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tions, that she is little affected by the circumstance of Clytemnestra's relation to the murderer, because she herself had no mother, means only that justice is not governed by any affection or personal consideration, but acts by an invariable and general rule. If the oracle commanded, and the laws justified the act of Orestes, by appointing the next in blood to avenge
the murder, then other circumstances of a special and inferior kind, were not to have any weight. I am inclined to think this tragedy is a mixture of History and Allegory. Æschylus affected the allegorical manner so much, as to form a tragedy, called the Balance, upon the allegory in Homer, of Jupiter's weighing the fates of Hector and Achilles *; and it is apparent, that the Prometheus of this author, is the ancient allegory of Prometheus wrought into a drama. Prometheus makes his first appear ance with two fymbolical persons, Violence and Force, which are, apparently, of the Poet's fiction. Pere Brumoy intimates a
* Apud Plut. de modo leg. poëtas.
suspicion that this tragedy is an allegory, but imagines it alludes to Xerxes or Darius, because it abounds with reflections on tyranny. To flatter the republican spirit, all the Grecian tragedies are full of such reflections. But an oblique censure on the Persian monarch could not have excused the direct imputations thrown on the character of Jupiter, if the circumstances of the story had been taken in a literal sense ; nor can it be supposed that the Athenians would have endured the most violent affronts to have been offered to the character of that deity to whom they every day offered facrifice. An allegory being sometimes a mere physical hypothesis, might without impiety be treated with freedom.
It is probable that many allegories brought from the hieroglyphic land of Egypt, were, in the grosser times of Greece, literally understood by the vulgar ; but, in more philosophic ages, were again transmuted into allegory; which will account for the mythology of the Greeks and Ægyptians varying greatly,
but still preserving such a resemblance as Thews them to be derived from the same origin.
Jealous of the neighbouring states, and ever attentive to the glory and interest of their commonwealth, an Athenian audience listened with pleasure to any circumstances, in their theatrical entertainments, which reflected honour on their country. The institution of the Areopagus by the express commands of Minerva ; a perpetual amity, promised by Orestes, between Argos and Athens, in the tragedy of the Eumenides ; and a prophecy of Prometheus, which threw a lustre on the author of the race of the Heraclidæ, were circumstances, without question, fedulously fought by the Poet, and favorably received by the Spectator. But though such subjects might be chosen, or invented, as would introduce some favorable incidents, or flattering reflections, this intention did not always reign through the whole drama,
It was just now observed, that Shakespear has an advantage over the Greek Poets, in the more folemn, gloomy, and mysterious air of his national superstitions ; but this avails him only with critics of deep penetration and true taste, and with whom sentiment has more sway than authority. The learned have received the popular tales of Greece from their Poets; ours are derived to them from the illiterate vulgar. The phantom of Darius, in the tragedy of the Persians, evoked by ancient rites, is beheld with reverence by the scholar, and endured by the bel esprit. To these the ghost of Hamlet is an object of contempt or ridicule. Let us candidly examine these royal shades, as exhibited to us by those great masters in the art of exciting pity and terror, Æschylus and Shakespear; and impartially decide which Poet throws most of the Sublime into the præternatural character; and, also, which has the art to render it most efficient in the drama. This enquiry may be the more interesting because the French wits have often
mentioned Hamlet's ghost as an instance of the barbarism of our theatre. The Persians, of Æschylus, is certainly one of the most august spectacles that ever was represented on a theatre; nobly imagined, happily suftained, regularly conducted, deeply interesting to the Athenian people, and favorable to their great scheme of resisting the power of the Persian monarch. It would be absurd to depreciate this excellent piece, or to bring into a general comparison with it, a drama of so different a kind as the tragedy of Hamlet. But it is surely allowable to compare the Persian phantom with the Danish ghost; and to examine, whether any thing but prejudice, in favour of the ancients, protects the superstitious circumstances relative to the one, froin the same ridicule with which the others have been treated. Atoffa, the widow of Darius, relates to the sages of the Persian council, a dream and an omen; they advise her to consult the shade of her dead lord, upon what is to be done in the unfortunate situation of Xerxes just defeated by the Greeks. In the third act