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circumstance, and chooses the lesser evil of squaring his divine right with the will of the nation. This retention of power would have been more difficult had any success attended the attempts at rebellion against all laws, against law in general, which broke out in varying degrees at the end of the sixteenth century. Pietro Aretino made mock of the most sacred precepts: in a prologue to one of his comedies he remarks derisively, “If you see more than five characters on the stage at once, do not laugh ; for chains which would fasten water-mills to the river could not hold the fools of to-day.” ". A philosopher, Giordano Bruno, entered the lists against the “regulators of poetry " : rules, said he, are derived from poetry: “there are as many genera and species of true rules as there are genera and species of true poets"; such an individualization of kinds dealt them a deathblow. “How then " (asks the interlocutory opponent) “shall veritable poets be recognized 2 ” “By their singing of verse ’’ (answers Bruno); “ of that which, being sung, either delights or instructs, or delights and instructs at the same time.” ” In much the same way Guarini defended his Pastor fido in 1588, declaring “the world is the judge of poets; against its sentence there is no appeal.” " Amongst European countries, Spain was perhaps the sturdiest in her resistance to the pedantic theories of the writers of treatises; Spain was the land of freedom in criticism from Vives to Feijóo, from the sixteenth to the middle of the eighteenth century when decadence of the old Spanish spirit allowed Luzán, with others, to introduce neo-classical poetry of Italian and French origin.” That rules must change with the times and with actual conditions; that modern literature demands modern poetics; that work carried out contrary to established rule does not signify that it is contrary to all rule or unwilling to submit
* Prologue to the Cortigiana, 1534.
itself to a higher law; that nature should give, not receive, laws; that the laws of the three unities are as ridiculous as it would be to forbid a painter to paint a large landscape in a small picture ; that the pleasure, taste, approbation of readers and spectators are the deciding element in the long run ; that notwithstanding the laws of counterpoint, the ear is the true judge of music; these affirmations and many like them are frequent in Spanish criticism of the period. One critic, Francisco de la Barreda (1622), went so far as to compassionate the strong wits of Italy bound by fear and cowardice (temerosos y acobardados) to rules that hampered them on every side ; * he may have been thinking of Tasso, a memorable case of such degradation. Lope de Vega wavered between neglect of rules in practice, and obsequious acceptance of them in theory, alleging in excuse for his conduct that he was forced to yield to the demands of the public who paid money to see his plays; he said, “when I write my comedies, I lock and double-lock the door against the precept-mongers, that they may not rise up and bear witness against me '’; “Art (that is, Poetics) speaks truth which is contradicted by the vulgar ignorant ’’; “may the rules forgive us when we are induced to violate them.” ” But a contemporary admirer of Lope's work writes of him that “en muchas partes de sus escritos dice que el no guardar el arte antiguo lo hace por conformarse con el gusto de la plebe . . . dicelo por su natural modestia, y porqué no atribuya la malicia ignoranted arrogancia lo que es politica perfeccion.”*
Giambattista Marino also protested “I assert that I have a more thorough knowledge of the rules than have all the pedants in the world ; but the only true rule is to know how to break the rules at the right place and time, and to conform with the custom and taste of the day.” “ The drama of Spain, the comedy of art, and other literary novelties of the seventeenth century caused Minturno, Castelvetro and other rigid treatise-writers of the preceding century to be looked at with contemptuous pity as “antiquaries”; this may be seen in Andrea Perucci (1699), the theorist of improvised comedy." Pallavicino criticized the writers on “the disciplines of beautiful speech " on the ground that they “generally base their precepts on observing by experience what things in writers give pleasure, rather than pointing out what would naturally conform to the particular affections and instincts implanted by the Creator in the souls of men.” ” A note of distrust towards the fixed kinds may be heard in the Discorso sull' Endimione (1691), wherein Gravina severely blames the “ambitious and miserly precepts '' of rhetoricians, and makes the penetrating comment : “No work can see the light without finding itself confronted by a tribunal of critics specially convened to examine it, and questioned firstly as to its name and nature. Next begins the action which lawyers call prejudicial, and controversy arises as to its status, whether it is a poem, a romance, a tragedy, a comedy, or another of the prescribed kinds. And if the said work have ignored the slightest precept . . . they decree forthwith its exile and perpetual banishment. And yet, however they recast and expand their aphorisms, they will never be able to include all the different kinds that can be freshly created by the varied and ceaseless motion of human wit. For this reason I cannot see why we should not free ourselves from this insolent curb on the soaring grandeur of our imaginations, and allow them to follow an open road amongst those immeasurable spaces they are fitted to explore.” He remarks on the work of Guidi which forms the subject of his discourse, “I know not whether it be tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, or anything else invented by rhetoricians. It is a representation of the loves of Endymion and Diana. If those terms have sufficient breadth of extension, they will comprehend this
* Menendez y Pelayo, op. cit. iii. p. 468 (2nd ed.).
* Arte nuevo de hacer comedias (1609), ed. Morel Fatio, ll. 40-41, 138-140, 157-158.
* Menendez y Pelayo, op. cit. iii. p. 459.
* Marino, letter to G. Preti, in Lettere, Venice, 1627, p. 127.
G. B. Marino.
G. V. Gravina.
* Dell' arte rappresentiva meditata e all’ improvviso, Naples, 1699;
cf. pp. 47, 48, 65.
work; if they have not, let another be framed (a power
* In Orsi, Considerazioni, ed. cit. ii. pp. 8, 9. * Réflexions, cit. sect. 34. * Discours sur la tragédie, 1730.
Critics of the eighteenth century.
Friedrich Melchior Grimm, who was influenced by him. A breath of liberty was wafted into Italy by Metastasio, Bettinelli, Baretti and Cesarotti: in 1766 Buonafede notes in his Epistola della libertà poetica that when erudite persons “define epic poetry, or comedy, or odes, they ought to frame as many definitions as there are compositions and authors.” ". In Germany the first to rise in rebellion against the rules (opposing Gottsched and his disciples) were the representatives of the Swiss school.” In England, after examining the definitions by which critics endeavoured to distinguish epic poetry from other compositions, Home wrote, “It affords no little diversion to watch so many profound critics hunting after that which does not exist. They presuppose—without shadow of proof–that there exists a precise criterion by which to distinguish epic poetry from all other kinds of composition. But literary compositions melt one into another like colours: and if in their stronger shades it is easy to recognize them, they are susceptible of such variety and of so many different forms that it is impossible to say where one ends and another begins.” " Literary thought between the late eighteenth and the first decades of the nineteenth century, that is to say from “the period of genius ” to that of romanticism properly so called, rose in rebellion against separate individual rules and against all rules as such. But to describe the battles fought, and their more important episodes; to recount the names of captains victorious or discomfited, or to deplore the excesses committed by the conquerors, is no part of our present task. Upon the ruins of the strict kinds, the “genres tranchés" beloved by Napoleon * (a Romanticist in the art of war, but a Classicist in poetry), flourished the drama, the romance and every other mixed kind : upon the ruins of the three unities, flourished the unity of ensemble. Italy made her protest * Opuscoli of Agatopisto Cromaziano, Venice, 1797. * Danzel, Gottsched, p. 206 seqq. * Elements of Criticism, iii. pp. 144-145, note.
* See conversation of Napoleon with Goethe, in Lewes, The Life and Works of Goethe, ii. p. 441.