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nious person. A witty coward, and a witty brave, must speak differently. Falstaff and the Liar s speak not like Don John in THE CHANCES, and Valentine in WIT WITHOUT MONEY; and Jonson's Truewit in THE SILENT WOMAN is a character different from all of them. Yet it appears, that this one character of wit was more difficult to the author, than all his images of humour in the play; for those he could describe and manage from his observation of men; this he has taken, at least a part of it, from books : witness the speeches in the first act, translated verbatim out of Ovid DE ARTE AMANDI;—to omit what afterwards he borrowed from the sixth satire of Juvenal against women.
However, if I should grant, that there were a greater latitude in characters of wit, than in those of humour, yet that latitude would be of small advantage to such poets who have too narrow an imagination to write it. And to entertain an audience perpetually with humour, is to carry them from the conversation of gentlemen, and treat them with the follies and extravagancies of Bedlam.
I find I have launched out farther than I intended in the beginning of this Preface; and that, in the heat of writing, I have touched at something which I thought to have avoided. It is time now to draw homeward ; and to think
· SA character in a play already mentioned. See p. 83.
rather of defending myself, than assaulting others. I have already acknowledged that this play is far from perfect : but I do not think myself obliged to discover the imperfections of it to my adversaries, any more than a guilty person is bound to accuse himself before his judges. It is charged upon me, that I make debauched persons (such as they say my Astrologer and Gamester are) my protagonists, or the chief persons of the drama, and that I make them happy in the conclusion of my play ; against the law of comedy, which is to reward virtue, and punish vice. I answer first, that I know no such law to have been constantly observed in comedy, either by the ancient or modern poets. Chærea is made happy in The EUNUCH, after having deflowered a virgin ; and Terence generally does the same through all his plays; where you perpetually see, not only debauched young men enjoy their mistresses, but even the courtezans themselves rewarded and honoured in the catastrophe. The same may be observed in Plautus almost every where. Ben Jonson himself, after whom I may be proud to err, has given me more than once the example of it. That in The ALCHEMIST is notorious, where Face, after having contrived and carried on the great cozenage of the play, and continued in it, without repentance, to the last, is not only forgiven by his master, but enriched, by his consent, with the spoils of those whom he had cheated. And, which is more,-his master himself, a grave man, and a
e are all of my Madam ughty Dau
widower, is introduced taking his man's counsel, debauching the widow first, in hope to marry her afterward. In THE SILENT WOMAN, Dauphine (who with the other two gentlemen, is of the same character with my Celadon in The Maiden QUEEN, and with Wildblood in this) professes himself in love with all the Collegiate ladies; and they likewise are all of the same character with each other, excepting only Madam Otter, who has something singular: yet this naughty Dauphine is crowned in the end with the possession of his uncle's estate, and with the hopes of enjoying all his mistresses. And his friend Mr. Truewit (the best character of a gentleman which Ben Jonson ever made) is not ashamed to pimp for him. As for Beaumont and Fletcher, I need not alledge examples out of them; for that were to quote almost all their comedies.
But now it will be objected, that I patronize vice by the authority of former poets, and extenuate my own faults by recrimination. I answer, that as I defend myself by their example, so that example I defend by reason, and by the end of all dramatick poesy. In the first place, therefore, give me leave to shew you their mistake, who have accused me. They have not distinguished as they ought, betwixt the rules of tragedy and comedy, In tragedy, where the actions and persons are great, and the crimes horrid, the laws of justice are more strictly to be observed ; and examples of punishment to be made, to deter mankind from
the pursuit of vice. Faults of this kind have been rare amongst the ancient poets; for they have punished in Oedipus, and in his posterity, the sin which he knew not he had committed. Medea is the only example I remember at present, who escapes from punishment after murder. Thus tragedy fulfils one great part of its institution ; which is by example to instruct. But in comedy it is not so; for the chief end of it is divertisement and delight : and that so much, that it is disputed, I think, by Heinsius, before Horace his Art of Poetry, whether instruction be any part of its employment. At least I am sure it can be but its secondary end; for the business of the poet is to make you laugh : when he writes humour, he makes folly ridiculous; when wit, he moves you, if not always to laughter, yet to a pleasure that is more noble. And if he works a cure on folly, and the small imperfections in mankind, by exposing them to publick view, that cure is not performed by an immediate operation : for it works first on the ill-nature of the audience; they are moved to laugh by the representation of deformity; and the shame of that laughter teaches us to amend what is ridiculous in our manners. This being then established,—that the first end of comedy is delight, and instruction only the second, it may reasonably be inferred, that comedy is not so much obliged to the punishment of the faults which it represents, as tragedy. For the persons in comedy are of a lower quality, the action is little, and the faults and vices are but the sallies of youth, and the frailties of human nature, and not premeditated crimes : such to which all men are obnoxious, not such as are attempted only by few, and those abandoned to all sense of virtue ; such as move pity and commiseration, not detestation and horrour ; such, in short, as may be forgiven, not such as must of necessity be punished. But, lest any man should think that I write this to make libertinism amiable, or that I cared not to debase the end and institution of comedy, so I might thereby maintain my own errours, and those of better poets, I must farther declare, both for them and for myself, that we make not vicious persons happy, but only as heaven makes sinners SO,—that is, by reclaiming them first from vice; for so it is to be supposed they are, when they resolve to marry ; for then enjoying what they desire in one, they cease to pursue the love of many. So Chærea is made happy in Terence, in marrying hrer whom he had deflowered ; and so are Wildblood, and the Astrologer, in this play.
There is another crime with which I am charged, at which I am yet much less concerned, because it does not relate to my manners, as the former did, but only to my reputation as a poet; a name of which I assure the reader I am nothing proud, and therefore cannot be very solicitous to defend
6 I cared not is here used in the sense of --I scrupled