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In this tragedy it has been my intention to follow the account of Diodorus Siculus, reducing it, however, to such dramatic regularity as I best could, and trying to approach the unities. I therefore suppose the rebellion- to explode and succeed in one day by a sudden conspiracy, instead of the long war of the history.
view to the stage.
In publishing the following Tragedies I have only to repeat that they were not composed with the most remote
On the attempt made by the Managers in a former instance, the public opinion has been already expressed. With regard to my own private feelings, as
seems that they are to stand for nothing, I shall say nothing.
For the historical foundation of the following compositions, the reader is referred to the Notes.
The Author has in one instance attempted to preserve, and in the other to approach the “unities ;" conceiving that with any very distant departure, there may be poetry, but can be no drama.
He is aware of the unpopularity of this notion in present English literature ; but it is not a system of his own, being merely an opinion, which, not very long ago, was the law of literature throughout the world, and is still so in the more civilized parts of it. But “ Nous avons change tout cela," and are reaping the advantages of the change. The writer is far from conceiving that any thing he can adduce by personal precept or example can at all approach his regular, or even irregular predecessors: he is merely giving a reason why he preferred the more regular formation of a structure, however feeble, to an entire abandonment of all rules whatsoever. Where he has failed, the failure is in the architect, and not in the art.
SARDANAPALUS, King of Nineveh and Assyria, &c.
ZARINA, the Queen.
Attendants, Chaldean Priests, Medes, &c. &c.
Scene-a Hall in the Royal Palace of Nineveh.
ACT I. SCENE I.
A Hall in the Palace,
SALEMENES (solus). He hath wrong'd his queen, but still he is her lord; 'He hath wrong'd my sister, still he is my brother; He hath wrong'd his people, still he is their sovereign, And I must be his friend as well as subject: He must not perish thus. I will not see The blood of Nimrod and Semiramis Sink in the earth, and thirteen hundred years Of empire ending like a shepherd's tale He must be roused. In his effeminate heart There is a careless courage which corruption Has not all quench'd, and latent energies, Represt by circumstance, but not destroy'd Stecp'd but not drown'd, in deep voluptuousness. If born a peasant, he had been a man To have reach'd an empire; to an empire born, He will bequeath none; nothing but a name, Which his sons will not prize in heritage :Yet, not all lost, even yet he may redeem His sloth and shame, by only being that Which he should be, as easily as the thing
He should not be and is. Were it less toil
[Sound of soft music heard from within,
Enter SARDANAPALUS effeminately dressed, his Head
crowned with Flowers, and his robe negligently flowing, attended by a Train of Women and young Slaves.
SARDANAPALUS (speaking to some of his attendants).