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The Mirror of Taste, and Dramatic Censor Volume I, Number 3   By: (-1820?)

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[Transcriber's Note:

This text is intended for users whose text readers cannot use the "real" (unicode/utf 8) version. A few letters such as "oe" have been unpacked, and curly quotes and apostrophes have been replaced with the simpler "typewriter" form. One Greek word has been transliterated and shown between marks.

The printed book contained the six Numbers of Volume I with their appended plays. The Index originally appeared at the beginning of the volume; it has been added to the end of the journal text, before the play. Pages 189 268 refer to the present Number.

Errors are listed separately for the Mirror of Taste and for the Novice of St. Mark's .]




Vol. I. MARCH 1810. No. 3.




ÆSCHYLUS and SHAKSPEARE have each been styled the father of the drama of his country: yet their claims to this distinction stand on very different grounds. Æschylus laid the plan and foundation of the Grecian tragedy and built upon it; but to his successor belongs the glory of improving upon his invention. Shakspeare raised the drama of his country at once to the utmost degree of perfection: succeeding poets have been able to do nothing more than walk in the path trod by him, at an immense distance, and endeavour to copy but without equalling his perfections.

The general admiration in which Æschylus was held, gave birth to a herd of imitators, among whom were sons and nephews of his own; but as, like most imitators, they could do little more than mimic his defects without reaching his excellencies, they served only as a foil to set off the lustre of his great successor Sophocles, who, while yet his scholar, aspired to be his competitor, and gained the preeminence at the age of twenty five.

SOPHOCLES was born four hundred and ninety seven years before the birth of Christ, and at an early age rendered himself, like his master Æschylus, conspicuous by his superior talents in war and in poetry. It happened, when Sophocles was not yet five and twenty, that the remains of Theseus were brought from Scyros to Athens, where festivals and games were made in honour of that heroic monarch, as well as to commemorate the taking of that island: among those a yearly contest was instituted for the palm in tragedy. Sophocles became a candidate, and though there were many competitors, and among them Æschylus himself, he bore away the prize. The fondness of the Greeks for the theatre was so passionately strong, that in order to excite emulation among the poets, they gave rewards to those, who among the competitors, were judged to have the preference; and they entrusted the management of their theatres to none but persons of the most considerable rank and character. Hitherto the prize was disputed by four dramatic pieces only, three of which were tragedies while the fourth was a comedy; but Sophocles brought about a new arrangement, and by opposing, in all cases, tragedy to tragedy, completely excluded comedy from its pretensions.

Another and an excellent revolution in the drama was brought about by this great man. He added one actor more to the dramatis personæ, and raised the chorus to fifteen persons, introducing them into the main action, and giving to all of them such parts to perform as tended to the carrying on of one uniform, regular plot. Encouraged by the great success of his pieces, the honours conferred upon him, and the deference paid to his opinions, he continued to write with unabated enthusiasm for the stage, and obtained the public prize no less than twenty different times. The admiration and wonder with which his genius was spoken of through all Greece, induced a general opinion that he was specially favoured by heaven, and that he held an intimate communication with the gods. Cicero himself has gone so far as to assert that Hercules had a prodigious esteem for him; and Apollonius[1] of Thyana, a Pythagorean philosopher, said in an oration he delivered before the tyrant Domitian, that "Sophocles, the Athenian, could tie up the winds, and stop their fury... Continue reading book >>

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