on v. 200, and it might further, perhaps, be extended to the vindication of some others, to which the ignorant temerity of modern criticism hath taken occasion to object. But,
2. The moral character of the chorus will not only depend very much on the several mistaken notions and usages, which may happen, under different circumstances, to corrupt and defile morality; but allowance is also to be made for the false policies, which may prevail in different countries; and especially if they constitute any part of the subject, which the drama would represent. If the chorus be made up of free citizens, whether of a republic, or the milder and more equal royalties, they can be under little or no temptation to suppress or disguise their real sentiments on the several events, presented