Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/367
"The Cenci" tragedies? Because in them character clashing with itself, with environment, or with other temperaments, moves through tragic episodes to a final catastrophe that is the logical outcome of what we have observed. By "logical" I mean that the ending is seen to grow from the preceding events in accordance with the characters. That is, it conforms with human experience as known to us or as revealed to us by the dramatist in question.
Suppose, however, that we have tragic circumstance not justified by the characterization of the figures concerned. For instance, in some play on Cleopatra the special scenes may move us even if they do not put before us a character whose willfulness and exacting love seem great enough to bring about the final catastrophe. Then what have we? Melodrama in the broadest sense of the word. Melodrama in this sense of plays insufficiently motivated in characterization has existed from the beginning of drama. Technically, the word came into England early in the nineteenth century to designate an importation from France of sensational scenes with frequent musical accompaniment. As this particular combination disappeared, the name remained for plays of sensational incident and inadequate characterization.
THE STORY PLAY
Between the two—melodrama and tragedy—both perhaps sensational in episode, but only the second justifying its episodes by perfectly motivated character, lies the story play. In this the light and the serious, the comic and the tragic, mingle, though the ending is cheerful. "The Merchant of Venice," regarded as Shakespeare regarded it as the story of Portia and Bassanio, is clearly not a tragedy but a story play. If, however, we sympathize with Shylock as modern actors, especially by their rearrangement of the scenes, often make us, is it not a tragedy? There lies the important distinction. There is no essential difference between the material of comedy and tragedy. All depends on the point of view of the dramatist, which, by clever emphasis, he tries to make the point of view of his au-
- H. C., xviii, 281ff.