« ElőzőTovább »
Dervis up;"_“I wish to-find him up that may convert her,”' &c. &c. The phrase occurs at least twenty times ; and whether it be borrowed from the idiom of the original, or invented by the translator, must certainly be allowed to possess singular grace and animation.
We have now exhibited enough, we conceives of this drama, to satisfy the greater part of our readers, that, in spite of some late alarming symptoms, there is good teason for holding, that there is still a considerable difference between the national taste of Germany and of this country. The piece before us, has not only been a favourite acting play for these six and twenty years, but it is considered as one of the best productions of their celebrated Lessing, who is vaunted as the purest and most elegant of their dramatick writers, and has long been the idol of all those who cry down Schiller and Kotzebue às caricaturists. The translation is from the pen of Mr. Taylor of Norwich, whose admirable versions of Lenore, and of the Iphigenia in Tauris, have placed him at the head of all translators from that language.
Hard is his lot, who here by fortune plac'd,
PRELIMINARY. WHATEVER importance may generally have been attached to crit. icisms on dramatical performances, it is certain that the interest which such compositions excite, is not only lively in itself, but, from its reference to local circumstances and characters is increased almost in proportion to the personality with which it is attended. The conductors of the Theatrical Department in the ORDEAL, while they do not feel themselves bound under any restraint in speaking of the ex, hibitions of the stage, do certainly consider those remarks which attach to players in general to be nugatory in their effects, unless they are caused by uncommon merit, or dictated by peculiar circumstan, ces of demerit, in the performer. The common player is either in, corrigible from dulness, dead to ambition from severity of censure, or incapable of a correct personation of character by reason of the innumerable difficulties he isobliged to encounter from rivalship of parts in other performers, managerial intolerance, or limitation of time nes cessary to acquire a competent recollection of his author. Such are guments lose their force, however, when referred to eminent actors, and have no weight whatever, when the plays and aot the players are the subjects of investigation. Accordingly our remarks will be di. rected to the apparent taste of the publick, and the merits of the compositions rather than to the defects of men and women, whose secondary intellects and capricousness of passion would reduce the dignity of criticism to the clamorous ebullitions of frivolous garrulity.
BOSTON THEATRE 3. AMONG those plays which most uñequivocally demand the process of analysis, those which are native, and born in the country, though in shemselves animportant compositions, should most decidedly receive the earliest attention. Nothing of this nature had occurred during the whole of the present season, until The PILGRIMS, made its afpearance a few weeks ago. But before we enter minutely into the diseüssion of its particular merits, it is necessary to make some few remarks on the nature of that theatrical mania, or passion for the mone strous, by which the present age of the English theatre is so disgrace. fully distinguished. The French theatre has had the merit within the last ten years of introducing the melo-drama, or a union of pantomime and dialogue, as the English theatre had about a century and a half ago, of beginning the more natural entertainment of tragi-comedy. The English, however, have adopted the melo-drama in its fullest latitude, and they have not only translated all the French and German compositions of any celebrity ; but have preposterously turned their own tragedies as well as story-books and novels into works of the same heterogeneous texture.
If there are to be na disputes about propriety of taste, ve niust give up all pretensions to assert the necessity of truth and good sense in Our amusements. But if there is such a thing as taste inhering in the human mind, we can only account for the permission of the melodrama on the stage, on some sach principles as should lead a white man to prefer for his companion the sable beauty of the coast of Afri. ca, to the American female, glowing with healthfulness and youth, and filled with
« The bloom of young desire and purple light of love. 'a That taste has an existence, however, and is governed by some rules, is only denied by a few visionary minds; and in that particular branch of the subject, which implies the power of discrimination in the fine arts and associate feelings, it exists more evidently than in any othet. # is here that good sense is the principal requisite in the formation of a good taste, and though there may be disputes as to the becoming appearance of long waists or naked elbows, there is no doubt that Dryden was a fine poet, and Lord Chatham an eloquent statesman. But this desire for the monstrous is a crime against all reason, sense and propriety in nature. Tell a woman at this day that a wide hooped petticoat, or an extreme long waist, would much improve her exterior, and she would laugh in your face; yet these absurd fashions, were formerly universal, and had enthusiastick admirers. But the melo-drama, confounding all propriety in confusion, and nature in absurdity, can have no defence even in the moment of its full career. Palpably deviating from the only principles of taste which are supposed to have any governing influence on the mind, people of understandings the most obtuse as well as those of refined intellect, acknowledge the absurdity, and yet persevere in encouraging it. We shall improve another occasion to scout the monster from our stage, and to endeavour to unite all persons in one general exclamation against such preposterous violations of gennine good sense, and such dangerous attempts absolutely to pervert the taste of the conimunity.
With this opinion of the melo-drama in general, it cannot be expected that we should view “ The Pilgrims” with very favourable sentiments, however successfully it might have been composed, under the operation of the principles which govern such compositions. “The Pilgrims," however, is not entitled to respect from any consideration ; though from its disgracing one of the most shining events which adorns our national annals it demands the most decided reprehension. It is a composition singularly absurd; it bas neither conformity of character to historical fact, truth of relation, propriety of incident, nor interest of fable, to recommend it. We are sensible that this summary condemnation can be pronounced by any critick, however ignorant, on any play however meritorious, and therefore is entitled to no consideration unless it be supported by proof. While there. fore we confess we have a strong partiality to the story, on which this mis-called drama is founded, we will proceed to account for the contempt which it has produced in our minds.
