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It is a common error, in the plan of Corneille's tragedies, that the interest of the piece turns upon some unknown person, generally a haughty princess ; so that instead of the representation of an important event, and the characters of illustrious persons, the business of the drama is the love-intrigue of a termagant Lady, who, if she is a Roman, insults the Barbarians, if she is a Barbarian, braves the Romans, and even to her Lover is infolent and fierce. Were such a person to be produced on our theatre, she would be taken for a mad Poetess escaped from her keepers in Bedlam, who, fancying herself a Queen, was ranting, and delivering her mandates in rhyme upon the stage. All the excuse that can be made for Corneille in such representations is, that characters like these, dignified indeed with nobler fentiments, were admired in the Romances, where the manners of chivalry are exaggerated. By the institutions of chivalry, every valiant knight professed a peculiar
devotion to the fair sex, in whose cause, as the Champion of the defenceless, and Protector of the oppressed, he was always ready to take arms. A lady's interest being often the object, and sometimes her person the prize of a combat, she was supposed to infpire his courage ; and, as he was to be not less distinguished for Politeness than Valour, he affected an air of submissive obedience, while she, by the courtesy of Knighthood, was allowed to assume a stile of superiority and command. To carry these manners into ancient Greece and Rome, and weave them into a conspiracy there, betrays want of judgment. This drama is carried on in the strain of Romance. The lady enjoins her Lover to kill Augustus ; that adventure atchieved, he is to hope for her hand'; his glory is to be derived from her acknowledging him worthy of it; she is continually exhorting him to deserve the honour of being beloved by her. The fate of Augustus, of the Roman empire, all the duties of the citizen and the friend, are to depend on her
decision. She says to Auguftus, when he has discovered the confpiracy, as a sufficient vindication of her lover,
Oui, tout ce qu'il a fait, il l'a fait pour me plaire, : Et j'en etois, seigneur, la cause et le salaire. The author certainly intended to recommend Cinna to his spectators merely as a loyal lover, according to the phrase of romance : in every other light he
other light he appears contemptible, and indeed suffers himself to be used with the greatest contempt and indignity. As Shakespear laboured to Thew that the motives of Brutus were untinctured by any bad passion ; every movement in the mind of Cinna has on the contrary the character of baseness, and whether he conspires or whether he
repents of it, he is still, as he acknowledges himself to be,
Un esprit malheureux, Qui ne forme qu'en lache un dessein genéreux.
From this unhappy Wretch, who basely conceives a generous design, let us turn to Brutus. There we shall see the different
judgment and genius of the artists. Brutus and Cinna are drawn in the same situation, conspiring against the foremost man of all this world: in the one we have the features and complexion of a Villain, in the other the high-finished form of a noble Patriot.