MR. TALFOURD'S ATHENIAN CAPTIVE.
THE structure, the persons, and the sentiments of the persons of this play, are very clever and elegant melodrame ; the language is that of descriptive poetry, in which beauty, effect, and rhapsody are pretty equally mingled. As an acting play, it possesses sufficient variety and rapidity of movement in the story ; it abounds with striking situations, and some claptrap appeals to general sympathy, and allusions to Athenian glory; and the character of Thoas, the Captive, is a portrait of the qualities of MACREADY the histrio ; all which things are likely to procure for it a triumphant though brief career upon the stage,—unless the artificial nature of the catastrophe, the manner in which it drags and is foreseen, as well as the improbable means by which it is produced, should flatten the effect in representation. As a tragedy, the work is deficient in dramatic spirit and individuality of character, as well as in that art which, if it may not be learned froth any critical laws, may he gleaned from a careful study of the great dramatists. It has, however, a deeper failing, in its want of truth : the events are possible, but nut truthlike, and their influence upon the persons neither likely according to general nature nor to the Grecian character.
The moving power of the story is the character of Creon, King of Corinth,—a weak, techy, jealous, passionate old man in his dotage ; an imitation of Lear, but the best and most natural cha- racter in the play. The interest of the piece, at its opening, is made to turn upon the tyrannical conduct of this old man, to Thoas the Athenian Captive ; who has inspired Hyllus, the son of Cretan with a sudden friendship, and Creusa, the daughter, with love. As the story advances, the dilemmas are thick- ened by the Queen, and second wife of Creon, discovering that Thoas is her son, As she is engaged in a conspiracy against her liege lord, she endeavours to persuade Thoas to head it. Failing in this, she favours his escape ; only stipulating that he shall puss through a particular chamber in the palace, and stab whomsoever he meets in it. The sagacity of the dullest auditor will guess, what never occurs to Thoas, that he is about to slay the King : and the distressful nature of the catastrophe, with friendship, love, and murder, may be conjectured. We have spoken of the descriptive poetry. Here is a very favourable specimen—graceful, distinct, and full of images ; a shade too pretty perhaps—alabaster rather than marble, and scarcely dramatic.
Conies the Queen hither ? Dues she mock our bidding ? tenures.
At stern Minerva's inmest shrine she kneels, And with an arm as rigid and as pale As is the giant statue, clasps the foot That seems as it would spurn her, yet were etas 'el By the firm suppliant's will. She looks latent As one who caught some hint of distant sounds; Yet none from Irving iutercourse of man Can pierce that marble solitude. Iler face Upraised, is motionless; yet, while I marked it, As from its fathomless abode a spring Breaks on the bosom of a sullen lake And in an instant grows as still—a hue Of blackness trembled o'er it; her large eye kindled with frightful lustre; but the shade Passed instant thence; her face resumed its look Of stone, as death-like as the aspect pure Of the great face divine to which it answered. I ducat not speak to her.
The following is a piece of telling declamation. Not very clas- sical in tone, or very probable at all,—for the practical mind of the ancients drew rational distinctions ; and though Thoas the guest or the ambassador would have resented such a " toast or senti- ment," Thoas the slave would not, for it was in perfect keeping ; cr if he bad, it would have been a laconic retort : but one can fancy the effect MACREADY would produce in such a passage.
Corinthians, rise !
Before the gods, who have this day espoused The cause of Corinth, I this votive cup Pour with one glorious prayer—Ruin to Athens !
(Tawas dashes down the cup he is about to hand to the King.
Ruin to Athens! who dares echo that?
Who first repeats it dies. These limbs are artu'd With vigour from the gods that watch above Their own immortal offspring. Do ye dream, Because chance lends ye one insulting hour, That ye can quench the purest flame the gods
Have lit from heaven's own fire?
HYLLUS. Trying to appease the guests.
'Tis ecstasy ;
Some frenzy shakes him.
No ! I call the gods, Who bend attentive from their azure thrones, To witness to the truth of that which throbs Within me now. 'Tin not a city crown'd With olive and enrieh'd with peerless fsnes Ye would dishonour, but an opening world Diviner than the soul of man bath yet Been gifted to imagine; truths serene, Made visible in beauty, that shall glow In everlasting freshness ; unapproach'd By mortal passion; pure amidst the blood And duet of conquests; never waxing old,
But on the stream of time, from age to age,
Casting bright images of heavenly youth To make the world less mournful, I behold them !
And ye, frail insects of a day, would quaff
" Ruin to Athens !" C a EON.
Are ye stricken all To statues, that ye hear these scornful boasts, And do not seize the traitor ? Bear him hence, And let the executioner's keen steel Prevent renewal of this outrage.
rellITCs. (A priest of Jupiter.)
Some god bath spoken through him.
The preface states that the piece was written for the laudable and even public object of assisting MACREADY in his arduous attempt to raise the declining stage ; an object in which all ad. mirers of the histrionic or dramatic art would gladly assist accord- ing to their means. Mr. TALFOURD is also earnestly, and rather drolly, grateful to the actors for what they are to do, when the Athenian Captive shall be performed.