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Ariftot. Poet. Cap. 6.
Τραγωδία μίμησις πράξεως σπεδαΐας, &c.
Tragoedia eft imitatio actionis feriæ, &c. per "mifericordiam et metum perficiens talium "affectuum luftrationem."
Of that fort of Dramatic Poem which is called Tragedy.
RAGEDY, as it was anciently compos'd, hath been ever held the graveft, moraleft, and most profitable of all other poems: therefore said by Ariftotle to be of power, by raifing pity and fear, or terror, to purge the mind of those and fuch like paffions, that is, to temper and reduce them to juft meafure with a kind of delight, ftirr'd up by reading or feeing thofe paffions well imitated. Nor is Nature wanting in her own effects to make good his affertion: for fo in phyfic things of melancholic hue and quality are us'd against melancholy, four against four, falt to remove falt humors. Hence philofophers and other graveft writers, as Cicero, Plutarch, and others, frequently cite out of tragic poets, both to adorn and illuftrate their difcourfe. The Apoftle Paul himself thought it not unworthy to infert a verfe of Euripides into the text of Holy Scripture, 1 Cor. xv. 33. and Paræus, commenting on the Revelation, divides the whole book as a tragedy, into acts distinguish'd each by a chorus of heavenly harpings and fong between. Heretofore men in highest dignity have labor'd not a little to be thought able to compofe a tragedy. Of that honor Dionyfius the elder was no lefs ambitious, than before of his attaining to the tyranny. Auguftus Cæfar also had begun his Ajax, but, unable to please his own judgment with what he had begun, left it unfinish'd. Seneca the philofopher is by fome thought the author of thofe tragedies (at least the best of them) that go under that name. Gregory Nazianzen, a Father of the Church, thought it not unbefeeming the fanctity of his perfon to write a tragedy, which is intitled Chrift fuffering. This is mention'd to vindicate tragedy from the fmall efteem, or rather infamy, which in the account of many it undergoes at this day with other common interludes; hap'ning through the poets error of intermixing comic stuff with tragic fadnefs
nefs and gravity; or introducing trivial and vulgar perfons, which by all judicious hath been counted abfurd; and brought in without difcretion, corruptly to gratify the people. And though ancient tragedy use no prologue, yet ufing fometimes, in case of self-defenfe, or explanation, that which Martial calls an epiftle; in behalf of this tragedy coming forth after the ancient manner, much different from what among us paffes for beft, thus much before-hand may be epiftled; that chorus is here introduc'd after the Greek manner, not ancient only but modern, and ftill in ufe among the Italians. In the modeling therefore of this poem, with good reason, the Ancients and Italians are rather follow'd, as of much more authority and fame. The measure of verfe us'd in the chorus is of all forts, call'd by the Greeks Monoftrophic, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe, Antiftrophe, or Epod, which were a kind of ftanzas fram'd only for the mufic, then us'd with the chorus that fung; not effential to the poem, and therefore not material; or, being divided into ftanzas or paufes, they may be call'd Allæoftropha. Divifion into act and fcene referring chiefly to the stage (to which this work never was intended) is here omitted.
It fuffices if the whole drama be found not produc'd beyond the fifth act. Of the file and uniformity, and that commonly call'd the plot, whether intricate or explicit, which is nothing indeed but fuch economy, or difpofition of the fable as may ftand beft with verfimilitude and decorum; they only will beft judge who are not unacquainted with Efchylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the three tragic poets unequal'd yet by any, and the best rule to all who endevor to write tragedy. The circumfcription of time, wherein the whole drama begins and ends, is according to ancient rule, and best example, within the space of twenty-four hours.