Puslapio vaizdai

fecting by the sweetness of her lamentations, as Antigone was by the violence of her despair.

Polyxena is more resigned than Antigone and Iphigenia; for she has lost her father and her country, and if she lived, it would be only to become a slave; there could be no husband for her except a slave like herself. She had then no fear of death: she resigned herself to it without ostentation, arrogance or stoicism. She only regretted the care which she would have bestowed upon Hecuba; she dies a timid and chaste virgin, without complaining, and thinks in the act of falling only of arranging her garments-the last trait of modesty in her last moments.

In Seneca, on the other hand, Polyxena becomes fearless and wild; her magnanimity borders on madness, and she terrifies Pyrrhus who is about to sacrifice her.*

Thus we have seen that all three lament their premature death, regret to part with life, and yet are finally resigned to their fate. Thus are mingled the love of life with the feeling of resignation and firmness, thereby giving a faithful representation of the human heart, which is at once both weak and strong, timid and brave.

The entreaty which the Iphigenia of Euripides makes to her father to dissuade him from sacrificing her, is full of touching simplicity and grace:

"My father," says she, "if I had the tongue of Orpheus, if I had the eloquence and persuasiveness which could attract rocks, if I could by my supplications enchant whom I wish, I would now avail myself of them; but I have no other art but my tears, which I cannot refrain from shedding. Permit me as a suppliant to prostrate at your knees this body destined to so sudden a death; and which my mother brought forth with so much pain. Do not compel me to die before my time the light is so pleasant to see, do not make me descend into the subterranean shades. It was I who first called you father; I who, seated upon your knees, received and returned your caresses. You said to me then: How proud I will be to see you, my daughter, contented and happy in the house of your husband; ' I replied in patting your chin with my hands as I do now: 'My father, when you become old, I

* Audax virago non tulit utro gradum
Conversa ad ictum stat, truci vultu ferox.


will receive you under my roof, and will return you the kindness which I received from you.'-I still remember these conversations, but you have forgotten them, since you wish me to die. No, my father, in the name of Pelops and Atreus; in the name of my mother who suffered so much at my birth, and who suffers still more cruelly now, I beseech you no! . . . . And what have I to do with the faults of Paris and Helen? Why is Helen fatal to me? If you will not be moved by my words, I pray you, give me a last look and kiss, so that I may at least have this farewell remembrance of you before I die. My brothers, who are still young, entreat you to pardon their sister. Spare me, take pity on me! My father, nothing is more agreeable to mortals than to see the day. No person desires the night of Hades. It is madness to wish to die. A miserable life is better than a glorious


Neither the allusion to the eloquence of Orpheus, which serves as an exordium to this discourse, nor the sententious maxim which concludes it, are in good taste; they partake too much of the rhetorical art, which was warmly cherished and assiduously cultivated by the Greeks. But the happy

mixture of natural sentiments and mournful reflections render this supplication exceedingly touching. We see how revolting to the instinct of youth is the idea of death!

The Iphigenia of Racine is more resigned and magnanimous. She is afraid to say that she loves, and that she regrets to part with life, that the light of day is pleasant to see, and that the darkness of death is horrible.

My father, [says she to Agamemnon,]
Cease to trouble yourself, you are not betrayed;
When you command, you shall be obeyed.
My life is your gift, if you wish to take it back
Your orders shall be rigidly fulfilled.

With a contented and submissive heart

I will accept the husband whom you have promised me.
I will, if you require it, as an obedient victim,

Offer my innocent head to the stroke of Calchas;

And respecting the blow, since it is ordered by you,
Render back to you all the blood which you have given me.
If, however, this respect, if this obedience

Seems worthy in your eyes of another recompense;
If you pity the sorrows of a weeping woman,

I dare to say that in the state in which I am,

Perhaps sufficient honors surround my life
To prevent my desire that it should be taken from me.
Daughter of Agamemnon, it is I who first,
My lord, called you by the sweet name of father;
It is I who, so long the delight of your eyes,
Caused you to thank the gods for this name,
And for whom, so often prodigal of your caresses,
You have not disdained the infirmities of blood.
Alas! with pleasure I began to tell you

All the names of the countries which you were going to subdue;
And already foreseeing the conquest of Troy,

I prepared the festival of so glorious a triumph.

I did not expect, that to commence it,

My blood would be the first which you would shed!

