THE USEFULNESS OF THE STAGE, To the Happiness of Mankind. To Government, and To Religion. Occasioned by a late Book, written by Ieremy Collier, M. A.

By Mr. DENNIS.

LONDON, Printed for Rich. Parker at the Unicorn under the Piazza of the Royal Exchange. 1698.

INTRODUCTION.

THe best things here below are li­able to be corrupted, and the better things are in their own natures, the more mischievous are they if cor­rupted. For that which is super lative­ly good in it self can be corrupted by nothing but extraordinary malice. Since then the Stage is acknowledg'd by its greatest adversaries to be in itself good, and instrumental to the instructi­on of mankind, nothing can be more unreasonable than to exhort people to ruin it instead of reforming it, since at that rate we must think of abolishing much more important establishments. Yet that is apparently the design of Mr Collier's Book, tho his malice infi­nitely surpassing his ability, as it cer­tainly does, whatever some people may think of him, his performance is some what awkward. For in the Intro­duction [Page] to his Book he gives you rea­sons why the Stage in general ought to be commended; in the first Chapters of his Book he pretends to shew cause why the English Stage ought to be re­form'd, and in the sixth and last Chapter he pretends to prove by Authority that no Stage ought to be allow'd. In the beginning of his Book he produces his own reasons why the Stage reform'd ought to be encourag'd, and in the end of the same Book he brings other mens opinions to [...]ew that every Stage ought to be abolish'd; and so endeavours to ruine his own Reasons by a long scroll of other peoples Authorities, which is c [...]rtainly a pleasant condescension; but such is the fantastick humility of pedantick pride. And yet Mr Collier is very right and very sincere in his Reasons, and very wrong and very corrupt in his Authorities. As if he were so great an enemy to the truth, that he would suborn the very dead to destroy the f [...]rce of what he himself had asserted.

If Mr Collier had only attack'd the Corruptions of the Stage, for my own part I should have been so far from [Page] blaming him, that I should have pub­lickly return'd him my thanks: For the [...]ouses are so great, that there is a ne­cessity for the reforming them; not that I think that with all its corruptions the Stage has debauch'd the peo­ple: I am fully convinc'd it has not, and I believe I have said enough in the following treatise to convince the Rea­der of it. But this is certain, that the corruptions of the Stage hinder its effi­cacy in the reformation of manners. For, besides that Vice is contrary to Virtue, it renders the Stage little and contemptible; for nothing but Virtue can make any thing awful and truly great, and nothing but what is awful and truly great can be universally re­spected, and by that means in a condi­tion to influence the minds of the peo­ple. For this reason, as I said above, if Mr Collier had only attack'd the li­centiousness of the Stage, in so fair a manner as he ought to have done it, I had return'd him my thanks, but when I found by his last Chapter, that his de­sign was against the Stage itself I thought I could not spend a month more use­fully; than in the vindication of it.

[Page] My business therefore is a vindication of the Stage, and not of the Corrupti­ons or the abuses of it. And therefore I have no further meddled with M [...] Collier's Book, than as I have had occa­sion to shew, that he has endeavour'd to make some things pass for abuses, ei­ther of the Stage in general, or of the English Stage particularly, which are so far from being abuses, that they may be accounted excellences.

This little Treatise was conceiv'd, dispos'd, transcrib'd and printed in a month; a [...]d tho on that very account it may not be wholly free from error, yet this I can assure the Reader, that I have industriously endeavour'd not to err, tho I verily believe that Mr Col­lier industriously endeavour'd to err, as far as he thought it might be consist­ent with the deceiving of others.

The method that I have u [...]ed has been this: I have endeavoured to shew that the Stage in general is useful to the happiness of Mankind, to the welfare of Government, and the advancement of Religion: And under the head of Go­vernment I have endeavour'd to prove, that the Stage does not encourage Re­venge, [Page] as Mr Collier asserts in his last Chapter; and that by encouraging Pride, which is another thing that he charges upon it, it provides for the happiness of particular men, and the publick. I have endeavour'd to shew too, in defence of the English Stage, that it is to be commended for its impartiality, and in exempting no de­gree or order of men from censure.

I saw very well that there was no proceeding any farther in the vindica­tion of it: For no man can make any reasonable defence, either for the im­morality or the immodesty, or the unnecessary wanton prophaneness, which are too justly charg'd upon it. But for the particular Gentlemen which Mr Collier has attack'd in some particu­lar passages, which he has industriously cull'd from their writings, I could make a very good defence for several of em, if I were not satisfied that they were abler to defend themselves.

He has treated them indeed with the last disdain, and the last contempt, not considering, that by doing it, he has treated all at the same rate, who profess an esteem for them, that is, all [Page] the Town. He has given them some language which must be resented by all who profess Humanity.

For, Mr Collier is so far from ha­ving shown in his Book, either the meekness of a true Christian, or the humility of an exemplary Pastor, that he has neither the reasoning of a man of sense in it, nor the style of a polite man, nor the sincerity of an honest man, nor the humanity of a Gentleman, or a man of Letters.

THE USEFULNESS OF THE STAGE.

CHAP. I.
That the Stage is instrumental to the Happiness of Man­kind.

NOthing can more strongly re­commend any thing to us, than the assuring us, that it will im­prove our happiness. For the chief end [Page 2] and design of man is to make himself happy. Tis what he constantly has in his eye, and in order to which, he takes every step that he makes: In whatever he does or he does not, he designs to improve or maintain his happiness. And 'tis by this universal principle, that God maintains the harmony, and order, and quiet of the reasonable World. It had indeed been an inconsistency in provi­dence, to have made a thinking and reasoning Creature, that had been in­different as to misery and happiness; for God had made such a one only to disturb the rest, and consequently had acted against his own design.

If then I can say enough to convince the Reader, that the Stage is instru­mental to the happiness of Mankind, and to his own by consequence, it is e­vident that I need say no more to make him espouse its interest.

I shall proceed then to the proving these two things.

First, That the Stage is instrumental to the happiness of Mankind in gene­ral.

Secondly, That it is more particularly instrumental to the happiness of En­glish [...]men.

[Page 3] The Stage is instrumental to the hap­piness of Mankind in general. And here it will be necessary to declare what is meant by happiness, and to proceed upon that.

By happiness then, I never could un­derstand any thing else but pleasure; for I never could have any notion of happiness, that did not agree with plea­sure, or any notion of pleasure, that did not agree with happiness. I could ne­ver possibly conceive how any one can be happy without being pleas'd, or pleas'd without being happy. 'Tis uni­versally acknowledg'd by Mankind, that happiness consists in pleasure, which is evident from this, that whatever a man does, whether in spiritual or tem­poral affairs, whether in matters of profit or diversion, pleasure is at least the chief and the final motive to it, if it is not the immediate one. And provi­dence seems to have sufficiently declar'd, that pleasure was intended for our Spring and Fountain of Action, when it made it the incentive to those very acts, by which we propagate our kind and preserve our selves. As if Self-love without pleasure were insufficient for [Page 4] either; for as I my self have know se­veral, who have chosen rather to dye, than to go through tedious courses of Physick; so I make no doubt, but se­veral would have taken the same reso­lution, rather than have supported life by a perpetual course of eating, which had differ'd in nothing from a course of Physick, if eating and pleasure had not been things inseparable. Now as 'tis pleasure that obliges man to perserve himself, it is the very same that has some­times the force to prevail upon him to his own destruction. For as Monsieur Pascal observes, the very men who hang, and who drown themselves are instigated by the secret pleasure, which they have from the thought that they shall be freed from pain.

Since therefore man, in every thing that he does proposes pleasure to him­self, it follows, that in pleasure consists his happiness. But tho he always pro­poses it, he very often falls short of it, For pleasure is not in his own power, since if it were, it would follow from thence, that happiness were in his power. The want of which has been always the complaint of men, both sa­cred [Page 5] and secular, in all Ages in all Coun­tries, and in all Conditions. Man that is born of woman is but of few days, and full of trouble, says Iob Chap. 14. Verse 1. Of the same nature are the two complaints of Horace, which are so fine, and so poetical, and so becoming of the best antiquity.

Scandit aeratas vitiosa waves
Curae,
Hor. Ode Lib. 2.
nec turmas equitum & relinquit
Ocior Cervis, & agente Nimbos
Ocyor Euro.

And that other, in the first Ode of the third Book.

Timor & minae
Scandunt eodem quo Dominus, neque.
Decedit aerata triremi, &
Post equitem sedit atra cura.

In short, they who have made the most reflections on it, have been the most satisfy'd of it, and above all Phi­losophers; who, by the voluminous instructions, by the laborious directi­ons which they have left to posteri­ty, have declar'd themselves sensible, [Page 6] that to be happy is a very difficult thing.

And the reason why they of all men have always found it so difficult is, be­cause they always propounded to owe their happiness to reason, tho one would think, that experience might have convinc'd them of the folly of such a design, because they had seen that the most thinking and the most reason­able, had always most complain'd.

For reason may often afflict us, and make us miserable, by setting our im­potence or our guilt before us; but that which it generally does, is the maintaining us in a languishing state of indifference, which perhaps is more re­mov'd from pleasure, than that is from affliction, and which may be said to be the ordinary state of men.

It is plain then, that reason by main­taining us in that state, is an impedi­ment to our pleasure, which is our happiness. For to be pleas'd a man must come out of his ordinary state; now nothing in this life can bring him out of it but passion alone, which Rea­son pretends to combat.

[Page 7] Nothing but passion in effect can please us, which every one may know by experience: For when any man is pleas'd, he may find by reflection that at the same time he is mov'd. The pleasure that any man meets with of­tenest is the pleasure of Sence. Let any one examine himself in that, and he will find that the pleasure is owing to passion; for the pleasure vanishes with the desire, and is succeeded by loath­ing, which is a sort of grief.

Since nothing but pleasure can make us happy, it follows that to be very happy, we must be much pleas'd; and since nothing but passion can please us, it follows that to be very much pleas'd we must be very much mov'd; this needs no proof, or if it did, experience would be a very convincing one; since any one may find when he has a great deal of pleasure that he is extremely mov'd.

And that very height and fulness of pleasure which we are promis'd in ano­ther life, must, we are told, proceed from passion, or something which re­sembles passion. At least no man has so much as pretended that it will be [Page 8] the result of Reason. For we shall then be deliver'd from these mortal Organs, and Reason shall then be no more. We shall then no more have occasion from premisses to draw conclusions, and a long train of consequences; for, be­coming all spirit and all knowledge, we shall see things as they are: We shall lead the glorious life of Angels, a life exalted above all Reason, a life con­sisting of Extasie and Intelligence.

Thus is it plain that the happiness both of this life and the other is owing to passion, and not to reason. But tho we can never be happy by the force of Reason, yet while we are in this life we cannot possibly be happy without it, or against it. For since man is by his nature a reasonable creature, to suppose man happy against Reason, is to suppose him happy against Nature, which is absurd and monstrous. We have shewn, that a man must be pleas'd to be happy, and must be mov'd to be pleas'd; and that to please him to a height, you must move him in propor­tion: But then the passions must be rais'd after such a manner as to take reason along with them. If reason is [Page 9] quite overcome, the pleasure is neither long, nor sincere, nor safe. For how many that have been transported be­yound their reason, have never more recover'd it. If reason resists, a mans breast becomes the seat of Civil War, and the Combat makes him mise­rable. For these passions, which are in their natures so very troublesome, are only so because their motions are always contrary to the motion of the will; as grief, sorrow, shame and jea­lousie. And that which makes som [...] passions in their natures pleasant, is be­cause they move with the will, as love, joy, pity, hope, terror, and sometimes anger. But this is certain, that no passion can move in those a full consent with the will, unless at the same time [...]t be approv'd of by the understanding. And no passion can be allow'd of b [...] the understanding, that is not rais'd by its true springs, and augmented by its just degrees. Now in the world it is so very rare to have our passions thus rais'd, and so improv'd, that that is the reason why we are so seldom throughly and sincerely pleas'd. But in the Dra­ma the passions are false and abomina­ble, [Page 10] unless they are mov'd by their true springs, and rais'd by their just degrees. Thus are they mov'd, thus are they rais'd in every well writ Tra­gedy, till they come to as great a height as reason can very well bear. Besides, the very motion has a tendency to the subjecting them to reason, and the very raising purges and moderates them. So that the passions are seldom any where so pleasing, and no where so safe as they are in Tragedy. Thus have I shown, that to be happy is to be pleas'd, and that to be pleas'd is to be mov'd in such a manner as is allow'd of by Reason; I have shown too that Tragedy moves us thus, and consequent­ly pleases us, and conseqeuntly makes us happy. Which was the thing to he prov'd.

CHAP. II.
That the Stage is more parti­cularly instrumental to the happiness of English men.

WE have shown in the former Chapter, that all happiness con­sists in pleasure, and that all pleasure proceeds from passion; but that passi­on to produce pleasure, must be rais'd after such a manner, as to move in con­sent with the will, and consequently to be allowd of by the understanding, upon which we took an occasion to shew, that thinking and reasoning peo­ple as Philosophers, and the like, have made most complaints of the mi­sery of humane life, because they have endeavour'd to deduce their happiness from reason, and not from passion. But another reason may be given, and that is, that such people, by reason of [Page 12] the exactness or moroseness of their judgments, are too scrupulous in the allowance of the passions, from wh [...]nce it proceeds, that things very rarely happen in life, to raise their passions in such a manner, as to approve them to their understandings, and consequently to make them move in consent with their wills. From whence it proceeds, that splenatick persons are so very un­happy, and so much harder to be pleas'd than others, which is every day confirm'd by experience. Indeed 'tis observ'd every day in splenatick peo­ple, that their passions move for the most part, with a contrary motion to that of their wills, and so afflict them them instead of delighting them, Now there is no Nation in Europe, as has been observ'd above a thousand times, that is so generally addicted to the Spleen as the English. And which is apparent to any observer, from the reigning distemper of the Clime, which is inseparable from the Spleen; from that gloomy and sullen temper, which is generally spread through the Nation: from that natural discontentedness which makes us fo uneasie to one ano­ther, [Page 13] because we are so uneasie to our selves; and lastly, from our jealousies and suspicions, which makes us so un­easie to our selves, and to one another, and have so often made us dangerous to the Government, and by conse­quence to our selves. Now the En­glish being more splenatick than other people, and consequently more thought­ful and more reflecting, and therefore more scrupulous in allowing their passi­ons, and consequently things [...]eldom hapning in life to move their passions so agreeably to their reasons, as to en­tertain and please them; and there be­ing no true and sincere pleasure unless these passions are thus mov'd, nor any happiness without pleasure, it follows; that the English to be happy, have more need than other people of some­thing that will raise their passions in such a manner, as shall be agreeable to their reasons, and that by consequence they have more need of the D [...]ama.

CHAP. III.
The Objections from Reason answer'd.

BUt now we proceed to answer Objections, and to shew that we design to use Mr Collier with all the fair­ness imaginable; I shall not only en­deavour to answer all that may be ob­jected from Mr. Collier's Book; against what I have said in the foregoing Chap­ters in the behalf of the Stage; I say, I shall not only endeavour to answer this, after I have propounded it in the most foreible manner in which it can be urg'd, but I shall make it my busi­ness to reply to all that has been ob­jected by other adversaries, or that I can foresee may be hereafter object­ed.

The objections then against what I have said in Defence of the Stage in the foregoing Chapters, are or may be of three sorts.

[Page 15] First, Objections from Reason.

Secondly, From Authority, and

Thirdly, From Religion.

