Manual The Folded Lie: A Comedy of Bad Manners

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Again, when a word seems to involve some inconsistency of meaning, we should consider how many senses it may bear in the particular passage. Critics, he says, jump at certain groundless conclusions; they pass adverse judgement and then proceed to reason on it; and, assuming that the poet has said whatever they happen to think, find fault if a thing is inconsistent with their own fancy.

The question about Icarius has been treated in this fashion. The critics imagine he was a Lacedaemonian. They think it strange, therefore, that Telemachus should not have met him when he went to Lacedaemon. But the Cephallenian story may perhaps be the true one. They allege that Odysseus took a wife from among themselves, and that her father was Icadius, not Icarius.

It is merely a mistake, then, that gives plausibility to the objection. In general, the impossible must be justified by reference to artistic requirements, or to the higher reality, or to received opinion. With respect to the requirements of art, a probable impossibility is to be preferred to a thing improbable and yet possible.

Things that sound contradictory should be examined by the same rules as in dialectical refutation—whether the same thing is meant, in the same relation, and in the same sense. We should therefore solve the question by reference to what the poet says himself, or to what is tacitly assumed by a person of intelligence.

The element of the irrational, and, similarly, depravity of character, are justly censured when there is no inner necessity for introducing them. Such is the irrational element in the introduction of Aegeus by Euripides and the badness of Menelaus in the Orestes. Thus, there are five sources from which critical objections are drawn.

Things are censured either as impossible, or irrational, or morally hurtful, or contradictory, or contrary to artistic correctness. The answers should be sought under the twelve heads above mentioned. The question may be raised whether the Epic or Tragic mode of imitation is the higher.

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If the more refined art is the higher, and the more refined in every case is that which appeals to the better sort of audience, the art which imitates anything and everything is manifestly most unrefined. The audience is supposed to be too dull to comprehend unless something of their own is thrown by the performers, who therefore indulge in restless movements. Tragedy, it is said, has this same defect. We may compare the opinion that the older actors entertained of their successors. Tragic art, then, as a whole, stands to Epic in the same relation as the younger to the elder actors.

So we are told that Epic poetry is addressed to a cultivated audience, who do not need gesture; Tragedy, to an inferior public.

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Being then unrefined, it is evidently the lower of the two. Now, in the first place, this censure attaches not to the poetic but to the histrionic art; for gesticulation may be equally overdone in epic recitation, as by Sosistratus, or in lyrical competition, as by Mnasitheus the Opuntian. Next, all action is not to be condemned—any more than all dancing—but only that of bad performers.

Such was the fault found in Callippides, as also in others of our own day, who are censured for representing degraded women. Again, Tragedy like Epic poetry produces its effect even without action; it reveals its power by mere reading. If, then, in all other respects it is superior, this fault, we say, is not inherent in it. And superior it is, because it has an the epic elements—it may even use the epic meter—with the music and spectacular effects as important accessories; and these produce the most vivid of pleasures.

Further, it has vividness of impression in reading as well as in representation. Moreover, the art attains its end within narrower limits for the concentrated effect is more pleasurable than one which is spread over a long time and so diluted. What, for example, would be the effect of the Oedipus of Sophocles, if it were cast into a form as long as the Iliad? Once more, the Epic imitation has less unity; as is shown by this, that any Epic poem will furnish subjects for several tragedies.

Thus if the story adopted by the poet has a strict unity, it must either be concisely told and appear truncated; or, if it conforms to the Epic canon of length, it must seem weak and watery [Such length implies some loss of unity,] if, I mean, the poem is constructed out of several actions, like the Iliad and the Odyssey , which have many such parts, each with a certain magnitude of its own.

Yet these poems are as perfect as possible in structure; each is, in the highest degree attainable, an imitation of a single action. Love in a Tub was pro- duced in His next play, Sir Fopling FhUter, followed upon an eight years' interval ; and it was his last. Yet he was immensely popular with the wits, and continually urged to write again. In Rochester addressed him Now Apollo had got gentle George in his eye, And frankly confessed that, of all men that writ, There's none had more fancy, sense, judgment, and wit, But, i' the crying sin, idleness, he was so hardened That his long seven years' silence was not to be pardoned.

