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hurtful? Experience seems to have decided in their favour. Plato, who had never lived in a state where they were not, but, on the contrary, always resided in a city where they were frequent, at the beginning of the tenth book of his Republic, and at the end of the seventh book on Laws, gives his suffrage against them, and excludes them, as well as all poetry, from his ideal republic. Some have conjectured, and it is not impossible, that the dislike of the elegant philosopher for poets was caused by envy and the spirit of rivalry ; or, since it was his delight to invent paradoxes, that he condemned the theatre, because the love of it was so prevalent amongst his countrymen, as to be considered almost essential to their existence; and that if he had inhabited a country in which it was held in abhorrence, the same motive would probably have induced him to recommend the drama as necessary to public welfare and private felicity. On the supposition that he wrote in good faith, it must at least be admitted that he wrote in ignorance ; never having had an opportunity of observing by actual experience the state which he recommends : we may therefore believe, that if he had known the inconveniences arising from the want of theatres, as well as those which are occasioned by the abuse of them, he would, perhaps, have invented a commonwealth less inhospitable to players.
At all events, the fancy, or opinion, that the theatre is injurious to morals, is by no means of modern origin ; several states of Greece, and especially the rude, cruel, and warlike Sparta, abhorred it as sincerely as the most sour and rigid of our puritans; and there is nothing that has been said by the most bigoted of their writers, which has not been said and written with equal vehemence and austerity in ancient times. The praise of great severity of manners may still be had by persons who will seek it thus; but they are many centuries too late for the praise of novelty. Plutareh, in his life of Solon, tells us, that when Thespis first set up the stage at Athens, it was much frequented by the multitude ; that Solon went once himself, and when the play was over, asked the manager if he was not ashamed to tell such a parcel of lies before so many people? Thespis answered, it was no harm to say or do these things in jest, and by way of diversion ; but Solon struck his staff with passion upon the ground, and replied, “ If lying is so well received in the way you talk of, we shall soon have it practised in serious business.” Some strict persons, in like manner, will not permit any expression to be used to children which is not precisely and literally true: but experience proves that we should thereby deprive them of much instruction and innocent amusement; for at the earliest age, as soon as they can make any distinction whatever, they learn to discern between jest and earnest, and they rarely, if ever, confound them. They can at once tell whether we speak seriously or in fun-and so can those children of a larger growth, the multitude. There have been sects, since the days of Solon—though not perhaps philosophers—who do not frequent theatres, who use no amusing fictions, who never say the thing that is in jest : but we may safely appeal to the experience of mankind, whether the members of such sects, in the serious business of life, are remarkable for a superior worth or veracity. There is, and always has been, but too much falsehood in the world : but men do not learn at the playhouse to speak untruths—nor in reading Don Quixote, or even the Arabian Nights : por are the most veracious or ingenuous children those who are ignorant of the history of Jack and the Bean, and of his great namesake, the Giant-killer.
It is difficult to conceive a preacher, whose eloquence should generally produce a moral effect upon his audience equally strong with that caused by a moderately good representation of an indifferent tragedy; and we are convinced that the force of comic ridicule, when directed skilfully against a public abuse, would be irresistible : the power of the theatre, whether it operates by laughter or by tears, might, therefore, if duly exerted, be productive of infinite good. Striking portions of history might be shown on the stage with a forcible and impressive effect; for even the dull history of England becomes interesting in the ten dramas of Shakspeare; and it is perhaps not altogether impossible, that the still duller legends of France might acquire altraction in the hands of a great master of scenic composition. These ten plays are the best specimens we have of the manner in which history may be treated dramatically; and the mode in which eight of them follow each other, reminds us of the trilogies of the Greeks. Young persons, and the lower orders, listen with great satisfaction to speeches, and even to disputatious arguments, whenever they are able to comprehend in any degree the object of them; and they assist at dramatic exhibitions with still greater pleasure and profit. Nor is it profitable for youth to be hearers only; it is good for them to take a part. Acting plays, under proper superintendence, is very useful ; it is the best mode of learning to pronounce well, of acquiring a distinct utterance, a good delivery, and graceful action; the memory is strengthened and enriched with plenty of choice words and elegant expressions, and the mind is taught by experience to judge correctly of dramatic excellence.
This exercise, too, is always performed with so much ease and delight, that if it were not beneficial in its effects, as it undoubtedly is, it ought still to be encouraged, as an innocent and acceptable relaxation; and reserved as a reward for past, and a motive for future exertions. It was formerly practised on this principle at our Universities, and continued in force there so long as learning was cultivated ; the good old custom is still retained in Westminster School. So long, also, as the Inns of Court were faithful to their original destination—the advancement of legal education, it was usual for the students to act plays in the halls ; and great personages, sometimes even kings and queens, did not disdain to attend them ; in short, wherever education was, there were theatricals also, as the last finishing of the work.
