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No. 042 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

‘Non tamen intus
Digna geri promes in scenam: multaque tolles
Ex oculis, qua mox narret facundia proesens.’


‘Yet there are things improper for a Scene,
Which Men of Judgment only will relate.’

(L. Roscom.)

I should therefore, in this Particular, recommend to my Countrymen the Example of the French Stage, where the Kings and Queens always appear unattended, and leave their Guards behind the Scenes. I should likewise be glad if we imitated the French in banishing from our Stage the Noise of Drums, Trumpets, and Huzzas; which is sometimes so very great, that when there is a Battle in the Hay-Market Theatre, one may hear it as far as Charing-Cross.

I have here only touched upon those Particulars which are made use of to raise and aggrandize Persons in Tragedy; and shall shew in another Paper the several Expedients which are practised by Authors of a vulgar Genius to move Terror, Pity, or Admiration, in their Hearers.

The Tailor and the Painter often contribute to the Success of a Tragedy more than the Poet. Scenes affect ordinary Minds as much as Speeches; and our Actors are very sensible, that a well-dressed Play his sometimes brought them as full Audiences, as a well-written one. The Italians have a very good Phrase to express this Art of imposing upon the Spectators by Appearances: They call it the Fourberia della Scena, The Knavery or trickish Part of the Drama. But however the Show and Outside of the Tragedy may work upon the Vulgar, the more understanding Part of the Audience immediately see through it and despise it.

A good Poet will give the Reader a more lively Idea of an Army or a Battle in a Description, than if he actually saw them drawn up in Squadrons and Battalions, or engaged in the Confusion of a Fight. Our Minds should be opened to great Conceptions and inflamed with glorious Sentiments by what the Actor speaks, more than by what he appears. Can all the Trappings or Equipage of a King or Hero give Brutus half that Pomp and Majesty which he receives from a few Lines in Shakespear?


[Footnote 1: ‘Poetics’, Part II. Sec. 13.]