Note 1, page 18. — Even Aristotle comprehended most thoroughly this first part of the poet’s work, the fashioning and developing of the poetic idea. If, in comparison with history, he makes poetry the more significant and philosophical, because poetry represents what is common to all men, while history gives an account of the incidental, or special detail; and because history presents what has happened, while poetry shows how it could have happened, — yet we moderns, impressed with the weight and grandeur of historical ideas, must reject his comparative estimate of the two fundamentally different kinds of composition; we shall, however, concede the fine distinction in his definition. He indicates, in a sentence immediately following this and often misunderstood, the process of idealization. He says, IX., 4: “That which in poetry is common to humanity, is produced in this way, — the speeches and actions of the characters are made to appear probable and necessary; and that which is humanly universal poetry works out from the raw material and then gives to the characters appropriate names,” — whether using those already at hand in the raw material or inventing new ones. (Buckley’s translation is as follows: But universal consists indeed in relating or performing certain things which happen to a man of a certain description, either probably or necessarily, to which the aim of poetry is directed in giving names.) Aristotle was of the opinion, too, that a poet would do well at the beginning of his work to place before himself the material which had attracted him, in a formula stripped of all incidentals, or non-essentials; and he develops this idea more fully in another place, XVII., 6,7: “The Iphigenia and the Orestes of the drama are not at all the same as those in the material which came to the poet. For the poet who composed the play it is almost an accident that they bear these names. Only when the poet has raised his actions and his characters above the incidental, the real, that which has actually happened, and in place of this has put a meaning, a significance which will be generally received, which appears to us probable and necessary, — only then is he again to make use of color and tone, names and circumstances, from the raw material.” Therefore it is also possible that dramas which have been taken from very different realms of material, express, fundamentally, the same meaning, or, as we put it, represent the same poetical idea. This is the thought in the passages cited.
Note 2, page 22. — The few technical terms used in this book must be received by the reader without prejudice and without confusion. In their common use for the last century several of them have passed through many changes of meaning. What is here called action, the material already arranged for the drama (in Aristotle, myth; in the Latin writers, fable), Lessing sometimes still calls fable, while the raw material, the praxis or the pragma of Aristotle he calls action. But Lessing also sometimes uses the word action more correctly, giving it the meaning which it has here.
Note 3, page 28. — As is well known, unity of place is not demanded by Aristotle; and concerning the uninterrupted continuity of time he says only that tragedy should try as far as possible to limit its action to one course of the sun. Among the Greeks, as may be shown, it was only Sophocles and his school who, in the practice of their art, adhered to what we call the unity of place and of time. And with good reason. The rapid, condensed action of Sophocles, with its regular structure, needed so very short a part of the story or tradition that the events underlying it could frequently occur in the same brief space of a few hours which the representation on the stage required. If Sophocles avoided such a change of scene, as, for example, occurs in Æsehylus’s Eumenides, he had a peculiar reason. We know that he thought much of scenic decoration; he had introduced a more artistic decoration of the background; and for his theatrical day he positively needed for the four pieces four great curtains, which with the gigantic proportions of the scene at the Acropolis occasioned an immense outlay. A change of the entire background during the representation was not allowable; and the mere transposition of the periakte, if these had been introduced at all in the time of Sophocles, would be to the taste of an ancient stage director as imperfect an arrangement as the change of side curtains, without the change of background, would be to us. It may not be so well known that Shakespeare, who treats time and space with so much freedom, because the fixed architecture of his stage spared him from indicating, or made it easy for him to indicate the change of scenes, presented his pieces on a stage which was the unornamented successor of the Attic proscenium. This proscenium had been gradually transformed by slight changes into the Roman theater, the mystery-platform of the middle ages, and the scaffold of Hans Sachs. On the other hand, the same classical period of the French theater, which so rigidly and anxiously sought to revive the Greek traditions, has bequeathed us the deep, camera-like structure of our stage, which had its origin in the needs of the ballet and the opera.
Note 4, page 31. — The details of the novel, and what Shakespeare changed in it, may be here passed over.
