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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

That they inculcate false morals


Quakers therefore are of opinion, that they cannot as men, either professing christian tenets, or christian love, encourage others to assume false characters, or to [5] personate those which are not their own.

[Footnote 5: Rousseau condemns the stage upon the same principle. "It is, says he, the art of dissimulation--of assuming a foreign character, and of appearing differently from what a man really is--of flying into a passion without a cause, and of saying what he does not think, as naturally as if he really did--in a word of forgetting himself to personate others."]

They object also to the manner of the drama, even where it professes to be a school for morals. For where it teaches morality, it inculcates rather the refined virtue of heathenism, than the strict, though mild discipline of the gospel. And where it attempts to extirpate vice, it does it rather by making it ridiculous, than by making men shun it for the love of virtue. It no where fixes the deep christian principle, by which men are bound to avoid it as sin, but places the propriety of the dereliction of it rather upon the loss of reputation among the world, than upon any sense of religious duty.


_Theatre forbidden an account of the internal contents of the drama--both of those of tragedy--and of comedy--these contents hold out false morals and prospects--and weaken

the sinews of morality --observations of Lord Kaimes upon the subject._

The next class of arguments is taken from the internal contents of the drama.

The Quakers mean that dramatic compositions generally contain false sentiments, that is, such as christianity would disapprove; that, of course they hold out false prospects; that they inculcate false morals; and that they have a tendency from these, and other of their internal contents, to promote dissipation, and to weaken the sinews of morality in those who see them represented upon the stage.

Tragedy is considered by the Quakers, as a part of the drama, where the hero is generally a warrior, and where a portion of human happiness is made to consist of martial glory. Hence it is considered as frequently inculcating proud and lofty sentiments, as cherishing a fierce and romantic spirit, as encouraging rival enmities, as holding of no importance the bond of love and union between man and man. Now as christianity enjoins humility, peace, quietness, brotherly affection, and charity, which latter is not to be bounded by the limits of any country, the Quakers hold as a christian body, that they cannot admit their children to spectacles, which have a tendency to engender a disposition opposite to these.

Comedy is considered as holding out prospects, and inculcating morals, equally false and hurtful. In such compositions, for example, a bad impression is not uniformly given of a bad character. Knavery frequently accomplishes its ends without the merited punishment. Indeed treachery and intrigue are often considered but as jocose occurrences. The laws of modern honour are frequently held out to the spectator, as laws that are to influence in life. Vulgar expressions, and even swearing are admitted upon the stage. Neither is chastity nor delicacy always consulted there. Impure allusions are frequently interwoven into the dialogue, so that innocence cannot but often blush. Incidents not very favourable to morals, are sometimes introduced. New dissipated characters are produced to view, by the knowledge of which, the novice in dissipation is not diverted from his new and baneful career, but finds only his scope of dissipation enlarged, and a wider field to range in. To these hurtful views of things, as arising from the internal structure, are to be added those, which arise from the extravagant love-tales, the ridiculous intrigues, and the silly buffoonery of the compositions of the stage.

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