The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 3,418 pages of information about The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3.
before he turned it into Blank Verse; and if the Reader, after the Perusal of a Scene, would consider the naked Thought of every Speech in it, when divested of all its Tragick Ornaments.  By this means, without being imposed upon by Words, we may judge impartially of the Thought, and consider whether it be natural or great enough for the Person that utters it, whether it deserves to shine in such a Blaze of Eloquence, or shew itself in such a Variety of Lights as are generally made use of by the Writers of our English Tragedy.

I must in the next place observe, that when our Thoughts are great and just, they are often obscured by the sounding Phrases, hard Metaphors, and forced Expressions in which they are cloathed. Shakespear is often very Faulty in this Particular.  There is a fine Observation in Aristotle to this purpose, which I have never seen quoted.  The Expression, says he, ought to be very much laboured in the unactive Parts of the Fable, as in Descriptions, Similitudes, Narrations, and the like; in which the Opinions, Manners and Passions of Men are not represented; for these (namely the Opinions, Manners and Passions) are apt to be obscured by Pompous Phrases, and Elaborate Expressions. [5] Horace, who copied most of his Criticisms after Aristotle, seems to have had his Eye on the foregoing Rule in the following Verses: 

  Et Tragicus plerumque dolet Sermone pedestri,
  Telephus et Peleus, cum pauper et exul uterque,
  Projicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba,
  Si curat cor Spectantis tetigisse querela.

  Tragedians too lay by their State, to grieve_. 
  Peleus and Telephus, Exit’d and Poor,
  Forget their Swelling and Gigantick Words.


Among our Modern English Poets, there is none who was better turned for Tragedy than Lee; [6] if instead of favouring the Impetuosity of his Genius, he had restrained it, and kept it within its proper Bounds.  His Thoughts are wonderfully suited to Tragedy, but frequently lost in such a Cloud of Words, that it is hard to see the Beauty of them:  There is an infinite Fire in his Works, but so involved in Smoak, that it does not appear in half its Lustre.  He frequently succeeds in the Passionate Parts of the Tragedy, but more particularly where he slackens his Efforts, and eases the Style of those Epithets and Metaphors, in which he so much abounds.  What can be more Natural, more Soft, or more Passionate, than that Line in Statira’s Speech, where she describes the Charms of Alexander’s Conversation?

  Then he would talk:  Good Gods! how he would talk!

That unexpected Break in the Line, and turning the Description of his Manner of Talking into an Admiration of it, is inexpressibly Beautiful, and wonderfully suited, to the fond Character of the Person that speaks it.  There is a Simplicity in the Words, that outshines the utmost Pride of Expression.

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