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The Antigone Of Sophocles, As Represented On The Edinburgh Stage
by [?]

——come sweeping by
In sceptred pall?

Or was the whole, though successful in relation to the thing attempted, a failure in relation to what ought to have been attempted? Such are the questions to be answered.

* * * * *

The first elementary idea of a Greek tragedy, is to be sought in a serious Italian opera. The Greek dialogue is represented by the recitative, and the tumultuous lyrical parts assigned chiefly, though not exclusively, to the chorus on the Greek stage, are represented by the impassioned airs, duos, trios, choruses, etc. on the Italian. And there, at the very outset, occurs a question which lies at the threshold of a Fine Art,–that is of any Fine Art: for had the views of Addison upon the Italian opera had the least foundation in truth, there could have been no room or opening for any mode of imitation except such as belongs to a mechanic art.

The reason for at all connecting Addison with this case is, that he chiefly was the person occupied in assailing the Italian opera; and this hostility arose, probably, in his want of sensibility to good (that is, to Italian) music. But whatever might be his motive for the hostility, the single argument by which he supported it was this,–that a hero ought not to sing upon the stage, because no hero known to history ever summoned a garrison in a song, or changed a battery in a semichorus. In this argument lies an ignorance of the very first principle concern in every Fine Art. In all alike, more or less directly, the object is to reproduce in mind some great effect, through the agency of idem in alio. The idem, the same impression, is to be restored; but in alio, in a different material,–by means of some different instrument. For instance, on the Roman stage there was an art, now entirely lost, of narrating, and, in part of dramatically representing an impassioned tale, by means of dancing, of musical accompaniment in the orchestra, and of elaborate pantomime in the performer. Saltavit Hypermnestram, he danced (that is, he represented by dancing and pantomime the story of) Hypermnestra. Now, suppose a man to object, that young ladies, when saving their youthful husbands at midnight from assassination, could not be capable of waltzing or quadrilling, how wide is this of the whole problem! This is still seeking for the mechanic imitation, some imitation founded in the very fact; whereas the object is to seek the imitation in the sameness of the impression drawn from a different, or even from an impossible fact. If a man, taking a hint from the Roman ‘Saltatio’ (saltavit Andromachen), should say that he would ‘whistle Waterloo,’ that is, by whistling connected with pantomime, would express the passion and the changes of Waterloo, it would be monstrous to refuse him his postulate on the pretence that ‘people did not whistle at Waterloo.’ Precisely so: neither are most people made of marble, but of a material as different as can well be imagined, viz. of elastic flesh, with warm blood coursing along its tubes; and yet, for all that, a sculptor will draw tears from you, by exhibiting, in pure statuary marble, on a sepulchral monument, two young children with their little heads on a pillow, sleeping in each other’s arms; whereas, if he had presented them in wax-work, which yet is far more like to flesh, you would have felt little more pathos in the scene than if they had been shown baked in gilt gingerbread. He has expressed the idem, the identical thing expressed in the real children; the sleep that masks death, the rest, the peace, the purity, the innocence; but in alio, in a substance the most different; rigid, non-elastic, and as unlike to flesh, if tried by touch, or eye, or by experience of life, as can well be imagined. So of the whistling. It is the very worst objection in the world to say, that the strife of Waterloo did not reveal itself through whistling: undoubtedly it did not; but that is the very ground of the man’s art. He will reproduce the fury and the movement as to the only point which concerns you, viz. the effect, upon your own sympathies, through a language that seems without any relation to it: he will set before you what was at Waterloo through that which was not at Waterloo. Whereas any direct factual imitation, resting upon painted figures drest up in regimentals, and worked by watchwork through the whole movements of the battle, would have been no art whatsoever in the sense of a Fine Art, but a base mechanic mimicry.