The fable is shortly this. First, Winslow and Juliana are despe. rately in love with each other, and two servants among the pilgrims are equally enamoured of her. In this state of things the landing of our forefathers takes place, which only involves a few aberrations from history, such as their discovering the natives immediately on their landing, which did not occur until three months afterwards, and the confusion occasioned by confounding the real character of Samoset in Squanto, After the landing, Watson, one of the servants, makes a most impudent declaration of his affection to Juliana, telling her that though he was her inferior in England, in the wilds of America he is her equal,
She resists, he presses, she screams, and in comes the rival servant Grafton, to her rescue. They fight, she escapes, and immediately Goveraour Carver seizes them, arrests their deadly revenge, gives them a sermon on duelling, and orders them to be tied back to back for their of-, fence. In the mean time, Samoset, an Indian Chief, falls into a violent passion for this same Juliana, and as she is one day, probably in the month of January, taking a walk in the woods for a prospect, she finds one all mildness and serenity, clearners and extent. Here this imperti. nent Samoset interrupts her soliloquy and attempts to carry her off, and though he is opposed by Winslow, (who happened to be on a shooting frolick that morning, and came in the way at the very moment) he very nearly effects his design ; but is fortunately prevented from accomplishing his wicked purposes by the very timely interposition of king Massasoit; who severely reprimands the Indian lover for his treachery, and dismisses him with a severe lecture on illicit attachment. The king and Juliana now go in quest of Winslow, who is missing after his fight with Samoset. It is not a little surprising that Juliana never told the king of the battle Winslow had with the Indian traitor, and should suffer him to get off so easily ; however a circumstance still more surprising follows upon the heels of this first surprising emotion. Juliana and the king come across another Birnam wood, de. nominated an Indian ambush. For what purpose an ambush is laid we are not informed, nor can we readily imagine ; the Indians were avowedly friendly to the pilgrims, and no war took place in Plymouth until many years after the landing. But so it is, they met with an ambush, and after the king carried his soldiers through their manual exercise of trees, Juliana and himself hide themselves behind the bushes ; which is the most singular way of finding out a person who was missing that we believe was ever exhibited on any stage. Winslow however very opportunely comes by at this moment; the moving grove surrounds him, frightens him out of his wits, and then out bolts the king and his mistress, for the purpose probably of producing a decided contrast in his feelings, for stage effect. The lovers are afterwards united by Governour Carver, who officiates as priest, and they form the first couple, which were ever married in New England.
Having brought this story to a conclusion, let us see if there is any other to relate. Though there is none which has any connection with the last, yet there are many more in the piece. First of all, an Irishman and an Indian squaw, are in love with each other, then an Indian chief, a relation of king Massasoit, is restored to him, by means of Governour Carver, in a most surprising manner.
Besides all this, we are treated with a feast of shells, where no part of the fable is promoted, and where a witty Indian eats the inside of an oyster and presents the shell to a pilgrim ; and after which Govern
our Carver talks to the Indians as if they were courtiers in a ball room, and they answer him as if they were perfectly well acquainted with the arts and sciences in civilized life. The pilgrims speak of the falls of Niagara, before they could have been known , and Massasoit talks of weighing the islander's observations in the balance of justice before he had seen a pair of scales, or could understand there was such distinction in language as justice and injustice. In conclusion, the natives and the pilgrims assemble in one place, to see the wedding, it is presumed, of Winslow and Juliana. When lo ! the goddess of liberty appears in a cloud, which descends gradually upon the stage; but neither the descent nor the appearance of the goddess excites any surprise. Quite the contrary ; she must have been an intimate acquaintance of the pilgrims, for the governour walks up to the cloud, with a very polite and gentlemanly deportment, hands her goddess-ship out, and conducts her to the front of the stage. Here she makes a long harangue, and illustrates her observations in 1620, by allusions to events (with which she must have supposed her hearers to have been acquainted) which took place in 1807; and after telling them how great, powerful, and wise their descendants were likely to be, she is conducted back to her cloud in the same order as before ; and then a marriage dance on the beach or in the woods concludes the entertainment.
It will appear from this representation that the composition in question is a compound of incongruous episodes ; that none of them are connected ; that the dialogue is absurd, the characters not preserved, and the serious incidents laughably ridiculous. Yet we cannot dismiss the subject without observing, that the period of the landing of our forefathers at Plymouth, embraces more circumstances of domestic vicissitude and pational importance, calculated to form a serious drama, than almost any, historical epoch of which we have an account. An event however which is not yet sufficiently darkened by the veil of time to warrant any deviations from fact, in the dramatick relation; but one which every lover of his country must wish should be commemorated by some writer who could do justice to the subject; who could porfray with liveliness the perils of the unknown ocean, which washed the shore of Plymouth, and the numerous other difficulties which the pilgrims encountered; and who should be able, with a pen like Virgil's, to rescue the names of Winslow, Carver, and Bradford, the founders of his country, from the musty records of primitive times.