First then, I shall endeavour to an­swer what may be objected from Reason, viz. That tho it should be granted that the Theatre makes peo­ple happy for the present, yet it after­wards infallibly makes them miserable: First, by nourishing and fomenting their passions; and secondly, by indulging their vices, and making them Liber­tines: And that 'tis neither the part of a prudent man, nor a good Christian, to make choice of such a momentary delight, as will be follow'd by so much affliction.

And first, say the Adver [...]aries of the Stage, the Drama tends to the making of people unhappy, because it nourishes and foments those passions, that occa­ [...]on the follies and imprudencies from whence come all their misfortunes: [...]nd

First, It indulges Terror and Pity, [...]nd the rest of the passions.

[Page 16] Secondly, It not only indulges Love where it is, but creates it where it is not.

First then, say they, it indulges Terror, Pity, and the rest of the passions. For, says a certain French Gentleman, who is famous for Criticism, that purgation which Aristo [...]le mentions is meerly chi­merical; the more the passions in any one are mov'd, the more obnoxious they are to be mov'd, and the more unruly they grow.

But, by Monsieur De St. Evremont's favour, this is not only to contradict Aristotle, but every mans daily experi­ence. For every man finds, and every man of sense particularly, that the longer he frequents Plays the harder he is to be pleas'd, that is, the harder he is to be mov'd; and when any man of judgment, who has a long time fre­quented Plays, happens to be very much touch'd by a Scene, we may con­clude that that Scene is very well writ, both for nature and art.

And indeed, if people who have a long time frequented Plays are so hard to be mov'd, to compassion, that a Poet is oblig'd so to contrive his incidents [Page 17] and his Characters, that the last shall be most deplorable, and the first most proper to move compassion; may it not be very well suppos'd, that such a one will not be over obnoxious to feel too much compassion upon the view of ca­lamities, which happen every day in the world, when they and the persons to whom they happen, may not so much as once in an Age, have all the quali­fications that are requir'd extreamly to touch him.

But, Secondly, whereas it is urg'd, that the Drama and particularly Tra­gedy, manifestly indulges Love where it is, and creates it where it is not. To this I answer. That the Love which is shewn in a Tragedy is lawful and re­gular, or it is not. If it is not, why then in a Play, which is writ as it should be (for I pretend not to defend the errours or corruptions of the Stage) it is shewn unfortunate in the Catastro­phe, which is sufficient to make an Au­dience averse from engaging in the excesses of that passion. But if the Love that is shewn is lawful and regu­lar, nothing makes a man happier than that passion. I speak ev'n of that i [...] ­mediate [Page 18] pleasure which attends the passion itself. And as it certainly makes him happy for the present, so there is no passion which puts a man upon things that make him happier for the future. For as people have for the most part a very high opinion of the belov'd ob­ject, it makes them endeavour to be­come worthy of it, and to encrease in knowledge and virtue; and not only frequently reclaims them from some grosser pleasures, of which they were fond before, but breeds in them an ut­ter detestation of some unnatural vices, which have been so much in use in En­g [...]and, for these last thirty years.

But now we come to the second pre­tended Reason, why the Drama tends to the making of men unhappy, and that is, say the Adversaries of the Stage, be­cause it encourages and indulges their vices. To which we answer; that the Drama; and particulary Tragedy, in its purity, is so far from having that ef­fect, that it must of necessity make men virtuous; First, because it moderates the passions, whose excesses cause their vices; Secondly, because it instructs them in their duties, both by its fable [Page 19] and by its sentences. But here they start an objection, which some imagin a strong one, which is, That the Nati­on has been more corrupted since the establishment of the Drama, upon the restoration, than ever it was before. To which I answer.

First, That that corruption of man­ners, tho it should be granted to pro­ceed from the Stage, can yet only pro­ceed from the licentious abuses of it, which no man pretends to defend. But,

Secondly, We affirm that this corrup­tion of manners, cannot be reasonably said to proceed, no not even from those pa [...]pable abuses of the Stage, which we will not pretend to vindi­cate.

First, For if the corruption of man­ners proceeded from the abuses of the Stage, how comes it to pass that we never heard any complaint of the like corruption of manners before the resto­ration of Charles the Second, since it is plain from Mr Collier's Book, that the Drama flourish'd in the Reign of King Iames I. and flourish'd with the like li­centiousness. But,

[Page 20] Secondly, if this general corruption of manners is to be attributed to the abuses of the Stage, from hence it will follow, that there should be the great­est corruption of manners where the Theatres are most frequented, or most licentious, which is not true: for in France the Theatres are less licentious than ours, and yet the corruption of manners is there as great, if you only except our drinking, which, as I shall prove anon, can never proceed from any encouragement of the Stage. In Germany and in Italy the Theatres are less frequented: for in Italy they seldom have Plays unless in the Carnival, and in most of the little German Soveraign­ties, they have not constant Theatres. And yet in Germany they drink more, and in Italy they are more intemperate in the use of women and unnatural vices.

But Thirdly, The corruption of manners upon the restoration, appear'd with all the fury of Libertinism, even before the Play House was re-establisht and long [...]efore it could have any influ­ence on manners, so that another cause of that corruption is to be enquir'd after, [Page 21] than the re-establishment of the Dra­ma, and that can be nothing but that beastly reformation, which in the time of the late Civil Wars, was begun at the Tail instead of the Head and the Heart; and which opprest and persecuted mens inclinations, instead of correcting and converting them, which afterwards broke out with the same violence, that a raging fire does upon its first getting vent. And that which gave it so licen­tious a vent was, not only the permissi­on, but the example of the Court, which for the most part was just arriv'd from abroad with the King, where it had endeavour'd by foreign corruption to sweeten, or at least to soften ad­versity, and having sojourn'd for a considerable time, both at Paris and in the Low Countries, united the spirit of the French W [...]oring, to the fury of the Dutch Drinking. So that the Poets who writ immediately after the resto­ration, were obliged to humour the deprav'd tastes of their Audience. For as an impenitent Sinner that should be immediately transported to Heaven, would be incapable of partaking of the happiness of the place, because his in­clinations [Page 22] and affections would not be prepar'd for it, so if the Poets of these times had writ in a manner purely in­structive, without any mixture of lewd­ness, the Appetites of the Audience were so far debauch'd, that they would have judg'd the entertainment insipid, so that the spirit of Libertinism which came in with the Court, and for which the people were so well prepar'd by the sham-reformation of manners, caus'd the lewdness of their Plays, and not the lewdness of Plays the spirit of Libertinism. For tis ridiculous to as­sign a cause of so long a standing to so new, so sudden, and so extraordina­ry an effect, when we may assign a cause so new, so probable, and unheard of before, as the inclinations of the peo­ple, returning with violence to their natural bent, upon the encouragement and example of a Court, that was come home with all the corruptions of a foreign Luxury; so that the sham-reformation being in a great measure the cause of that spirit of Libertinism, which with so much fury came in with King Charles the Second, and the put­ting down the Play House being part [Page 23] of that reformation, 'tis evident that the Corruption of the Nation is so far from proceeding from the Play-house, that it partly proceeds from having no Plays at all.

Fourthly, That the Corruption of Manners is not to be attributed to the licentiousness of the Drama, may ap­pear from the consideration of the reigning vices, I mean those moral vices which have more immediate in­fluence upon mens conduct, and con­sequently upon their happiness. And those are chiefly four.

  • 1. The love of Women.
  • 2. Drinking.
  • 3. Gaming.
  • 4. Unnatural sins.

For drinking and gaming, their ex­cesses cannot be reasonably charg'd upon the Stage, for the following Reasons.

First, Because it cannot possibly be conceiv'd, that so reasonable a di­version as the Drama, can encourage or incline men to so unreasonable a [Page 24] one as gaming, or so brutal a one as drunkenness.

Secondly, Because these two vices have been made odious and ridiculous by our Plays, instead of being shewn agreeable. As for Dunkenness, to shew the sinner is sufficient to discredit the vice; for a Drunkard of necessity al­ways appears either odious or ridiculous. And for a Gamester, I never knew any one shewn in a Play, but either as a F [...]ol or a Rascal.

Thirdly, Because those two vices flourish in places that are too remote, and in persons that are too abject to be encourag'd or influenc'd by the Stage. There is drinking and gaming in the furthest North and the furthest West, among Peasants, as well as among Dukes and Peers. But here perhaps some visio­nary Zealot will urge, that these two vices, even these remote places, and these abject persons proceed from the influence of that irreligion, which is caus'd by the corruptions of the Stage, and will with as much reason and as much modesty deduce the lewdness which is transacted in the Tin mines, in Cornwal, and in the Coal-pits of Newcastle, from the daily a­bominations [Page 25] of the Pits of the two Play-houses, as he would derive the brutality of the high Dutch Drinking, from the prophaneness of our English Drama.

But what will he say then to those Gentlemen, who neither are suppos'd to go to our Theatres, nor to converse much with those who do, nor to be liable to be corrupted by them; what will they say to these Gentlemen, if they can be prov'd to have a considerable share of the two fore-mention'd vices? What can they answer? For it would be ridiculously absurd to reply, that the Clergy are corrupted by the Laity, whom it is their business to convert. But here I think my self oblig'd to declare, that I by no means design this as a reflection upon the Church of England, who I am satisfy'd may morejustly boast of its Clergy, than any other Church whatsoever; a Clergy that are equally illustrious for their Piety and for their Learning, yet may I venture to affirm, that there are some a­mong them, who can never be suppos'd to have been corrupted by Play-houses, who yet turn up a Bottle oftner than they do an Hour-glass, who box about a pair of Tables with more servour than they [Page 26] do their Cushions, contemplate a pair of Dice more frequently than the Fathers or Councels, and meditate and depend up­on Hazard, more than they do upon Pro­vidence.

And as for that unnatural sin, which is another growing vice of the Age, it would be monstrous to urge that it is in the least encourag'd by the Stage, for it is either never mention'd there, or mention'd with the last detesta­tion.

And now lastly, for the Love of Women, fomented by the Corruption, and not by the genuine Art of the Stage; tho the augmenting and nou­rishing it cannot be defended, yet it may be in some measure excus'd.

1. Because it has more of Nature, and consequently more Temptation, and consequently less Malice, than the preceding three, which the Drama does not encourage.

2. Because it has a check upòn the other Vices, and peculiarly upon that unnatural sin, in the restraining of which the happiness of mankind is in so evident a manner concern'd.

[Page 27] So that of the four moral reigning vices, the Stage encourages but one, which, as it has been prov'd to be the least of them all, so is it the least con­tageous, and the least universal. For in the Country, Fornication and Adultery are seldom heard of, whereas Drunken­ness rages in almost every house there: From all which it appears, how very un­reasonable it is, to charge the lewdness of the times upon the Stage, when it is e­vident, that of the four reigning moral vices, the Stage encourages but one, and that the least of the [...]our, and the least universal, and a vice which has a check upon the other three, and particularl [...] upon that amongst them, which is most opposite and most destructive to the hap­piness of mankind.

CHAP. IV.
The Objections from Authority answer'd.

IN the next place we come to answer the objections which Mr Collier has brought from Authority. The Au­thorities which he has produc'd are in­deed very numerous, yet only four of them can be reduc'd under this head, without running into confusion, two Poets and two Philosophers.

The Poets are Ovid and Mr. Wycher­ley; the Philosophers, Plutarch and Se­neca.

The first of them is Ovid, in his Book De Arte Amandi, and in his Book De Remedio Amoris. We have already an­swer'd the last in the preceding Chap­ter, and shall now say something to the first. The passage is this:

[Page 29]
Sed Tu praecipue Curvis Venare Theatris
Haec loca sunt votis Fertiliora tuis.
Illic invenies quod ames, quod Ludere possis
Quod (que) semel Tangas quod (que) Tenere velis.

From whence Mr Collier makes this shrewd Remark, that the Theatre is the properest place in the world to meet, or to find a Mistress, and that several people go thither on purpose. In answer to this, I desire the Reader to peruse the Verses which precede.

Nec Fuge niliginae Memphitica Templa Iu­venc [...]
Multas illa facit quod fuit illa Iovi.

And have we not here a merry person? who brings an Authority against going to Theatres, which is as direct against going to Church? Nay, and upon the very same account too. But the Poet speaks here of a Heathen Temple, says Mr Collier. Well, and so he does of a Heathen Theatre. But what he says of the Roman Theatre is exactly appli­cable to ours. And what Reply can be made to that, says Mr Collier? What? [Page 30] Why I wish to God that no Reply could be made to it. But besides, if several people go to our Theatres pur­posely to meet, or to find out a Mi­stress, I think it is plain that if there were no Theatres, they wou'd go to other places: Especially since, as we hinted above, when the Theatres are shut, they frequent other Assemblies upon the same designs. But tho some people go to the Theatre to meet their Mistresses, yet it is evident that most go to see the Play, who, if they could not have that diversion, would not improbably go to other places with far worse intentions.

The next who i [...] produc [...]d against the Stage is Mr Wycherley, much, I dare say, against the assent either of his will or his understanding. But only for a jest in that admirable Epistle, which is prefix'd to the Plain Dealer. Howe­ver; even that jest, let it be never so much o [...]re-strain'd, can never be brought to convince us of any thing but the abuses of the Theatre, which I do not pretend to defend; and I thought Mr Wycherley had more than made amends for it, by exposing Adu [...]tery, and ma­king [Page 31] it the immediate cause of Olivia's misfortune, in that excellent Play, which is a most instructive and a most noble Satyr, upon the hyprocrisie and villa­ny of Mankind.

Mr Wycherley being indeed almost the only man alive, who has made Come­dy instructive in its Fable; almost all the rest being contented to instruct by their characters. But what Mr Collier has said of Mr Wycherley is sufficient to shew us what Candour, nay, and what Justice we are to expect from this censurer of the Stage. For in giving Mr. Wycherley's Character, he has shewn himself invidious and detracting even in his commendation. For the best thing that he can afford to say of the greatest of our Comick Wits, is, that he is a man of good sense. Which puts me in mind of a Father in France over­hearing his Son saying of the Mareschal de Turenne Ma foy, Ie trouve Monsieur de T [...]renne an Ioly Homme: Et vous mo [...] [...]its, replys the Father, je vous trouve un joly sot de parler ainsi, Du plus grand Homme que la France a porte. How unworthy was it to commend Mr Wycherley for a thing, which, tho [Page 32] certainly he has in a very great degree, yet is common to him with a thousand more; and to take no notice of those ex­traordinary qualities which are peculiar to him alone, his Wit, his Penetration, his Satyr, his Art, his Characters, and above all, that incomparable Vivacity, by which he has happily equall'd the Ancients, and surpass'd the Moderns?

