2006-07 Staatsexamensklausur Engl. Lit. Wiss. Olaf Simons
Staatsexamensklausur LA Gym – LA GHR – LA BBS: 08.03.2007
Given bellow is the preface to Richard Steele's The Conscious Lovers (1722).
Today this play is associated with the early 18th-century moral reform movement and read as an attack on the earlier restoration stage.
Does the preface offer indications that this reading was actually intended by Steele? In what respects does the drama relate to preceding traditions?
THIS Comedy has been receiv'd with universal Acceptance, for it was in every Part excellently perform'd; and there needs no other Applause of the Actors, but that they excell'd according to the Dignity and Difficulty of the Character they represented. But this great Favour done to the Work in Acting, renders the Expectation still the greater from the Author, to keep up the Spirit in the Representation of the Closet, or any other Circumstance of the Reader, whether alone or in Company: To which I can only say, that it must be remember'd a Play is to be Seen, and is made to be Represented with the Advantage of Action, nor can appear but with half the Spirit, without it; for the greatest Effect of a Play in reading is to excite the Reader to go see it; and when he does so, it is then a Play has the Effect of Example and Precept.
The chief Design of this was to be an innocent Performance, and the Audience have abundantly show'd how ready they are to support what is visibly intended that way; nor do I make any Difficulty to acknowledge, that the whole was writ for the sake of the Scene of the Fourth Act, wherein Mr. Bevill evades the Quarrel with his Friend, and hope it may have some Effect upon the Goths and Vandals that frequent the Theatres, or a more polite Audience may supply their Absence.
But this Incident, and the Case of the Father and Daughter, are esteem'd by some People no Subjects of Comedy; but I cannot be of their Mind; for any thing that has its Foundation in Happiness and Success, must be allow'd to be the Object of Comedy, and sure it must be an Improvement of it, to introduce a Joy too exquisite for Laughter, that can have no Spring but in Delight, which is the Case of this young Lady. I must therefore contend, that the Tears which were shed on that Occasion flow'd from Reason and Good Sense, and that Men ought not to be laugh'd at for weeping, till we are come to a more clear Notion of what is to be imputed to the Hardness of the Head, and the Softness of the Heart; and I think it was very politely said of Mr. Wilks to one who told him there was a General weeping for Indiana, I'll warrant he'll fight ne'er the worse for that. To be apt to give way to the Impressions of Humanity is the Excellence of a right Disposition, and the natural Working of a well-turn'd Spirit. But as I have suffer'd by Criticks who are got no farther than to enquire whether they ought to be pleas'd or not, I would willingly find them properer Matter for their Employment, and revive here a Song which was omitted for want of a Performer, and design'd for the Entertainment of Indiana; Sig. Carbonelli instead of it play'd on the Fiddle, and it is for want of a Singer that such advantageous things are said of an Instrument which were design'd for a Voice.
The Song is the Distress of a Love-sick Maid, and may be a fit Entertainment for some small Criticks to examine whether the Passion is just, or the Distress Male or Female.
From Place to Place forlorn I go,
With downcast Eyes a silent Shade,
Forbidden to declare my Woe;
To speak, till spoken to, afraid.
My inward Pangs, my secret Grief,
My soft consenting Looks betray:
He Loves, but gives me no Relief:
Why speaks not he who may?
It remains to say a Word concerning Terence, and I am extremely surpris'd to find what Mr. Cibber told me, prove a Truth, That what I valued my self so much upon, the Translation of him, should be imputed to me as a Reproach. Mr. Cibber 's Zeal for the Work, his Care and Application in instructing the Actors, and altering the Disposition of the Scenes, when I was, through Sickness, unable to cultivate such Things my self, has been a very obliging Favour and Friendship to me. For this Reason, I was very hardly persuaded to throw away Terence 's celebrated Funeral, and take only the bare Authority of the young Man's Character, and how I have work'd it into an Englishman, and made Use of the same Circumstances of discovering a Daughter, when we least hop'd for one, is humbly submitted to the Learned Reader.