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Aristot. Poet. Cap. 6.
Τραγωδία μίμησις σπεδαίας, κ. τ. λ.
Tragedia est imitatio actionis seriæ, &c. per misericordiam
et metum perficiens talium affectuum lustrationem,
OF THAT SORT OF DRAMATIC POEM WHICH IS
TRAGEDY, as it was anciently composed, bath been ever held the gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other poems; therefore said by Aristotle to be of power, by raising pity and fear, or terror, to purge the miud of those and such like passions, that is, to temper and reduce them to just measure with a kind of delight, stirred up by reading or seeing those passions well imitated. Nor is nature wanting in her own effects to make good his assertion : for so in physic, things of melancholic hue and quality are used against melancholy, sour against sour, salt to remove salt humours. Hence philosophers and other gravet writers, as Cicero, Plutarch and others, frequently cite out of tragic poets,both to adornand illustrate their discourse. The apostle Paul himself thought it not unworthy to insert a verse of Euripides into the text of Holy Scripture, 1 Cor. xv. 33; and Paræus commenting on the Revelation, divides the whole book as a tragedy, into acts distinguished each by a chorus of heaveniy harpings, and song between. Heretofore men in highest dignity have laboured not a little to be thought able to compose a tragedy. Of that honour Di. onysius the elder was no less ambitious, than before of his attaining to the tyranny. Augustus Cæsar also had begun his Ajax; but unable to please his own judgment with what he had begun, left it unfinished.
Seneca the philosopher is by some thought the author of those tragedies (at least the best of them) that go under that name. Gregory Nazianzen, a father of the church, thought it not unbeseening the sanctity of his person to write a tragedy, which is intitled, Christ suffering : This is mentioned to vindicate tragedy from the small esteem, or rather infamy, which in the account of many it undergoes at this day with other common interludes, happening through the poet's error of intermixing commic stuff with tragic sadness and gravity, or introducing trivial and vulgar persons, which by all judicious hath been counted absurd, and brought in without discretion, corruptly to gratify the people. And though ancient tragedy use no prologue, yet using sometimes, in case of self-defence, or explanation, that which Martial calls an epistle; in behalf of this tragedy coming forth af.
ter the ancient manner, much different from what among us passes for best : thus much before hand may be epistled, that Chorus is here introduced after the Greek manner, not ancient only but modern, and still in use among the Italians. In the modelling therefore of this poem, with good reason, the ancients and Italians are rather followed as of much more authority and fame. The measure of verse used in the chorus is of all sorts called by the Greeks Monostrophic, or rather Apolely menon, without regard had to strophe, antistrophe or epode, which were a kind of stanzas framed only for the music, then used with the chorus that sung ; not essential to the poem,
and therefore not material; or, being divided into stanzas or pauses, they may be called allæosti opha. Division into act and scene referring chiefly to the stage (to which this work never was intended) is here omitted.
It suffices if the whole drama be found not produced beyond the fifth act. Of the style and uniformity, and that commonly called plot, whether intricate or explicit, which is nothing indeed but such economy, or disposition of the fable as may stand best with versimilitude and decorum, they oply will best judge who are not unacquainted