British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

By George Henry Nettleton; Arthur Eillicot Case | Go to book overview

BLANK-VERSE TRAGEDY

TRAGEDY during the early decades of the eighteenth century was an extension, in a weakened form, of later Restoration tragedy. It attracted the attention and efforts of several major writers and of many minor ones, but unfortunately neither major nor minor authors, with one exception, displayed any natural bent for dramatic composition. Moreover, as the period progressed, the moralizing and sentimentalizing forces which had begun to influence the comedy of the period made headway also in the tragedy, and with less opposition, since both tendencies were already present in later Restoration tragedy. The unities and other neo-classical 'rules' were generally assumed as the basis of dramatic writing, but in practice they were frequently slighted even by those who purported to do them honor. This state of affairs may have been furthered to some extent by the increasing homage given to Shakespeare, and to the doctrine, expressed by Dryden in the Essay of Dramatic Poesy, and echoed by later writers, which permitted English playwrights certain liberties that were in accord with the national temperament. The natural anti-French feeling which resulted from the War of the Spanish Succession, and which found expression in many prologues and epilogues, may also have tended to weaken the French authority. Had any English writer appeared with a new and positive theory of drama, something of importance might have been accomplished: but as no such writer did make his appearance, English tragedy merely drifted.

Among the best-known writers of tragedy between 1700 and 1730 were (in roughly chronological order) Dennis, Rowe, Addison, Young, and Thomson. Of these five only Rowe could have survived in literary history on the merits of his tragedies: Dennis is now remembered as a critic, Addison as an essayist, and Young and Thomson as poets.

There has been some misunderstanding about the relationship of JOSEPH ADDISON ( 1672-1719) and of his famous play, Cato, to the dramatic history of his time. His friend and literary executor, Thomas Tickell, gives us some important information about its composition:

The tragedy of Cato appeared in public in the year 1713, when the greatest part of the last act was added by the author of the foregoing, which he had kept by him for many years. He took up a design of writing a play upon this subject, when he was young at the University [ Oxford], and even attempted something in it there, though not a line as it now stands. The work was performed by him in his travels, and retouched in England, without any formed resolutions of bringing it upon the stage, till his friends of the first quality and distinction prevailed with him to put the last finishing to it, at a time when they thought the doctrine of liberty very seasonable.

According to this account, then, the play was conceived before 1699, and largely written between 1699 and 1703, while Addison was still under academic influences, and before he had had any great contact with the literary world of London. It is possible to detect in Cato classical, as well as neo- classical influences: in particular, there seem to be traces of the direct influence of Seneca, as well as of the indirect influence through the French tradition. Cato seems to have been originally designed as closet drama: it has the coldness, the rhetoric, the didacticism, the lack of dramatic movement, even the political allusions of the Roman author.

The play was (and still is) generally held up as a model of 'regular' tragedy. The unities of time and place are observed, indeed -- the latter to an extent that brings about some ludicrous situations -- but the more important unity of action is violated by the introduction of a sub-plot, intended to supply the 'love interest,' which is attached to the main theme by the slenderest of threads. Moreover, while the death of Marcus and the suicide of Cato take place off-stage, the killing of Sempro

