British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

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

PREFACE

THE death of Antony and Cleopatra is a subject which has been treated by the greatest wits of our nation.1 after Shakespeare; and by all so variously, that their example has given me the confidence to try myself in this bow of Ulysses amongst the crowd of suitors; and, withal, to take my own measures, in aiming at the mark. I doubt not but the same motive has prevailed with all of us in this attempt; I mean the excellency of the moral: for the chief persons represented were famous patterns of unlawful love; and their end accordingly was unfortunate. All reasonable men have long since concluded, that the hero of the poem ought not to be a character of perfect virtue, for then he could not, without injustice, be made unhappy; nor yet altogether wicked, because he could not then be pitied. I have therefore steered the middle course; and have drawn the character of Antony as favorably as Plutarch, Appian, and Dion Cassius would give me leave; the like I have observed in Cleopatra. That which is wanting to work up the pity to a greater height was not afforded me by the story; for the crimes of love which they both committed were not occasioned by any necessity, or fatal ignorance, but were wholly voluntary; since our passions are, or ought to be, within our power. The fabric of the play is regular enough, as to the inferior parts of it; and the unities of time, place, and action, more exactly observed than, perhaps, the English theatre requires. Particularly, the action is so much one, that it is the only of the kind without episode, or underplot; every scene in the tragedy conducing to the main design, and every act concluding with a turn of it. The greatest error in the contrivance seems to be in the person of Octavia; for, though I might use the privilege of a poet, to introduce her into Alexandria, yet I had not enough considered that the compassion she moved to herself and children was destructive to that which I reserved for Antony and Cleopatra; whose mutual love being founded upon vice, must lessen the favor of the audience to them, when virtue and innocence were oppressed by it. And, though I justified Antony in some measure, by making Octavia's departure to proceed wholly from herself, yet the force of the first machine2 still remained; and the dividing of pity, like the cutting of a river into many channels, abated the strength of the natural stream. But this is an objection which none of my critics have urged against me; and therefore I might have let it pass, if I could have resolved to have been partial to myself. The faults my enemies have found are rather cavils concerning little and not essential decencies; which a master of the ceremonies may decide betwixt us. The French poets, I confess, are strict observers of these punctilios. They would not, for example, have suffered Cleopatra and Octavia to have met; or, if they had met, there must only have passed betwixt them some cold civilities, but no eagerness of repartee, for fear of offending against the greatness of their characters, and the modesty of their sex. This objection I foresaw, and at the same time contemned; for I judged it both natural and probable that Octavia, proud of her new-gained conquest, would search out Cleopatra to triumph over her; and that Cleopatra, thus attacked, was not of a spirit to shun the encounter. And 'tis not unlikely that two exasperated rivals should use such satire as I have put into their mouths; for, after all, though the one were a Roman, and the other a queen, they were both women. 'Tis true, some actions, though natural, are not fit to be represented; and broad obscenities in words ought in good manners to be avoided: expressions therefore are a modest clothing of our thoughts, as breeches and petticoats are of our bodies. If I have kept myself within the bounds of modesty, all beyond it is but nicety and affectation; which is no more but modesty depraved into a vice. They betray themselves who are too quick of apprehension in such cases, and leave all reasonable men to imagine worse of them, than of the poet.

Honest Montaigne3 goes yet farther: Nous ne sommes que cérémonie; la cérémonie nous emporte, et laissons la substance des choses. Nous nous tenons aux branches, et abandonnous le tronc et le corps. Nous avons appris aux dames de rougir, oyans seulement nommer ce qu'elles ne craignent aucunement à faire: Nous n'osons appeller à droit nos membres, et ne craignons pas de les employer à toute sorte de débouche. La cérémonie nous défend d'exprimer par paroles les choses licites et naturelles, et nous l'en croyons; la raison nous défend de n'en faire point d'illicites et mauvaises, et personne ne l'en croit.4 My comfort is, that by this opinion my enemies are but sucking critics, who would fain be nibbling ere their teeth are come.

____________________
1
Sir Charles Sedley's Antony and Cleopatra ( Feb , 1677) had recently appeared. Various Elizabethan and Restoration versions attest the popularity of the dramatic subject.
2
Dramatic contrivance.
3
Essais, II, 17.
4
'We are naught but ceremony; ceremony sweeps us away and we let go the substance of things. We cling to the branches and abandon the trunk and body. We have taught ladies to blush at the mention of what they are not at all afraid to do. We dare not call our members by their right names, and yet we are not afraid to use them in all sorts of debauchery. Ceremony forbids us to express in words things lawful and natural, and to it we trust; reason forbids us to do anything illicit or bad, and yet nobody trusts to reason.'

-75-

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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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