Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Passions and Pits and People and Plays

Every passion has its own eloquence, is alone inspired by nature, is learnt in no school and is understood by the most uneducated as well as by the most polished.

Lessing, Hamburg Dramaturgy, essay 59

How well the dramaturges of the Enlightenment have done their work: when Lessing appealed to Diderot, and shouted for a theatre based not upon itself or precedent, the stage was full of mannered fops. Moving between confidence and tragedy, the actors played out the drama in a language of the stage, rhetorical and pompous. Now, there is no playwright who would disagree, that the language on the stage reflects the language of the pit or parterre

Diderot went further, of course: he imagined the high words of the classical tragedy replaced by inarticulate cries and moans. When Ambrose Bierce described opera, he noticed in it the traces of previous grandeur.

Opera, n. A play representing life in another world whose inhabitants have no speech but song, no motions but gestures, and no postures but attitudes.

This grandeur has departed, even from the opera (which paces out its tales of heightened emotion on a scale that reflects rather than exaggerates). At one time, this was sedition, a resistance to the dominance of Aristotle and the classical ideal. These days, it is barely worth mentioning and a curious waste of the reader's time. 

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