« 前へ次へ »
least a sign, that he had contributed more than | ice of spectators. One had the refined pleasure any other to bring comedy to the perfection in of setting others to guess, and the other that of which he left it. We shall, therefore, not in- guessing right by naming the masks. When quire farther, whether regular comedy was the pictures are so like that the name is not wanted, work of a single mind, which seems yet to be nobody inscribes it. The consequence of the unsettled, or of several contemporaries, such as law, therefore, was nothing more than to make these which Horace quotes. We must distin- that done with delicacy, which was done grossly guish three forms which comedy wore, in con- before; and the art, which was expected would sequence of the genius of the writers, or of the be confined within the limits of duty, was only laws of the magistrates, and the change of the partly transgressed with more ingenuity. Of government of many into that of few,
this Aristophanes, who was comprehended in
this law, gives us good examples in some of his The Old, Middle, and New Comedy.
poems. Such was that which was afterwards V. That comedy, * which Horace calls the called the middle comedy, ancient, and which, according to his account, The new comedy, or that which followed, was was after Eschylus, retained something of its again an excellent refinement, prescribed by the original state, and of the licentiousness which it magistrates, who, as they had before forbid the practised, while it was yet without regularity, use of real names, forbade afterwards real suband uttered loose jokes and abuse upon the jects, and the train of choruses * too much given passers-by from the cart of Thespis. Though to abuse; so that the poets saw themselves reit was now properly modelled, as might have duced to the necessity of bringing imaginary been worthy of a great theatre and a numerous names and subjects upon the stage, wbich at audience, and deserved the name of a regular once purified and enriched the theatre; for comedy, it was not yet much nearer to decency. comedy from that time was no longer a fury It was a representation of real actions, and ex- armed with torches, but a pleasing and innocent hibited the dress, the motions, and the air, as mirror of human life. far as could be done in a mask, of any one who was thought proper to be sacrificed to public Chacun peint avec art dans ce nouveau miroir In a city so free, or to say better, so
S'y vit avec plaisir, ou crut pe s'y pas voir ! licentious as Athens was at that time, nobody
L'avare des premiers rit du tableau fidelle
D'un avare souvent tracé sous son modelle; was spared, not even the chief magistrate, nor
Et mille fois un fat finement exprimé the very judges, by whose voice comedies were
Mécouput le portrait sur lui néme forné.t allowed or prohibited. The insolence of those performances reached to open impiety, and sport The comedy of Menander and Terence is, in was made equally with men and gods. These propriety of speech, the fine comedy. I do not are the features by which the greatest part of repeat all this after so many writers, but just to the compositions of Aristophanes will be known. recall it to memory, and to add to what they In which it may be particularly observed, that have said, something which they have omitted, not the least appearance of praise will be found, a singular effect of public edicts appearing in the and therefore certainly no trace of Hattery or successive progress of the art. A naked history servility.
of poets and of poetry, such as has been often This licentiousness of the poets, to which in given, is a mere body without soul, unless it be some sort Socrates fell a sacrifice, at last was enlivened with an account of the birth, progress, restrained by a law. For the government, and perfection of the art, and of the causes by which was before shared by all the inbabitants, which they were produced. was now confined to a settled number of citizens. It was ordered that no man's name should be
The Latin Comedy. mentioned on the stage; but poetical malignity VI. To omit nothing essential which conwas not long in finding the secret of defeating cerns this part, we shall say a word of the Latin the purpose of the law, and of making am- comedy. When the arts passed from Greece to ple compensation for the restraint laid upon Rome, comedy took its turn among the rest : but authors, by the necessity of inventing false the Romans applied themselves only to the now names. They set themselves to work upon species, without chorus or personal abuse ; known and real characters, so that they had though perhaps they might have played some pow the advantage of giving a more exquisite translations of the old or the middle comedy, for gratification to the vanity of poets, and the mal. Pliny gives an account of one which was repremedy, which was modelled upon the last species than can be received from names and terms, from of the Greek, hath nevertheless its different ages, which we have no real exemplification. according as its authors were rough or polished. The pieces of Livius Andronicus,* more ancient The Greek Comedy is reduced only to Aristophanes. and less refined than those of the writers who VII. Not to go too far out of our way, let us learned the art from him, may be said to compose return to Aristophanes, the only poet in whom the first age, or the old Roman comedy and tra- we can now find the Greek comedy. He is the gedy. To him you must join Nevius his con- single writer whom the violence of time bas in temporary, and Ennius, who lived some years some degree spared, after having buried in darkafter him. The second age comprises Pacuvius, ness, and almost in forgetfulness, so many great Cecilius, Accius, and Plautus, unless it shall be men, of whom we have nothing but the names thought better to reckon Plautus with Terence, and a few fragments, and such slight memorials to make the third and highest age of the Latin as are scarcely sufficient to defend them against comedy, which may properly be called the new the enemies of the honour of antiquity; yet comedy, especially with regard to Terence, who these memorials are like the last glimmer of the was the friend of Lelius, and the faithful copier setting sun, which scarcely affords us a weak and of Menander.
