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The senate is generally as numerous as our House of Conimons, if we only reckon the sitting members, and yet carries its resolutions so privately, that they are seldom known till they discover themselves in the execution. It is not many years since they had before them a great debate concerning the punishment of one of their admirals, which lasted a month together, and concluded in his condemnation; yet was there none of his friends, nor of those who had engaged warmly in his defence, that gave
him the least intimation of what was passing against him, till he was actually seized, and in the hands of justice.
The noble Venetians think themselves equal at least to the electors of the empire, and but one degree below kings; for which reason they seldom travel into foreign countries, where they must undergo the mortification of being treated like private gentlemen : yet it is observed of them, that they discharge themselves with a great deal of dexterity in such embassies and treatiesl as are laid on them by the republic; for their whole lives are employed in intrigues of state, and they naturally give themselves airs of kings and princes, of which the ministers of other nations are only the representatives. Monsieur Amelot reckons in his time two thousand five hundred nobles that had voices in the great council, but at present, I am told, there are not at most fifteen hundred, notwithstanding the addition of many new families since that time. It is very strange, that with this advantage they are not able to keep up their number, considering that the nobility spreads equally through all the brothers, and that so very few of them are destroyed by the wars of the republic. Whether this may be imputed to the luxury of the Venetians, or to the ordinary celibacy of the younger brothers, or to the last plague which swept away many of them, I know not. They generally thrust the females of their families into convents, the better to preserve their estates. This makes the Venetian nuns famous for the liberties they allow themselves. They have operas within their own walls, and often
out of their bounds to meet their admirers, or they are very much misrepresented. They have many of them their lovers, that converse with them daily at the grate, and
| Embassies and treaties laid upon.] An embassy, being an office, may be laid upon a mau: a treaty, the object of such office, cannot.
free to admit a visit from a stranger. There is, indeed, one of the Cornaras, that not long ago refused to see any under a prince.
The carnival of Venice is everywhere talked of. The great diversion of the place at that time, as well as on all other high occasions, is masking. The Venetians, who are naturally grave, love to give in to the follies and entertainments of such seasons, when disguised in a false personage. They are, indeed, under a necessity of finding out diversions that
may agree with the nature of the place, and make some amends for the loss of several pleasures which may be met with on the continent. These disguises give occasion to abundance of love-adventures; for there is something more Intriguing in the amours of Venice than in those of other countries, and I question not but the secret history of a carnival would make a collection of very diverting novels. Operas are another great entertainment of this season. The poetry of them is generally as exquisitely ill, as the music is good. The arguments are often taken from some celebrated action of the ancient Greeks or Romans, which sometimes ooks ridiculous enough; for who can endure to hear one of he rough old Romans squeaking through the mouth of an eunuch, especially when they may choose a subject out of courts where eunuchs are really actors, or represent by them any of the soft Asiatic monarchs ? The
that was most n vogue during my stay at Venice, was built on the followng subject. Cæsar and Scipio are rivals for Cato's daughter. Cæsar's first words bid his soldiers fly, for the enemies are zpon them.
“Si leva Cesare, e dice a Soldati. A la fugga. 1 lo Scampo." The daughter gives the preference to Cæsar, which is made the occasion of Cato's death. Before he kills himself, you see him withdrawn into his library, where, among his books, I observed the titles of Plutarch and Tasso. After a short soliloquy he strikes himself with the dagger hat he holds in his hand, but being interrupted by one of his friends, he stabs him for his pains, and by the violence of he blow unluckily breaks the dagger on one of his ribs, so hat he is forced to despatch himself by tearing up his first vound. This last circumstance puts me in mind of a conrivance in the opera of St. Angelo, that was acted at the
And are.] To avoid the ambiguity, it had been better to say," and hey are."
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same time. The king of the play endeavours at a rape, but the poet being resolved to save his heroine's honour, has so ordered it, that the king always acts with a great case-knife stuck in his girdle, which the lady snatches from him in the struggle, and so defends herself.
The Italian poets, besides the celebrated smoothness of their tongue, have a particular advantage above the writers of other nations, in the difference of their poetical and prose language. There are, indeed, sets of phrases that in all countries are peculiar to the poets, but among the Italians there are not only sentences, but a multitude of particular words, that never enter into common discourse. They have such a different turn and polishing for poetical use, that they drop several of their letters, and appear in another form, when they come to be ranged in verse.