Note 5, page 46. — It is a poor expedient of our stage directors to neutralize or render harmless the weakest of these groups, the Attinghausen family, by cutting their roles as much as possible, and then depreciating them still more by committing them to weak actors. The injury is by this means all the more striking. This play of Schiller’s should either be so presented as to produce most completely the effects intended by the author, in which case the three barren roles, Freiherr, Rudenz, Bertha, must be endowed with sufficient force, — our actors can thus express their gratitude to the poet who has done so much for them; or else, the Tell action only should be presented as it may be most easily made effective on our stage, and the three roles should be entirely stricken out, — a thing that is possible with very slight changes.
Note 6, page 47. — Even in the time of the Greeks the word, episode, had a little history. In the earliest period of the drama it denoted the transition from one choral song to the following: then, after the introduction of actors, first, the short speeches, messenger-scenes, dialogues, and so forth, which comprised the transitions and motives for the new moods of the chorus. After the extension of these recited parts the word remained, in the developed drama, as an old designation of any part of the drama which stood between two choral songs. In this meaning it nearly corresponds to our act, or more accurately, to our elaborated scene. In the workshop of the Greek poet it became a designation of that part of the action which the poet with free invention inserted as a richer furnishing, as a means of animating his old mythological material; for instance, in Antigone, that scene between Antigone, Ismene, and Creon,in which the innocent Ismene declares herself an accomplice of her sister. In this signification, an episode might fill the entire interval between two choral songs; but as a rule it was shorter. Its places were generally in the rising action, only occasionally in the return action — our second, and fourth act. Because with this meaning it denoted little portions of the action, which might indeed have originated in the most vital necessities of the drama, but which were not indispensable for the connection of the events; and because since Euripides, poets have sought more and more frequently for effect-scenes which stood in very loose connection with the idea and the action, — there came to be attached to the word this secondary meaning of an unmotived and arbitrary insertion. In The Poetics the word is used in all of the three meanings: in XII., 5, it is a stage-manager’s term ; in XVII., 8-10, it is a technical expression of the poet; in X., 3, it has its secondary significance.
Note 7, page 72. — The structure of the drama is disturbed by this irregularity in the ordering of the action, which appears like a relapse into the old customs of the English popular theater. The action offered in the material and the idea was as follows: Act I. Antony at Cleopatra’s, and his separation from her. Act II. Reconciliation with Caesar, and restoration to power. Act III. Return to the Egyptian woman, with climax. Act IV. Sacrifice of principle, flight, and last struggle. Act V. Catastrophe of Antony and of Cleopatra. But the deviation of Shakespeare’s play from the regular structure is for a more profound reason. The inner life of the debauched Antony possessed no great wealth, and in its new infatuation offered the poet little that was attractive. But his darling dramatic figure, Cleopatra, in the development of which he had evinced his consummate, masterly art, was not a character adapted to great dramatic emotion and excitement; the various scenes in which she appears full of passionate demeanor without passion, resemble brilliant variations of the same theme. In her relations with Antony she is portrayed just often enough and from the most diverse points of view to present a rich picture of the vixenish coquette. The return of Antony gave the poet no new task with respect to her. On the other hand, the exaltation of this character in a desperate situation, under the fear of death, was a fascinating subject for him, and to a certain extent rightly so; for herein was an opportunity for a most peculiar, gradual intensification. Shakespeare, then, sacrificed to these scenes a part of the action. He threw together the climax and the return action, indicating them in little scenes, and accorded to the catastrophe two acts. For the aggregate effect of the play, this is a disadvantage. We are indebted to him, however, for the scene of Cleopatra’s death in the monument, — of all that is extraordinary in Shakespeare, perhaps the most astonishing. That the accessory persons, Octavianus and his sister, just at the summit of the action, were more important to the poet than his chief person, is perhaps due to the fact that to the poet in advanced life, any single person with his joy and his sorrow must seem small and insignificant, while the poet was contemplating, prophetically and reverentially, the historical and established order of things.
Note 8, page 83. — The scene is, however, by no means to be omitted, — as indeed happens. Moreover, an abbreviation must make prominent the contrast with the first, the imperial hardness of the tyrant, the lurking hostility of the mother, and Richard’s deception by a woman whom he despises. If our stage directors would not endure more, they might tolerate the following: Of the lines in the passage beginning
Stay, madam, I must speak a word with you,
and extending to the end of the scene, to Richard’s words,
Bear her my true-love’s kiss; and so farewell,
numbered consecutively from 198 to 436, Globe Edition, the following lines might remain: 198-201 ; 203-206; 251-256; 257; 293-298; 300; 301; 310, 311; 320-325; 328; 330; 340-357; 407-418; 420; 422-424; 433-436.
