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lasts" that there be nothing after to upbraid dreamer or doer in the part he played."
If we consider Molière's object in all the numerous plays that emanated from his fertile genius we perceive a constant warfare against vice and folly. And no dramatic author, ancient or modern, launched the shafts of satire against such a variety of vanities and foibles. "The Misanthrope " is considered by most critics to be Molière's masterpiece. It has even been characterized as the ideal of classic comedy, comprising, as it does, such immortal types as Alceste, the impatient but far from cynical hero; Célimène, the coquette; Oronte, the fop; Eliante, the reasonable woman; and Arsinoë, the mischief-maker. Molière is, in the estimation of many critics, the most consummate comic dramatist of modern times. It is in the combination of character with intrigue that his genius and creative powers are seen to the greatest advantage. His plays scintillate with wit and abound in humor and frolicsome fun. They are also remarkable for their accurate character-drawing and their astonishing reproduction of humanity at large.
Racine began to write when the classical fetters were riveted upon the French stage, and he never made the effort of struggling with his chains. He was as much of a poet as the prevalent taste for artificial forms would permit. He excelled in refinement and harmony of versification, and in delineating the passion of love with truth, suavity, and charm. In "Phædra" he does not attempt the highest poetry, but the jealous frenzy of the heroine is acknowledged to be a great achievement in pure passion. The play, as a whole, is considered one of the most finished productions of the French drama. It is especially noted for excellence of construction, and artful beauty of verse. It has been said of Goethe's "Faust" that each line is made to stand for eternity. When he had reached his eightieth year Goethe wrote of " Faust ": " The commendation which the poem has received far and near may perhaps be owing to this quality, that it permanently preserves the period of development of a human soul, which is tormented by all that it finds repellant, and made happy by all that it deserves." The first part of "Faust" was published as a complete tragedy in 1808. The second part, which is not suitable for a stage performance, was finished in 1831, but was not published till 1833. "Faust" is one of
the great classics of literature. It is founded on a popular legend, and Goethe accomplished the feat of transforming Faust from an ordinary necromancer into an eternal type of humanity. The innocence and fall of Gretchen appeal to every heart. The play throughout is fraught with interest and pathos that emanate from incidents of universal experience, while it also deals with the deepest problems that can engage the mind of man.
Schiller is excelled among the poets and dramatists of Germany only by Goethe in the power with which he expresses sublime thoughts and depicts the working of ideal passions. Apart from its splendid rhetoric, his play of " Mary Stuart noted for the technical skill with which its historical materials are combined. In no other play by Schiller does the story unfold itself with a movement so steadily progressive, and the catastrophe in the last act, in which Mary is led to execution, is one of profound pathos.
The wholesome, good-natured fun which Oliver Goldsmith infused into" She Stoops to Conquer " is as capable of producing a hearty laugh to-day as it was when it was first produced at Covent Garden, with fear and trembling on the part of both manager and author, on the memorable night of March 15, 1773. Indeed, with one or two exceptions, no comedy produced on the English stage has approached it in lasting popularity. In "She Stoops to Conquer" we have a splendid specimen of the comedy of intrigue, where the interest mainly depends upon a tissue of lively and farcical incidents, and where the characters form a gallery of eccentric portraits. Who that has ever read or seen the play can forget the delightful absurdities of young Marlow and Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle, and above all the side-splitting drollery of Tony Lumpkin?
Richard Brinsley Sheridan was early in the field as a dramatist. "The Rivals" was brought out at Covent Garden in January, 1775, not quite two years after the production of "She Stoops to Conquer," when Sheridan was only in his twentyfourth year. "The Rivals " does not depend alone on the cleverness of the plot. The merits of the play include its characters and dialogue. It cannot be denied that Sheridan frequently departs from probability, and that he occasionally comes dangerously near the border-land that separates comedy from farce The verbal misapplications of Mrs. Malaprop are in the nature of cari
cature, but where is there a more delightful scene in English comedy than the scene in the third act between this blundering old dowager, Captain Absolute, and Lydia Languish? What could be more ludicrous than the duel scene in which Sir Lucius O'Trigger tries in vain to screw the courage of Bob Acres up to the sticking point? In regard to the dialogue it is obvious that Sheridan has committed an additional sin against probability in making his valets as witty and cultured as their masters. But, after all, the exhibition of too much wit in comedy is a fault on the right side, and "The Rivals," despite its exaggerations, is acknowledged to be a dramatic classic.
Ibsen is generally looked upon in the light of a pessimistic philosopher, but his entire mode of contemplation is moral. To Ibsen the comedy of love, for instance, does not consist in the unavoidable amatory illusion, but in the deterioration of character and the abandonment of poetic ideals. He by no means doubts the possibility of matrimonial happiness. He endeavors to demonstrate that every injury sustained is dependent on a wrong committed, and that petty, narrow human beings can only become large through suffering. "A Doll's House made a sensational success when it was first produced, in 1879, For centuries, marriage founded upon love had been proclaimed to be a haven of bliss. Ibsen showed the seamy side of matrimony, and the picture was painfully true to life. We discern, however, in Ibsen's plays an ever-increasing glorification of woman. This is strikingly in evidence in the last scene of "A Doll's House," when Helmer declares that "no man sacrifices his honor even for one he loves," and Nora replies that "millions of women have done so."
It has been said, with some measure of truth, that Sardou's plays can hardly be classed as dramatic literature, but it has also been pointed out that Sardou "has shown real power in the creation of types, while unhesitatingly using in his plots the commonest effects," and that "he carries through a play with a verve and a rapidity of movement, for the sake of which he has been pardoned the frequency of his rememberings and borrowings." Sardou has been almost as prolific in the writing of plays as Scribe. He is thoroughly versed in the technique of the drama, and with a valuable knowledge of stage effect he combines an unrivalled instinct for what will suit the taste of the
playgoing public. "Les Pattes de Mouche," known on the English stage as "A Scrap of Paper," was originally produced in Paris in 1861. It is one of the most ingenious and delightful comedies of its class, and though it never goes deeper than the surface of men and things, its peculiarly original charm is none the less striking. So far as it can be said to have any social or ethical meaning it is to the effect that a young girl who fancies herself in love should avoid writing letters of a compromising nature. The real interest in the play centres in two charactersProsper and Suzanne-who remind us in their Gallic way of Benedick and Beatrice and other well-poised lovers of that type. The episodes are often improbable, but the dialogue is brilliant and witty, and, like a clever conjuror, Sardou entertains the audience till the fall of the curtain.
In conclusion let me say that the perusal of the plays in the present collection will emphasize the fact that all great dramatists have drawn their inspiration from the complex nature of human life. The inspired dramatist, like the poet, is born, not made. He has the gift of mingling romance and reality-and of idealizing ordinary incidents with the glamour of poetic light "that never was on sea or land." He is able to fathom the mysteries of the human heart, and above all, possesses the faculty of infusing into a play that "one touch of nature" which makes the whole world kin."
Albert Ellery Bergh