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OR, THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT; A TRAGEDY, IN rive A CTS ; BY NATHANIEL LEE. AS PERFORMED AT THE THEATREs Roy AL, DRURY LANE AND COVENT GARDEN
PRINTED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE MANAGERS
FROM THE PROMPT Book."
WITH REMAIR KS
BY MRS, INCHBALD.
PRINTED FOR LONG MAN, HURST, REES, or ME, AND Brown PATERNOSTER-Row.
Nathaniel Lee, the author of this tragedy, was the son of Dr. Lee, minister of Hatfield. He received his early education under Busby at Westminster School, and was afterwards a student at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Disappointed in some hopes which he had formed upon the munificence of King Charles the Second, he turned his thoughts towards the stage for his support, and ventured his abilities as a performer. Dis
couraged in this attempt, yet enthralled by the
charms of a theatre, he encountered the perils of a
actor, he had neither the one requisite nor the other.
To persons well acquainted with theatrical qualifications, there is nothing wonderful in this intelligence,
The relater of it himself must have known, from long experience, that many a fine reader cannot act; and that many a fine actor cannot read. This observation, of course, applies to a superlative degree of excellence in either art. Amongst all the plays which this author produced, “The Rival Queens, or Alexander the Great," has been, and still remains, the most popular: there is popularity even in its high sounding title! nor do these outside words give an unsuitable specimen of those which are contained within. This tragedy is calculated for representation, rather than the amusement of the closet;-for, though it is graced with some beautiful poetry, it is likewise deformed by an extravagance, both in thought and in language, that at times verges upon the ludicrous, Actors, eminent in their art, know how to temper those failings in a tragic author: they give rapidity to their utterance in the mock sublime, and lengthen their cadence upon every poetic beauty, Lee and Dryden sometimes united their labours in the production of a drama. This play, and “All ... for Love, were written by each separately, and yet there is a near resemblance of the one to the other, —The characters and events are historical in both; and Clytus in this, and Ventidius in that, play, form such an equal contrast to the tragic scenes, that it appears the two poets thought alike, though they wrote asunder.
Dryden's Octavia is, however, much less refined than Lee's Statira. The first pardons her husband's love to Cleopatra, and is willing to accept his reluctant return with an alienated heart;-whilst the last makes a solemn vow never more to behold the man who loves her to distraction, because he has given her one proof of incontinence. There is deep knowledge of the female heart evinced in both these incidents. A woman is glad to be reconciled to the husband who does not love her upon any conditions —whilst the wife, who is beloved, is outrageous if she be not adored. Yet Lee should have considered, that such delicate expectations of perpetual constancy, as he has given to his pagan queen, Statira, were not, so late as his own time, prevalent, even among Christian queens. The consorts of Charles the Second and Louis the Fourteenth, saw as many partakers of their royal spouses' love, as the Sultana of Constantinople, and with equal patience. Barry was the last actor who acquired fame in the part of Alexander—he had every qualification, both in person and voice, for a hero and a lover. The play never failed of attraction in his youthful days; and its importance on the stage would be renewed by any performer of his peculiar abilities. Yet all Barry's endowments for this character appear to have fallen infinitely beneath those of Hart, the original hero. This Hart, it is reported by his biographers, made