English Shakesperian Criticism in the Eighteenth Century

English Shakesperian Criticism in the Eighteenth Century

English Shakesperian Criticism in the Eighteenth Century

English Shakesperian Criticism in the Eighteenth Century

Excerpt

The Eighteenth Century is commonly referred to as the classical age. There is perhaps no great need for objecting to this designation, made familiar by use, or for insisting upon another, if it be clearly understood in what sense the term classical is employed. It must also be borne in mind that it is exceedingly difficult to sum up adequately even a single author by a term or phrase. For an entire period, with numerous conflicting currents, it is impossible. If its use is intended to convey the impression that the century was dominated by its devotion and adherence to the rules of the ancients--as they understood them--to such an extent that it was unable, or unwilling, to give proper credit to the works of authors who departed from such rules, then it is in order to suggest that the term gives rise to a false and inaccurate conception. The acceptance of the rules of the ancients was well established, by way of France, long before the beginning of the Eighteenth Century, and the rank of writers judged by their adherence to, or departure from, classical models. Classical criticism (or perhaps pseudo-classical is a truer term) was in full strength before 1688, and the century before Pope's birth was more "classical" than the age of Pope or Johnson. The subservience of emotion to intellect in poetry--supposed to be characteristic of the Eighteenth Century--is demanded by D'Avenant in his Preface to Gondibert, written almost four decades before Pope was born, and the introduction of the chorus into English tragedy was recommended by Rymer, when Pope was a boy of five.

The Eighteenth Century, in accepting classical authority in matters of literary taste and art, exercised a very considerable degree of freedom, and did not hesitate in . . .

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