sented in his own time. But the Roman co* This bistory of the three ages of comedy, and their different characters, is taken in part from the valuable fragments of Platonius,
* Perhaps the chorus was forbid in the middle ago It will be shown how and in what sense this was of the comedy. Platonius seems to say so. yliowed.
+ Dospreaux Art. Poct. chant s.
fading light: yet from this glimmer we must enBut the Romans, without troubling themselves deavour to collect rays of sufficient strength to with this order of succession, distinguished their form a picture of the Greek comedy, approachcomedies by the dresses f of the players. The ing as near as possible to the truth. robe, called Prætexta, with large borders of Of the personal character of Aristophanes purple, being the formal dress of magistrates in little is known; what account we can give of it their dignity and in the exercises of their office, must therefore be had from his comedies. It can the actors who had this dress gave its name to scarcely be said with certainty of what country the comedy. This is the same with that called he was : the invectives of his enemies so often Trabeata, f from Trabea, the dress of the con- called in question his qualification as a citizen, suls in peace, and the generals in triumph. The that they have made it doubtful. Some said, he second species introduced the senators not in was of Rhodes, others of Egena, a little island great offices, but as private men ; this was called in the neighbourhood, and all agreed that he was Togata, from Toga. The last species was named a stranger. As to himself, he said that he was Tabernaria, from the tunic, or the common the son of Philip, and born in the Cydatbenian dress of the people, or rather from the mean quarter; but he confessed that some of his forhouses which were painted on the scene. There tune was in Egena, which was probably the oriis no need of mentioning the farces which took ginal seat of his family. He was, however, fortheir name and original from Atella, an ancient mally declared a citizen of Athens, upon evitown of Campania in Italy, because they differed dence, whether good or bad, upon a decisive from the low comedy only by greater licentious- judgment, and this for having made his judges ness; nor of those which were called Palliates, merry by an application of a saying of Telemafrom the Greek, a cloak, in which the Greek cha-chus,* of which this is the sense : “ I am, as my racters were dressed upon the Roman stage, be- mother tells me, the son of Philip; for my own cause that habit only distinguished the nation, part, I know little of the matter, for what child not the dignity or character, like those which knows his own father?” This piece of merrihave been mentioned before. To say truth, these ment did him as much good as Archias received are but trifling distinctions; for, as we shall show from the oration of Cicero,f who said that that in the following pages, comedy may be more use- poet was a Roman citizen. An honour which, fully and judiciously distinguished by the general if he had not inherited by birth, he deserved for nature of its subjects. As to the Romans, his genius. whether they bad or bad not, reason for these Aristophanest flourished in the age of the great names, they have left us so little upon the sub- men of Greece, particularly of Socrates and Euject which is come down to us, that we need not ripides, both of whom he outlived. He made a trouble ourselves with a distinction which affords great figure during the whole Peloponnesian us no solid satisfaction. Plautus and Terence, war, not merely as a comic poet by whom the the only authors of whom we are in possession, people were diverted, but as the censor of the gogive us a fuller notion of the real nature of their vernment, as a man kept in pay by the state to comedy, with respect at least to their own times, reform it, and almost to act the part of the arbi
trator of the public. A particular account of his comedies will best let us into his personal char- however, according to Horace, some low jocuacter as a poet, and into the nature of his genius, larities, and those smart sayings, which made the which is what we are most interested to know. vulgar laugh, made him be pitied by men of It will, however, not be amiss to prepossess our higher taste. It is true that some of bis jests readers a little by the judgments that have been are extremely good, but others likewise are very passed upon him by the critics of our own time, bad. To this every man is exposed who is too without forgetting one of the ancients that de- much determined to make sallies of merriment; serves great respect.