Note 9, page 101. — Both of these expressions of the craft are still occasionally misunderstood. Peripeteia does not always denote the last part of the action from the climax downward, which in Aristotle is called Katabasis; but it is only what is here called “tragic force,”—a single scene-effect, sometimes only a part of a scene. The chapter on the Anagnorisis, however, one of the most instructive in the Poetics, because it affords a glimpse into the craftsman’s method of poetic work, once appeared to the publishers as not authentic.
Note 10, page 147. — That the choruses did not, as a rule, rush in and off again, but claimed a good share of the time, may be inferred from the fact that in Sophocles sometimes a brief chorus fills up the time which the player needs to go behind the scenes to change his costume, or to pass from his door to the side-entrance, through which he must enter in a new role. Thirteen lines and two strophes of a little chorus suffice for the deuteragonist whose exit, as Jocasta, has been made through the back-door, to change costume and reappear upon the stage as shepherd from the field side. Upon the stage of the Acropolis this was no little distance.
Note 11, page 147. — That a favorite order of presentation was from the gloomy, the horrible, to the brighter and more cheerful, we may infer from the circumstance that Antigone and Electra were first pieces of the day. This is known from Antigone not only by the first choral-song, the first beautiful strophe of which is a morning song, but also from the character of the action which gives to the great role of the pathos actor only the first half of the piece, and thus lays the center of gravity toward the beginning. In the most beautiful poem it would not have been advisable to entrust to the so-little esteemed third actor (who, nevertheless, is sometimes shown a preference by Sophocles) the closing effects of the last piece, so important in securing the decision of the judges. In the prologue of Electra, also, the rising sun and the festal Bacchic costume are mentioned. The beautiful, broadly elaborated situation in the prologue of King Œdipus and the structure of Ajax, the center of gravity of which lies in the first half, and which distinctly reveals the early morning, seem to point to these as first pieces. The Trachinian Women probably entered the contest as a middle piece; Œdipus at Colonos, with its magnificent conclusion, and Philoctetes with its splendid pathos role and reconciling conclusion, as closing pieces. The conjectures which are based upon the technical character of the pieces, have at least more probability than conjectures which are drawn from a comparison or collation of dramas which have been preserved, with such as have not been.
Note 12, page 148. — Six pieces of Sophocles contain an average of about 1,118 verses, exclusive of the speeches and songs of the chorus. Only Œdipus at Colonos is longer. If, again, the number of verses of each of the three players is on the average about equal, the tragedies of a day, together with a burlesque of the length of The Cyclops (about 500 verses for three players) would give to each player a total of about 1,300 verses. But the task of the first player was already, on account of the affecting pathos scenes and on account of the songs, disproportionately greater. Besides, much more must be expected from him. If in the three pieces of Sophocles in which the hero suffers from a disease inflicted by the gods (Ajax, The Trachinian Women, Philoctetes) the parts of the first player are summed up, (Ajax, Teucros, Heracles, Lichas, Philoctetes) there will be about 1,440 verses; and with the burlesque, there will be about 1,600 verses: and there is the effort required to carry through six roles and sing about six songs. There is no doubt that, in the composition of his tetralogies, Sophocles gave attention to the pauses for rest for his three players. Each last tragedy demanded the most powerful effort; and it must also, as a rule, have demanded most from the first actor. That The Trachinian Women was not a third piece may be inferred from the fact that in it the second actor had the chief role.
Note 13, page 153. — In the extant plays of Sophocles, the assignment of roles among the three actors is as follows, Protagonist, Deuteragonist, Tritagonist, being indicated by the numbers 1, 2, 3, respectively:—
King Œdipus: 1, Œdipus. 2, Priest, Jocasta, Shepherd, Messenger of the catastrophe. 3, Creon, Tiresias, Messenger.
Œdipus at Colonos: 1, Œdipus, Messenger of the catastrophe. 2, Antigone, *Theseus (in the climax scene). 3, Colonians, Ismene, Theseus (in the other scenes), Creon, Polynices.
