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This Tragedy, which was first printed in the first folio, is attributed, in Gardiner's commendatory verses, to Fletcher alone. This testimony is, no doubt, a very weak one; but it is strongly supported by internal evidence, the play exhibiting a uniform tenor of Auent versification, without any admixture of prose, or loose metre, which very frequently occur in those dramas where Beaumont is known to have assisted. Besides, the circumstance of the great tragedian, Burbage, who died in 1618-9, not performing any character in it seems to corroborate the supposition that Fletcher was the sole author, In the reign of Charles II. this tragedy was revived, and a new prologue was spoken on the occasion, printed in Covent-Garden Drollery, p. 14. Since that time it seems never to have been performed on any stage.
Though this drama cannot be ranked with Philaster, The Maid's Tragedy, or Bonduca, it is so replete with beauties, both as to situations of interest, and as to poetical diction, that the entire neglect of it, in the present age, cannot be attributed to any cause but the degeneracy of dramatic taste. That the plot has its faults must be granted; but they are completely counterbalanced by the general interest of the story, and the exquisite art with which the poet has seized upon the most striking incidents, and clothed them in language appropriate to the diversity of situation. The introductory scene is a very noble one, and only inferior to a similar one in a more modern tragedy, which is evidently borrowed from it-I allude to Otway's Venice Preserved. Again, the entire second act, where the scene is placed on board of a piratical vessel at sea, is throughout eminently distinguished for spirit and force. Fletcher, as has been noticed in the introduction, is peculiarly at home in sea-scenes ; and the delineation of a naval engagement seems to have been one of his favourite subjects. The conversation of Virolet and Ascanio, in the same act, where the former teaches the latter a due contempt of death, does not yield in excellence to many similar dialogues in Massinger, a poet who had a marked and honourable predilection for introducing dialogues on parallel subjects of morality. All the scenes between Virolet and Juliana are in Fletcher's best manner, being replete with the finest touches of the pathetic; and the unfortunate catastrophe of Virolet, by the erring hand of Juliana, is exquisitely affecting. The distress is wound up to the height, and therefore many would prefer the preservation of these two characters; but the nature of the plot put this entirely out of the power of a judicious poet.With respect to the characters, they are generally drawn with considerable force, and that of Juliana, in particular, exhibits a model of female excellence. Martia, ou the other hand, is a very repulsive character ; an amazon, whose heroism we are called upon to admire, but whose unbounded lust and savage revenge efface every impression in her favour. She is much in the predicament of the two daughters in Bonduca, who excite neither sorrow for their injuries, nor sympathy in their fate.Virolet bears considerable resemblance to Hamlet in more than one point : both with resolution and apparent firmness of mind undertake a great and noble purpose, the one to revenge the death of his father, the other the miseries of his country. Even the circumstance of their both going to sea at the instigation of the usurpers, bears out this very striking resemblance. The old Duke of Sesse is a fine portrait of a firm and undaunted mind, ever alive to the object he is pursuing, and remaining unshaken by age and misfortune. Ferrand, though inferior to the King in The Maid's Tragedy, is delineated with great force and precision; and the occasional qualms of his conscience (particularly those occasioned by the gross flattery of his parasites) are introduced with great art, and produce a very striking effect. There is, however, one inadvertency of the poet's which is peculiarly irksome, as it might have been avoided very easily. The very strong affection of the tyrant for his nephew, Ascanio, is never accounted for throughout the play.-There is a smaller admixture of comic matter in this play than in most tragedies of our authors; and those which occur are very judiciously introduced to heighten our contempt for the usual objects of ambition, when these are not ennobled by virtuous principles. The dialogue between Castruccio, envying the glories of royalty, and the court fool, Villio, despising them, in the third act, as well as