The Spectator, Volume 2. eBook

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I shall subjoin as a Corollary to the foregoing Remark, an admirable Observation out of Aristotle, which hath been very much misrepresented in the Quotations of some Modern Criticks.

If a Man of perfect and consummate Virtue falls into a Misfortune, it raises our Pity, but not our Terror, because we do not fear that it may be our own Case, who do not resemble the Suffering Person.  But as that great Philosopher adds, If we see a Man of Virtue mixt with Infirmities, fall into any Misfortune, it does not only raise our Pity but our Terror; because we are afraid that the like Misfortunes may happen to our selves, who resemble the Character of the Suffering Person.

I shall take another Opportunity to observe, that a Person of an absolute and consummate Virtue should never be introduced in Tragedy, and shall only remark in this Place, that the foregoing Observation of Aristotle [12] tho it may be true in other Occasions, does not hold in this; because in the present Case, though the Persons who fall into Misfortune are of the most perfect and consummate Virtue, it is not to be considered as what may possibly be, but what actually is our own Case; since we are embarked with them on the same Bottom, and must be Partakers of their Happiness or Misery.

In this, and some other very few Instances, Aristotle’s Rules for Epic Poetry (which he had drawn from his Reflections upon Homer) cannot be supposed to quadrate exactly with the Heroic Poems which have been made since his Time; since it is plain his Rules would [still have been [13]] more perfect, could he have perused the AEneid which was made some hundred Years after his Death.

In my next, I shall go through other Parts of Milton’s Poem; and hope that what I shall there advance, as well as what I have already written, will not only serve as a Comment upon Milton, but upon Aristotle.


[Footnote 1:  [These are what Aristotle means by the Fable and &c.]]

[Footnote 2:  [Offspring]]

[Footnote 3:  [Son of Aurora who has]]

[Footnote 4:  [that his Poem]]

[Footnote 5:  It was especially for the novelty of Paradise Lost, that John Dennis had in 1704 exalted Milton above the ancients.  In putting forward a prospectus of a large projected work upon the Grounds of Criticism in Poetry, he gave as a specimen of the character of his work, the substance of what would be said in the beginning of the Criticism upon Milton.  Here he gave Milton supremacy on ground precisely opposite to that chosen by Addison.  He described him as

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