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THERE has been occasion to remark, that Dryden seldom avails himself of national peculiarities, or national costume, in sketching his dramatic personages; the present tragedy forms, however, a remarkable exception to this general observation. Cleomenes, the last of the Spartans, is designed, not only as a hero, but as a Lacedemonian; and is a just picture of that extraordinary race nf men, whose virtues were comprized in patriotism, and whose whole passions centered in a thirst for military glory. This character Dryden has drawn with admirable spirit and precision. It was indeed peculiarly suited to his genius; for, although sometimes deficient in the pathos and natural expression of violent passion, by which Otway, and even Southerne, could affect the passions of an audience, he never fails in expressing, in the most noble language, the sentiments of that stoical philosophy, which considers sufferings rather as subjects of moral reflection, than of natural feeling. Yet, lest a character so invulnerable to the shafts of adversity, so much the totus teres atque rotundus of the poet, should fail to interest the audience, (for we seldom pity those who shew no symptoms of feeling their own sorrows,) Dryden has softened the character of his Spartan hero by the infuence of those chaste and tender domestic affections, which thrive best in bosoms rendered by nature or philosophy inaccessible to selfish feeling. The haughty and unbending spirit, the love of war, and thirst of honour proper to the Lacedemonian, and inculcated by the whole train of his education, complete the character of Cleomenes. The same spirit, which animates the father, is finely represented as descending upon the
Cleonidas is a model of a Spartan youth; and every slight expression which he uses, tends to bring out that celebrated character. The idea of this spirited boy seems to be taken from the excellent character of Hengo, in the “Bonduca” of Beaumont and Fletcher; whom Cleonidas resembles in the manner of his death, and in his previous sufferings by hunger, as well as in his premature courage, and emulation of his father's military glory. * The
* The whole passage is so very tine, that I think I may venture to extract it from this beautiful and forgotten tragedy. Caratach ant wife and mother of Cleomenes seem to be sketched after those of Coriolanus : the former exhibiting a mild and gentle disposition; the latter, the high-souled magnanimity of a Spartan matron. Of the other characters, little need be said. Ptolemy is a silly tyrant, Sosibius a wily minister, and Cleanthes a friend and confident; such as tyrants, ministers, and confidents in tragedies usually are. Judging from his first appearance, the author seems to
Hengo, the uncle and nephew, are besieged on a rock by the Romans, and reduced to extremity by hunger. They are decoyed by some food, hung on a rock by the centurion Judas.
CARATACH and HENGO on the rock.
Hengo. Oh uncle, uncle,
Car. Thou shalt, long, I hope.
Enter, below, Macer and Judas, Romans.
Hengo. Do not you hear
Car. Of bells, boy? 'tis thy faney;
Hengo. Methinks, sir,
chicken! Hengo. Fie, faint-hearted uncle ! Come, tie me in your belt, and let me down.
Çar. I'll go myself, hoy.
Hengo. No, as you love me, uncle;
Car. I will, and all my care hang o'er thee ! Come, child, My valiant child.
Hengo. Let me down apace, uncle ;
have intended Pantheus as a character somewhat in contrast to that of Cleomenes; but he soon tires of the task of discrimination, and Pantheus sinks into a mere assistant. Cassandra is not sketched with any peculiar care; her snares are of a nature not very perilous to Spartan virtue, for her manners are too openly licentious. Such, however, as are fond of tracing the ideas of poets to those who have written before them, may consider Cas
A Roman train ; and you must hold me sure too;
[Lets him down. Hengo. Quick, quick, good uncle! I have it-Ob!
[Judas shoots Hengo. Car. 'What ailest thou? Hengo. Oh, my best uncle, I am slain !
Car. I see you,
[He kills Judas with a stone.
Hengo. Oh, uncle, uncle,
Car. Coward, rascal coward !
Hengo. Oh, I bleed hard ! I faint too; out upon't,
Car. Look, boy;
Hengo. Have you knocked his brains out?
Car. Heaveu look upon this noble child !
Hengo. I once hoped
Car. Thou shalt live still, I hope, boy. Shall I draw it?
Hengo. You draw away my soul, then. I would live
Car. Oh my chicken,
Hengo. Why, a child