Antigone: 1, Antigone, Tiresias, Messenger of the catastrophe. 2, Ismene, Watchman, Hsemon, *Eurydice, Servant. 3, Creon.
The Trachinian Women: 1, *Maid-servant, Lichas, Heracles. 2, Deianeira, Nurse (as messenger of the catastrophe), Old man. 3, Hyllos, Messenger.
Ajax: 1, Ajax, Teucros. 2, Odysseus, Tecmessa. 3, Athene, Messenger, Menelaus, Agamemnon.
Philoctetes: 1, Philoctetes, 2, Neoptolemos. 3, Odysseus, Merchant, Heracles.
Electra: i, Electra. 2, Warden, Chrysothemis, Ægisthos. 3, Orestes, Clytemnestra.
The roles marked * are uncertain. Besides the three actors, the Attic stage always had several accessory players for dumb-show roles: thus in Electra, Pylades; in The Trachinian Women, the especially distinguished role of Iole in which perhaps Sophocles would present to the public a young actor whom he esteemed. It is probable that these accessory players sometimes relieved the actors of less important subordinate roles,— for example, in Antigone, Eurydice, which is treated very briefly; and in The Trachinian Women, the maid-servant of the prologue. How else could they test their voices and their powers? Such aid as was rendered by characters disguised from the audience by masks, was not reckoned playing. The accessory actors were also needed as representatives of the three players upon the stage, if the presence of a mask was desirable in a scene, and the player of this scene must at the same time assume another role; then the accessory player figured in like costume and the required mask, as a rule without saying any lines; but sometimes single lines must be given him. Thus Ismene, in the second half of Œdipus at Colonos, is represented by an accessory player, while the player himself represents Theseus and Polynices. This piece has the peculiarity that at least at the climax, one scene of Theseus is presented by the second actor, the player of Antigone, while the remaining scenes of this role are presented by the third actor. If the player had practiced the voice, and so forth, this substitution for a single scene did not offer special difficulty. It is possible, however, that the player of the role of Antigone, also gave the first Theseus scene. Antigone has gone into the grove in the background, in order to watch her father; she may very conveniently appear again as Theseus, while a stage-walker goes up and down in her mask. If even in this play, a fourth actor had taken part, in any role of importance, some account would have come to us of what even at that time would have been a striking innovation.
Note 14, page 155. — Upon our stage every play has one first hero, but more chief roles; not frequently is one of these more ample and of deeper interest than that of the first hero, as, for example, the role of Falstaff in Henry IV.
Note 15, page 156. — The presuppositions of The Trachinian Women are, so far as Deianeira is concerned, very simple; but Heracles is the first hero, and his preparation for being received among the gods was the master-stroke of the play.
Note 16, page 156. — It is impossible just in Sophocles, from the extant names of lost plays and from scattered verses, to come to any conclusion as to the contents of the plays. What one might think from the tradition to be the contents of the play, could often prove to be only the contents of the prologue.
Note 17, page 178.
|Chorus and Neoptolemos in Antiphone—
|1. Messenger scene with recognition,
|2. Messenger scene,
||The same and Merchant.
|3. Recognition scene (of the bow),
|1. Double pathos scene,
|2. Dialogue scene,
||The same, Odysseus.
|Chorus and Philoctetes in Antiphone—
|1. Dialogue scene,
|2. Dialogue scene,
||Philoctetes, Neoptolemos; afterward Odysseus.
|3. Announcement and conclusion,
||Philoctetes, Neoptolemos, Heracles.
Note 18, page 183. — The “balcony scene” belongs, on our stage, at the end of the first act, not in the second; but this makes the first act disproportionately long. It is a disadvantage that our (German) division of plays often makes a break in the action where a rapid movement is demanded, or only a very short interruption is allowed.
Note 19, page 208. — Let this structure be represented by means of lines. (See page 115.)
- A DRAMA, such as did not lie in Schiller’s plan. Idea: A perfidious general endeavors to make the army desert its commander, but is deserted by his soldiers and put to death.
- a. Exciting force: inciting to treason.
- b. Rising action: certain stipulations with the enemy.
- c. Climax: apparent success; the subtly sought signature of the generals.