It throve upon idleness. To do easily was to do well. It was fundamental in the comic dramatists that they should be amateurs, affecting that their plays were to be numbered as among their more frivolous escapades. Moreover they had a sense of proportion, only very thinly dis- guised in the general interchange of eulogy that marks the period.

They were coxcombs of life, and knew it was in their character to be so ; but they were not literary coxcombs. They had too severe a literary conscience and too fine an ear for the ring of an English phrase. Cursed, or gifted, with that noble laziness of the mind which forbade him to take life seriously, he had, at any rate, a sufficiently clear sense of style and proportion, not to attach to his artificial reflexion of life the importance which he refused to life itself.

Etherege seldom writes of religion ; but, when he does so, his references wonderfully illumine the indifference of the time to fundamental questions. We begin to understand why Charles II. This makes me have no temptation to talk of the business ; but quietly follow the light within me. I leave that to them who were born with the ambition of becoming prophets or legislators. His was the temperament that would never per- secute. To make of the world a proselyte would be entirely repugnant to his indifference or aphasia of the spirit.

James II. In a letter of February, , which Dryden wrote to Etherege at Ratisbon, we are able to measure the dismay with which this revolution of attitude at Court was received. Dryden was writing from virtual retirement ; but he is keenly conscious of the change. Oh, that our monarch would encourage noble idleness by his example, as he of blessed memory did before him ; for my mind misgives me he will not much advance his affairs by stirring. Accepting the apologies of Mr. Boyle in May, , f r a l n g silence, Etherege writes : " I need not tell you I am good-natured. I who forgive so many mistresses who have been false to me can well forgive a friend who has only been negligent.

The jealous husband is ridiculous in the plays of the earlier comic dramatists not so much because he is a husband as because he is jealous. Jealousy is the necessary product of a society in which monogamy is a moral standard ; but at this time the monogamous instinct was in abeyance. Restoration literature had it taken a publicist or philosophic turn would have abounded in the distinction, of which we hear so much to-day, between the impersonal needs and instincts of sex, and the personal relations of friendship.

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He made her a Duchess, because he liked her. Incidentally Mrs. Palmer was also his mistress. But so much less important were her relations with Charles from this point of view that he winked with complete indifference at her notorious infidelities. Men and women of the Restoration saw nothing sacred or romantic in the act of sex, and this has been taken to imply that friendship and the bonds of honour did not exist among them. The assumption is impertinent. Those who cannot for Elia's dreamwhile forget that sexual pleasure is abominable, unless it be tem- pered with exalted sentiments and a keen spiritual delight of the parties in each other's society, will of course be too profoundly disgusted with the morality reflected in the plays we are about to discuss liberally to enjoy them.

But to understand the morality of our comic writers we must discard this habit of approach. When Etherege " falls in love," he is not necessarily contemplating a union of hearts, an exchange of sentiments, a comparison of ideas, a lifetime of social and intellectual conversation ; but something very much simpler, and, for him, entirely dis- sociated.

Nor does he require any of the mono- polies or sanctities inherent in the Victorian idea of marriage as an exalted ceremony of conveyance. He makes no proprietary claims upon his mistress. His doctrine is the doctrine of tenancy or possession. This doctrine may be less commendable absolutely than that by which Collier and Macaulay have measured it. But the detached historian must be rid of prejudice. For him the doctrine of Etherege is neither better nor worse.

It is simply different. Palmer as a friend quite distinct from his " love " for her as a mistress. This does not necessarily mean that Charles was a brutal sensualist incapable of loyalty. Charles had some very fine sentiments indeed ; but he did not take them to bed. Etherege at Ratisbon accepted his duties as Resident in the true spirit of a gentleman of the Restoration precisely as he accepted his religion and his morality. The opportunist temper that looked no further than obvious, insistent things immediately plunged him into international politics, and gave him a craftsman's interest in his de- spatches.

He encountered his duties as a matter of course in the same spirit with which his friends had packed aboard to fight De Ruyter though they were unable to tell the jib from the main sheet. Etherege despised the people who took their politics seriously, just as he would have despised his friends had they taken seriously their feats of gallantry in the war or in Mulberry Garden. James' Park " ; and in October, , he fears he "may return into England well enough accomplished to be admitted to walk with Mr.

Spicer and Mr.