OF all the various vices of the age,
And shoals of fools exposed upon the stage,
How few are lashed, that call for satire's rage!
What can you think, to see our plays so full
Of madmen, coxcombs, and the driveling fool; 5 Of cits, of sharpers, rakes and roaring bullies, Of cheats, of cuckolds, aldermen and cullies?1
Would not one swear, 'twere taken for a rule,
That satire's rod in the dramatic school
Was only meant for the incorrigible fool?
As if too vice and folly were confined
To the vile scum alone of human kind,
Creatures a muse should scorn; such abject trash
Deserve not satire's but the hangman's lash.
Wretches so far shut out from sense of shame,
Newgate or Bedlam2 only should reclaim;
For satire ne'er was meant to make wild monsters tame.
No, sirs, -----
We rather think the persons fit for plays,
Are they whose birth and education says 20 They've every help that should improve mankind, Yet still live slaves to a vile tainted mind;
Such as in wit are often seen t'abound,
And yet have some weak part, where folly's found:
For follies sprout like weeds, highest in fruitful ground.
25 And 'tis observed, the garden of the mind
To no infestive weed's so much inclined,
As the rank pride, that some from affectation find.
A folly too well known to make its court
With most success among the better sort. 30 Such are the persons we today provide, And Nature's fools for once are laid aside.
This is the ground on which our play we build;
But in the structure must to judgment yield:
And where the poet fails in art or care, 35 We beg your wonted mercy to the player.