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than they would be in any other upon earth. Unaccompanied with the sense of these advantages, the mother country is an empty name; which may be employed by crafty tyrants to varnith the guilt of their own detestable paifions, and to mislead the ignorant prejudices of their wretched subjects.
ART. IX. The Fatal Falsehood; a Tragedy. As it is acted at the
Theatre-Royalin Covent-Garden. By the Author of Percy*, 8vo. is, 6 d. Cadell. HIS Authoress seems to possess so many requisites effen
tial to excellence in dramatic poetry, that it would be unnatural, even for obdurate critics, not to be anxious for her success. She is, we think, a pupil, and no mean proficient, in the school of Otway. Many passages in this tragedy remind us of their source in the plays of the Orphan, ana Venice Preserved. Like her great master, though in an inferior degree, she is endowed with a facility of expreffion, and tenderness of sentiment. But she does not follow him with equal success in the delineation and preservation of character, in the management of particular incidents, or the general construction of the fable.
Her failure in these circumstances is, perhaps, in great measure owing to that very rich and easy vein, of which we grant she is pofféfred. Truiting to the rapidity of her execution, the begins to “ build the lotty rhime,” before she has well Jaid the foundation. A good tragedy, or indeed any excellent production, is a work of exquisite art, as well as genius; which might be proved not only from common sense, but even from the works of Shakspeare, whose example has been so often cited in support of the contrary doctrine. To the want of attention to this art, Horace ascribes the defects of the Roman dramatists, to whom he imputes no defect of natural talent for tragedy. The same thing may, perhaps, be truly said of many an English writer, whose plays have failed on the stage, merely froin an abuse of talent in the closet :
spirat tragicum fatis, & feliciter audet, Sed turpem putat in seriptis, metuitque lituram. Aristotle has juftly determined that perfect characters are less adapted to tragedy, than such whose good qualities are tinged with some frailties: but those frailties should appear to be congenial, if we may so term it, with their virtues. Macbeth is ambitious, yet " what he would highly, that would he bolily.” His ambition prevails, yet his veneration for sanctity is never lott, nor can even the most horrid deeds of desperation and cruelty asimilate Macbeth to the remorseless Richard. The Fatal Falsehood is radically defective in this respect, Such a
* Hannah More.
man as Orlando, open, noble, generous, and sensible, could never be guilty of such a falsehood as that on which the distress of this tragedy is founded—a falsehood commencing in the most capricious perfidy, proceeding to the basest treachery, and ending in the supposed assassination of his dearest friend.
To the truth of this representation let our Authoress herself bear witness ! Early in the play, Bertrand thus describes Os. lando; and it seems to be the idea the Poet herself wishes us to entertain of his natural character :
As charm all womankind, Such is the original draught of Orlando at the opening of the play ; but before the conclusion of the first A&t she gives us his picture drawn by his own hand : Orlando. Thou know't I left my native Italy,
Directed hither by the noble Rivers,
Sav'd my devoted life, and won my soul.
Or whether peaceful scenes, and rural Mades,
'Twas reason, 'was persuasion, nay 'twas love,
Oh! too soon she came,
Forgot my faish, my friendship, and my honour, The complicated baseness of this conduct we think we may venture to pronounce unnatural in a man naturally good, though occasionally blinded by passion. Inconstancy is not supposed
to be the characteristic of Orlando, yet his inconstancy, is more unjuftifiable than that of any mad lover we ever remember in romance or' tragedy.” Baleness is so 'averse from his nature, that, ftruck with horror 'at his own perfidy, he confeffes and repents his crime; .and yet, immediately after that repentance, attempts the murder of the friend, whole forgiveness he has just implored. It is in vain to plead the instigation of Bertrand. Bertrand is a mere stage villain. His artifices only prevail, because it is convenient for the Author that they thould do 1o ; and Orlando and Rivers are unnaturally blind, merely because it would mar the plot, if they were to see like other people.
After the affecting scene between Orlando, Rivers, and Em. melina, towards the conclusion of the fourth Act, it is improbable, nay almoft impossible in nature, that the circumftances of the Fifth should ensue; and we think it will appear, by the following soliloquy, that it is but a poor, shallow, theatrical artifice, by which those circumitances, improbable as they seem, are produced : Bertrand. How's this? my fortune fails me, both alive!
I thought by ftirring Rivers to this quarrel,
(Takes out a lettera
[Breaks open the letter.
[Runs over it.
[Going out he /pies the dagger.
Is form’d at once, and fit for glorious action. Phrenzy, properly introduced, and ably pourtrayed, is a fora cible engine of tragedy. Madness is not ill pictured in the ravings of Emmelina ; yet they have but little effect on the
reader, because her phrenzy and death are too evidently introduced as a stage trick, not necessarily flowing from the circumftances of the fable, and too suddenly produced to be natural. In a word, the whole of the fifth Act is; in our opinion, indefensible.
Our remarks may perhaps appear to be severe; but they are delivered with a warmth of friendly reprehenfion, not with the least spirit of acrimony. We deliver our censures, in this inftance, with more freedom, because we really think the fair Writer bleft with genius, which she permits, from hafte and carelessness, to run to waste. Ladies who write for the stage, as well as many gentlemen,, do not sufficiently consider the are duousness of the task:
To write a play! why 'tis a bold pretence
To learning, knowledge, genius, wit, and sense! Not to take leave of our Authoress without shewing her claim to such “ a bold pretence,
shall fubmit to our Readers the beginning of the fourth Act, which we esteem to be one of the happiest passages in the play: Emmelina. How many ways there are of being wretched !
The avenues to happiness how few !
Come to my arms,
Thy father's grief, his shame, his rage, his tears.
Shall pay me back again in tears of blood.
'Tis for thy fake, my child.
For me, for me?
If any crime of mine
Thou art all innocence,
And think that thou wast mine ; and if I wept
What of him?
I cannot tell thee;
Tell me the worst while I have sense to hear.
But fear runs.wild with horrible conjecture.
EMMELINA (ifrer a long pause.) 'Tis well---'tis very well-'uis as it hould be. Guild. Oh, there's an eloquence in that mure woe,
Which mocks all language. Speak, relieve thy heart,
While no: a figh efcapes to tell thy pain,
GUILDFORD. (Embraces her.).
Some dread convulsion fatal to thy peace.
Methinks thy daughier shou'd not be sefus'a ?
Held up to sale? been offer'd, and refus d ?
To spare thy blushes met the Count-
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