Page:Essays and Addresses.djvu/151

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easier sympathy with the action, and thereby predisposing him to seize any significance which it might have for the life of the day. I have so far dwelt on this aspect of Athenian Tragedy, because we might be rather apt to regard it as a form of art altogether detached from contemporary interests, and to overlook the powerful influence—not the less powerful because usually indirect—which it must undoubtedly have exercised in expressing and moulding public sentiment.

But we must now turn to that other form of Athenian drama in which the resemblance to the power of the modern press is much more direct and striking—that which is known as the Old Comedy of Athens. Mr Browning, in his Apology of Aristophanes, makes the great comic poet indicate the narrow limits to the influence of Tragedy on opinion. The passage is witty; and though, as I venture to think, it considerably underrates the effect of Tragedy in this direction, at least it well marks the contrast between the modes in which the two forms of drama wrought. When we think of the analogy between Aristophanes and the modern political journalist, one of the first things that strikes us is the high and earnest view Aristophanes took of his own calling. He had gone through every stage of a laborious training before he presumed to come before the Athenian public. He had seen his predecessors fail, or fall from favour. So in the Peace, he claims that he has banished the old vulgar tomfoolery from the stage, and raised his art "like an edifice stately