The Jesuits, who were the most liberal of all the religious orders, and were, in truth, the victims of their liberality, as they were singularly active and successful in education, encouraged dramatical representation in their seminaries. We have this account of their proceedings from Gabriel d'Emillianne, a very hostile witness :
“ The Jesuits take much pains themselves in making of comedies and tragedies, and every Regent is bound to compose two at least every year. To this end, as soon as they hare finished some piece of elaborate folly or buffoonery, they distribute the personages thereof to those of their seholars they judge most proper to represent them; and they spend a great part of the time of their classes, or morning and afternoon lectures, in exercising them two or three months before the drama is to be acted publicly. This loss of time would not be altogether so great, in case these comedies or tragedies were in the Latin tongue; but, excepłing only some few sprinklings of Latin words here and there, they are all Italian. Their end herein is to make them the more iptelligible to the ladies that are invited to them. Amongst the rest, they take car not to forget the mothers of their scholars, who are ravished to see their children declaiming upon the theatre of the reverend fathers, and conceit their children bave profited greatly, in being so dexterous in playing the jack, pudding."
He afterwards relates, in a more angry tone, that
The Abbot of St. Michael's in the Wood, near Bologna, told me there was no harm in all this, and ibat they did it for a good end; • For,' said be, 'we sometimes act little tragedies and comedies in the restry, or in the church, to which we invite our kindred of both sexes, and our friends, to be merry together.'. The Abbot, in giving me this account, took notice of some sort of indignation on my brow, when he told me that they made use of the church to act their farces and comedies in ; and therefore would needs excuse himself on that point, by telling me that they were in a manner forced to serve themselves of that place, because the ladies were not suffered to enter the Convent, so that they had no other place where to bestow them; as if, forsooth, it were a case of absolute and insuperable necessity for the ladies to be present, or for them to act such kind of follies. Sometimes, also, they are guilty of most horrible profanations ; by building their theatre upon the high allar where the holy sacrament is lodged.”
We would not willingly participate in the horror of a writer, who declares that a profanation is great, for a reason which he does not believe himself; yet the practice of acting plays in a church is so contrary to our present habits, that it somewhat startles us. Though it may tend, possibly, in some sort, to remove indignation from the brow, and to excuse the reverend fathers, if we reflect, that in the ancient world dramatic representations were intimately connected with religion, and were, indeed, a part of it; that the theatre, in short, was a sacred place, and that the performance was accompanied by sacrifice. Not only was it so with the Pagans, but with Christians also, to a certain extent; and when the drama was restored in the middle ages, it was by sacred persons, representing sacred stories, most commonly in sacred places. But of this hereafter. In all religions that have enjoyed an extensive influence, or a permanent establishment, there has been much that was dramatic in the public rites and services; various scenes connected with the foundation, or extension, of the peculiar faith, were represented, although not always, perhaps, with taste and felicity. Except in a few modern sects, the ritual has never consisted of prayers and thanksgivings alone.
It is not impossible that the notion of desecrating our churches, by applying them to other uses than those of devotion, may be carried farther than ancient usage will warrant. It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath days; and it may possibly be lawful to do good also in a sacred place. It is certain, that they have often been used by pious persons for the best act that man can do to his fellow-for the purpose of teaching. We read of the excellent and eminently pious Sir Thomas More, that " as soon as he put on the bar gown, he read a public lecture in the church of St. Lawrence, Old Jewry, upon St. Austin's treatise De Civitate Dei, with an excellent grace, and great applause. In these lectures, he did not discuss any points of divinity, so much as explain the precepts of Moral Philosophy, and clear up some difficulties in history.” The Court of Arches, as is well known, derives its name from the church of St. Mary-le-bow, or de Arcubus : that celebrated house of prayer was made, without scruple, a den of proctors. It should seem, therefore, that the clergy of former days were less jealous of sharing the sacred edifices with the profane, and did not seek to withold public buildings from public purposes, under a pretence of extraordinary reverence. However that may be, it is certain that they were not, as now, hermetically sealed; they stood open, at all hours of the day, to all comers. It is only in very modern times, an abuse of yesterday, that indolence and cupidity have conspired to shut out the public from our cathedrals. We read with horror and indignation, but without surprise, the late miserable destruction of the choir of York Minster. The catastrophe seems to have been the consequence of this illegal and barbarous practice ; and we may expect to see more of the same kind, unless vigorous measures are speedily adopted to rescue the custody of them from unworthy guardians, who seek to derive vile and paltry gains, by extorting from the curiosity of strangers, fees for permission to admire public ornaments, which are equally the property of all. If the church had been open, an incendiary could scarcely have set it on fire; or if some maniac had committed such an act, the fire would have been discovered before it had attained an irresistible force. The structure of the building demonstrates, that a sudden conflagration was not to be apprehended; the mischief must have been unobserved during many hours of total neglect, or it could not have consumed an edifice constructed almost entirely of stone. If the church had been open, it could not have been without watchmen, however strong the desire to economize might have been. The fear of damage would have proved a security, and the presence of the vewxópos would have frustrated the designs of a prophet, or even of more than a prophet. Those who have often gazed with delight and wonder on that lovely choir, can alone be sensible of the full extent of our loss, or feel sufficient indignation at the monstrous and inconceivable negligence which was really the guilty cause.
