Specimens of English Dramatic Criticism, XVII-XX Centuries

By A. C. Ward | Go to book overview

'THE BEGGAR'S OPERA': 18TH CENTURY

NOTWITHSTANDING we confess a partiality for music when it is composed of sweet, significant and persuasive sounds, yet the Opera, serious or comic, but especially the former, is a species of the drama not at all defensible; it carries absurdity in its front, and absolutely puts nature out of countenance; to prove this would be superfluous, as we cannot pay any reader so bad a compliment as to suppose that a single hint does not bear satisfactory conviction.

Shocked as every man of real taste, feeling and genius must be, at the predominance of those dearbought, unessential exotics, Italian operas, Gay resolved to exercise his unbounded talent of satire against them; and that good sense, a little embittered, might go down with more fashionable gout, as apothecaries gild pills, he called in music to his aid, and such music too as was relishable by, not caviare to the million; thus, as we have read of an army, who defeated their enemies by shooting back upon them their own arrows, so he struck deep wounds into the emaciated signori of that time, by shewing such sterling wit and humour as they were unacquainted with, decorated with the reigning taste of the day--the thought was happy, the execution equal to the design, and the success suitable to both.

In the very name of this piece the author seems to have issued a keen shaft of ridicule, and making the author a beggar is a noble sarcasm on fortune and public taste, which have suffered most excellent talents

____________________
1
See also post, pp. 93-5 and pp. 273-5.

-69-

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Specimens of English Dramatic Criticism, XVII-XX Centuries
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • London Theatres in the 1660s 21
  • Betterton's Benefit 44
  • Thomas Betterton 46
  • Garrick's First Performance in London 60
  • Mr. Partridge Sees Garrick 63
  • 'the Beggar's Opera': 18th Century 69
  • Mrs. Siddons 84
  • Others--And Mrs. Siddons 89
  • 'the Beggar's Opera': 19th Century 93
  • Kean as Richard the Third 96
  • On Actors and Acting 101
  • On the Artificial Comedy of The Last Century 112
  • Phelps at Sadler's Wells 123
  • At the Pantomime 130
  • 'Caste' 132
  • On Natural Acting 142
  • Ellen Terry 154
  • Ellen Terry 159
  • Irving in Shakespeare 162
  • 'Ghosts' 182
  • 'Arms and the Man' 190
  • 'trilby' 198
  • Donkey Races 203
  • Forbes Robertson's Hamlet 208
  • 'trelawny of the "Wells"' 218
  • F. R. Benson's Richard II 222
  • Dan Leno 231
  • The Wild Duck' 237
  • 'the Playboy of the Western World'1 248
  • P. D. Kenny 254
  • Granville Barker's Production Of 'twelfth Night' 260
  • 'the Pretenders' 264
  • 'A Bill of Divorcement' 282
  • The Search for the Masterpiece 290
  • 'Peer Gynt' at the Old Vic 294
  • Marie Lloyd 297
  • 'the Way of the World' 302
  • 'Hamlet' in Modern Dress 307
  • A Creator 312
  • Biblical 'tobias and the Angel' 316
  • 'twelfth Night' at the Old Vic 321
  • 'Murder in the Cathedral' 326
  • 'As You like It' at the Old Vic 329
  • Editor's Note 331
  • Descriptive Index 333
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