But now let us pass to the Philoso­phers, I mean the Philosophers who were not Poets; for no man can be a good Poet who is not a Philosopher. He has cited Plutarch in four several places in his Symposiaecum; his Book De Audiendis Poetis; his Treatise De glori [...] Atheniensium; and his Laconick Institu­tions: For the two last we shall say no­thing to them, till we come to speak of government. In the two first Mr Collier makes Plutarch say, that Plays are dangerous to corrupt young peop [...]e, and therefore stage-poetry, when it grows too hardy, and licentious, ought to be check'd. But I make no doubt but to make it appear, that Mr collier has been guilty of three things in this very action, which are unworthy the Candour of a Gentleman, or of a man of [Page 33] Letters. First, he has brought an Autho­rity, which can only convince us that this Philosopher did not approve of the licentiousness of the Stage, which li­centiousness we by no means design to defend: such an Authority, I say, he has brought in a Chapter, design'd to shew that the Ancients disapprov'd of Plays, and the Stage in general. Se­condly, he has made use of the Autho­rity of Plutarch against the Stage, whereas that Philosopher has said infinitely more in its behalf, than he has against it. Thirdly, he has from two tracts of Plutarch slurr'd one citation upon us, in the way of an argument, which is very unlike the reasoning of that Phi­losopher. For in the first part of the Enthyme, he makes Plutarch damn the Stage, and the Drama in general; and in the second conclude against them in particular. For Plays, says he, that is, all Plays, are dangerous to cor­rupt young people, and therefore some Plays ought to be check'd. And why does Mr Collier make the Philosopher argue after this Jesuitical manner, when it is plain to any Reader, that has but common apprehension, that [Page 34] since in the second part of the Euthy­mene, Plutarch condemn'd only some particular Plays; he only said in the first part of it, that some particular Play were dangerous. But let us pro­ceed to Seneca. And since it highly concerns us to give a full and satis­factory account of what is objected from him, let us cite him at length, a [...] Mr Collier translates him. Seneca com­plains heartily of the extravagance and debauchery of the Age: And how forward people were to improve in that which was naught. That scarce any body would ap­ply themselves to the study of Nature and Morality, unless when the Play-house was shut, or the weather foul. That there was no body to teach Philosophy, because there was no body to learn it. But that the Stage had nurseries, and company enough. This misapplication of Time and Fancy, made knowledge in so ill a condition. This was the cause the Hints of Antiquity were no better pursued; that some inven­tions were sunk, and that some inventions grew downwards, rather than otherwise. To which I answer, First, that it is not likely that Seneca should condemn the Drama and the Stage in general, since [Page 35] it is so notoriously known that he writ Plays himself. Secondly, that by what he says it is evident that he declaims only against the abuses of the Theatre; and those such abuses as have no rela­tion to ours; as for example, the pas­sing whole days together in the Theatre, which the Romans oftentimes did. Thirdly, that if Mr Collier would infer from hence, that our Theatres are hin­drances to the advancement of Learn­ing, we have nothing to do but affirm what all the world must consent to, that Learning is now at a greater height than ever it was known in En­gland.

What we have said is sufficient to confound Mr Collier, but we will not be contented with that; for here we triumph, here we insult, here we have a just occasion to shew the admirable advantage of the Stage to Letters, and the incomparable excellency of the Drama, and in a more peculiar manner of Tragedy, which seems purposely form'd and design'd for raising the mind, and firing it to that noble emula­tion, which is so absolutely necessary for the improvement of Arts. This is [Page 36] a truth which is confirm'd by the ex­perience of all Nations, of all Ages. For whether we look upon the Anci­ents or Moderns, whether we consider the Athenians or Romans, or the French or our selves, we shall find that Arts and Sciences have for the most part be­gun, but all of them at least begun to prosper with the Stage, and that as they have flourish'd, they have at last declin'd with it. And this we may af­firm, not only of the the more hu­man Arts, Poetry, History, Eloquence, of which the Theatre is certainly the best School in the world; the School that form'd in a great measure those prodigious Disciples, Cicero and Demo­sthenos, but we may truly assert it of all other sorts of Learning.

For before Thespis appear'd in Attica, and reduc'd the Drama to some sort of form, which had nothing but confusion before him, they had neither Author nor Knowledge amongst them, that could be esteem'd by posterity: That little knowledge which they had of Nature is to us ridiculous. For Moral Philosophy, they had no such thing, nor Orator nor Historian▪ But as soon as [Page 37] after Thespis their Theatre began to flourish, all their extraordinary men, in all these sorts, appear'd almost toge­ther. Not only those who adorn'd the Stage, as Aeschylus, Euripides, and the divine Sophocles; but those Orators, Philosophers and Historians, who have since been the wonders of all posterity, Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Pe­ricles, Thucydides, Demosthenes, Aes­chines; and of all their famous Authors who have descended to us, there was not one that I can think of, but who was alive between the first appearing of Thespis, and the death of Sophocles. And be it said in a more particular manner for the honour of the Stage, that they had no such thing as Mo­ral Philosophy before the Drama flourish'd. Socrates was the first, who out of their Theatre began to form their manners. And be it said, to the immortal honour of Tragedy, that the first and greatest of all the Moral Phi­losophers, not only frequented their Theatres, but was employ'd in writing Tragedies.

And as among the Athenians, Elo­quence, History, and Philosophy, I [Page 38] speak of the moral, which is the only solid certain Philosophy, appear'd and flourish'd upon the flourishing of the Stage, so with the Stage they at last declin'd, for not one of their famous writers has descended to us, who liv'd after the Drama was come to perfection, that is, after the full establishment of the new Comedy.

As Dramatick Poetry was the first kind of writing that appear'd among the Athenians, so I defy the most skil­ful man in antiquity, to name so much as one Author among the Romans till Dramatick Poetry appear'd at Rome, introduc'd by Livius Andronicus, above five hundred years after the building of the City. But when their Stage be­gan to be cultivated, immediately a hundred writers arose, in Poetry, Elo­quence, History, and Philosophy, whose Fame took an equal flight with that of the Roman Eagles, and who, transmitting their immortal works to posterity, continue the living glories of that Republick, and the only solid re­mains of the Roman greatness. As with the Roman Stage the rest of their Arts were cultivated, and improv'd▪ propor­tionably; [Page 39] as with that in the Age of Augustus Caesar, about two hundred years from the time of Livius Andro­nicus, they reach'd their utmost height, so with that they declin'd in the Reigns of succeeding Emperors.

For the French, 'tis yet scarce a hundred years since Hardy first appear'd among them: And Hardy was the first who began to reform their Stage, and to re­cover it from the confusion in which it lay before him. And tho I cannot say, that before that time the French had no good writers, yet I may safely af­firm, that they had but one, who was generally esteem [...]d throughout the rest of Europe: But to re [...]kon all who have since been excellent in Poetry, Elo­quence, History and Philosophy, would certainly make a v [...]ry long and a very illustrious Roll.

'Tis time to come at last to our selves: It was first in the Reign of King Henry the Eighth that the Drama grew into form with us: It was establish'd in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, and flourish'd in that of King Iames the First. And tho I will not presume to affirm, that before the Reign of King [Page 40] Henry the Eighth we had no good Writers, yet I will confidently assert, that, excepting Chaucer, no not in any sort of Writing whatever, we had not a first rate Writer. But immediately upon the establishment of the Drama, three prodigies of Wit appear'd all at once, as it were so many Suns to amaze the learned world. The Reader will immediately comprehend that I speak of Spencer, Bacon and Raleigh; three mighty geniuses, so extraordinary in their different ways, that not only England had never seen the like before, but they almost continue to this very day, in spight of emulation, in spight of time, the greatest of our Poets, Philosophers and Historians.

From the time of King Iames the First the Drama flourish'd, and the Arts were cultivated, till the begin­ning of our intestine broil [...], in the Reign of King Charles the [...]irst; when the Dramatick Muse was banish'd, and all the Arts degraded. For what other sort of Poets flourish'd in those days? who were the inspir [...]d, the celebrated men? Why Withers, Pryn, Vickars, Fellows whose verses were laborious [Page 41] Libels upon the Art and themselves. These were the first rate Poets, and un­der them flourish'd a herd of Scribblers of obscurer infamy: Wretches, who had not desert enough to merit even contempt; whose works, like aborti­ons, never beheld the light, stifled in the dark by their own friends, as so many scandals upon humane nature, and lamentable effects of that universal conspiracy of Fools against Right Reason. And if any one pretends that Sir Iohn Denham, Sir William Davenant, Mr. Waller and Mr. Cowley writ many of their Verses in the time of the late Ci­vil Wars; to him I answer, that what Mr. Waller writ was but very little, and the other three are notoriously known to have writ in a Country, where the Stage and Learning flourish'd. So that nothing among us that was considera­ble was produc'd in Poetry in the times of the late Civil Wars, if you except but the first part of that admirable Sa­tyr against the Muses mortal foe Hypo­crisie, which yet neither did nor durst appear till the restoration of the Drama.

[Page 42] We have seen what the Poets were that flourish'd in those dismal times, let us now see what were the Ora­tors? who were the cry'd up Preachers? why Calamy, Case, Hugh Peters, Man­ton, Sibbs. But what was produc'd in the other Sciences, that was worthy of Posterity? what in Philosophy? what in History? what in Mathematicks? what could be expected when only hy­pocritical fools were encourag'd, whose abominable canting was christn'd Gift, and their dulness Grace.

But what sort of persons have flou­rish'd among us since the restoration of the Drama? Who have been they who have signaliz'd themselves in the other kinds of Poetry? So great is the num­ber of those who have writ politely, that it is comprehensive of all conditi­ons of men. How many have been justly Renown'd for Eloquence. So many extraordinary men have distin­guish'd themselves by preaching, that to ennumerate them would be an end­less thing. I shall content my self with mentioning the late Archbishop and the present Bishop of Rochester, so illu­strious for their different Talents, the [Page 43] one for his extream politeness, for his grace and his delicacy, the other for his nervous force, and both for their mas­culine purity. Who among us are fam'd for History? not only the last of those great Prelates, but the present Bishop of Salisbury, whose History of the Reformation is so deservedly cele­brated by the learned world, where­ever English or French is known. What proficients have we in Philosophy? what in Mathematicks? Let all Europe reply, who has read, and reading admir'd them. I shall content my self with mentioning two of the living Glories of England, Mr Newton and Mr Lock, the one of which has not his equal in Europe, and neither of them has his su­periour.

Thus have I shown you, how Poetry, Eloquence, History, and Philosophy, have appear'd, advanc'd, declin'd, and vanish'd with the Drama, not only in Greece and ancient Italy, but in modern France and England. So true it is, what was formerly so well said, that all those Arts which respect humanity, have a certain alliance, and a mutual dependance, and are defended and [Page 44] supported by their common confede­racy.

Thus while I am pleading in defence of the Stage, I am defending and sup­porting Poetry, the best and the noblest kind of writing. For all other Writers are [...] made by Precept, and are form'd by Art; but a Poet prevails by the force of Nature, is excited by all that's powerful in Humanity, and is sometimes by a Spirit not his own ex­alted to Divinity.

For if Poetry in other Countries has flourish'd with the Stage, and been with that neglected, what must become of it here in England if the Stage is ruin'd; for foreign Poets have found their publick and their private Patrons. They who excell'd in Greece were en­courag'd by the Athenian Stage, nay and, by all Greece assembled at their Olympian, Istmean, Nemean, Pythian Games. Rome had its Scipios, its Caesars, and its Mecenas, France had its mag­nanimous Richlieu, and its greater Lewis, but the protection that Poetry has found in England, has been from the Stage alone. Some few indeed of our private men have had Souls that have [Page 45] been large enough, and wanted only pow­er. But of our Princes, how few have had any taste of Arts; nay, and of them who had some, have had their Heads too full, and some their Souls too narrow.

As then in maintaining the cause of the Stage, I am defending Poetry in general; so in defending that I am pleading for Eloquence, for History and Philosophy. I am pleading for the reasonable pleasures of mankind, the only harmless, the only cheap, the on­ly universal pleasures; the nourish­ments of Youth, and the delights of Age, the ornaments of Prosperity, and the surest Sanctuaries of Adversity, now insolently attempted by furious zeal too wretchedly blind to see their beauties, or discern their innocence. For unless the Stage be encouraged in England, Poetry cannot subsist; for never was any man a great Poet, who did not make it his business as well as pleasure and solely abandon himself to that. And as Poetry wou [...]d be crush'd by the ruines of the Stage; so Eloquence would be misera­bly maim'd by them; for which, if action be confess'd the life of it, the [Page 46] Theatre is certainly the best of Schools, and if action be not the life of it, De­mosthenes was much mistaken.

In Eloquence I humbly conceive that the Pulpit is somthing concern'd, and by consequence in the Stage; and need not be asham'd to learn from that place which instructed Cicero, and which form'd Demosthenes. For I can­not forbear declaring, notwithstand­ing the extream veneration which I have for the Church of England, that if in some of our Pulpits, we had but persons that had half the excellence of Demosthenes, that had but half the force of his words, and the resistless strength of his Reasoning, and but half his vehement action, we should see quite another effect of their Sermons. Those divine Orators fulminating with their sa­cred Thunder, would infix terrible plagues in the souls of sinners, and rouze and awake to a new life even those who are dead in sin.

I now come to answer what is object­ed from Religion; and that is, that tho it should be granted that some lit­tle happiness may be deriv'd from the Stage, yet that there is a much better [Page 47] and surer way to be happy: For the only way to be solidly and lastingly happy even in this life, is to be truly Religious, the best Christian being al­ways the happiest man. To which I an­swer, That as the Christian Religion contains the best, nay, the only means to bring men to eternal happiness, so for the making men happy ev'n in this life, it surpasses all Philosophy; but yet I confidently assert, that if the Stage were arriv'd to that degree of purity, to which in the space of some little time it may easily be brought, the fre­quenting our Theatres would advance Religion, and consequently the happi­ness of mankind, and so become a part of the Christian duty, which I shall de­monstrate when I come to speak of Religion.

The end of the First Part.

THE USEFULNESS OF THE STAGE.
PART II.

CHAP. I.
That the Stage is useful to Government.

SInce in the first part of this Trea­tise, we have plainly demonstrated that the Stage is instrumental to the [Page 50] happiness of Mankind, and of English­men more particularly; and since it is self-evident, that the happiness of those who are govern'd, is the very end and design of all regular Government, it evidently follows, that the Stage which contributes to the happiness of parti­cular men, is conducive to the good of the State. However, I shal descend to shew more particularly, that the Stage is instrumental to the welfare,

First, Of Government in general.

Secondly, of the English Government more particularly.

Thirdly, Especially of the present Government.

First, The Stage is instrumental to the welfare of Government in general; which I shall prove,

  • 1. By Reason: And,
  • 2. By Experience.

And first I shall prove by Reason, that the Stage is instrumental to the welfare of Government, and that whether you consider those who go­vern, [Page 51] or secondly, those who are go­verned.

First, If you consider those who govern.

And here it is self-evident, that no man who governs, can govern amiss, as long as he follows the dictates of common Reason. That requires that all who govern, shou'd consult the in­terest of those who are govern'd, which is inclusive of their own. And those Rulers have always been upon a wrong foundation, who have had an interest distinct from that of their people. Male-administration has always its source from the passions or vices of those who govern.

The passions which cause it, are for the most part Ambition, or the immo­derate love of pleasure. Now as Tra­gedy checks the first, by shewing the great ones or the Earth humbled, so it corrects the last by firing the mind and raising it to something nobler.

The vices which cause the Male-ad­ministration of Governours, are either vices of weakness or of malice, the first [Page 52] of which cause Governours to neglect, and the last, to oppress their people. The vices of weakness are inconsiderate­ness, and effeminacy, inconstancy, and irresoluti [...]n.

Now nothing can be a better Reme­dy than Tragedy for inconsiderateness, which reminds men of their duty, and perpetually instructs them, either by its fable or by its sentences, and shews them the ill and the fatal consequences of irregular administration; and no­thing is more capable of raising the Soul, and giving it that greatness, that cou­rage, that force, and that constancy which are the qualifications that make men deserve to command others; which is evident from experience. For they who in all Countries and in all Ages have appear'd most to feel the power of Tragedy, have been the most deserving and the greatest of men Aeschylus among the Athenians was a great Captain, as well as a Tragick Poet; and Sophocles was both an able Statesman and a Victorious General. If we look among [...]he Romans, the very greatest among them, were particularly they who appear'd so far touch'd by [Page 53] the Drama, as either to write their Plays themselves, or to build their Theatre. Witness Scipio, and Lelius, and Lucullus, and the Great Pompey, and Mecenas, and Iulius and Augustus Caesar.

