« AnteriorContinuar »
This Addison “' has justly condemned, as the most exceptionable passage in the whole poem. Having now concluded my observations on the Plot, Characters, Sentiments, and Language of the Ion, it remains only to mention in this Efsay, according to my propofed plan, those plays composed on the same subject for the Græcian, Roman, or Modern European Theatres. “The subjects for Tragedies, says Aristotle 42, are not numerous; for the Poets deriving them not from Art, but from Fortune, discovered fuch events, as were adapted to their fables; and therefore they are obliged to have recourse to those families, in which such events happened.". Here Dacier 43 remarks,that all the dramatick pieces of the poets were either drawn from hiftory or Græcian fables ; which proves that Euripides did not invent the subject of his Iphigenia in Tauris, nor that of his Helena, and Ion ; for Aristotle would not then have failed to have complimented the Poet in this respect:" Though this observation is true in general, yet the inference is rather hazarded; for it does not appear, that Euripidez actually borrowed the whole Plot of the Ion from any historical record now extant, or from any Dramatick Predeceffor: We may collect however from Hesychius 44 and Stobæus 45, that his Contemporary Sophocles also composed a play on this title ; and Athenæus 4* 41 Spect. No 279.
42 Où miei mod yarn ås Tpayudiar siol. Smloūsles gåg oor & Torixons, árak από τύχης, εύρον το τοιέτος παρασκευάζειν εν τούς μύθους αναγκάζονται εν επι saúras tag oírízs & Taviar, coang và Tobaūta Gupbólnxe má n. (De Poet. C. 14)
43 Toutes leurs pieces étoient tirées, ou de l'Histoire ou des Fables Grecques, ce qui prouve qu' Euripide n'avoit pas inventé le sujet de son Iphigenie Taurique ni celui de fon Helene & de fon Ion, car Ariftote n'aurošt pes manqué d'en faire honneur à ce Poete. (Rem. 27. sur le chap. 15. de Poet. d'Arist. p. 239. ed. 1692.) .
44 Vox gepoetst. 45 Serm. 52 & 101. See alfo Meurfius Sophoc. p. 58. 40 L IQ. C. 4. P. 417.
inentions two lines of a comedy of Eubulus of the name of Ton; but this I apprehend had no correspondence with the subject of the Tragedians. Scriverius in his 41 Collectanea Veterum Tragicorum has inserted four lines, as belonging to the Ion of Accius; but it seems to me very dubious, whether he is not mistaken in the title ; for the second of these four lines occurs in Macrobius 48, where it is referred to the Minotaur of Accius: I have not been able to discover, that any other Roman Dramatick Author adopted this subject: Nor is there any complete tragedy on the French stage, which can properly be said to be derived from this lon of Euripides : The character of Joas in the Athalie of Racine has before been mentioned “', as bearing a strong resemblance to the royal Foundling of Athens: Both are Princes of the last surviving branch of the most illustrious families; the one of Judah, and the other of Erechtheus: Both in their infancy were rescued from death by a Priestess, the one by the Delphick Pythia, the other by the Jewish Jehosheba So: Both received their religious education in the vicinity of the temple, and were employed in their attendance on the sacred ceremonies : Both åt last discovered their original parentage; and both were elevated to the dignity 5s of their respective Ancestors: But the Ion of Euripides, in point of dramatick composition, is as far. superior to the Joas of Racine, as the Athalie of the latter to the Creusa of the former: Since the principal characters differ, they cannot be compared together, and one play is the chef d'oeuvre of the French Stage, while the other
47 P. 122. ed. 1620.
48 Saturn. 1. 6. c. 5. . 49 See page 227.
50 Kings, b. 2. c. 11. V. 2 & 3. Chron. b. 2. c. 22. V. II & 12. ss But fon never actually mounted the throne of Attica, as proved in my Note on (V. 1572.)
is far from claiming the point of perfection among the Greeks, On the Italian Theatre Apostolo Zeno 52 has written aŋ opera of Gioas, consisting of two parts; and Metastasio has also composed another opera of this title of Gioas, Rè di Giuda ; in which Sebia the Mother of the young Prince is introduced, and an interesting scene passes between the Pa. rent and the Son, when unknown to each other, as in Euripides 5. But there is an English Tragedy, expressly written on the foundation of the lon of Euripides, by Mr. White, head the present Poet Laureat: This was first acted in the year 1754, and is intitled Creusa, Queen of Athens : The Modern Poet has been forced to alter the story, and to arrange the plot very differently from the original : In order to comply with the delicacy of manners in this refined æra, which would scarcely admit the character of a violated Prin cess, he has introduced Nicander the first husband of his Heroine: To avoid the resentment of her father Erechtheus he flies with her infant child to Delphi ; and there, assuming the name of Aletes, he educates the young lon under the title of Ilyfsus: But having dropped in his passage a bloody garment to circulate the report of his own murder, Creusa, concluding him dead, marries Xuthus, and not having chil: dren by him comes to consult the Oracle: Here the story proceeds with little variation from the original ; for Ilyffus being declared by the Pythia at the suggestion of Aletes heir to the crown of Athens, Creu fa is persuaded by an old Athenian Phorbas to poison him at the banquet : Be. fore this event can take place, Aletes discovers himself to Creusa, as Nicander, and also informs her, that llyfsus is
$? (Poesie façre Drammat. Ed. Venez. 1735. p. 191.) $3 See N° 21. p. 119,
Ion: Upon this intelligence the flies immediately to rescue him; and having obtained the oath of Xuthus, that Ilyflus should be king of Athens, she swallows herself the poison, conceiving death the only refuge in her situation : Aletes, rushing to the rescue of Xuthus and Ilyfsus, attempted to be killed by Phorbas, is mortally wounded and dies on the stage. Such is the outline of the English Play, which has refined with judgement in some parts on the original, and in others departed from it at the expense of dramatick effect: The interest, which Creusa, struck with the features of the young Ilyfsus, at first feels, is well imagined, and the animated Character of the patriotick Phorbas is far beyond that cold Affaffin the Tutor: But the fine accidental discovery of the Son by his Mother in the Græcian Poet is sunk into the voluntary declaration of the Husband in our English Author: And where is the meditated revenge of Ion, the flight of Creusa to the altar, and her abrupt departure from it? Instead of them, the unnatural poison of the Queen by herself and the tragical death of the innocent Nicander, killed by an accidental engagement, which the Spectator only knows by narration, are substituted : It must be confeffed however, that the catastrophe was very difficult to be managed, occafioned by the circumstance of introducing the character of the first wedded partner of Creusa; for how could this Lady, in the fingular predicament of beholding two living husbands at once, be fuffered on the stage without dying to save her decoruin? But Aletes, her first lover, falls by a poetical facrifice, lest the catastrophe should be too tragical, if Creusa, who had two husbands when living, should not have the consolation
of one to accompany her to the regions of the dead ; 'De IpocryinwTepov fieret Philumenam spretain relinquere fine fponso 54. Notwithstanding these blemishes the Play abounds with many natural sentiments and an elegant flow of language, which will amply recompense the Reader for the pleasure of the perusal, though the Spectator would require something more natural in its representation.
.54 These are the words of Donatus on Terence, where he observes, that the Roman Poet added the Character of Charinus in the Andria, which was not in the original of Menander. (A. 2. f. 1. p. 38. ed. 1536.)