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THE FIVE GREAT SKEPTICAL DRAMAS

OF

HISTORY

ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY PRESS.

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A LIFE-LABOUR expended on thinkers of a special type, com-
bined with a survey of all Literature from the standpoint of
the same thought, might not unreasonably be expected to make
discoveries and induce results of a peculiar kind. Without
anticipating any a priori harmony or providential relation, so
to speak, between the labour and its outcome, the philosophical
thinker may feel no small gratification at observing how much
greater and richer and how much more important his scheme of
thought is than he had anticipated. Contemplating, for example,
the history of skeptical free-thinkers as a department of philo-
sophy in which less labour had been spent than it seemed to
deserve, the author of the following pages was struck with the
remarkable fact that just as the greatest thinkers have been of
a skeptical kind, so all the dramas that have most impressed
themselves on the minds of men have been dramas whose
subjects and characters have pertained to skeptical free-
thought. In a word, all the greatest dramas and dramatic
plots in all ages of the world have been of this class.

Thus the greatest of Greek plays, the master-work of the
greatest of Greek dramatists, is without doubt the “Prometheus
Bound” of Aeschylus; the noblest of Bible-books, that is, with
a dramatic plot and character, is unquestionably the Book of
Job; the greatest play of England's, and of the world's, great
dramatist has been the “Hamlet” of Shakespeare ; and the
noblest drama of the most famous of modern poets has been
the “Faust” of Goethe; while the problem of the “Faust” has
again been considered by Calderon from a more strictly Roman
Catholic point of view in the most striking of all his dramas “El
Magico Prodigioso”. No dramas have attracted so much
attention-each in its special environment of time and circum-
stance-as these five. None have been taken as manifesting
so adequately the intellectual and spiritual idiosyncrasy of their

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