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Rambler 125 [Difficulty of defining comedy…]
by [?]

“Comedy,” says Horace, “sometimes raises her voice;” and Tragedy may likewise on proper occasions abate her dignity; but as the comick personages can only depart from their familiarity of style, when the more violent passions are put in motion, the heroes and queens of tragedy should never descend to trifle, but in the hours of ease, and intermissions of danger. Yet in the tragedy of Don Sebastian, when the king of Portugal is in the hands of his enemy, and having just drawn the lot, by which he is condemned to die, breaks out into a wild boast that his dust shall take possession of Africk, the dialogue proceeds thus between the captive and his conqueror:

Muley Moluch. What shall I do to conquer thee?

Seb. Impossible!
Souls know no conquerors.

M. Mol. I’ll shew thee for a monster thro’ my Afric.

Seb. No, thou canst only shew me for a man:
Afric is stored with monsters; man’s a prodigy
Thy subjects have not seen.

M. Mol. Thou talk’st as if
Still at the head of battle.

Seb. Thou mistak’st,
For there I would not talk.

Benducar, the Minister. Sure he would sleep. This conversation, with the sly remark of the minister, can only be found not to be comick, because it wants the probability necessary to representations of common life, and degenerates too much towards buffoonery and farce.

The same play affords a smart return of the general to to the emperor, who, enforcing his orders for the death of Sebastian, vents his impatience in this abrupt threat:

–No more replies,
But see thou dost it: Or–

To which Dorax answers,

Choak in that threat: I can say Or as loud.

A thousand instances of such impropriety might be produced, were not one scene in Aureng-Zebe sufficient to exemplify it. Indamora, a captive queen, having Aureng-Zebe for her lover, employs Arimant, to whose charge she had been entrusted, and whom she had made sensible of her charms, to carry her message to his rival.

ARIMANT, with a letter in his hand: INDAMORA.

Arim. And I the messenger to him from you?
Your empire you to tyranny pursue:
You lay commands both cruel and unjust,
To serve my rival, and betray my trust.

Ind. You first betray’d your trust in loving me:
And should not I my own advantage see?
Serving my love, you may my friendship gain;
You know the rest of your pretences vain.
You must, my Arimant, you must be kind:
‘Tis in your nature, and your noble mind.

Arim. I’ll to the king, and straight my trust resign.

Ind. His trust you may, but you shall never mine.
Heaven made you love me for no other end,
But to become my confidant and friend:
As such, I keep no secret from your sight,
And therefore make you judge how ill I write:
Read it, and tell me freely then your mind,
If ’tis indited, as I meant it, kind.

Arim. I ask not heaven my freedom to restore–[Reading.
But only for your sake–I’ll read no more.
And yet I must–
Less for my own, than for your sorrow sad–[Reading.
Another line like this, would make me mad–
Heav’n! she goes on–yet more–and yet more kind!
[–As reading.
Each sentence is a dagger to my mind.
See me this night–[Reading.
Thank fortune who did such a friend provide;
For faithful Arimant shall be your guide
Not only to be made an instrument,
But pre-engaged without my own consent!

Ind. Unknown to engage you still augments my score,
And gives you scope of meriting the more.

Arim. The best of men
Some int’rest in their actions must confess;
None merit, but in hope they may possess:
The fatal paper rather let me tear,
Than, like Bellerophon, my own sentence hear.