-473-

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British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Contents v
  • Restoration Drama 1
  • Heroic Drama 3
  • Reference Works 6
  • Prologue to the First Part 9
  • Act I 11
  • [scene I] 11
  • Act II 15
  • [scene I] 15
  • Act III 18
  • [scene I] 18
  • Act IV 24
  • [scene I] 24
  • [scene Ii] 25
  • Act V 31
  • [scene I] 31
  • [scene Ii] 32
  • [scene Iii] 33
  • Epilogue 38
  • The Rehearsal 39
  • Prologue 41
  • Act I 43
  • Scene I 43
  • [scene Ii] 44
  • Act II 48
  • Scene I 48
  • Scene II 49
  • Scene III 50
  • Scene IV 50
  • Scene V 52
  • Act III 52
  • Scene I 52
  • Scene II 54
  • Scene III 54
  • Scene IV 55
  • Scene V 55
  • Act IV 57
  • Scene I 57
  • Scene II 61
  • Act I 62
  • Scene I 62
  • Epilogue 67
  • Blank-Verse Tragedy (1677-1700) 69
  • Reference Works 72
  • Preface 75
  • Prologue 81
  • Act I 83
  • Scene [i] 83
  • Act II 88
  • [scene I] 88
  • Act III 94
  • [scene I] 94
  • Act IV 100
  • [scene I] 100
  • Act V 107
  • [scene I] 107
  • Epilogue 114
  • Prologue 117
  • Act I 119
  • Scene I 119
  • Act II 123
  • [scene I] 123
  • Scene [ii] 124
  • [scene Iii] 125
  • Act III 128
  • [scene I] 128
  • Scene II 130
  • Act IV 136
  • [scene I] 136
  • Scene [ii] 137
  • Act V 143
  • [scene I] 143
  • [scene Ii] 145
  • [scene Iii] 147
  • [scene Iv] 149
  • Epilogue 150
  • Comedy of Errors 151
  • Reference Works 154
  • Prologue 157
  • Act I 159
  • Scene I 159
  • Act II 165
  • [scene I] 165
  • Scene II 167
  • Act III 170
  • [scene I] 170
  • Scene II 172
  • Scene III 176
  • Act IV 180
  • [scene I] 180
  • Scene II 185
  • Scene III 187
  • Act V 188
  • [scene I] 188
  • Scene II 191
  • Epilogue 197
  • Dedication 201
  • Prologue. Spoken by the Plain Dealer. 205
  • Act I 207
  • Scene I 207
  • Act II 214
  • Scene I 214
  • Act III 226
  • Scene I 226
  • Act IV 236
  • Scene I 236
  • [scene Ii] 241
  • Act V 246
  • Scene I 246
  • [scene Ii] 248
  • [scene Iii] 254
  • Epilogue 257
  • The Preface 261
  • Prologue 263
  • Act I 265
  • Scene I 265
  • [scene Ii] 266
  • [scene Iii] 268
  • Act II 271
  • Scene I 271
  • Act III 279
  • [scene I] 279
  • [scene Ii] 281
  • [scene Iii] 284
  • [scene Iv] 285
  • [scene V] 286
  • Act IV 286
  • [scene I] 286
  • [scene Ii] 288
  • [scene Iii] 290
  • [scene Iv] 291
  • [scene V] 292
  • Act V 295
  • [scene I] 295
  • [scene Ii] 297
  • [scene Iii] 299
  • [scene Iv] 301
  • [scene V] 303
  • Epilogue 307
  • Dedication to the Right Honorable Ralph, Earl of Mountague, &c. 311
  • Act I 313
  • Scene I 313
  • Act II 318
  • Scene I 318
  • Act III 324
  • Scene I 324
  • Act IV 332
  • Scene I 332
  • Act V 340
  • Scene I 340
  • Epilogue 347
  • Prologue 351
  • Act I 353
  • Scene I 353
  • [scene Ii] 359
  • Act III 362
  • [scene I 362
  • [scene Ii] 363
  • [scene Iii] 365
  • Act IV 370
  • Scene I 370
  • [scene Ii] 376
  • [scene Iii] 381
  • [scene Iv] 383
  • An Epilogue Designed to Be Spoke in 'the Beaux' Stratagem.' 386
  • Jeremy Collier's Attack on the Stage 387