For this reason the Italian opera seldom sinks into a poorness of language, but, amidst all the meanness and familiarity of the thoughts, has something beautiful and sonorous in the expression. Without this natural advantage of the tongue, their present poetry would appear wretchedly low and vulgar, notwithstanding the many strained allegories that are so much in use among the writers of this nation. The English and French, who always use the same words in verse as in ordinary conversation, are forced to raise their language with metaphors and figures, or, by the pompousness of the whole phrase, to wear off any littleness that appears in the particular parts that compose it. This makes our blank verse, where there is no rhyme to support the expression, extremely difficult to such as are not masters in the tongue, especially when they write on low subjects; and 'tis probably for this reason
that Milton has made use of such frequent transpositions, Latinisms, antiquated words and phrases, that he might the better deviate from vulgar and ordinary expressions.
The comedies that I saw at Venice, or indeed in other part of Italy, are very indifferent, and more lewd than those of other countries. Their poets have no notion of genteel comedy, and fall into the most filthy double-meanings imaginable, when they have a mind to make their audience merry. There is no part generally so wretched as that of the fine gentleman, especially when he converses with his mistress ; for then the whole dialogue is an insipid mixture of pedantry and romance. But 'tis no wonder that the poets of so
ealous and reserved a nation fail in such conversations on he stage, as they have no patterns of in nature. There are Four standing characters which enter into every piece that comes on the stage, the Doctor, Harlequin, Pantaloon, and Soviello. The Doctor's character comprehends the whole extent of a pedant, that, with a deep voice, and a magisterial ir, breaks in upon conversation, and drives down all before im: everything he says is backed with quotations out of Galen, Hippocrates, Plato, Virgil, or any author that rises ppermost, and all answers from his companion are looked pon as impertinencies for interruptions. Harlequin's part 3 made
up of blunders and absurdities; he is to mistake one lame for another, to forget his errands, to stumble over ueens, and to run his head against every post that stands n his
way. This is all attended with something so comical a the voice and gestures, that a man, who is sensible of the olly of the part, can hardly forbear being pleased with it. Pantaloon is generally an old cully, and Coviello a sharper. I have seen a translation of the Cid, acted at Bolonia, vhich would never have taken, had they not found a place n it for these buffoons. All four of them
in masks hat are made like the old Roman persone, as I shall have ccasion to observe in another place. The French and talians have probably derived this custom of showing some f their characters in masks, from the Greek and Roman heatre. The old Vatican Terence has at the head of every cene the figures of all the persons that are concerned in it, rith the particular disguises in which they acted; and I renember to have seen in the Villa Mattheio an antic statue asked, which was perhaps designed for Gnatho in the unuch, for it agrees exactly with the figure he makes in the atican manuscript. One would wonder, indeed, how so olite a people as the Romans and Athenians should not ook on these borrowed faces as unnatural. They might do ery well for a Cyclops, or a satyr, that can have no resemlance in human features; but for a flatterer, a miser, or the ke characters, which abound in our own species, nothing is ore ridiculous than to represent their looks by a painted izard. In
of this nature the turns and motions of he face are often as agreeable as any part of the action.
Romans and Athenians.] They had, without doubt, their reasons for is practice, for they were sensible of its inconvenience.
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Could we suppose that a mask represented never so naturally the general humour of a character, it can never suit with the variety of passions that are incident to every single person in the whole course of a play. The grimace may be proper on some occasions, but is too steady to agree with all. The rabble, indeed, are generally pleased at the first entry of a disguise, but the jest grows cold even with them too when it comes on the stage in a second scene.
Since I am on this subject, I cannot forbear mentioning a custom at Venice, which they tell me is particular to the common people of this country, of singing stanzas out of Tasso. They are set to a pretty solemn tune, and when one begins in any part of the poet, it is odds but he will be answered by somebody else that overhears him; so that some
have ten or a dozen in the neighbourhood of one another, taking verse after verse, and running on with the poem as far as their memories will
carry On Holy Thursday, among the several shows that are yearly exhibited, I saw one that is odd enough, and particular to the Venetians. There is a set of artisans, who by the help of several poles, which they lay across each others' shoulders, build themselves up into a kind of pyramid; so that you see a pile of men in the air of four or five rows rising one above another. The weight is so equally distributed, that every man is very well able to bear his part of it, the stories, if I may so call them, growing less and less as they advance higher and higher. A little boy represents the point of the pyramid, who, after a short space, leaps off, with a great deal of dexterity, into the arms of one that catches him at the bottom. In the same manner the whole building falls to pieces. I have been the more particular on this, because it explains the following verses of Claudian, which show that the Venetians are not the inventors of this trick.
Vel qui more avium sese jaculantur in auras,
CLAUD. De Pros. et OLYB. CONS.