No man among the French has shewn so much capacity or so much greatness of mind as Richlieu; and no man a­mong them has express'd so much pas­sion for the Drama, which was so great, that he writ several Plays himself, with that very hand, which at the same time was laying the Plan of the French universal Monarchy

Among us the Drama began to flou­rish in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, and I have been told, that that great Princess appear'd to be so far charm [...]d with it, as to translate with her own hand a Tragedy from Euripide [...].

That vice of malice which for the most part causes the male-administration of Governours is cruelty, which no­thing is more capable of correcting than Tragedy, which by diving into the hidden Springs of Nature, and making use▪ of all that is powerful in her, in order to the moving compassion, [...] [Page 54] been always found sufficient to soften the most obdurate heart.

Numerous examples might be brought of this, but I shall content my self with that of Alexander the Thes­salian Tyrant, as the story is related by Dacier, in the Preface to his Admi­rable Comment on the Poetick of Ari­stotle. This barbarous man, says Dacier, cau [...]ng the Hecuba of Euripides to be play'd before him, found himself so touch'd that he went out before the end of the first Act, seeing it would be a shame for him to be seen to shed tears for the miseries of Hecuba, or the calamities of Polyxena, for him who every day embrued this hands in the innocent blood of his Subjects. The truth of it was, that he had some appre­hension, lest he should be so far melted, that he-should be forsaken by that spirit of Tyranny, which had so long possess'd him, and should go a private person out of that Theatre, into the which he had en­tered a Soveraign. Nay, he had like to have caus'd the Actor who had mov'd him thus, to be executed; but the Criminal was secur'd by the very remains of that compassion, which was his only crime.

[Page 55] That which follows is remarkable, and which Dacier ci [...]es from an anci­ent Historian. A very grave Writer, says Dacier, makes a reflection which is very much to my purpose, and which seems of importance to Government. Speaking of the inhabitants of Arcadia, he says, that their humanity, and the sweetness of their tempers, and the respect which they had for the Gods; and in a word, the pu­rity of their manners, and all their vir­tues proceeded principally from the love which they had for Musick, which by its sweetness corrected those ill impressions, which a raw and unwholesom air, together with the hardship which they endured by their laborious way of life, made on their bodies and on their minds. And he says on the contrary, that those of Cynethus were carried to all sorts of profligate crimes, because that they, renouncing the wise in­stitutions of their ancestors, [...]ad neg [...]ected an art which was therefore the more ne­cessary for them, because they inhabited tha [...] part of Arcadia, which was the coldest, and where the Climate was most unequal. In­deed, there was no Town in all Greece, says Dacier, that had given such fre­quent examples of enormous crimes. [Page 56] And if Polybius, says he, speaks this in the behalf of Musick, and accuses E­phorus for having advanc'd a thing that was very unworthy of him, in asserting that Musick was invented on purpose for the deceiving of Mankind, what may we not justly affirm of Tragedy, of which Musick is but a little orna­ment; and which as far transcends it, as the reasoning Speech of a man excels the Brutes inarticulate voice, which never has any meaning.

But now we come in the second place, to shew that the Stage is useful to Go­vernment, with respect to those who are governed, and that whether you consider them in relation to those who govern them, or to one another, or to the common Enemy.

If you consider them in relation to those who govern them, you will find that Tragedy is very proper to check the motions, that they may at any time feel to rebellion or disobedience, by stopping the very sources of them; for Tragedy naturally checks their Ambiti­on, by shewing them the great ones of the Earth humbled, by setting before their Eyes, to make use of Mr Colliers [Page 57] words, the uncertainty of human greatness, the sudden turns of State, and the unhappy conclusion of vio­lence and injustice. Tragedy too, di­verts their apprehension of grievances, by the delight which it gives them, discovers the designs of their factious guides, by opening their eyes, and instructing them in their duty by the like examples; and lastly, it dispels their unreasonable jealousies, for peo­ple who are melted or terrified with the sufferings of the great, which are set before thei [...] eyes, are rather apt to feel a secret pleasure, from the sense that they have, that they are free from the like calamities, than to torment themselves with the vain and uncertain apprehensions of futurity. But the Stage is useful to Government in those who are govern'd, if they are con [...] ­der'd with relation to one another▪ For Tragedy diverts them from th [...] unjust designs, by the pleasure which it gives them; since no man as long [...] he is easie himself, is in a humour to disturb others, and by purging th [...]se passions, whose excesses cause their in­justice, by instructing them in their [Page 58] duty by its fable and by its sentences [...] by raising their minds, and setting them above injustice, by touching them with compassion, and making them good upon a principle of self-love; and lastly, by terrifying them with setting before their eyes, the unhappy conclu­sion, to use Mt Collier's words, of vio­lence and injustice.

Thirdly, The Stage is useful to Go­vernment, by having an influence over those who are govern'd, in relation to the common enemy. For nothing more raises and exalts their minds, and fires them with a noble emulation, who shall best perform their duty: which brings me to the second Head, the shewing the usefulness of the Stage to Government in general, from

II. Experience, and that of

  • 1. The Athenian.
  • 2. The Roman.
  • 3. The French, and
  • 4. The English Government.

1. For the Athenians, their Drama first appear'd in form with Thespis, was cultivated by Aeschylus, and per­fected by Sophocles. Now this is ex­treamly remarkable, that that people, [Page 59] which from Theseus to Thespis, that is, for the space of about seven hundred years, continued a poor and ignorant, and comparatively a contemptible peo­ple; in the space of a hundred years more, in which time their Tragedy was form'd by Thespis, cultivated by Aes­chylus, and perfected by Sophocles; I say, it is extreamly remarkable, that in that space of time, this people, which before were so inconsiderable, became illustrious for Arts and Arms, renown'd for Eloquence, for Philoso­phy famous, and for Empire formida­ble, the masters of Greece, the scourges of Asia, and the Terror of the great King.

In that space of time flourish'd most of their mighty Conquerors, Cimon, Aristides, Pericles, Themistocles and Miltiades. Their Tragick Poets were the persons who animated their Armies, and fir'd the souls of those brave men, who conquer'd at once and dy'd for their Country, in the Bay of Salamis, and in the Plains of Marathon; at which place a handful of men, as it were, of the disciples of Thespis and the succeed­ing Poets, vanquish'd the numberless [Page 60] forces of the East, laid the foundation of the Grecian Empire, and of the fortune of the great Alexander.

The Athenians were highly sensible of the advantage which the State re­ceiv'd from the Theatre, which they maintain'd at a publick prodigious ex­pence, and a Revenue appropriated to that peculiar use; and establish'd a Law, which made the least attempt to alienate the Fund capital. So that when the common Exchequer was ex­hausted, Demosthenes was oblig'd to use the utmost address to induce them to touch and divert this separate Fund.

But 'tis time to come to the Romans. Livius Andronicus, who was their first Dramatick Poet, appear'd in the five hundred and fourteenth year after the building of the City. And till his time they had been struggling as it were for life with their neighbours, and had been torn by perpetual convulsions with­in themselves; whereas after the first representation of the Plays which were written by him, they were not only quiet within themselves for above a hundred years af [...]er, but in a hundred more beca [...]e the Masters of the Uni­verse. [Page 61] And who were the persons a­mong them that advanced their Con­quests, and extended their Empire? Why the very men who buil [...] their Theatres and who writ their Plays. Scipio, conquer'd Spain and Africa, Pompey and Lucullus Asia, and Caesar England, Flanders, France, and Ger­many.

'Tis not above a hundred years ago, since Dramatick Poetry begun to flou­rish in France, since which time the French have not only been remarkably united, but have advanced their Con­quests so fast, that they have almost doubled their Empire.

Cardinal Richelieu was the person who at the same time laid the founda­tion of the greatness of their Theatre and their Empire: And 'tis a surprizing thing to consider, that the spirit of Dramatick Poetry leaving them just before the beginning of the last War, by Moliere and Corneille's Death, and by Racine's Age, they have since that time lost almost half their Conquests.

To come home to our selves, Dra­matick Poetry began to be brought into form with us, in the time of Henry [Page 62] the Eighth, and tho since that time we cannot boast of such glorious successes, as we had in the times of our Fifth Henry and of our Third Edward, when the Conquering Genius of England in triumph seem'd to bestride the Ocean, and to fix an Imperial foot on the Con­tinent; yet this may be said to the advantage of the Drama, that since it first began to be cultivated, we have had our eyes more open, have found that our constitution is but ill design'd for conquest; that by being very for­tunate we should run the risk of be­coming very unhappy, and endanger our Liberties, by extending our Em­pire.

CHAP. II.
That the Stage is particularly useful to the English, and especially the present Go­vernment.

WE have shewn in the foregoing Chapter, that the Drama, and particularly Tragedy, is among other reasons useful to Government, be­cause it is proper to restrain a people from rebellion and disobedience, and to keep them in good correspondence among themselves: For this reason the Drama may be said to be instrumental in a peculiar manner to the welfare of the English Government; because there is no people on the face of the Earth so prone to rebellion as the English, or so apt to quarrel among themselves. And this seems very remarkable, that [Page 64] since the Drama began first to flourish among us, we have been longer at quiet than ever we were before since the Conquest; and the only Civil War which has been amongst us since that time, is notoriously known to have been began and carry'd on by those who had an utter aversion to the Stage; as on the other side, he who now discovers so great an aversion to the Stage, has notoriously done all that lay in his little power to plunge us in another Civil War.

But the Stage is more particularly instrumental to the welfare of our pre­sent English Government, as the Go­vernment is depending upon two things, 1. The Reformation, and 2. The Re­volution. I shall speak of the Refor­mation when I come to treat of Reli­gion. I shall shew at present that the Stage is advantageous to the Govern­ment, as it stands since the Revolution; and that will appear, if we consider what people they are who frequent our Theatres. And they are either friends to the Government, or enemies, or in­different persons. They who are friends to it▪ are for the most part so, because [Page 65] it defends and maintains the liberties of the people. But liberty is a jest i [...] you take away reasonable pleasure; for what would signifie liberty, if it did not make me happier than him who is not free?

Machiavel says, in the 19th Chapter of his Prince, that nothing renders a Prince so odious, as the ta [...]ing possession of the Wives and Estates of his people, that is, nothing renders him so odious as the depriving his Subjects of their lawful and reasonable pleasures; for no mans Wife or Estate is dear to him any further than as they contribute to his pleasure and to his happiness. Now that the Drama is of the number of lawful and reasonable pleasures, has been, and shall be prov'd; and has been all along implied, not by the connivance, but by the authority and the command of so many of our Mo­narchs, the protection of so many il­lustrious Princes, and the support and encouragement of so many extraordi­nary men, who have compos'd for so long together the great Council▪ of the Na­tion, whose united judgments ought [...] [Page 66] certainly to be preferr'd before the pretended opinions of two or three unknown Bigots, who, under the au­sterity of their affected grimaces, are carrying forward their dark designs, and could never do a thing upon which they would esteem themselves more, than upon depriving the Government of any of its faithful Friends. And it is more than probable, that some of its friends would prove averse to it, if the Stage were either suppress'd or very much discourag'd. But in the next place, the Stage is of use to the Go­vernment, if you consider its Enemies; for it gives the Enemies of the State a considerable diversion. People will not so furiously desire a change, as long as they live agreeably. Men must be uneasie some way or other in their manner of living, before they come to private cabals and plotting. They who are happy appear averse to them, and to frequenting Jacobite Conven­ticles, and to contributing to our non [...]swearing Parsons. Hinc illae Lachrymae; from hence comes the impotent rage of our foes, from hence their dissem­bled [Page 67] zeal; for as long as the enemies of the State are diverted by publick spectacles, their seditious Preachers must be in a wretched condition.

But farther, the Stage is beneficial to the present Government, if you consi­der a third sort of people who daily frequent it, and they are such who are always indifferent what Govern­ment they live under, so they can live but agreeably. Now these are of all others the most addicted to their plea­sures, and would take it most heinously to be depriv'd of them.

Thus is the Stage beneficial to the present Government, if you consider those who are friends to it, or enemies, or indifferent. And the same may ap­pear, from considering them all toge­ther. For nothing tends to the uniting men more, than the bringing them fre­quently together, and the pleasing them when they are assembled.

Thus have we shewn, that the Stage is beneficial to the English Government, and more particularly to the present Government; and that from the na­ture of the people, and the conside­ration [Page 68] of those who frequent our Theatres; we come now to answer what has been, or what may be ob­jected from Reason, from Authority, and from Religion.

CHAP. III.
The Objections from Authority Answer'd.

WE will begin with the objections which are brought from Au­thority; the Authorities are numerous which Mr Collier has produced in the last Chapter of his Book; which Chap­ter is levell'd against the Stage and Dramatick Poetry in general, as any one may see by perusing the first Para­graph. Now I would fain ask Mr Col­lier one question, whether the business of Plays is not to recommend Virtue and discountenance Vice, and to bring every thing that is ill under infamy and neg [...]ct; whether the Poets, if they pleas [...]d, might not be serviceable to this purpose? And the Stage be very signi­ficant? What will he say to this? Will he deny it? Why then did he affirm [Page 70] it in these very words in his Introducti­on to his Book? Well, will he confess it? Then why this pedantick scrowl of Authorities, to oppose the truth? or of what significancy is Human Autho­rity against Human Reason? But yet, to shew the ungenerous temper of this adversary to Dramatick Poetry, and consequently to Human Learning, I shall make it appear, that of all the Authorities which he has produc'd, se­veral make in defence of the Stage, and not one of them makes against it.

The objections are of two sorts. Those opinions of particular Statesmen, and the sentiments of States in general. We shall answer the Authorities which are brought from both, in the same order as they are cited by Mr. Collier.

The two first which he brings are Plato and Xenophon, in the 234th Page, Plato, says Mr Collier, has banish'd Plays from his Commonwealth: But what can be concluded from thence? That they ought to be expell'd from the English Government? When every body knows that the Commonwealth of Plato is a meer Romantick notion, with which human nature, and human [Page 71] life, and by consequence Dramatick Poetry, cannot possibly agree. Machi­avil may give a solid answer to this in the fifteenth Chapter of his Prince. Some men, says he, have form [...]d [...]word and Soveraignties in their own fancies, such as never were, and as never will be. But the distance is so very great between what men are, and between what they ought to be, that the Statesman who leaves that which is, to follow that which ought to be, seeks his own destruction rather than his preservation. And by consequence, he who makes profession of being perf [...]ctly good, among too many others who are not per­fectly so, sooner or later must certainly perish.

But what has thus exasperated Plato against the Drama? Why it raises the passions, says he, and is by consequence an Enemy to Morality. But Aristotle who, as Mr Collier in this very page unhappily owns, saw as far into human nature as any man; Aristotle has de­clar'd, that Tragedy, by exciting the passions purges them, and reduces them to a just mediocrity, and is by conse­quence a promoter of virtue.

[Page 72] As Plato has laid the Plan of a no­tional Commonwealth, Xenophon has given an account in his Cyropedia of a Romantick Monarchy; in which he says, that the Persians would not suffer their youth to hear any thing that was Amorous or Tawdry. But what can this man mean by bringing this as an authority against the Stage, and the Drama in general: For can any one be so absurd as to imagin, that this was intended by Xenophon to condemn the gravity, and seve [...]ity, and majesty of Euripides's Plays? Those Plays which are said to be in part the productions of the wisest and most virtuous of all the Philosophers, of Xenophon's honourd incomparable Master, Socrates.