  • Reference Works 388
  • Eighteenth-Century Drama 395
  • Sentimental Comedy 397
  • Reference Works 398
  • The Prologue 401
  • Act I 403
  • Scene I 403
  • Act II 408
  • Scene I 408
  • [scene Ii] 410
  • Act III 413
  • Scene I 413
  • Act IV 420
  • Scene I 420
  • Act V 426
  • Scene I 426
  • [scene Ii] 427
  • [scene Iii] 428
  • [scene Iv] 429
  • [scene V] 429
  • [scene Vi] 430
  • [scene Vii] 432
  • The Epilogue 436
  • The Preface 439
  • Prologue 441
  • Act I 443
  • Scene I 443
  • Scene II 447
  • Act II 450
  • Scene I 450
  • [scene Ii] 451
  • Act III 455
  • Scene I 455
  • Act IV 460
  • Scene I 460
  • Scene [ii] 463
  • Scene [iii] 465
  • Act V 466
  • Scene I 466
  • Scene [ii] 467
  • Scene [iii] 468
  • Epilogue 472
  • Blank-Verse Tragedy 473
  • Reference Works 475
  • Prologue 479
  • Act I 481
  • Scene I 481
  • Scene II 482
  • Scene III 483
  • Scene IV 483
  • [scene V] 485
  • [scene Vi] 485
  • Act II 486
  • Scene I 486
  • [scene Ii] 487
  • [scene Iii] 488
  • [scene Iv] 489
  • [scene V] 489
  • [scene Vi] 491
  • Act III 492
  • Scene I 492
  • [scene Ii] 492
  • [scene Iii] 494
  • [scene Iv] 494
  • [scene V] 494
  • [scene Vi] 495
  • [scene Vii] 495
  • Act IV 496
  • Scene I 496
  • [scene Ii] 496
  • [scene Iii] 497
  • [scene Iv] 498
  • Act V 500
  • Scene I 500
  • [scene Ii] 500
  • [scene Iii] 501
  • [scene Iv] 501
  • Epilogue 503
  • Prologue 507
  • Act I 509
  • Scene I 509
  • Scene II 510
  • Act II 512
  • Scene I 512
  • Act III 516
  • Scene I 516
  • Act IV 519
  • [scene I] 519
  • Act V 524
  • Scene I 524
  • Epilogue 530
  • Ballad Opera 531
  • Reference Works 532
  • Introduction 534
  • Act I 537
  • Scene I 537
  • Scene II 537
  • Scene III 538
  • Scene IV 538
  • Scene V 540
  • Scene VI 540
  • Scene VII 540
  • Scene VIII 541
  • Scene IX 543
  • Scene X 543
  • Scene XI 544
  • Scene XII 545
  • Scene XIII 545
  • Scene XIII 546
  • Scene II 546
  • Scene II 550
  • Scene VI 551
  • Scene VII 551
  • Scene VIII 551
  • Scene IX 552
  • Scene X 553
  • Scene XI 554
  • Scene XII 554
  • Scene XIII 555
  • Scene XIV 556
  • Scene XIV 557
  • Scene II 557
  • Scene II 559
  • Scene III 559
  • Scene IV 559
  • Scene V 560
  • Scene VI 561
  • Scene VII 562
  • Scene VIII 563
  • Scene IX 564
  • Scene X 564
  • Scene XI 564
  • Scene XII 566
  • Scene XIII 566
  • Scene XIV 567
  • Scene XV 568
  • Scene XVI 568
  • Scene XVII 568
  • Mid-Eighteenth-Century Drama (1730-1770) 571
  • Reference Works 573
  • H. Scriblerus Secundus His Preface 577
  • Act I 581
  • Scene I 581
  • Scene II 582
  • Scene III 583
  • Scene IV 585
  • Scene V 585
  • Scene VI 586
  • Act II 586
  • Scene I 586
  • Scene II 586
  • Scene III 587
  • Scene IV 588
  • Scene V 588
  • Scene VI 589
  • Scene VII 590
  • Scene VIII 590
  • Act II 593
  • Scene I 593
  • Scene II 593
  • Scene III 594
  • Scene IV 594
  • Scene V 595
  • Scene VI 595
  • Scene VII 595
  • Scene VIII 596
  • Scene IX 596
  • [dedication] 601
  • Prologue 603
  • Act I 605
  • Scene I 605
  • Scene II 606
  • Act II 609
  • Scene I 609