* The year of Rome 514, the first year of the 135th Olympiad. + Prætexte, Togate, Tabernariæ.
Suet. de Claris Grammat, says that C. Gelissus, librarian to Augustus, was the author of it.
ln the 85th year of the Olympiad, 437 years be fore our era, and 317 of the foundation of Rome.
they endeavour to raise that laughter by hyper
boles, wbich would not arise by a just repreAristophanes censured and praised.
sentation of things. Plautus is not quite so reVIII. “ Aristophanes,” says Father Rapin, gular as Terence in the scheme of his designs, « is not exact in the contrivance of his fables ; or in the distribution of his acts, but he is more his fictions are not probable; he brings real simple in his plot ; for the fables of Terence characters upon the stage too coarsely and too are commonly complex, as may be seen in his openly. Socrates, whom he ridicules so much Andria, which contains two amours.
It was in his plays, had a more delicate turn of bur- imputed as a fault to Terence, that, to bring lesque than himself, and bad his merriment more action upon the stage, he made one Latin without his impudence. It is true, that Aristo- comedy out of two Greek; but then Terence phanes wrote amidst the confusion and licenti. unravels his plot more naturally than Plautus, ousness of the old comedy, and he was well ac- which Plautus did more naturally than Aristoquainted with the humour of the Athenians, to phanes; and though Cæsar calls Terence but whom uncommon merit always gave disgust, one half of Menander, because, though he had and therefore he made the eminent men of his softness and delicacy, there was in him some time the subject of his merriment. But the too want of sprightliness and strength; yet he has great desire which he had to delight the people written in a manner so natural and so judicious, by exposing worthy characters upon the stage, that though he was then only a copy, he is now made him, at the same time, an unworthy man; an original. No author has ever had a more and the turn of his genius to ridicule was dis- exact sense of pure nature. Of Cecilius, since figured and corrupted by the indelicacy and out- we have only a few fragments, I shall say norageousness of his manners. After all, his plea- thing. All that we know of him is told us santry consists chiefly in new-coined puffy lan- by Varrus, that he was happy in the choice of guage. The dish of twenty-six syllables, which subjects." he gives in his last scene of his . Female Orators, Rapin omits many others for the same reason, would please few tastes in our days. His lan- that we have not enough of their works to qualify guage is sometimes obscure, perplexed, and us for judges. While we are upon this subject, vulgar, and his frequent play with words, his it will perhaps not displease the reader to see oppositions of contradictory terms, his mixture what that critic's opinion is of Lopes de Vega of tragic and comic, of serious and burlesque, and Moliere. It will appear, that with respect are all flat; and his jocularity, if you examine to Lopes de Vega, he is rather too profuse of it to the bottom, is all false. Menander is di- praise : that in speaking of Moliere, he is too verting in a more elegant manner; his style is parsimonious. This piece will, however, be of pure, clear, elevated, and natural ; be persuades use to our design, when we shall examine to the like an orator, and instructs like a philosopher; bottom what it is that ought to make the chaand if we may venture to judge upon the frag- racter of comedy. ments which remain, it appears that his pictures “ No man has ever had a greater genius for of civil life are pleasing, that he makes every comedy than Lopes de Vega the Spaniard. He one speak according to his character, that every bad a fertility of wit, joined with great beauty of man may apply his pictures of life to himself, conception, and a wonderful readiness of compobecause he always follows nature, and feels for sition; for he has written more than three bunthe personages which he brings upon the stage. dred comedies. His name alone gave reputation To conclude: Plutarch, in his comparison of to his pieces ; for his reputation was so well esthese authors, says, that the Muse of Aristo- tablished, that a work which came from his phanes is an abandoned prostitute, and that of hands, was sure to claim the approbation of the Menander a modest woman.'
publio. He had a mind too extensive to be subIt is evident that this whole character is taken jected to rules, or restrained by limits. For from Plutarch. Let us now go on with this that reason he gave himself up to his own geremark of father Rapin, since we have already nius, on which he could always depend with spoken of the Latin comedy, of which he gives confidence. When he wrote, he consulted no us a description.
