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those means which they have used have been successful, and have produced them.
And one reason of that success is, in my opinion, this, that Shakspeare and Fletcher have written to the genius of the age and nation in which they lived; for though nature, as he objects, is the same in all places, and reason too the same, yet the climate, the age, the disposition of the people, to whom a poet writes, may be so different, that what pleased the Greeks would not satisfy an English audience.
And if they proceeded upon a foundation of truer reason to please the Athenians, than Shakspeare and Fletcher to please the English, it only shews that the Athenians were a more judicious people ; but the poet's business is certainly to please the audience.
Whether our English audience have been pleased hitherto with acorns, as he calls it, or with bread, is the next question ; that is, whether the means which Shakspeare and Fletcher have used in their plays to raise those passions before named, be better applied to the ends by the Greek poets than by them. And perhaps we shall not grant him this wholly : let it be yielded that a writer is not to run down with the stream, or to please the people by their own usual methods, but rather to reform their judgments,-it still remains to prove that our theatre needs this total reformation.
The faults which he has found in their designs, are rather wittily aggravated in many places, than
reasonably urged ; and as much may be returned on the Greeks, by one who were as witty as himself.
2. They destroy not, if they are granted, the foundation of the fabrick, only take away from the beauty of the symmetry : for example, the faults in the character of the King and No King are not as he makes them, such as render him detestable, but only imperfections which accompany human nature, and are for the most part excused by the violence of his love; so that they destroy not our pity or concernment for him. This answer may be applied to most of his objections of that kind.
And Rollo committing many murders, when he is answerable but for one, is too severely arraigned by him, for it adds to our horrour and detestation of the criminal ; and poetick justice is not neglected neither, for we stab him in our minds for every offence which he commits ; and the point which the poet is to gain on the audience is not so much in the death of an offender, as the raising an horrour of his crimes.
That the criminal should neither be wholly guilty, nor wholly innocent, but so participating of both as to move both pity and terrour, is certainly a good rule, but not perpetually to be observed; for that were to make all tragedies too much alike; which objection he foresaw, but has not fully answered.
To conclude, therefore ; if the plays of the ancients are more correctly plotted, ours are more beautifully written. And if we can raise passions as high on worse foundations, it shews our genius in tragedy is greater ; for, in all other parts of it, the English have manifestly excelled them.
Twould be a great impudence in me to say much of a comedy which has had but indifferent success in the action. I made the town my judges, and the greater part condemned it; after which I do not think it my concernment to defend it with the ordinary zeal of a poet for his decried poem. Though Corneille is more resolute in his Preface before his PERTHARITE, which was condemned more universally than this ; for he avows boldly, that, in spite of censure, his play was well and regularly written, which is more than I dare say for mine. Yet it was received at court, and was more than once the divertisement of his Majesty, by his own command ; but I have
9 This comedy, though not published till 1669, must have been acted in 1663, or before, being our author's first play, and consequently prior to The Rival LADIES, which was printed in 1664.-From the Prologue to the original edition, which was omitted in the subsequent copies, it appears that The Wild GALLANT was first represented on the 5th of February, probably February 5, 1662-3.—To this play no Dedication was prefixed.
more modesty than to ascribe that to my merit, which was his particular act of grace. It was the first attempt I made in Dramatick Poetry; and I find since, a very bold one, to begin with Comedy, which is the most difficult part of it. The plot was not originally my own; but so altered by me, (whether for the better or worse, I know not,) that whoever the author was, he could not have challenged a scene of it. I doubt not but you will see in it the uncorrectness of a young writer, which is yet but a small excuse for him who is so little amended since. The best apology I can make for it, and the truest, is only this ; that you have since that time received with applause as bad and as uncorrect plays from other men.