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been attempted on the modern stage. Neither of the brothers can excite any interest; they are both guilty in nearly an equal degree, and are equally odious: the one is the usurper of a throne, and the other is the enemy of his country. The mother can show but an impotent grief; and the intrigues of love cannot well be mingled with the horrors of the house of Laius. Such is the defect of the subject, and it is not remedied by the fable. The manner of the young poet is faithfully copied from the defects of Corneille. Nothing more strongly proves that talents generally begin by imitation. It is at once an homage which we render to our masters, and a rock to be avoided, unless the model be perfect: for such is the inexperience and weakness of this age that it devotes itself to that which is easiest to be imitated, the faults. Thus we find in the Rival Brothers, one Creon, who, at the same time that he is embroiling his two nephews, and endeavouring to obtain the succession by destroying both, is most tranquilly and frigidly in love with the princess Antigone, as Maximus is with Emilia, and the rival of his son, Hemon, who, he well knows, is the preferred suitor. He finishes by making to Antigone, who does not disguise her hatred and contempt of him, a proposition at least as unsuitable and improper as that of Maximus to Emilia. When Eteocles and Polynices are killed, and their mother, Jocasta, has killed herself, and Hemon and Meneceus the two sons of Creon have perished in the sight of both crimes, this father who remains alone, can propose nothing better to Antigone than a marriage. Such a scene in the fifth act of a play filled with murders and crimes is sufficient to ruin it. Antigone replies only by turning away from him, and follows the example of the rest of the actors, by killing herself. Creon has not courage to imitate her, apparently because it has been said that all must not die; but he makes great outcries, and finishes by saying he will seek repose in the infirnal regions.
We find also in this play, long soliloquies without necessity, which they were in the habit of giving to the actors and actresses as the most proper opportunities to shine in, and in stanzas after the manner of those of Polyeuctes and Heraclius, a sort of episodical piece, which has long been banished from the stage: . where it formed a shocking incongruity, by placing the poet toe
evidently in the place of the person represented. We have also declamations, maxims unnecessarily horrid, and even metaphysical reasoning instead of argument; faults into which Racine never afterwards fell. Jocasta addresses her two sons nearly in the same manner that Sabina, in the Horatii, speaks to her husband and brother-in law. She endeavours to convince them in a formal manner that they ought to kill her: and we may remark, here, how little interval there may be between a false and a true taste. Jocasta despairing of being able to prevail upon her sons, tells them that they ought to kill each other before the combat; that she will cast herself between their spears; but she proceeds,
Je suis de tous les deux la commune ennemie,
These subtleties are far too ingenious. This is not the language of grief: she has not sufficient command of herself to invent such sophisms: such a mind might, at this period, produce something brilliant, but it requires only a moment's reflection to see that this is false.
Yet the Rival Brothers had some success, and is not destitute of beauties. The hatred of the two brothers is depicted with energy, and the scene of their interview is very well managed.
The poet had the art of portraying two characters under the dominion of the same passion, and this alone sufficed to announce the dramatic talent which Moliere discovered and encouraged in the first production of Racine. Polynices has more grandeur and haughtiness; Eteocles is distinguished by ferocity and fury. When Jocasta represents to Polynices that Eteocles has won the regard of the people since his reign in Thebes, the prince answers,
C'est un tyran qu'on aime
Au rang où par la force il a su parvenir,
There is an excellence in the tone and sense of these verses, resembling the good poetry of Corneille, and it shows that his young rival had already learned to imitate some of his beauties.
On the other hand, Eteocles forcibly traces the reciprocal aversion which had always reigned between his brother and himself. It was not easy to express, with propriety, the traditionary fable of the contest between Etocles and Polynices in the womb of their mother. The poet makes the attempt, and with some few exceptions, the whole of this extract, is in the tragic style.
Je ne sais si mon cœur, s'appaisera jamais;
que la vie, entra dans notre cæur.
dans notre sang il voulut mettre au jour
Ne crois pas que pour lui ma haine diminue,
And a moment afterwards when the approach of his brother is announced, he exclaims
Qu'on hait un ennemi, quand il est pres de nous!
The description of their combat, notwithstanding some juvenile verses, is, in general, well done and worthy of the subject. But the talent of the author for versification displayed itself much more in his Alexander. This is the first of the French pieces which is written with that degree of elegance which consists in propriety of terms, loftiness of expression, and variety and ca. dence of verse. This merit which the author afterwards carried much further, and the character of Porus, marked, already, an improvement in his composition, and the piece had considerable success; but it is deficient in that interest which can alone sustain representations, when they do not possess other merits of a different kind, sufficiently superior to take its place, as we find in some of the dramas of Corneille. The spirit of imitation is still more evident here than in the Rival Brothers. Alexander is also coldly in love with an Indian queen, as Cæsar was with the queen of Egypt.. Friendship, no doubt, blinded Despréaux, when he put into the mouth of a countryman these reproachful verses, which he intends for praise:
Je ne sais pas pourquoi l'on vante l'Alexandre:
Ce n'est qu'un glorieux qui ne dit rien de tendre.
He is not very tender it is true: but he has sufficient gallantry to say to his mistress:
Je vous avais promis que l'effort de mon bras
And, a moment afterwards,
Que vous connaissez mal les violens desirs
Boileau did well to place among the heroes of romance an Alexander who sighs for amiable tyrants and who avows his defeat. There are some men who should never sigh upon the stage, and Alexander belongs to this class. But we must excuse Racine; he was misled by imitation. He was very young; and afterwards learned to speak the language of love very differently.
Another radical defect in this piece is the want of action. Porus is defeated at the end of the third act, and yet he remains on the field of battle until the fifth, to dispute a victory which Alexander himself had already declared as certain; and in this tong interval, Alexander is engaged in adjusting a dispute between Axiana and Taxila of whom no person had dreamed. The time is taken up in useless conversations: but that of the second act, between Porus and Hephestion, offers at least some beauties in detail. Hephestion is speaking of the exploits of his master:
Eh! que pourrais-je apprendre