In this modest submission we perceive the Christian virgin who fears to show too great an attachment to the joys of life, and the martyr who consents to die without regret, and to sacrifice her grief to paternal authority. We see here the effect which Christianity produces on the human heart; how it restrains and consoles it even at the very moment of death, when nature would seem to allow of some last expression of regret. This reserve is more virtuous, but it is less dramatic. Besides the difference of feelings there is also a striking difference between the ideas of the Iphigenia of Racine, and the Iphigenia of Euripides. The modern Iphigenia, daughter of the King of kings and destined for the hand of Achilles, thinks of the honors which surround her. It is only the daughter of Agamemnon, the most powerful king of Greece, who can speak like the Iphigenia of Racine; there is no young maiden who is about to die, that cannot repeat the verses of the Antique Iphigenia, for her regrets are addressed to the most universal and pleasant goods of life, to the light, to the beauty of the heavens, to the joy which comes from nature; to those pleasures in which all eagerly participate, without the portion of any one being diminished. In this lies the characteristic feature of the love of life

among the ancients. Their greatest charm in life was nature; what pleases the modern most is society. "Adieu," said the Count of Egmont when about to die, "adieu, sweet life, agreeable habit of being and acting." And in speaking thus, Goethe believed that his hero spoke at once as an ancient and as a modern; and that he regretted at the same time both nature and society. These abstract and dull

words, being and acting, are not the beautiful and luminous images which the ancients adored in dying. Ajax could have regretted his arms, his battles, his glory, his misfortunes, and all that which in our opinion constitutes life. "Adieu, brilliant light of day," says he, "Sun, whose radiant beams my eyes will never again behold; and you, Salamis, sacred soil of my native land, I salute also your domestic firesides; and you, beautiful and glorious Athens, my ally, the country of my adoption; and you, ye fountains and flowers; and you also, ye fields of Troy which have contributed to my pleasures; I bid you all a long and last farewell!" Compare these words with those of Hamlet in Shakspeare, moralizing on life when about to die:

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin!


We how differently they die in the North and in the South: in the North, bidding adieu to man and to society with feelings of scorn and contempt; in the South, bidding adieu to nature with sentiments full of love and regret.

There was no less difference between the Theatre in which Hamlet expresses his melancholy doubts, and that in which Ajax offered to the beauty and freshness of the waters his brilliant and mournful adieus, than there is between their words. The antique Theatre was not a confined and gloomy hall, illumined by the sickly glare of lamps, where the tragic hero, when he speaks of the sun, raises his eyes towards a light now brilliant and now of a dubious lustre; and when he invokes heaven, beholds a ceiling of painted wood, below and around which are tumultuous assemblages of noisy spectators. The ancient theatre was placed on the slope of a hill, with the heavens for a canopy, and the mountains and the sea as decorations. When Ajax, upon such a Theatre, bade farewell for the last time to the sun and the gorgeous light of day, the sun really shone down from the heavens, and threw a halo of glory around the dying visage of the hero and the sorrow-stricken countenances of the spectators. "Salamis! sacred soil of my native land!" exclaimed Ajax ; and all the spectators could see Salamis and its glorious gulf.

There it stood in the midst of the waves which still murmured the name of Themistocles, there stood the island which the sun gilds with its light, and the history of its associations, with all that its name and its prospect spoke to the hearts of the Athenians. "Beautiful and glorious Athens, sweet sister of my country!" said the hero; and he not on said that in Athens, but Athens was directly under his eyes. In full prospect was the cloud-capped Acropolis, on the side of which is built the Theatre of Bacchus. On the summit of the rock is the Parthenon, the Temple of Eryctheus and the Sanctuary of Victory, which has no wings to fly away from Athens. On the right hand is the road which leads to Munychium and to Piræus; on the left rolls the llyssus with its whispering stream, and interspersed here and there are sacred fountains, which Ajax also salutes in dying. The most beautiful country which eyes ever beheld; mountains which are transfigured with a crown of light; sunny islands and azure seas, which compose the most lovely mixture of land and water of which the imagination of man conceive; fountains whose waters are as pure as the air which they refreshen; rivers whose margins are strewed with the verdure of summer, with the blossoms of laurels and roses; and over all is suspended a gorgeous and transparent sky, beautifying with purple and golden tints a country where art and nature possess a beauty and a grace which need no borrowed light,- -are the decorations of the Antique Theatre which delighted the eyes of the spectators, while the verses of Sophocles and Euripides enraptured their minds!


It would be necessary then, when we compare the personages of the French drama with those of the Greek, to consider all the differences which arise from the form and arrangement of their Theatres, no less than those which are created by diversity of times, institutions and climate.

The easy resignation of the modern Iphigenia detracts from the pity which she inspires. There is a scene, however, where the resignation becomes truly touching and dramatic: it is when, addressing herself to Achilles, she wishes to appease his wrath against Agamemnon:

Heaven has not [says she*] to the days of this unfortunate
Attached the happiness of your destiny.

*RACINE. Iphigenia, act v. scene ii.

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