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in language adorned in accordance with the requirements of the different parts, its exposition to be by action and not by narration, and using pity or terror as means to free or purify us from these same passions ; 1 he gives minute details as to the six parts of which it is composed, especially the plot and the tragic character. It has been often said, ever since the days of Vincenzo Maggio in the sixteenth century, that Aristotle treated of the nature of poetry, or particular forms of poetry, without claiming to give precepts. But Piccolomini answered that “all these things and other similar ones are shown or asserted with no other purpose but that we may see in what way their precepts and laws must be obeyed and carried out,” just as, to make a hammer or saw, one begins by describing the parts of which they are composed. The error of which we take Aristotle as representative lies in transmuting abstractions and empirical partitions into rational concepts : this was almost inevitable at the beginnings of æsthetic reflexion, and the Sanskrit theory of poetry employed the same method independently when, for example, it defines and legislates for ten principal and eighteen secondary styles of drama ; forty-eight varieties of hero; and we know not how many kinds of heroines.3
After Aristotle, the theory of poetic kinds does not in the Middle seem to have been completely or elaborately developed Ages and
Renaissance in antiquity. The Middle Ages may be said to have expressed the doctrine in treatises of the kind known as “rhythmic arts” or “methods of composition.” When the Aristotelian fragment was first noticed, it is curious to see the way in which the paraphrase of Averroes distorted the theory of kinds. Averroes conceives tragedy as the art of praise, comedy as that of blame, which amounts to identifying the former with panegyric, the latter with satire ; and he believes the peripeteia to be the same thing as antithesis, or the artifice of beginning the description of a thing by describing its opposite.4
1 Poet. ch. 6.
2 Annotazioni, introd. 3 Cf. for Sanskrit poetry S. Levi, Le Théâtre indien, pp. 11-152. 4 Cf. Menendez y Pelayo, op. cit. I., i. Pp. 126-154, 2nd ed.
This distortion demonstrates afresh the merely historical character of these kinds and their unintelligibility by the methods of pure logic to a thinker living in times and under customs different from those of the Hellenic world. The Renaissance seized upon Aristotle's text, partly expounded it, partly distorted it and partly thought it out afresh, and thus succeeded in establishing a long list of kinds and sub-kinds rigidly defined and subjected to inexorable laws. Controversy now began over the correct understanding of the unities of epic or dramatic poetry; over the moral quality and social standing proper to the characters in this kind of poem and in that; over the nature of the plot, and whether it includes passions and thoughts, and whether lyrics should or should not be received as true poetry; whether the material of tragedy should be historical ; whether the dialogue of comedy may be in prose; whether a happy ending may be allowed in tragedy; whether the tragic character may be a perfect gentleman; what kind and number of episodes is admissible in the poem, and how they should be incorporated in the main plot; and so on. Great anguish was caused by the mysterious rule of catharsis found in black and white in Aristotle's text, and Segni naïvely predicted that tragic poetry would be revived in its perfect spectacular entirety for the sake of experiencing the effect spoken of by Aristotle, that “purgation " which causes“ the birth of tranquillity in the soul and of freedom of all perturbation.” 1
Amongst the many undertakings brought to a glorious end by the critics and treatise-writers of the sixteenth century, the best known is the establishment of the three unities of time, place and action. One cannot indeed see why they are called unities, for in strictness they could at most be spoken of as shortness of time, straitness of space and limitation of tragic subjects to a certain class of action. It is well known that Aristotle prescribed unity of action only, and reminded his hearers that theatrical custom alone imposed on the action a time
1 Introd. to his tr. of the Poetics.
The doctrine of the three unities.
limit of one day. On this last point the critics of the sixteenth century accorded six, eight, or twelve hours according to individual taste or humour : some of them (amongst them Segni) allowed twenty-four hours, including the night as particularly propitious to assassinations and the other acts of violence which usually form the plot of tragedies; others extended the limit to thirtysix or forty-eight hours. The last, and most curious, unity, that of place, was slowly developed by Castelvetro, Riccoboni and Scaliger until the Frenchman Jean de la Taille joined it as a third to the existing two in 1572, and in 1598 Angelo Ingegneri finally formulated it more explicitly.