other laws than the taste of his auditors, and “ With respect to the two Latin comic poets, regulated bis manner more by the success of bis Plautus is ingenious in his designs, happy in his work than by the rules of reason. Thus he sonceptions, and fruitful of invention. He has, discarded all scruples of unity, and all the
superstitions of probability.” (This is certainly many dramatic pieces, which are equally enter. not said with a design to praise him, and must taining by the action and by the dialogue. The be connected with that wbich immediately fol. style of Aristophanes is no less pleasing than his lows.) “ But as for the most part he endeav- fancy; for, besides its clearness, its vigour, and ours at too much jocularity, and carries ridicule its sweetness, there is in it a certain barmony to too much refinement; his conceptions are so delightful to the ear, that there is no pleasure often rather happy than just, and rather wild equal to that of reading it. When he applies than natural ; for, by subtilizing merriment too himself to vulgar mediocrity of style, he descends far, it becomes too nice to be true, and his beau- without meanness; when he attempts the subties lose their power of striking by being too lime, he is elevated without obscurity; and no delicate and acute.
man has ever had the art of blending all the “ Among us, nobody has carried ridicule in different kinds of writing so equally together. comedy farther than Moliere. Our ancient After having studied all that is left us of Grecomic writers bronght no characters higher than cian learning, if we have not read Aristophanes, servants, to make sport upon the theatre; but we cannot yet know all the charms and beauties we are diverted upon the theatre of Moliere by of that language." marquises and people of quality. Others have exhibited in comedy no species of life above that
Plutarch's sentiment upon Aristophanes and
Menander. of a citizen; but Moliere shows us all Paris, and the court. He is the oniy man amongst IX. This is a pompous eulogium: but let us us, who has laid open those features of nature suspend our opinion, and hear that of Plutarch, by which he is exactly marked, and may be ac- who, being an ancient, well deserves our attencurately known. The beauties of his pictures tion, at least after we have heard the moderns are so natural, that they are felt by persons of before him. This is then the sum of his judgthe least discernment, and his power of pleas- ment concerning Aristophanes and Menander. antry received half its force from his power of To Menander he gives the preference, without copying. His Misanthrope is, in my opinion, allowing much competition. He objects to the most complete, and likewise the most singu- Aristophanes, that he carries all his thoughts lar character that has ever appeared upon the beyond nature, that he writes rather to the stage: but the disposition of his comedies is al-crowd than to men of character; that he affects ways defective some way or another. This is a style obscure and licentious; tragical, pomall which we can observe in general upon pous, and mean, sometimes serious, and somecomedy."
times ludicrous, even to puerility; that he makes Such are the thoughts of one of the most re- none of his personages speak according to any fined judges of works of genius, from which, distinct character, so that in his scenes the son though they are not all oraculous, some advan- cannot be known from the father, the citizen tages may be drawn, as they always make some from the boor, the hero from the shopkeeper, or approaches to truth.
the divine from the serving-man. Whereas the Madame Dacier, having her mind full of the diction of Menander, which is always uniform merit of Aristophanes, expresses herself in this and pure, is very justly adapted to different manner : “ No man had ever more discernment characters, rising when it is necessary to vigorthan he, in finding out the ridiculous, or a
ous and sprightly comedy, yet without transmore ingenious manner of showing it to others. gressing the proper limits, or losing sight of His remarks are natural and easy, and, what nature, in which Menander, says Plutarch, has very rarely can be found, with great copious- attained a perfection to which no other writer ness he has great delicacy. To say all at once, has arrived. For what man besides himself has the attic wit, of which the ancients made such ever found the art of making a diction equally boast, appears more in Aristophanes than in any suitable to women and children, to old and other that I know of in antiquity. But what young, to divinities and heroes? Now Menanis most of all to be admired in him is, that he is der has found this happy secret, in the equality always so much master of the subject before and Alexibility of his diction, which, though alhim, that, without doing any violence to him. ways the same, is nevertheless different upon self, he finds a way to introduce naturally things different occasions ; like a current of clear water which at first appeared most distant from his (to keep closely to the thoughts of Plutarch), purpose ; and even the most quick and unex- which running through banks differently turn. pected of his desultory sallies appear the neces- ed, complies with all their turns backward and sary consequence of the foregoing incidents. forward, without changing any thing of its This is that art which sets the dialogues of Plato nature or its purity. Plutarch mentions it as a above imitation, which we must consider as so part of the merit of Menander, that he began
very young, and was stopped only by old age, at
a time when he would have produced the greatPreface to Plantus. Paris, 1631.
