BLTC Press Titles

available for Kindle at

The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour

Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

A course of lectures on dramatic art and literature tr. [from Ueber dramatische Kunst und Literatur] by J. Black

by August Wilhelm von Schlegel


defects of the histrionic art.

The same system of rules and proprieties, which I have endeavoured to show must inevitably have a narrowing influence on tragedy, has been applied to comedy in France much more advantageously. For this mixed composition has, as we have already seen, an unpoetical side; and some degree of artificial constraint, if not altogether essential to the new comedy, is certainly beneficial to it; for if it is treated with too negligent a latitude, it runs a risk in respect of general structure, shapelessness, and representation of individual peculiarities, of falling into every day common place. In the French as well as the Grecian language, it happens that the same syllabic measure is used in tragedy and comedy, which on a first view may appear singular. But if the Alexandrine did not appear to us peculiarly adapted to the free imitative expression of pathos, on the other hand it must be owned, that a comical effect is produced by the application of so symmetrical a measure to the familiar turns of dialogue. The narrowing grammatical conscientiousness of the French poetry is fully suited to comedy, where the versification is not purchased at the expense of resemblance to the language of conversation, where it is not intended to elevate the dialogue by sublimity and dignity above real life, but merely to communicate to it a more elegant ease and lightness. Hence the opinion of the French, who hold a comedy in verse in much higher estimation than a comedy in prose, seems to me to admit of a good justification.

I endeavoured to show that the unities of place and time are inconsistent with the essence of many tragical subjects, because a comprehensive action is frequently carried on in distant places at the same time, and because great determinations can only be slowly prepared. This is not the case in comedy: here the intrigue ought to prevail, the activity of which quickly advances towards its object; and hence the unity of time comes to be almost naturally observed. The domestic and social circles in which the new comedy moves are usually assembled in one place, and consequently the poet is not under the necessity of sending our imagination abroad: only it might have been as well, perhaps, not to interpret the unity of place so very strictly as not to allow the transition from one room to another, or to different houses of the same town. The choice of the scene on the street, a practice in which the Latin comic writers were frequently followed in the earlier times of modern comedy, is very irreconcileable with our way of living, and the more deserving of censure, as in the case of the ancients it was an inconvenience which arose from the construction of their theatre.

According to the French critics, and the opinion which has become prevalent through them, Moliere alone, of all their comic writers, is classical; and all that has been done since his time, is merely estimated as a more or less perfect approximation to this supposed pattern of an excellence which can never be surpassed, nor even equalled. Hence we shall first proceed to characterize this founder of the French comedy, and then give a short sketch of its progress after his time.

Moliere has produced works in so many departments, and of such various worth, that we should hardly be enabled to recognize the same founder in all of them; and yet it is usual, when speaking of his peculiarities and merits, and the advance made by him in his art, to throw the whole of his labours into one mass.

Born and educated in an inferior rank, he enjoyed the advantage of becoming acquainted with the modes of living of the industrious part of the community * from his own experience, and of acquiring the talent

* B-urgerliche Leben (bourgeois).—I have translated this by a circumlocution: we have no privileged castes in this country, and consequently our language has no single expression equivalent to bourgeois, which includes, it is believed, all the unprivileged classes in cities and towns.—Trans.

... from the RetroRead library, using Google Book Search, and download any of the books already converted to Kindle format.

Browse the 100 most recent additions to the RetroRead library

Browse the library alphabetically by title

Make books:

Login or register to convert Google epubs to Kindle ebooks



Lost your password?

Not a member yet? Register here, and convert any Google epub you wish

Powerd by Calibre powered by calibre