The Italian treatises were widely read and regarded Poetics of the as authoritative all over Europe, and awakened the first kinds and effort towards a learned theory of poetry in France, Spain, Scaliger. England and Germany. A good representative of his class is Julius Cæsar Scaliger, who has been considered, with some exaggeration, as the true founder of French pseudo-classicism or neo-classicism; as one who it has been said) “ laid the first stone of the classical Bastille.” But if he was neither the first nor the only one, he certainly helped greatly to reduce “ to a system of doctrines the principal consequences of the sovranty of Reason in works of literature," with his minute distinctions and classifications of kinds, the insurmountable barriers he erected between them, and his distrust of free inspiration and imagination. Scaliger numbers among his descendants (beside Daniel Heinsius) d'Aubignac, Rapin, Dacier and other tyrants of French literature and drama : Boileau turned the rules of neo-classicism into neat verses. It has been noticed that Lessing entered the same field; Lessing. his opposition to the French rules (which was an opposition of rule to rule, in which he had been forestalled by Italian writers, for example by Calepio in 1732) is anything but radical. Lessing maintained that Corneille and other authors had misinterpreted Aristotle, to whose laws even the Shakespearian drama could be shown to con
1 Lintilhac, Un Coup d'État, etc., p. 543.
Compromises and extensions.
form ;1 but on the other hand he strongly opposed the abolition of all rules and those who shouted "genius, genius,” placing genius above the law and saying that genius makes the law. For the very reason that genius is law, replied Lessing, laws have their value and can be determined : negation of them would entail the confinement of genius to its first trial flights, making example or practice useless.
But the “ kinds" and their “ limits” could be maintained for centuries solely by means of infinitely subtle interpretations, analogical extensions and more or less concealed compromises. The Italian Renaissance critics, while working at their Poetics in the style of Aristotle, found themselves confronted with chivalric poetry, and had to make the best of it ; this they did by assigning it to a kind of poem not foreseen by antiquity (Giraldi Cintio). Here and there indeed a rigorist was heard protesting that romances were in no way different from heroic poetry, and were only“ badly written heroics ” (Salviati). And since it was impossible to deny a place in Italian literature to Dante's poem, Iacopo Mazzoni, in his Defence of Dante, overhauled once more the categories of Poetics in order to find a niche for the sacred poem. Farces made their appearance at this time, and Cecchi (1585) declares “Farce is a third novelty, occupying a place between tragedy and comedy ..."5 The Pastor fido of Guarini was published, neither tragedy nor comedy, but tragicomedy; and discovering no heading among the kinds deduced from moral or civil philosophy suitable for the intruder, Jason de Nores proceeded to rule it out of existence; Guarini made a valiant defence and claimed special protection for his beloved Pastor under a third, or mixed, style, representative of real life. Another
1 Hamburg. Dramat. Nos. 81, 101-104. 2 Op.cit. Nos. 96, 101-104.
3 G. B. Giraldi Cintio, De' romanzi, delle comedie e delle tragedie, 1554 (ed. Daelli, 1864).
* Iacopo Mazzoni, Difesa della commedia di Dante, Cesena, 1587. 5 G. M. Cecchi, prologue to Romanesca, 1585.
6 Cf. besides the two Veratti, the Compendio della poesia tragicomica, Venice, 1601.
rigorist, Fioretti (Udeno Nisieli) proclaimed the poem poetic monster, so huge and deformed that centaurs, hippogriffs and chimæras are comparatively graceful and charming ..., fit to bring a blush to the cheek of the muse, a disgrace to poetry, a mixture of ingredients in themselves discordant, inimical and incompatible " ;1 but will this bluster drive the delicious Pastor fido from the hands of lovers of poetry? The same thing occurred in the case of Marino's Adone, described by Chapelain as “a poem of peace” for want of a better definition, though other supporters called it “a new form of epic poem ” ; and the same thing happened again in the case of the comedy of art and musical drama. Corneille, who had called down a furious tempest from Scudéry and the Academicians on the head of his Cid, remarked in his discourse on Tragedy, though basing his position on that of Aristotle, that there was necessity for “quelque modération, quelque favorable interprétation, . pour n'être pas obligés de condamner beaucoup de poèmes, que nous avons vu réussir sur nos théâtres.” “Il est aisé de nous accommoder avec Aristote ..."3 he says in another place : a piece of literary hypocrisy which startles by its verbal resemblance to "les accommodements avec le Ciel" of the Tartuffian ethics. The following century saw the accepted kinds augmented by “bourgeois tragedy” and pathetic comedy, nicknamed “lachrymose by its enemies; de Chassiron 4 attacked, and Diderot, Gellert and Lessing 5 defended the new arrival. In this way the schematism of the kinds continued to suffer violence and to cut a very poor figure; nevertheless, in spite of adversity, it made every effort to retain power even at the sacrifice of dignity : just as an absolute king turns constitutional by force of
1 Proginn. poet., Florence, 1627, iii. p. 130.
3 Examens, and Discours du poème dramatique, de la tragédie, des trois unités, etc.
4 Réflexions sur le comique larmoyant, 1749 (trans. by Lessing, Werke, vol. cit.).
6 Gellert, De comaedia commovente, 1751 ; Lessing, Abhandlungen von den weinerlichen oder rührenden Lustspiele, 1754 (in Werke, vol. vii.).