BOOK VII. CONTAINING THREE DAYS.
1. Chapter i. A comparison between the world and the stage.
A comparison between the world and the stage.
The world hath been often compared to the theatre; and many grave
writers, as well as the poets, have considered human life as a great
drama, resembling, in almost every particular, those scenical
representations which Thespis is first reported to have invented, and
which have been since received with so much approbation and delight in
all polite countries.
This thought hath been carried so far, and is become so general, that
some words proper to the theatre, and which were at first
metaphorically applied to the world, are now indiscriminately and
literally spoken of both; thus stage and scene are by common use grown
as familiar to us, when we speak of life in general, as when we
confine ourselves to dramatic performances: and when transactions
behind the curtain are mentioned, St James's is more likely to occur
to our thoughts than Drury-lane.
It may seem easy enough to account for all this, by reflecting that
the theatrical stage is nothing more than a representation, or, as
Aristotle calls it, an imitation of what really exists; and hence,
perhaps, we might fairly pay a very high compliment to those who by
their writings or actions have been so capable of imitating life, as
to have their pictures in a manner confounded with, or mistaken for,
But, in reality, we are not so fond of paying compliments to these
people, whom we use as children frequently do the instruments of their
amusement; and have much more pleasure in hissing and buffeting them,
than in admiring their excellence. There are many other reasons which
have induced us to see this analogy between the world and the stage.
Some have considered the larger part of mankind in the light of
actors, as personating characters no more their own, and to which in
fact they have no better title, than the player hath to be in earnest
thought the king or emperor whom he represents. Thus the hypocrite may
be said to be a player; and indeed the Greeks called them both by one
and the same name.
The brevity of life hath likewise given occasion to this comparison.
So the immortal Shakespear--