The consideration of our cathedrals may appear to some to be remote from the subject we have undertaken to treat; but it is in truth essential to the view which we have taken of it; and it will be necessary to examine the structure of these edifices more minutely, that what we are going to add may be intelligible. As the Drama was derived from Greece, it is necessary, in order clearly to understand its nature, to obtain a correct idea of the Greek Drama; but especially of the Tragedy, which was its most ancient form, and of the grand characteristic and parent of the Greek Tragedy-the Chorus. Now, it will greatly assist our comprehension of this obscure and ill-explained subject, to examine with attention the construction of a Cathedral Church. The tendency, since the Reformation, has always been, in all our institutions, to shut in and to include a chosen few; and lo exclude by strong barriers, and shut out as effectually as possible, the mass of the people. We may remark this in a very striking manner in our Cathedrals. The eastern end has been separated by the organ, and by other impediments, from the body of the church, and effeclually cut off from the view. We must remove these obstacles, at least in idea. We must imagine that the organ has been restored to its original position, which in many of the Continental churches it still occupies, over the western entrance; or at the side in one of the aisles, where we sometimes find it; or, as the mighty instrument is comparatively modern, although of considerable antiquity, we may suppose that it is annihilated. We must also imagine, that all the other wooden barricadoes, especially galleries, and those frightful examples of aristocratical exclusion—the pews-are swept away, and that the whole building is as clear and as open as a heathen temple, or an unreformed church. We shall find, that the whole of the part which we have laid open, is raised by two or three steps above the pavement of the rest of the church, and that the farther or eastern part of this elevated area is again raised in the same way; and upon this highest elevation the high altar, or, as we call it, the Communion Table, slands. The whole of the elevated area, as well as the persons who officiate upon it, retains the ancient name of Chorus in most of the languages of Europe, although it is somewhat modified according to the genius of the language: we call it the Choir, or Quire. In many churches, as in St. Peter's at Rome, for example, and the ca.thedral at Florence, the high altar is placed more nearly in the middle
of the building, and under the cupola, or central tower : but this is not very material.
We must then imagine, that the service used in our cathedral is performed, or rather, since many ceremonies, continued from a very remote period, have been laid aside, that more ancient rites are celebrated. We must imagine that we see, on that elevated part of the pavement called the Chorus, or Choir, that body of men which is also called by the same name, altired in sacred vestments, and occupied in various rites ; that at one time they march slowly in different directions, and at another time remain fixed on the same spot; that they ascend and descend the steps of the high altar, and that some of them perform certain ceremonies there; that they bear on high and exhibit images, vessels, or relics; that they carry in their hands, at one time, lighted tapers, or torches, at another, sprinkle lustral waler on all sides, or waft clouds of incense from burning censers, and especially that they often divide themselves into two equal bands, and that each (semichorus) is in all such actions the exact counterpart of the other ; moreover, that they chant during their mysterious operations, and sing verses to the accompaniment of musical instruments, in strange and solemn strains, in strophe and antistrophe, or, as they are now called, antiphones, or anthems; responsive songs, relating to the history of remote periods, prophetic, and of a dark and mysterious sense : the one half of the Choir answering the other from the opposite side of the altar : and that the whole of the nave and the aisles on all sides are filled with a mingled crowd of spectators, of both sexes, and of every age and rank. But we need not imagine such a scene : for we may see it ourselves in the greatest part of Europe; and when we see it, we see the Chorus of the ancient Greeks.
Such, undoubtedly, it appeared to the eye; and such were the ceremonies which were performed, although with a different design and object, in the temples and theatres of Greece, and more frequently before an altar in the open air, either within the walls of a city, or at some sacred spot without, and in the vicinity. Let us next imagine, that in order to explain ceremonies of which the meaning might not be very obvious, some person comes forward and recites to the multitude a narrative of the event which the festival is designed to commemorate. Let us, to make the matter more plain, take a familiar and awful example from our own history. Let us imagine that the Choir is engaged in celebrating the martyrdom of St. Thomas of Canterbury; and that, in the midst of the performances, which are still continued, an orator recites the tale of the barbarous and sacrilegious murder of an Archbishop, perpetrated in his cathedral, on the steps of the high altar, because, from devotion to a righteous cause, he refused to sacrifice to his personal safety the immunities of the Holy Church. Let us again imagine that the saint himself, arrayed in his pontificals, appears as a beatified spirit, in much glory, and eloquently relates the threats and temptations with which he was assailed, the firmness with which he withsiood them, the ferocity of his murderers, whose coming he had anticipated, and his patient submission and calm resignation to a violent but voluntary death. Let us farther imagine, that he sometimes addresses his discourse to the choir, and sometimes to the multitude;'and, to add to the effect of the exhibition, and to render it more edifying, that the Choir, still continuing their ceremonies, affect to feel, in some degree, the awe which such an apparition, if real, would produce; and at one while, address to the martyr expressions full of