The next, whose Authority is pro­duc'd, is Aristotle; produc'd? for what? why to overthrow the Autho­rity of that very sort of Writing, which is establish'd upon his own rules. Well! And what says Aristotle! Why in his Politicks he lays it down for a rule, that the Law ought to forbid young people the seeing of Come­dies Such permissions not being safe, till [Page 73] age and discipline had form'd them in sobriety, fortify'd their virtue, and made it as it were proof against De­bauchery. And what are these words of Aristotle cited to shew? Why that Plays in general are the nurseries of Vice, the corruption of youth, and the grievance of the Country, where they are suffer'd; for that was the thing which in the first Paragraph of this sixth Chapter, Mr Collier pro­pounded to shew. Now can any thing in nature be more unreasonable than this?

For in the first place it can never be, no, not so much as pretended, that A­ristotle in this place requires the forbid­ding any thing but only Comedy, which is but one sort of Dramatick Poetry; nor can it be so much as pre­tended, that he requires, that this should be forbidden to any but Boys, Nor, secondly, is it probable that Ari­stotle meant this of any thing but only that sort of ancient Comedy, which has no resemblance with ours. For I have two reasons to perswade me, that Aristotle meant this of only the old [Page 74] and the middle Comedy. The first reason is, that in all likelihood Ari­stotle writ his Politicks while he was Governour to Alexander, which was before the establishment of the new Comedy. For Aristotle in his Morals commends the reservedness of the new Comedy, which may appear from Mr Collier's citation in the 160th page of this very Book. The second reason is, That I can hardly believe that Aristotle would have left rules for the writing of Comedy, if he had believ'd that Comedy in general is a Corrupter of Youth. What then Aristotle in all probability meant only of the horrible licence of the old and middle Comedy, which yet he requires to be forbidden only▪ to Boys, is here inplied to be le­velled against Dramatick Poetry in general; when this very Philosopher has declared, that nothing is more proper than Tragedy for the enter­tainment even of youth, pronouncing it more grave and more moral than History, and more instructive than Philosophy.

[Page 75] The next who enters the Lists is Ci­cero, who, as Mr Collier assures us, crys out upon licentious Plays and Poems, as the bane of sobriety and wise thinking, and says, that Comedy sub­sists upon Lewdness. To which I Answer.

First, That Cicero in this place speaks only against the corruptions of the Stage, which corruptions we do not pretend to defend.

Secondly, That Cicero in his fourth Book of the Tusculan Questions, speaks only against Comedy, which is but one sort of Dramatick Poetry, whereas in the very same place he implicitely com­mends Tragedy.

Thirdly, That even in condemning of Comedy he is inconsistent with him­self: And that if the opinion of Cicero is of any validity, it is as valuable pro as con. Cicero in his Treatise De Ami­citia and De Senectute, implicitely com­mends Comedy. For Lelius, whom Cicero by the mouth of Fan [...]ius, extol [...] above all the celebrated Seven whom Greece renown'd for Wisdom; Leliu [...] who had the universal reputation of the greatest Statesman, of the best man, [Page 76] and the truest friend of his time,: this Lelius in the Treatise which bears his name, is not only found to cite a verse with approbation from Terence, but to mention his acquaintance and intimacy with that Comick Poet. Now I leave it to any one to judge, whether Cicero had not been very absurd, if he had introduc'd a person whom he so much extols as Lelius, a person of that Gra­vity, and that Capacity, and one who had so considerable a share in the Go­vernment of the Roman State: had not Cicero, I say, been very absurd, if he had introduc'd a person whom he so much extols as Lelius, openly acknow­ledging a familiarity with a profest corrupter of the people? But f [...]rther, C [...]to in that Treatise of Cicero which bears his name, that Cato whom Cicero by the mouth of this very Lelius, pre­fers for wisdom to Socrates himself, the awful, the grave, the severe Cato, and the austerest of the Roman Censors; this very Cato is introduced in the fore-mention [...]d Treatise, making honourable mention of Pla [...]tus and Livi [...]s And [...]oni [...]us.

[Page 77] Livy and Valerius Maximus follow. Livy, he says, reports the original of Plays. He tells us, they were brought in upon the score of Religion, to pacisie the Gods, and remove a Mortality. But then he adds, that the motives are good, when the means are stark naught: That the Remedy is worse than the Disease, and the Atonement more infectious than the Plague. In answer to which, I de­sire leave to observe:

First, that Livy in this place of the original of Plays, speaks neither of Tragedy nor of Comedy, nor of the Satyri; which were the third species of the Roman Dramatick Poetry; but only of the rudeness of the Ludi Fes­cennini.

Secondly, That Livy commends the innocence of Plays, in the purity of their first institution.

Thirdly, That he attributes by ma­nifest inference the guilt and corrupti­ons of the Roman Stage, to things which can have no relation to our En­glish Theatres. Which is apparent from his own words. Inter aliarum parva principia verum, ludorum quoque prima origo ponenda est, ut appareret quam ab [Page 78] sano initio res in hanc vix opulent is Regnis tolerabilem insani [...]m venerit. A­mong the small beginnings of other things, we are obliged to give some ac­count of the original of Theatrical re­presentations, that it may appear how a thing that was innocent in its institu­tion, grew up to so much licentious fury, as to render them intolerable even to the most flourishing States. From whence it is evident, that Livy in this place condemns the corruption neither of Comedy nor Tragedy, but either the licentiousness of Liberius his Farces, or the barbarity of the fights of the Gladiators, or the lewdness of the Pantomimes motions, or all of them put together. For it is manifest to any one, who has the least tincture of the Roman Learning, that of the Comedies and Tragedies which were extant in Livy's time, those were the purest▪ which had been writ latest.

Fourthly, I desire leave to observe here, that the latter half of wha [...] Mr Collier has father'd upon Livy, viz. that the motives were sometimes good, when the means were stark naught. That the Remedy in this case was worse than [Page 79] the Disease; and the Atonement more in­fectious than the Plague; has no manner of foundation in that Historian. From all which the Reader may discover the uncommon Sincerity and Intergrity of this Censurer of the Stage. Indeed, without giving my self all this trouble for the clearing of the business, I might have left it to any one to judge, whe­ther one of Livy's extraordinary sense, who courted Reputation and the favour of the publick, could have so little prudence, or so little good manners, as to use those expressions which Mr Collier puts in his mouth of the Drama itself, at the time that it was cherish'd by the people, supported by the Magi­strates, and esteem'd a considerable part of their Religious worship.

Now it is impossible that any thing could shew less judgment than the fol­lowing citation from Tacitus, who blames Nero, says Mr Collier, for hiring decay'd Gentlemen for the Stage; for what does Mr Collier conclude from hence? That Tacitus condemn'd the diversions of the Stage? All that can be reasonably concluded from it is this, that Tacitus was of opinion that [Page 80] Nero debas'd the dignity of the Roman Nobility, by enrolling some of their Rank among an order of men, which among the Romans was reputed infa­mous. Tacitus was too much a States­man to say any thing against the Stage, especially in the condition in which we are at present. He approves the con­duct of Augustus in the first of his An­nals, who after he had got possession of the Government, honour'd the Ro­man Theatre with his presence, not only out of his own inclination and complaisance to Mecenas; but because he believ'd that reason of State re­quir'd, that he should sometimes par­take of the pleasures of the people. Tiberius, says Tacitus, was quite of another humour. However, he had too much policy, and too much good sense, to use his new Subjects severaly at first, after they had for so long together liv'd a gentle, voluptuous life. Thus far goes Tacitus in the first of his Annals, and Monsieur Amelot has made this Remark upon the place: A Prince in the beginning of his Reign ought not to alter any of the establish'd Customs, because the people are very unwilling to part with them.

[Page 81] To what Tacitus says of the German Women, that they ow'd their Chastity to their ignorance of these diversions, this may be answer'd, That first, sup­posing Tacitus in the right, that can have no reflection on our modern Theatres. For the Roman Ladies may very well have been corrupted by the intolerable lewdness of the Pantomimes, which lewdness has no relation to us. Secondly, It has been observd of Taci­tus, that he is for referring all things to Politicks, even things that ought to be referr'd to Nature, and is for that reason sometimes out; as it is manifest from ex­perience he is in this case. For the Germans are now as much us'd to Plays as the Spa­niards or the Italians. And yet their women are much chaster than the wo­men of those two Nations. From whence it is evident, that the German women owe their Chastity to the rude­ness of their manners, and to their want of attraction, and to the coldness of their constitution.

In the hurry of my dispatch, I had almost forgot to return to Valerius Maximus; Who, says Mr Collier, being contemporary with Livy, gives much the [Page 82] same account of the rise of Theatres at Rome. 'Twas Devotion which built them. And as for the performances of those places which Mr Dryden calls the orna­ments, this Author censures as the blemishes of [...]eace. And which is more, he affirms, that they were the occasions of civil di­stractions, and that the State first blush'd, and then bled for the entertainment. He concludes, the consequences of Plays intol­lerable, and that the Massilienses did well in clearing the Country of them. Now here in one citation, Mr Collier has made no less than four or five mi­stakes, whether through malice or ig­norance, I must leave the Reader to judge. For in the first place, Valerius Maximus censures neither Comedies nor. Tragedies as the blemishes of Peace, and if Mr Collier by Theatre does not mean them, he means nothing that concerns us. In the next place he does not affirm, that ei­ther they or any of the publick Specta­cles were the occasions of civil di­stractions. In the third place, He does not affirm that the State either blush'd or bled for the representation of Plays. In the fourth place, The refusal of the [Page 83] Massilienses to admit of Dramatical re­presentations can never argue any thing, not only because the consent of Nations is against that little State, but because we cannot conclude from their refusal, that they did not approve of them.

That all this may appear, I am oblig'd to transcribe what he says. Proximus militaribus institutis ad urbana castra, id est Theatra gradus faciendus est, quoniam haec quoque sepenumero animosas acies in­struxerunt, excogitataque cultus Deorum & hominum delectationis causa, non sine aliquo pacis rubore voluptatem & religio­nem civili sanguine senicorum protentorum gratiae, macularunt From military instituti­ons let us proceed to our City Camps, that is to Theatres. For these too have often shewn mighty Armies drawn up, and being first de­sign'd for the worship of the Gods, and for the delights of men, defil'd our Pleasure and our Religion with the blood of the people.

Where we may take notice of three things. 1. That Valerius Maximus im­plicitely commends the original institu­tion of Theatres. 2. That he charges that which was blameable in them upon the combats of the Gladiators. Thirdly, The representation of Plays was so far [Page 84] from causing civil distractions, that upon the first representation of the Ludi Pescennini, 390 years after the building of the City, the Patr [...]cians and Plebi­ans were quiet for above eight years, which was more than they had been for above a hundred years before. And after the first representation of Come­dies and Tragedies, which was in the five hundred and fourteenth year of the City, there was never any civil dissen­tion, or at least never but once, till the sedition of Tiberius Gra [...]chus, which was above an hundred years after. Mr Collier translates civili sanguine macula­runt, caus'd civil distractions, as if Plays were the principal cause of the dissenti­ons between the Commons and the Patri­cians; whereas those dissentions were natural to the constitution of the Ro­man State, meer necessary consequences of enlarging their Empire, and by that means encreasing the number and force of the Commons, as Machiavel has declared in the sixth Chapter of the first Book of his discourses.

As for the Massilians, they will be better included under the Autho­rities which Mr Collier has brought [Page 85] in the second place from States.

In examining the Authorities which Mr Collier has brought from States, it will be convenient to say a word to the proceeding of the Massilians, as it is cited from Valerius Maximus; who commends them for refusing to admit of Plays among them. But first, the re­fusal of this petty state can be of very small significancy against the consent of nations. Secondly, This refusal is no sign of their disesteem of the Drama, but only of the prudence of their con­duct. For expence, and any thing which looks like magnificence, are de­structive to little States, which can ne­ver subsist without extream fruga­lity

But the Athenians, says Mr Collier, for which he ci [...]es Plutarch, thought Co­medy so unreputable a performance, that they made a Law that no Iudge of the Areopagus should make one. To which we reply, that this citation of Plutarch is absolutely false; and that if it were true, it could not be so much as pretended that it concluded against any thing but Comedy, which is but one species of Dramatick Poetry; and [Page 86] that in reality it would be of no force against that.

What Plutarch says, is not that the Athenians made a Law, that none of the Areopagi should make a Comedy; for one might as well suppose that it should be enacted by an English Parlia­ment, that none of the twelve Judges should write a Farce. That which Plu­tarch says is this, that the Council of A [...]eopagus establish'd a Law, that no man whatever should make any Comedies. From whence it is manifest, that this law was made in the time of the old Comedy, and long before that came to any perfection, For Comedy, as is apparent from Aristotle's treatise of Poe­try, was very much discourag'd at first: Indeed at first they were so intolerably scandalous, that they were thought to be prejudicial to the State. And it was a long time before the Magistrates could be prevail'd upon to be at the expence of the Chorus. But after the Magistrates were at the ex­pence of the Chorus, 'tis absurd to imagine that a Law should be preferr'd against the writing that sort of Poem which was represented at the publick expence.

[Page 87] So that a Citation which Mr Collier has brought against the Stage in general, is of no force we see against Tragedy, nor against the new Comedy, no, nor so much as against the old one, as it stood in the time of Eupolis and Aristo­phanes. Mr Collier brings the words of his Authors, but leaves us to look for their Sense, and yet he would take it very ill to have that return'd upon him, which he has said of Mr Durfey, that he is at least in his Citations, vox & praeterea nihil.

But he proceeds to the Lacedaemonians, and says, that they who were remark­able for the wisdom of their Laws, the sobriety of their manners, and their breeding of brave men, would not endure the Stage in any form, nor un­der any regulation. This citation too is from Plutarch, and just of as much validity against the Stage as the other. For what can Mr Collier conclude from hence, That the Spartans disapprovd of the Drama? Why then did they frequent the Theatre while they so journ'd at Athens? As it is plain that they did, both from the Cato Major of Cicero, and from Valerius Maximus, [Page 88] Chap. 5. Lib. 4. All that can be con­cluded, from what Plutarch says of the Lacedaemonians is, that the Drama was not so agreeable to the nature of the Spartan Government, it being incom­patible with rigid poverty, and with fewness of Subjects, which as Machiavel observes, in the Sixth Chapter of the first Book of his Discourses, were the two fundamentals of their constitution. But then Mr Collier may be pleased to observe, that no sort of Poetry flou­rish'd in that Government, nor Hi­story, nor Eloquence, nor written Phi­losophy. For as we observed above, the Arts never flourish'd in any Coun­try where the Drama was decay'd or discouraged, and in those places where they have flourish'd, as they have risen they have sunk with the Stage.

But tho the Drama was inconsistent with the nature of the Spartan Govern­ment, it is so remarkably agreeable to ours, that the Stage with us was never attempted till the late Civil Wars, and then too by those who had first broke in upon our constitution and as it rose again with the Hierarchy and with the Monarchy, we have seen it now at­tempted [Page 89] a second time, by those, who by their writings and by their exam­ples, have strenuously endeavour'd to ruin both Church and State.

The next Authority is brought from the Romans. Tully informs us, says Mr Collier, that their predecessors counted all Stage-Plays uncreditable and scandalous. Insomuch that any Roman who turn'd Actor was not only to be degraded, but likewise as it were disincorporated, and un­natur aliz'd, by the order of the Censors.

