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.

[Footnote 7:  Thomas Otway died of want in 1685, at the age of 34.  Like Lee, he left college for the stage, attempted as an actor, then turned dramatist, and produced his first tragedy, ‘Alcibiades’, in 1675, the year in which Lee produced also his first tragedy, ‘Nero’.  Otway’s second play, ‘Don Carlos’, was very successful, but his best were, the ‘Orphan’, produced in 1680, remarkable for its departure from the kings and queens of tragedy for pathos founded upon incidents in middle life, and ‘Venice Preserved’, produced in 1682.]

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No. 40.  Monday, April 16, 1711.  Addison.

      ’Ac ne forte putes, me, que facere ipse recusem,
      Cum recte tractant alii, laudare maligne;
      Ille per extentum funem mihi fosse videtur
      Ire Poeta, meum qui pectus inaniter angit,
      Irritat, mulcet, falsis terroribus implet,
      Ut magus; et modo me Thebis, modo ponit Athenis.’

      Hor.

The English Writers of Tragedy are possessed with a Notion, that when they represent a virtuous or innocent Person in Distress, they ought not to leave him till they have delivered him out of his Troubles, or made him triumph over his Enemies.  This Error they have been led into by a ridiculous Doctrine in modern Criticism, that they are obliged to an equal Distribution of Rewards and Punishments, and an impartial Execution of poetical Justice.  Who were the first that established this Rule I know not; but I am sure it has no Foundation in Nature, in Reason, or in the Practice of the Ancients.  We find that Good and Evil happen alike to all Men on this side the Grave; and as the principal Design of Tragedy is to raise Commiseration and Terror in the Minds of the Audience, we shall defeat this great End, if we always make Virtue and Innocence happy and successful.  Whatever Crosses and Disappointments a good Man suffers in the Body of the Tragedy, they will make but small Impression on our Minds, when we know that in the last Act he is to arrive at the End of his Wishes and Desires.  When we see him engaged in the Depth of his Afflictions, we are apt to comfort our selves, because we are sure he will find his Way out of them:  and that his Grief, how great soever it may be at present, will soon terminate in Gladness.  For this Reason the ancient Writers of Tragedy treated Men in their Plays, as they are dealt with in the World, by making Virtue sometimes happy and sometimes miserable, as they found it in the Fable which they made choice of, or as it might affect their Audience in the most agreeable Manner. Aristotle considers the Tragedies that were written in either of these Kinds, and observes, That those which ended unhappily had always pleased the People, and carried away the Prize in the publick Disputes of the Stage, from those that ended happily. [1] Terror and Commiseration leave a pleasing Anguish

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