est wonders, if death had not prevented him. This, joined to a reflection, which he makes as , and more than five after Aristophanes, bas passed he returns to Aristophanes, shows that Aristo- so exact a judgment upon both, that it may be phanes continued a long time to display his fit to re-examine it. Plato, the contemporary of powers: for his poetry, says Plutarch, is a strum- Aristophanes, thought very differently, at least pet that affects sometimes the airs of a prude, but of his genius; for, in his piece called “ The Enwhose impudence cannot be forgiven by the peo- tertainment,” he gives that poet a distinguished ple, and whose affected modesty is despised by place, and makes him speak, according to his men of decency. Menander, on the contrary, character, with Socrates himself; from which, always shows himself a man agreeable and by the way, it is apparent that this dialogue of witty, a companion desirable upon the stage, at Plato was composed before the time that Aristotable, and in gay assemblies ; an extract of all phanes wrote his “ Clouds” against Socrates. the treasures of Greece, who deserves always to Plato is likewise said to have sent a copy of be read, and always to please. His irresistible Aristophanes to Dionysius the tyrant, with adpower of persuasion, and the reputation which | vice to read it diligently, if he would attain a he bas had, of being the best master of language complete judgment of the state of the Athenian of Greece, sufficiently show the delightfulness of republic. his style. Upon this article of Menander, Plu- Many other scholars have thought that they tarch does not know how to make an end; he might depart somewhat from the opinion of Plus says, that he is the delight of philosophers fa- tarch. Frischlinus, for example, one of the comtigued with study; that they use his works as a mentators upon Aristophanes, though he justly meadow enamelled with flowers, where purer allows his taste to be less pure than that of Meair gratifies the sense; that notwithstanding the nander, has yet undertaken his defence against powers of the other comic poets of Athens, Me- the outrageous censure of the ancient critic. In nander has always been considered as possessing the first place, he condemns without mercy his a salt peculiar to himself, drawn from the same ribaldry and obscenity. But this part, so worthy waters that gave birth to Venus. That on the of contempt, and written only for the lower contrary, the salt of Aristophanes is bitter, keen, people, according to the remark of Boivin, bad coarse, and corrosive ; that one cannot tell whe- as it is, after all is not the chief part which is ther his dexterity, which has been so much left of Aristophanes. I will not say with boasted, consists not more in the characters than Frischlinus, that Plutarch seems in this to conin the expression, for he is charged with playing tradict himself, and in reality commends the often upon words, with affecting antithetical al- poet when be accuses him of having adapted his lusions; that he has spoiled the copies which he language to the stage; by the stage, in this place, endeavoured to take after nature; that artifice he meant the theatre of Farces, on which low in his plays is wickedness, and simplicity, bru- mirth and buffoonery were exhibited. This tishness; that his jocularity ought to raise hisses plea of Frischlinus is a mere cavil; and though rather than laughter ; that bis amours have more the poet bad obtained his end, which was to diimpudence than gayety; and that he has not so vert a corrupted populace, he would not have much written for men of understanding, as for been less a bad man, nor less a despicable poet, minds blackened with envy and corrupted with notwithstanding the excuse of his defender. To debauchery.
be able in the highest degree to divert fools and
libertines, will not make a poet : it is not, thereThe justification of Aristophanes. fore, by this defence that we must justify the
character of Aristophanes. The depraved taste X. After such a character there seems no of the crowd, who once drove away Cratinus need of going further; and one would think that and his company, because the scenes had not low it would be better to bury for ever the memory buffoonery enough for their taste, will not justify of so hateful a writer, that makes us so poor a Aristophanes, since Menander found a way of recompense for the loss of Menander, who can changing the taste by giving a sort of comedy, not be recalled. But without showing any mercy not indeed so modest as Plutarch represents it, to the indecent or malicious sallies of Aristo. but less licentious than before. Nor is Aristophanes, any more than to Plautus his imitator, phanes better justified by the reason which or at least the inheritor of his genius, may it not be himself offers, when he says, that he exhibe allowed us to do, with respect to him, what, if bited debauchery upon the stage, not to corrupt I mistake not, Lucretias * did to Ennius, from the morals, but to mend them. The sight of whose muddy verses he gathered jewels? Enni gross faults is rather a poison than a remedy. de stercore gemmas.
The apologist has forgot one reason, which apBesides, we must not believe that Plutarch, pears to me to be essential to a just account. As who lived more than four ages after Menander, far as we can judge by appearance, Plutarch had
in his hands all the plays of Aristophanes, which
were at least fifty in number. In these he saw Brumoy has mistaken Lucretius for Virgil. more licentiousness than has come to our hands,