This, Mr Collier tells us, that St. Au­stin cites from Tully in the fourth Book De Repub.; to which I could easily answer, that the same St Austin, as he is cited by Mr Collier in the 274th page of his Book, having apparently done Tully wrong in his citation of one of his Orations which is extant; the passage which he cites from the fourth Book De Republica, which is not come down to us, may be very justly suspected. This, I say, I could easily answer; and to convince the Reader that I have very good grounds for it, I think my felf oblig'd to make it appear, that St Austin, as Mr Collier has cited him in the 274th page of his Book has done [Page 90] Cicero a great deal of wrong. The passage is this. Their own Tully's com­mendation of the Actor Roscius is remark­able. He was so much a Master, says he, that none but himself was worthy to tread the Stage; and on the other hand, so good a man, that he was the most unfit person of the gang to come there. Now what will the Reader say, when I make it appear that Tully never said any such thing? In order to which, I am oblig'd to transcribe the passage. Roscius So­cium fraudavit? Potest hoc homini huic haerere peccatum? Qui medius [...]idius (audacter dico) plus Fidei quam artis: plus veritatis quam disciplinae possidet in se: quem Populus Romanus meliorem vi­rum quam Histrionem esse arbitratur, qui it a dignissimus est scena [...] propter artificium ut dignissimus sit curia propter abstinen­tiam. Has Roscius defrauded his friend? Can he possibly be guilty of this? Who, by Heavens, (I boldly speak it) has more sincerity, than he has Art, more integrity than he has discipline, who, by the judgment of the Roman people, is a better Man than he is a Player, the worthiest of all men to tread the Stage, by reason of his excellent action, and [Page 91] the worthiest to partake of the Magi­stracy by reason of his singular modera­tion.

Now I appeal to the Reader, if this has so much as the least affinity with Mr Collier's meaning? I have all this while done my utmost to keep my Temper. But I cannot forbear inform­ing Mr Collier, that Nature did not make the ferment and rising of the Blood for Atheism, as he fondly imagins in the 80th page of his Book. For an Atheist is a wretched unthinking Crea­ture, who deserves compassion. No, Nature made the Ferment of the blood to rise against those, who are base enough to defame the dead by suborn­ing them to witness what they never knew nor thought.

From all which it plainly appears, that I may deny very justly to answer to what is cited here from Cicero, since part of it carries in itself such a Mani­festation of falsehood; for how could Plays be accounted scandalous by the predecessors of Cicero, when before the end of the first Punick War, which was about two hundred years before Cicero's time, the Romans knew nothing [Page 92] of the true Drama; for the Plays which were represented in the 391 st year of the City, were the Ludi Fescennini. Now it was not quite a hundred years after the appearance of Livius Andronicus, who writ the first Plays, that Scipio and Lelius, the two greatest men of the State, whether you consider their vir­tue, their courage, or their capacity, encourag'd and assisted Terence in the writing of his Comedies, and were his friends by publick profession, which they would certainly never have been, if at that time the Romans had lookt upon Plays as scandalous. 'Tis indeed very true, that the profession of Actor was not very creditable at Rome, but it does not follow from thence, that Plays were at all scandalous. Your common Fidlers are scandalous here, though Musick is very honourable. The ancient Romans could not esteem any thing that was Religious scanda­lous. Their Plays were a part of their Religious worship, represented at the publick expence, and by the care of the Aediles Curules, the Magistrate▪ who had the care of the publick worship.

[Page 93] I must confess I have a hundred times wondered, why Players that were so much esteem'd at Athens, should have so little credit at Rome, when the Plays had so much, when not only both Tragedies and Comedies were a part of their Religious worship, represented at the expence of the publick, and by the care of the publick Magistrates, but when the very persons who writ'em were carest by their greatest Statesmen, nay, and when some of the Poems were written by their greatest Statesmen themselves.

But Livy, whom Mr Collier cites once again, shall immediately clear my doubt, for the young Romans, says he, ac­cording to Mr Collier's citation, kept the Fabulae Atellanae to themselves. They would not suffer this diversion to be blemish'd by the Stage. For this reason, says Mr Collier, as the Historian ob­serves, the Actors of the Fabulae Atellanae, were neither expell'd their Tribe, nor refus'd to serve in Arms. Both which penalties it appears the common Players lay under.

[Page 94] Here Mr Collier seems to me, to have made a very gross mistake. For he has interpreted ab Histrionibus Pollui to be blemish'd by the Stage, according to the noble Latitude which he gives himself in translating. Whereas it is very plain from Horace's Art of Poetry, that the Fabulae Atellanae were acted on the publick Theatre immediately after the Tragedies.

Verum ita Risores, ita Commendere dicaces
Conveniet Satyros, ita vertere seria ludo;
Ne quicun (que) Deus, quicunque adhibe­bitur Heros
Regali conspectus in Auro nuper & ostro,
Migret in obscuras humili Sermone Ta­bernas.

Dacier is of opinion too in his Comment on the 227th verse of Horace's Art of Po­etry, that the Fabulae Atellanae were not only acted on the publick Stage, but acted by the same Players that the Tragedies were, in which he is apparently mistaken; for in the first place this opinion makes [Page 95] him inconsistent with himself; as any one may see, who consults what he says, upon the 231st verse, where he affirms, that the Actors of the Fabulae Atellanae, had priviledges beyond what the common Players had. In the se­cond place, the passage which he brings to prove his opinion, proves nothing at all. The Passage is,

Regali conspectus in auro nuper & ostro, &c. which Dacier takes to be spoken of the Players, whereas it is mani­festly spoken of the Persona Dramma­tis, that is, of the God or the He­roe.

From what I have said, we may observe three things.

First, That the Fabulae Atellanae were acted on the publick Theatre. Second­ly, That they were not acted by the Tra­gedeans nor the Comedians, tho they were writ by the Tragick and Comick Poets. Thirdly, That the Actors of the Fabulae Atellanae were not better treated than common Actors, because they did not Act on the publick Thea­tre. Valerius Maximus gives us the reason why they were better treated in the Fourth Chapter of his Second [Page 96] Book. Atellani autem ab oscis acciti sunt: quod genus detectationis Italica se­veritate temperatum ideo (que) vacuum nota est, nam neque tribu movetur, neque a militaribus stipendis repellitur. From whence it is apparent, that it was from the severity of that sort of Poem, that the Actors of the Fabulae Atellanae were treated more kindly, than the common Actors.

But now how came the Actors of the Fabulae Atellanae to be treated with so much humanity, on the account of the severity of those Poems, when the Tragedians incurr'd the Censorian note? For Tragedy has infinitely more severity than the Fabulae Atellanae could ever have. For the Fabulae Atellanae were partly satyrical, and had as great a mixture of Raillery as have our Tragi Comedies; whereas Tragedy as all the world knows is grave and se­vere throughout. That which follows seems to me to be the reason of this, and to be the true cause why at Rome the common Actors were so hardly us'd, when Plays were so much esteem'd by the Romans.

[Page 97] The first Plays that were represented by the Romans were the Ludi Fescen­nini, which were licencious and scurrilous even at first, and full of particular scandalous reflections, but in a little time they grew bloody and barbarous; and that cruelty of Defa­mation to which they arriv'd, was in all probability the cause why those who acted in them were so severely treated by the State. And what in­clines me to this opinion the more, is the following passage of Horace.

Fescennina per hunc inventa Licentia morem,
Versibus alternis approbria rustica fudit,
Libertasque recurrentes accepta per an­nos
Lusit Amabiliter: donec jam servus apertam
In Rabiem verti caepit Iocus; & per honestas
Ire domos impune minax: Doluere cruento
Dente lacessiti: fuit intactis quo (que) cura
Conditione super communi: Quis etiam Lex
Paena (que) lata.

[Page 98] Not long after these appear'd the Fa­bulae Atellanae; and because their Sa­tyr was free from particular reflection, and their raillery innocent, and because there was something which was severe and noble in them; this might prevail upon the following censors to exempt the Actors of the Fabulae Atellanae from the censorian note; and might occasion a Law to be made, that these Actors should be capable of bearing Arms.

It was a considerable time after this before Tragedies and Comedies were substituted in the room of the Ludi Fescennini. Comedy at first was culti­vated most, as Dacier somewhere ob­serves, and it was late before Tragedy arriv [...]d to its height, tho at the last it fell infinitely short of the divine subli­mity of the Sophoclean Tragedy. Now tho the Romans were charm'd with Tragedy when it was come to its height, and consequently with those who writ it, and tho they found it to be without comparison more grave, more noble, and more instructive than the Fabulae Atellanae were, yet they might probably think it below the majesty of the Roman people to abolish an ancient custom, [Page 99] and an establish'd Law of the State, in favour of the common Players. Yet this can be of no prejudice to our mo­dern Players; because all States have had unreasonable customs, and this of the Romans may be concluded to be such; being directly opposite to that of the Grecians, and the Athenians particular­ly, from whom the Romans had their Laws of the twelve Tables, which were the most venerable of all their Laws. What I have already said answers the Theodosian Code, and so I come to that which he calls our own constitution, from that which breaks our constitution.

Neither of the two Statu [...]es, which he mentions page 242, can reach the King and the Queens Servants, they being by no means in the rank of com­mon Players. The Theatre flourish'd under the Princes in whose Reigns those Statutes were made, especially in the Reign of the latter, which may serve for a proof that the severity of that Statute extended only to Strowlers.

All that can be concluded from the Petition to Queen Elizabeth, which is mentioned in the same page, is that [Page 100] the Queen thought fit to suppress the Play-houses that were set up in the City, tho she allow'd them in other places. And this was not without a great deal of Reason: For since the Interest of England is supported by Trade, and the chief Trade of England is carry'd on by the Citizens of London, it was not convenient that the young Citizens should have a temptation so near them, that might be an avocation to them from their affairs. And since it is ap­parent from Mr Collier's citation, that the Queen, upon the City's Remon­strance, supprest the Play-houses which were set up in the City, but suffer'd them in other places; this very citation is a manifest proof of that Queens ap­probation of Theatres and Dramatick Poems.

That Reader who can expect that I should make any serious answer to the following citations from the Bishop of Ar­ras's decree and the Dutch Gazette, de­serves to be laught at rather than satisfy'd. And I cannot imagine why these Ga­zettes should be cited in the same row with so many Philosophers, Councils [Page 101] and Fathers, unless Mr Collier would slily insinuate that they are of equal Authority. But 'tis high time to pro­ceed to the objections which may be brought from Reason and Religion.

CHAP. IV.
The Objections from Reason and Religion Answer'd.

I Now come to answer what may be objected from Reason and from Religion.

The objections against the Stage, from Reason are chiefly four. 1. That it encourages Pride. 2. That it encou­rages Revenge. 3. That it exposes Quality; and by doing so, brings a considerable part of the Government into Contempt.

4. That it exposes the Clergy, and by endangering Religion endangers Government. The two first are gene­ral, and the two last particular objecti­ons. I shall speak to them all suc­cinctly.

First, The Stage encourages Pride; a quality that indisposes men for obe­dience, [Page 103] and for the living peaceably. To which I answer, that if Ambition is meant by Pride, the Stage is so far from encouraging that, that it is the business of Tragedy to deter men from it, by shewing the great ones of the Earth humbled. On the other side, if Pride be made to signifie Vanity, and Affectation, the child of Vanity, 'tis the business of Comedy to expose those; which is sufficiently acknowledg'd by Mr Collier in the Introduction to his Book. But if by Pride is meant Pride well regulated, which Philosophers call Greatness of mind, and which men of the world call Honour, then I must con­fess that the Stage above all things en­courages that, and by encouraging it provides for the happiness of particu­lar men, and for the publick prospe­rity.

I must confess, if all men were per­fect Christ [...]ans, there would be no oc­casion for this Philosophical Virtue. But since that neither is, nor, if we credit the Scriptures, will be, and since this very Pride is the Virtue of those who are not Virtuous, and the Religi­on of those who are not Religious, I [Page 104] appeal to any sensible Reader, if it is not to this that he owes in some mea­sure his life, his fortune, and all his happiness. For it is this, which in a great measure makes his Servant just to him, his Friend faithful, and his Wife chaste.

'Tis this too from whence for the most part comes the security and orna­ment of States. The love of Glory goads on the conquering Souldier to his duty, excites the Philosopher, ani­mates the Historian, and inflames the Poet. So that, in short, from this very quality, the encouraging which Mr Col­lier's undistinguishing Pen condemns, proceed almost all the advantages that make private men happy, and States prosperous.

But Secondly, The Stage encourages Revenge, which is so destructive to the happiness of particular men, and to the publick Peace. To which I answer, First, that the Stage keeps a man from revenging little injuries, by raising his mind above them. Secondly, That if it does sometimes show its Characters revenging intolerable injuries, and con­sequently punishing enormous crimes, [Page 105] yet by doing that it deters men from committing such crimes, and conse­quently from giving the occasions of such Revenge: So that we may set the one against the other. Thirdly, That perhaps it equally concerns the peace of mankind, that men should decline the revenging little injuries which hap­pen every day, and should sometimes revenge intolerable ones, which very seldom happen. Cicero affirms in his Oration for Milo, that Milo had done a service to the Commonwealth by re­moving of Cloudius. From whence it appears, that that great Statesman thought that sometimes private Re­venges might be necessary for the pub­lick Safety. Servilius Ahala did service to the State by removing of Spurius Melius; and Scipio Nasica sav [...]d it from utter ruin by the Death of Tiberius Gracchus. Fourthly, That sort of Tra­gedy, in which the Characters are the best form'd and the incidents the best contriv'd to move Compassion and Terror, has either no Revenge, or by no menas that sort of Revenge which can encourage the Crime in others. If Mr Collier had known any thing of a [Page 106] Play, he would have been sensible of this. If any Reader wants to be con­vinc'd of it, I refer him to what I have cited from Aristotle's Poetick in the last Chapter of the Remarks on Prince Ar­thur. But,

Thirdly, The Stage exposes the No­bility, and so brings a part of the Go­vernment into contempt. This objection seems to Mr Collier, peculiar to the English Stage. For as for Moliere, says he, he pretends to fly his Satyr no higher than a Marquis. Good God! As if a Marquis were not above any condition of men that have been expos'd on the English Stage. This trick that our Poets have got of exposing quality, is a liberty, says Mr Collier, unpractis [...]d by the Latin Comedians: where, by Comedians, I suppose, he means Comick Poets. But it was very common with the Greeks, Aristophanes, Cratinus, Eu­polis, and all Writers of the old Co­medy, not only expos [...]d the chief of the Athenian Nobility, but mention'd their very names, and produc'd their very persons by the resemblance of the Vizors. In imitation of these, Lu­cilius the Inventor of Satyr, as Horace [Page 107] tells us, spar'd none of the Roman No­bility, if they deserv'd the lash, no, not even persons of Consular dignity. And yet as Boileau observes in his discourse upon Satyr, Scipio, and Lelius, did not think this man unworthy of their friendship, because he had expos'd some of the scandals to quality, and did not imagin that they in the least endanger'd their own Reputation, by abandoning all the Coxcombs of the Commonwealth to him. From whence 'tis apparent, that if the Roman Comick Poets did not bring the Nobility of Rome upon the Stage, it was for want of opportu­nity and not of good will. For how should they bring the Roman quality upon the Stage, when it is plain that they never laid their Scene in Rome, nor so much as in Italy. The Latin Comick Poets translated the Greeks; now the old and the middle Comedy they could not translate, because the old Comedy describing particular per­sons, and the middle one particular adventures, those Comedies must have lost most of their graces upon the The­atre of another Sta [...]e. The Latins then translated the new Comedy, in [Page 108] which indeed the Athenian Nobility was never expos'd, because it was im­practicable in that way of writing. For the Athenians had no Titles among them; because those people who were truly great knew that real greatness consisted in merit and virtue; but when that real greatness forsook the world, a titular greatness, the shadow of the other, was introduced to supply it; a meer invention to cajole people, and perswade them that they might be noble without Virtue. Now the Athe­nians having no Titles, I cannot con­ceive how the Athenian Nobility could be possibly expos'd by Menander, or any of the Writers of the new Comedy. For, to set the mark of Quality on any one of their Characters, there was either a necessity of mentioning his name, or describing his person, or his particular employment in the State; the doing which would have thrown them back upon the old or middle Comedy, which were both forbid by the Law. From all which it appears, that the Romans in this case are not against us, and the French are clearly on our sides. But to come to the reason of the thing, if a [Page 109] Lord may not be shewn a [...]ool upon the Stage, I would fain ask Mr Collier what Fools a Comick Poet may lawfully show there, and at what condition of men he▪ is oblig'd to stop. I would fain know whether a Poet may be allow'd to Dub his Dramatical Coxcombs? May he show a Fool a Knight Baronet, or a Knight Batchelour, or are they too included in Quality? Must he be oblig'd to go no further than Squire, and must Fool and Squire continue to be terms synonimous? If any of Mr Col­lier's acquaintance will give himself the diversion of asking him these questions, I dare engage that he will find him em­barass'd sufficiently.