  • Scene II 611
  • Scene II 613
  • Act III 613
  • Scene I 613
  • Scene II 615
  • Scene III 616
  • Scene IV 617
  • Scene IV 618
  • Act IV 618
  • Scene I 618
  • Scene II 619
  • Act V 622
  • Scene I 622
  • Scene II 623
  • Epilogue 628
  • Act I 633
  • Scene I 633
  • Scene [ii] 635
  • Act II 638
  • [scene I] 638
  • Epilogue 646
  • Prologue 649
  • Prologue 651
  • Act I 653
  • Act II 656
  • Act III 659
  • Act IV 663
  • Act V 668
  • Epilogue 673
  • Prologue 677
  • Act I 679
  • Scene [i] 679
  • Act II 684
  • [scene Ii] Scene Changes to Oakly's. 684
  • [scene Ii] 686
  • Scene [iii] 687
  • Act III 691
  • Scene [i] 691
  • [scene Ii] 695
  • Act IV 698
  • Scene [i] 698
  • [scene Ii] 701
  • Act V 704
  • Scene [i] 704
  • Scene [ii] 705
  • Scene [iii] 706
  • Epilogue 712
  • Later Eighteenth-Century Drama - (1770-1780) 713
  • Sentimental Versus Laughing Comedy 713
  • Reference Works 717
  • Prologue 721
  • Act I 723
  • Scene I 723
  • Scene II 724
  • Scene III 724
  • Scene IV 724
  • Scene V 725
  • Scene VI 726
  • Act II 728
  • Scene I 728
  • Scene II 728
  • Scene III 729
  • Scene IV 730
  • Scene V 730
  • Scene VI 731
  • Scene VII 731
  • Scene VIII 732
  • Scene IX 733
  • Scene X 734
  • Scene XI 735
  • Act III 736
  • Scene I 736
  • Scene II 737
  • Scene III 737
  • Scene IV 739
  • Scene V 739
  • Scene VI 740
  • Scene VII 740
  • Scene VIII 742
  • Scene IX 743
  • Scene X 743
  • Scene IV 743
  • Scene I 743
  • Scene II 743
  • Scene III 744
  • Scene IV 745
  • Scene V 745
  • Scene VI 745
  • Scene VII 746
  • Scene VIII 746
  • Scene IX 747
  • Scene X 748
  • Act V 750
  • Scene I 750
  • Scene II 751
  • Scene III 751
  • Scene IV 751
  • Scene V 752
  • Scene VI 752
  • Scene VII 753
  • Scene VIII 754
  • Epilogue 756
  • Prologue 767
  • Act I 769
  • Scene [i] 769
  • Scene [ii] 771
  • Act II 773
  • Scene [i] 773
  • Act III 781
  • [scene I] 781
  • Act IV 785
  • [scene I] 785
  • Act V 791
  • [scene I] 791
  • [scene Ii] 792
  • [scene Iii] 794
  • Epilogue 797
  • Epilogue 798
  • Prologue 801
  • Prologue 803
  • Act I 805
  • Scene I 805
  • Scene II 806
  • Act II 810
  • Scene I 810
  • Scene II 816
  • Act III 817
  • Scene I 817
  • Scene II 818
  • Scene III 820
  • Scene IV 822
  • Act IV 824
  • Scene I 824
  • Scene II 826
  • Scene III 829
  • Act V 831
  • Scene I 831
  • Scene II 834
  • Scene III 835
  • Epilogue 839
  • A Portrait; Addressed to Mrs. Crewe, with the Comedy of the School for Scandal 843
  • Prologue 847
  • Act I 849
  • Scene I 849
  • Scene II 854
  • Act II 855
  • Scene I 855
  • Scene II 857
  • Scene III 860
  • Act III 861
  • Scene I 861
  • Scene II 864
  • Scene III 865
  • Act IV 868
  • Scene I 868
  • Scene II 870
  • Scene III 871
  • Act IV 876
  • Scene I 876
  • Scene II 878
  • Scene III 881
  • Epilogue 885
  • [dedication] 889
  • Prologue 891
  • Act I 893
  • Scene I 893
  • Scene II 898
  • Act II 902
  • Scene I 902
  • Scene II 902
  • Act III 908
  • Scene I 908
  • Textual Notes 913
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