Galvanism or electricity are consequent on a particular natural or artificial arrangement of the materials which elicit or convey them.
These remarks are more especially applicable to the fate of the drama in our country: the writer of them knows well and values highly the advantage resulting from a comparative study of ancient and modern foreign writers. He is ready to admit that the Epic and many varieties of Lyric poetry are subject to extraneous laws, for such is their extraction, but it is very easy to prove that the ballad and its varieties, and the play in its national form (i.e. that of Shakspeare) are aboriginal productions of the modern nations; and moreover, that the latter has not only a different origin from the drama of the Greeks, but even one diametrically opposite to that. They were both religious festivities, the Grecian consisting in its rudest state of the simple hymn to Bacchus, and in the modern the pantomimical exhibition of some event in Sacred history. Such was the nucleus of each genus of dramatic composition, and the difference in the form of each depended upon this. The Grecian theatre had an altar for its centre — round this was chaunted the hymn to Bacchus or another Deity, interrupted and exemplified by the solemn representation of some legend of the gods or demigods. The stature of the actors, their features, their voices and the feelings they had to express, were other than human. On the other hand, the dumb show of the lay brothers at Easter and other Church feasts gradually adopted words, but these were used only to express the passions, or explain the situations in which the persons were to appear involved: further than this no aid was sought from the art of eloquence: and the stage thus founded has ever retained the features of its infancy: ’tis active, impatient of any but impassioned poetry, full of pomp and show, and appealing wherever it is possible, to the evidence of the external senses. In short to use the words of Bilderdijk1 to whose learning and
1 […]* The whole of this essay is eminently worthy of attention, as indeed are almost all of the numerous works of this extraordinary poet of Holland; excepting I am afraid the tragedies which precede this very excellent critical and historical disquisition. The English reader will, however, hardly be of the same opinion with him in regard to the merits of Shakspeare and Schiller, and the poetry of the two nations which these two great men may be fairly considered to represent. Pity indeed, that a man so singularly learned and able should be so bigoted and sectarian in literature.
Besides Bilderdijk, and A.W. Schlegel, many observations of the highest value on these points may be found scattered in various writings of Tieck, whose promised work on Shakspeare every admirer of that poet must most earnestly desire.