But methinks neither the Lords nor we are oblig'd to Mr Collier for his ex­traordinary civility. For if a Lord is capable of committing extravagancies as well as another man, why should Mr Collier endeavour to perswade him that he is above it? or why should he hinder him from being reclaim'd? unless he would imply that a Commoner may be corrected when he grows extravagant, but that when a Lord grows fantastick he is altogether incorrigible. Nor are [Page 110] we oblig'd to Mr Collier any more than the Peers are? For since the bare ad­vantage of their conditions makes some of them already grow almost insuppor­table, why should any one endeavour to add to their vanity, by exempting them from common censure?

Besides, since follies ought to be ex­pos'd, the follies of the great are the fittest, as being most conspicuous and most contageous. The follies of the meaner sort are often the effects of ignorance, and merit compassion rather than contempt. Affected follies are the most despicable; now Affectation is the child of Vanity, and Vanity of Condi­tion.

But why should a Lord be free from Dramatical censure, when he can be corrected no where but upon the Stage? A Commoner may be corrected in company, but such friendly admonition to a Lord may be interpreted Scandal.

For our Comick Poets, I dare en­gage that no men respect our Nobility more than they do: They know very well that their titles illustrate their me­rit, and adorn their virtue; but that those whom they expose, are such [Page 111] whose Follies and whose Vices render their Titles ridiculous. And yet that they expose them no more than the rest of the Kings Subjects: For Folly as well as Vice is personal, and the Satyr of Comedy falls not upon the order of men, out of which the Ridiculous Cha­racters are taken, but upon the persons of all orders who are affected with the like follies.

For they know further what Mr Col­lier apparently never knew, that a Lord in effect in a Comedy signifies any man. For the Characters of Comedy are al­ways at bottom universal and allegori­cal: And the making Lords of their Comick Fools, can signifie no more than to admonish our men of Quality that they are concern'd in the instruction as well as others.

The fourth objection from Reason is, That the Stage exposes the Clergy, and so by endangering Religion endangers Government. But of this I shall speak in the following part of this Book, where I design to treat of Religion.

We now come to answer what is ob­jected from Religion, which is, That there is no need of the Stage to make [Page 112] people good Subjects; for that the Pul­pit teaches men their duty to their Prince, better than all the Philosophy and all the Poetry in the world. 'Tis indeed undeniable. But the validity of this objection depends upon two suppo­sitions; which are, that all the Subjects of the State go to Church, and that all attend when they are there. Whereas it is manifest that our Atheists and De­ists seldom go thither; and that our doubting, cold, and lukewarm Christi­ans seldom attend when they are there. But that the Stage, reduc'd to its pri­mitive purity, would be a means to send them thither, and the best of all hu­man preparatives for the Divine in­struction which they would find there, is designed to be shown in the remain­ing part of this Treatise.

The end of the second part.

THE USEFULNESS OF THE STAGE.
PART III.

CHAP. I.
That the Stage is useful to the Advancement of Reli­gion.

I Now come to shew that the Stage is useful to the advancement of Re­ligion. [Page 114] And, First, Of the Christian Religion in general. Secondly, Of the Christian Religion particularly, and more especially of the Reform'd Reli­gion.

Religion in general, or natural Reli­gion, may be consider'd as consisting of two parts; the things to be believed, and the things to be done.

First, The things to be believed, are 1. The being of a God. 2. Providence. 3. Immortality of the Soul. 4. Future Rewards and Punishments. The Poet, and particularly the Tragick Poet, as­serts all these, and these are the very foundations of his Art; for in the first place the Machines are the very life and soul of Poetry; now the Machines would be absurd and ridiculous with­out the belief of a God, and a parti­cular Providence. In the second place, let any man shew me where Terror is mov'd to a heighth, and I will shew him that that place requires the belief of a God and particular Providence. In the third place, Poetick Iustice would be a j [...]st if it were not an Image of the Divine, and if it did not consequently suppose the being of a God and Provi­dence. [Page 115] It supposes too the immortality of the Soul, and future rewards and pu­nishments. For the things which in perfect Tragedy bring men into fatal calamities are involuntary faults; that is, faults occasion'd by great passions. Now this upon a supposition of a fu­ture state, is very just and rea­sonable. For since passions in their excesses, are the causes of most of the disturbances that happen in the world, upon a supposition of a future state, nothing can be more just, than that the power which governs the world, should make sometimes very se­vere examples of those who indulge their passions; providence seems to re­quire this. But then to make invo­luntary faults capital, and to punish them with the last punishment, would not be so consistent with the goodness of God, unless there were a compensa­tion hereafter. For such a punishment would not only be too rigorous, but cruel and extravagant.

The second part of natural Religion contains the things which are to be done; which include, [Page 116]

  • 1. Our duty to God.
  • 2. Our duty to our Neighbour.
  • 3. Our duty to our selves.

And all these it is the business of Tragedy to [...]each; witness the practice of the Ancient Chorus, as it is compre­hended in the following verses of Horace▪

Ille bonis favet (que) & concilietur Amicis
Et regatirato, & amet peccare timentes:
Ille [...] Dapes laudet mensae brevis ille salubrem
Iustitiam, leges (que) & apertis otia portis:
Ille tegat commissa Deos (que) precetur & oret
Vt redeat miseris, abeat fortuna su­perbis.

From which it appears, that it was the business of Tragedy to exhort men to Piety and the worship of the Gods; to perswade them to Justice, to Humi­lity, and to Fidelity, and to incline them to moderation and temperance. And 'tis for the omission of one of these duties that the persons of the modern Tragedy are shewn unfortunate in their Catastrophes.

[Page 117] Thus Don Iohn is destroy'd for his libertinism and his impiety; Timon for his profusion and his intemperance; Macbeth for his lawless ambition and cruelty; Castalio for his falshood to his Brother and Friend; Iaffeir for his clandestine Marriage with the Daughter of his Benefactor; and Belvidera for her disobedience.

Thus we have shewn, by reason and by matter of fact, that it is the business of the Stage to advance Religion, and it is plain from History and from Expe­rience, that Religion ha flourish'd with the Stage; and that the Athenians and Romans who most encourag'd it, were the most religious people in the world. And, perhaps, if we would come down to our selves, it would be no difficult matter to shew, that they who frequent our Theatres, have a great deal more of natural Religion in them, than its declared inveterate Enemies, who are principally Fanaticks and Jesuits: for the Vices which are charg'd upon the friends of the Stage, are for the most part the effects of frailty, and meer human Vices; whereas the faults of its inveterate Enemies, are known to be [Page 118] diabolical crimes, destructive of Society, of Peace, and of human Happiness; such as falshood, slander, injustice, back-biting, perfidiousness, and irre­concileable hatred.

I now come to shew in the second place that the Stage is useful for the ad­vancing the Christian, and particularly the Reformed Religion. The Christian Religion has two parts, the Moral and the Mysterious. The Moral consists of Human and Christian Virtues: The Human Virtues are a part of Natural Religion, which, since the Stage ad­vances, as we have shewn above, it fol­lows that it partly advances Christianity. The Stage too in some measure may be made to recommend Humility, Pati­ence and Meekness to us, which are true Christian Virtues: And tho a Dramatick Poet neither can nor ought to teach the Mysteries of the Christian Religion, yet by recommending the Human and the Christian Virtues to the practice of our Audience, he admirably prepares men for the belief of the My­steries. For this is undeniable, that it is not Reason, but Passion and Vice that keeps any man from being a Christian. [Page 119] That therefore that moderates our Passions, and instructs us in our Duty, must consequently advance our Faith. So that the Stage is not only absolutely necessary for the instructing and hu­manizing those who are not Christians, but the best of all human things to pre­pare them for the sublimer Doctrines of the Church. Now that which inclines us to the Christian Religion will incline us to the purer sort of it, and that which has the least affinity with Idolatry, which is the Reform'd Religion. That which opens men's eyes as the Stage does, by purging our passions and instructing us in our duty; and that which raises their minds, will make them naturally averse from superstitious foppery, and from being slaves to Priestcraft, And that which exposes Hypocrisy, as the Stage does, must naturally make [...]en averse from Fanaticism and the affected austerity of Bigots. And therefore the Jesuits on one hand, and the Fanaticks on the other, have always been inve [...]erate Enemies to Plays. This is remarkable▪ that the Church and the Hierarchy, ever since the Reformation, have flourish'd with the Stage, were depos'd with it, and [Page 120] restor'd with it. Thus have I shewn that the Stage advances Religion, and more particularly the Christian Reform'd Religion. I come now to answer what may be objected from Reason and from Authority.

CHAP. II.
The Objections from Reason Answer'd.

THe objections from Reason are chiefly three. That the Stage makes its Characters sometimes talk prophane­l; that it encourages Pride, that it exposes Religion in the Priesthood. These are so easily answer'd, that I shall dispatch them in a few words, and come to the objections from Authority.

First, The Stage sometimes makes its Characters talk prophanely. To which I answer; That if the Character which speaks is well mark'd and the prophane­ness be necessary for the Fable and for [Page 121] the Action, then the prophaness is not unjustifiable: for to assert the contrary, would be to affirm, that is is unlawful for a Dramatick Poet to write against prophaneness, which is ridiculous. A Poet has no other way in the Drama of gi­ving an Audience an aversion for any Vice, than by exposing or punishing it in the persons of the Drama. And here I think my self obliged to reply to something that Mr Colller has asserted, in his Remarks upon Mr Dryden's King Arthur, which is, that they who bring Devils on the Stage, can hardly be­lieve them any whereelse. But why for Godsake? for a man of sense always reasons, but the Pedant asserts dogma­tically. Did Aeschilus in bringing the Furies upon the Stage of Athens, shew that he thought they were nothing but a poetical sham? Why should it be more irrelig [...]on in us to bring Devils on the Stage, that it was to bring Furies in him? Can any thing be more terrible, than the shewing of Devils, if they are shewn solemnly? And can any thing that moves Terror, do a disservice to Religion?

[Page 122] But, Secondly, The Stage encourages Pride. Indeed, I must confess, that even the best sort of Pride, which some call honour, and others greatness of mind, is not so very consistent with some of the Christian virtues. But then I do not affirm that the Stage can be at all useful for the instruction of those who are arrived at any more perfect state of Religion; but for those who are not, that is, for the generality of Man­kind, greatness of mind may be very ser­viceable, for the assisting them to com­mand their passions, and the restraining them from committing enormous crimes.

But, Thirdly, The Stage exposes Re­ligion by exposing the Priesthood. To which I answer, That to talk of ex­posing Religion is Cant; for to expose Religion is to expose Truth, which is absurd; because nothing can be ex­pos'd but that which is false. If the Stage really ridicul'd Religion, instead of ridiculing Hypocrisie, some people, whose Religion lies in their Muscles, would be more easily reconciled to it. For how many Books have been print­ed in English that have been levell'd di­rectly against Religion itself? For what [Page 123] reason then have none of those Zealots, who have declaim'd with so much fury against the Stage, writ any thing to dis­suade people from reading those Deisti­ [...]al and Atheistical Treatises? For what reason have they omitted this, unless because those Books only attack Religi­on, about which they never much trou­ble their heads; but the Poets attack them. The bringing a vicious or a ridi­culous Priest upon the Stage then cannot be interpreted the exposing Religion, but the ridiculing Hypocrisie. How­ever, this is very certain, that no Poet ought to shew a Priest in such a manner as to shew any disesteem of the Cha­racter. But I cannot for my life con­ceive why the bringing a foolish or a vicious Priest upon the Stage should be such an abominable thing.

For, since persons of all degrees, from Monarch to Peasant, are daily brought upon the Stage, why should the Clergy be exempted? The Clergy have been treated by our Comick Poets with a great deal more respect than the Laity: Because they have hardly spar'd any condition of the Laity, but none of the superiour Clergy have been ever [Page 124] expos'd in our Comedies; which is one sign of the good intention of the Poets, and that they only show the Follies and Vices of some, while they reverence the Piety and Learning of others, and the order in general.

And whereas Mr Collier affirms, that foreign States suffer no Priests to be ex­pos'd on the Comick Stage. To that we answer, That in Countries where the Church of Rome is establish'd they have some reason to use this niceness: For prudence requires that the Magistrate should always take care of the establish­ed Religion, and the established Religi­on in those Countries being almost all Priestcraft, to expose the Priests is there to expose Religion. Besides, in those places Priestcraft and Secular Policy have a nearer alliance, and a closer de­pendance on each other by much, than they have here: for the Priests are con­siderably assistant to the Magistrates in the enslaving the people, Besides, in Italy and Spain the Inquisition rages, and Priests will be sure to take care of themselves. As for France, tho they never had a Priest upon the Stage, yet they have a Poem which was writ on [Page 125] purpose to ridicule even the superiour Clergy. And by whom was it writ? By Monsieur Boileau, the most sober and most religious of all their Poets▪ Who advis'd it? Who commanded it? Monsieur De Lamoignon, illustrious for his profound Capacity, renown'd for his Learning, and fam'd for his Piety; who believ'd that the exposing that li­tigious humour that was crept into the Regular Clergy, might do important service to the Gallican Church. And why should our Magistrates make any exception against the exposing the faults of the Clergy here, where the Religion is so pure, that to touch a Priest is by no means to hurt the Religion.

And whereas Mr Collier says, that to affront a Priest is to affront the Deity; so it is to a affront a Peasant who is a good Christian; besides, affronts are always personal, but a Priest in a Play is a general Character; and the bring­ing an ill or a ridiculous one upon the Stage, rather proceeds from our vene­ration for Religion, than from any con­tempt of it.

And whereas Mr Collier takes a great deal of pains to prove that a Priest [Page 126] ought not to be contemn'd because he is a degree above a Gentleman; that defence methinks is not altogether so pertinent. For it is evident, that per­sons of degrees superiour to Gentlemen are every day expos'd on the Stage. And besides, the way for a Clergyman to secure himself from contempt, is not to boast of secular advantages which in him is truly ridiculous, but to shew his Meekness and his Humility, which are true Christian virtues.

Besides, the Characters in every Co­medy are always at the bottom univer­sal and allegorical, or else the instructi­on could not be universal. A ridicu­lous or vicious Priest in a Comedy, sig­nifies any man who has such follies or vices, and the Cassock is produc'd on purpose to signify to the Clergy, that they are partly concern'd in the in­struction, and have sometimes their vices and follies as well as the Laity.

The exposing upon the Stage a Priest, who is an ill, or a ridiculous person, can never make the order contempti­ble, for nothing can make the Priest­hood contemptible but Priests. He among them who writ the Grounds of [Page 127] the Coutempt of the Clergy, says nothing that I remember of the Stage; but he says a great deal of their own follies, and something too of their vices; now the exposing these follies and vices, would be a way to reclaim them, and so to preservè the esteem that they have in the world.