- d. Return action: the conscience of the army is awakened.
- e. Catastrophe: death of the general.
- SCHILLER’S Wallenstein without The Piccolomini. Idea: Through excessive power, intrigues of opponents, and his own proud heart, a general is betrayed into treason; he seeks to make the army desert its commander, etc.
In this a, b, c, rising action to climax; inner struggles and temptations.
The Double Dramas.
- a. Questenberg in camp, and separation from emperor.
- b. Testing the generals; banquet scene.
- c. Climax: the first act of treason; for example, the treating with Wrangel.
- cd. Attempts to mislead the army.
- d. Return action: the conscience of the soldiers is awakened.
- e. Catastrophe: death of Wallenstein.
- The Piccolomini, indicated by the dotted lines.
- Wallenstein's Death, indicated by plain lines.
- aa. The two exciting forces, aŽ, the generals and Questenberg, for the combined action; a2, Max’s and Thekla’s arrival for The Piccolomini.
- cc. The two climaxes, c, release of Max from Octavio, at the same time, catastrophe of The Piccolomini; c2, Wallenstein and Wrangel, at the same time the exciting force of Wallenstein’s Death.
- ee. The two concluding catastrophes, eŽ, of the lovers, and e2, of Wallenstein. Further, b, the love scene between Max and Thekla is the climax of The Piccolomini; f and g are the scenes interwoven from Wallenstein’s Death: audience of Questenberg, and banquet, the second and fourth acts of The Piccolomini; h, d, and eŽ are scenes interwoven from The Piccolomini and Wallenstein’s Death: Octavio’s intrigue, the departure of Max, the announcement of his death, together with Thekla’s flight,—the second, third, and fourth acts, d, is the scene of the cuirassiers, at the same time the climax of the second drama.
Note 20, page 212. — In printing our plays, it frequently happens that within acts, only those scenes are set off and numbered which demand a shifting of scenery. The correct method, however, would be to count and number the scenes within an act according to their order of succession; and where a change of scenery is necessary, and must be indicated, add to the current scene number the word “change,” and indicate the character of the new stage setting.
Note 21, page 237. —The act is in two parts. The first preparatory part contains three short dramatic components: the entrance of Max, the submitting of the forged documents by the intriguers, Buttler’s connection with them. At this point the great conclusion begins, introduced by the conversation of the servants. The carousing generals must not be seen during the entire act in the middle and back ground: the stage presents to better advantage an ante-room of the banquet hall, separated from this by pillars and a rear wall, so that the company, previous to its entrance at the close, is seen only indistinctly and only an occasional convenient call and movement of groups are noticed. In Wallenstein, Schiller was still a careless stage director; but from the date of that play he became more careful in stage arrangement. Among the peculiarities of clear portrayal in this scene, belongs the unfeeling degradation of Max. It is wonderfully repeated by Kleist in The Prince of Hamburg. Shakespeare does not characterize dreamers by their silence, but by their distracted and yet profound speeches.
Note 22, page 308. —Of course Emilia Galotti must be represented in the costume of the time, 1772. The piece demands another consideration in acting. From the third act, the curtain must not be dropped for pauses between acts; and these should be very short.
Note 23, page 361. —Twenty of our great dramas have the following lengths in verses:
||Romeo and Juliet
|Nathan the Wise
||Bride of Messina
||Merchant of Venice
|Maid of Orleans
||Prince of Homburg
These figures do not pretend to absolute correctness, since the incomplete verses are to be deducted; and the prose passages, in which Shakespeare is especially rich, admit only a rough estimate. The prose plays, Emilia Galotti, Clavigo, Egmont, Love and Intrigue, correspond more nearly to the length of the plays of our own time. Of the dramas in verse, enumerated above, only the last three can be presented entire, without that abbreviation which is necessary on other grounds. It would require six hours to play all of Don Carlos, which in length exceeds all bounds.
Since Wallenstein’s Camp—together with the lyric lines—has 1,105 rapid verses, the three parts of the dramatic poem, Wallenstein, contain 7,639 verses; and their representation on the stage, the same day, would require about the same time as the Oberammergau Passion Play. No single chief role is so comprehensive that it would place an excessive burden upon an actor to carry it through in a single day.