This is plain from experience: For the Inferiour Clergy is much more re­spected in England, than the Regular Clergy is either in France or Italy, where they are never expos'd on the Stage. And their lives are here less scandalous than they are abroad. They who have been at Marseilles, may inform Mr Collier, that it is there a very com­mon thing to see Priests, both Secular and Regular, who are slaves in the Gal­leys for the most detestable crimes

It appears to be full as necessary, to expose a Priest, who is an ill man, as one of the Laity, because his example is more contageous, and the salvation of so many Souls depend on it: whereas a Layman influences fewer. Besides, a Layman often offends thro want of consideration, because he does not re­flect, his worldly avocations diverting [Page 128] his thoughts from Religion; so that such a one may have returns of Con­science. But an ill Clergyman cannot pretend inconsiderateness, for it is his daily business to reflect on his Duty; and consequently such a one must be a downright Atheist; and an Atheist sin­ning on this side the Law, has nothing to restrain him but the apprehension of infamy, and the fear of becoming con­temptible.

Besides, a Layman who transgresses, has his Rector or his Curate to remind him of his duty. Shall a Clergyman who is an ill liver go on without admo­nition. Is that for his advantage, or the benefit of his flock, or the good of the publick.

We own indeed that it is our duty to be instructed by them, yet ought they sometimes to take their turn, and be subject to our remonstrances: As the Roman Consuls, if we may have leave to make such a comparison, were accountable to the Tribunes of the peo­ple, by the policy of that constitution. Thus I have answer'd what may be ob­jected from Reason against the Stage in general, and what Mr Collier has ob­jected [Page 129] against the English Stage in par­ticular, I mean as much as was fit to be answer'd. For there is no defending the Immodesty, or Immorality of, or unnecessary Prophaneness of some of our Plays. Let us now come to the ob­jections which Mr Collier has brought from Authority.

CHAP. III.
The Objections from Authority Answer'd.

THe objections from Authority are of two sorts, Councils and Fa­thers. But now let me ask Mr Collier this question, Were these persons in­spir'd or no? That is, did the Spirit of God dictate whatever they writ to em? If he says it did, I have nothing to say to such a man, but abandon him to Ecclesiastical censure▪ If he says it did not, why then I must tell him, that we [Page 130] live in an age in which there are per­sons that are too judicious, and too ge­nerous to forego their reasons for meer Human Authority. An age in which we account it not only an absurdity, but a sin to believe in any thing under Heaven; as well knowing that Reason is the top of all human things; and tho not so sacred as Revelation, is in some measure Divine. For Reason is given us by God for our guide, where we have no Revelation to contradict it. And both Human Authority and Reve­lation hold and depend on Reason. We always assent to Revelations divine Authority, because Reason assures us, that we always ought to assent to it: And we sometimes refuse to acknow­ledge human Authority, because we are convinc'd by Reason that we ought not to submit to it.

For the Councils he has cited, I must tell him, that we are not oblig'd to ac­knowledge any of those Councils Infal­lible; but refuse to be determin'd by their decrees, unless they are confirm'd by Reason or Revelation.

Now I desire to know of Mr Collier whether he himself pays the last defe­rence [Page 131] to those Councils or no? If he answers, that he owns their Authority, how durst he appear to have read so many Plays as he has cited thro out this Book, when the Decrees of these Councils even in this very case appear from his own citations so much stronger against the Clergy than they do against the Laity? But if he answers, that he dis­owns their Authority, with what pro­digious assurance can he offer to impose it on us that while he takes his own sa­tisfaction he may laugh àt our credulity?

But to come to the Fathers, they had their reasons for crying out against the Stage, which cannot so much as be pre­tended to be reason▪ to us. They had chiefly five, and those five reasons will serve to answer whatever has been ci­ted by Mr Collier in his long Ecclesiasti­cal scrowl.

First, Plays in their time were a part of the Pagan worship; and that in the beginning of Christianity was alone a suffi­cient motive to oblige the Fathers to for­bid those diversions to the new Christians, several of which may be very well sup­pos'd to be not yet confirm'd in the Faith.

[Page 132] The Second reason why the Fathers forbad the first Christians Plays, was be­cause the Combats of the Gladiators were mingled with those diversions, and something which was full as barbarous.

Media inter Carmina pof [...]unt
Aut ursum aut Pugiles.
Hor ep. 1. l. 1.

The Third was the gesticulations of the Pantomimes, which indeed were un­sufferably lewd, and unfit to be seen not only by Christians, but by any civil people.

Let any one but consult what Mr Col­lier has cited from the Fathers, and he will find that these were three of the main reasons which prevail'd upon the Fathers to forbid the Christians the di­versions of the Theatre.

'Tis not lawful (says Theophilus, whom he cites first) for us to be present at the Prizes of your Gladiators, lest by this means we should be accessary to the Mur­thers there committed. Neither dare we presume upon the Liberties of your other shews, lest our sences should be touched and disobliged with indecency and prophaneness.

And Tertullian, whom he cites next, says in his Apologetick, We keep off from your publick shews, becáuse we can't un­derstand [Page 133] the warrant of their original.

But there are two reasons behind; the first of which was drawn from the purity of the primitive times. Which makes Tertullian, as Mr Collier has cited him, cry out, page 354. But if you can't wait for delight, if you must be put into present possession, &c. By which Tertullian seems to allow, that diversions indeed are necessary, but that Christi­ans will find abundant entertainment in the very exercise of their Religion. This, I must confess, was very well di­rected by Tertullian. But if Cato was formerly laugh'd at, for speaking in the Senate as if he had liv'd in Plato's Re­publick, whereas he was really in the ve­ry dregs of that of Romulus, how shall this upstart Reformer escape contempt, who has apply'd to this profligate Age, what Tertullian directed to those fervent Christians, whose Souls were flaming with divine love in the purity of hap­pier times.

Thus have I examin'd four of the five reasons, not one of which can be a rea­son to us. For, neither is our Drama a part of Idolatrous worship, nor have we either Gladiators or Pantomimes; nor [Page 134] the people of this age be satisfy'd to be always entertain'd with the Scripture, but require other diversions.

But the fifth reason is yet to come; by which it will appear, that these vene­rable Gentlemen are by no means quali­fied to judge of a cause, of which it ap­pears even from Mr Collier's citations, that they have not the least knowledge.

For, says the Bishop of Antioch, whom he cites first. The Tragical distractions of Tereus and Thyestes are nonsense to us. Now could any man possibly talk thus, who had the least knowledge of the nature of Tragedy, and particularly of that Tragedy? It was below that Prelate to consider Horace, for he would have told him,

Irae Thyesten exitio gravi
Stravere, & eltis urbibus ultimae
Stetere causae, cur perirent
Funditus, Imprimerit (que) muris
Hostile aratrum exercitus Insolens.
Compesce mentem.

Is the Moral which the Poet draws from this Fable nonsense to us? Is it impertinence in a Poet to tell us, that we ought to restrain our anger, because the indulging it has often brought [Page 135] men into fatal calamities? For had this Prelate understood this affair, what could he have possibly dislik'd here? The Moral or the Fable? The Moral? That methinks should be hardly be­coming of a professor of that Religion, which is therefore extoll'd above all others, because it is more Moral. Was it the Fable then which offended him, or the manner of conveying the In­struction? Methinks it is something odd in a Christian Prelate to condemn that method of Teaching which was chiefly practis'd by his great Master, whom he professes to imitate.

But now to come to the Author De Spectacul is: What need I mention, says he, the Levities and Impertinence in Co­medies, or the Ranting Distractions of Tragedy? Were th [...]se things unconcern'd with Idolatry, Christians ought not to be at them. For, w [...]re they not high­ly criminal, the foolery of them is egre­gious, and unbecoming the gravity of Believers.

Now let me ask Mr Collier, whether it be lawful for Christians to read Histo­ry? It would certainly be the absurd­est thing in the world to deny it. Now [Page 136] Aristotle has declar'd very formally that Tragedy is more grave and more in­structive than History. And tho when the question is concerning Grace, I will believe the least of the Fathers before Aristotle, and all his Interpreters the Schoolmen together; yet where the dispute is concerning the nature of Writing, and the colours of Speech, I will believe Aristotle's single testimony, before all the Fathers and Councils joyn'd in a body.

Tho Plays are forbidden by the Fa­thers and Councils, yet the Fathers own, and Mr Collier owns, that they are not forbidden by Scripture: Nor are they forbidden by Reason. For who are they who frequent them? Who are they that approve of them? Who are they that have not the least scruple about them? Not a parcel of fools that are carry'd away by meer imagination, and are only fit for Bed­lam; but the best and most reasonable part of the Nation, and particularly a thousand whom I could name that are considerable for their extraordinary qualities. Now I cannot for my life apprehend upon what account any [Page 137] thing that is not forbidden by God; that is neither prohibited by Reason nor Revelation, should be forbidden by men. We know what our Saviour has said in St Matthew of those who teach for Doctrines the Commandments of men, c. 15. v. 9. That it renders all their zeal ineffectual. But then, says Tertul­lian, as he is cited by Mr Collier, p. 245. The Play-house is implicitly, tho not ex­pressly forbid by the Scripture, in the first verse of the first Psalm: Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ingodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scorner. But then say we, that nothing can be for­bid by this, but what the Scripture or Reason have declar'd to be the counsel of the ungodly, and the way of sinners. Now, as we have manifestly shown above, neither Reason nor Revelation says that of the Theatre. And as for the seat of the scorner, that part of the Text can only be applicable to Co­medy, and is full as applicable to the Press, and sometimes to the Pulpit itself.

In the next place, says the Author De Spectaculis, as he is cited by Mr Col­lier, [Page 138] p. [...]62. Some have thought the Play-house no unlawful diversion, be­cause it was not condemn'd by express Scripture. Let meer modesty, says he, supply the Holy Text, and let Nature govern, where Revelation does not reach. Some things are too black to lye upon Paper, and are more strongly forbidden because unmentioned. The divine wisdom must have had a low opinion of Christians, if it had descend­ed to particulars in this case. Silence is sometimes the best method of Authori­ty. To forbid often puts people in mind of what they should not do. Thus, say Tertullian, says Mr Collier. But for my part, I both hope and believe that he wrongs him. For it is incredible to me, that a Father of the Church should reason, in so absurd a manner. For the chief reason why Tertullian affirms that the frequenting of Plays is not forbid by Scripture, is because the crime is too black to be particularly insisted on. As if St Paul in the first Chapter of the Romans had not descended to particu­lar crimes of a blacker nature than this. Can we suppose that Scripture, which is a revelation of the will of God, and [Page 139] a supplement to the law of Nature, should descend to condemn things which Reason had before condemn'd as abominable, and utterly against Nature [...] and shall it take no notice of things which are allow [...]d by Reason, and the Law of Nature (as we have shewn that the Theatre is) and which consequently cannot be discover'd to be sins but by the light of Revelations? Could St Paul in the 5th Chap. to the I Ep. to the Co [...] rinthians be so particular as to descend to a crime, which, when the Apostle writ the Epistle, concern'd but only one, who had married his Father's Wife, and which could never be suppos'd to concern very many, because the crime was against the custom and consent of Nations: Could the Apostle of the Gentiles I say descend to this, and think it too particular to mention a sin which concern'd the salvation of so many thousands who were then alive, and of so many millions who were to succeed them? Nay, could St Paul, in the 7th of the 1st Ep. to the Cor. descend so particularly, as to give his advice against Marriage, which was neither forbid by Revelation nor Reason, but [Page 140] was highly warranted by both, as ab­solutely necessary for the propagation of Christianity, and the accomplishment of the promises? Could the Apostle, I say, descend to this, and take no no­tice of a sin of so black and damnable a nature as frequenting the Theatres is by Mr Collier pretended to be? A sin too which endanger'd the salvation not only of the Christians to whom he writ, but those who were to succeed them in all posterity? But, says Tertul­lian, the Apostle had no occasion ex­pressly to condemn what is condemn'd by Reason. But that which was a rea­son in Tertullian's time does not subsist in ours, as we have plainly shewn above. But if any one at last shall urge, that the acting of Plays was condemn'd by express Scripture, because it was a part of the Pagan worship, and Idolatry was expressly condemn'd; to this I answer, That nothing can make more for my cause than this: For since the Spirit of God condemn'd the representation of Plays only as they were included under Idolatry, you must either shew that the Spirit of God did not foresee that in process of time they would cease to be [Page 141] Idolatrous, which to affirm is horrible Blasphemy; or you must acknowledge, that by condemning them only under the general term of Idolatry, he ap­prov'd them, and allow'd of them, as soon as they should be no longer Idola­trous; or else you must be forc'd to acknowledge that the word of God is defective, and does not contain all things which are necessary to the salva­tion of his people. Besides, it may be manifestly prov'd from St Paul, that the Idolatry of them extended no far­ther than to the representation of them, which representation was render'd Ido­latrous, only by the direction and in­tention of the Magistrates and Publick, at whose expence they were represent­ed; for St Paul has sufficiently warrant­ed the writing them, and conse­quently the reading of them, by citing a verse of a Comick Poet in the first Epistle to the Corinthians ch. 15. v. 33. for if those writings had been in them­selves Idolatrous, St Paul durst neither have read them while a Jew, nor cited them while a Christian, Idolatry both to Jew and Christian being alike abo­minable. But it is evident that he has [Page 142] cited them; for it is known to all the world, that evil communication cor­rupts good manners, is a verse of Menan­der, and the Corinthians particularly could not be ignorant of it. Since then the Spirit of God thought fit to put the verse of a Comick Poet into the mouth of his greatest Apostle, as very fit for the instruction of his people, and the reformation of mankind; and since the same Spirit has said not a Syllable to condemn either Plays or Theatres, any farther than as they are included under Idolatry, it seems to be very plain to me, that he has not only approved, but recommended Plays to his people, when they are not corrupt and idolatrous. For the Corinthians saw plainly that St Paul had read Menander, they were convinc'd that he had cited him for their instruction, and consequently that he approv'd of him: since then they were satisfied that the Apostle read him, why might not they do the like, when St Paul had not said so much as a word to discourage 'em. Now if the reading him could be allowable, why should not the seeing him be equally lawful, when the representation should cease to be corrupt and idolatrous?

[Page 143] And therefore St Thomas, and the rest of the School-men, who liv'd when Dramatical representations were no longer Idolatrous, have loudly declared them lawful; and they are at this very day encouraged in Countries, where they are mortally severe against any thing that offends Religion, and where the cruelty of the Inquisition is most outrageous. Thus have I endeavour'd to shew, that Plays are instrumental to human happiness, to the welfare of Go­vernment, and the advancement of Pi­ety; that Arts and Empire have flou­rish'd with the Stage, which has been always encouraged by the best of Men, and by the bravest Nations. After which I hope the Enemies of Plays will be reconciled to our Theatres, and not by persisting in their aversion, affect to seem more wise than the Athenians, more austere than the Romans, more nice than the School-men, more cruel than Inquisitors, and more zealous than the Apostle of the Gentiles.

FINIS.

ERRATA.

PAge 6. for that is r. it is, p. 9. f. these passions r. the passions, Ib. f. in these a full r. in a full, p. 24. f. eve [...] these r. even in these, p. 32. f. action r. citation, p. 38. f. who liv'd r. who was born p. 44. f. Stager. State, p. 54. f. seeing r. saying, p. 65. f. not by r. not only by, p. 70. f. these opinions r. the opinions, p. 77. f. verum r. rerum, p. 78. f. them r. it, p. 80. after especially r. Treaties of a State.

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