S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Comedy was satirical. Satire is best on the living. It was soon found that the best way to depress an hated character was to turn it into ridicule; and therefore the greater vices, which in the beginning were lashed, gave place to the contemptible. Its passion, therefore, became ridicule. Every writing must have its characteristic passion. What is that of comedy, if not ridicule? Comedy, therefore, is a satirical poem, representing an action carried on by dialogue, to excite laughter by describing ludicrous characters. See Aristotle.
Comedy should be mere common life, and not one jot bigger. Every character should speak upon the stage, not only what it would utter in the situation there represented, but in the same manner in which it would express it. For which reason, I cannot allow rhymes in comedy, unless they were put into the mouth and came out of the mouth of a mad poet.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Jan. 23, 1752.
It is not so difficult to fill a comedy with good repartee as might be at first imagined, if we consider how completely both parties are in the power of the author. The blaze of wit in The School for Scandal astonishes us less when we remember that the writer had it in his power to frame both the question and the answer; the reply and the rejoinder; the time and the place. He must be a poor proficient who cannot keep up the game when both the ball, the wall, and the racket are at his sole command.
In the name of art as well as in the name of virtue, we protest against the principle that the world of pure comedy is one into which no moral enters. If comedy be an imitation, under whatever conventions, of real life, how is it possible that it can have no reference to the great rule which directs life, and to feelings which are called forth by every incident of life? If what Mr. Charles Lamb says were correct, the inference would be that these dramatists did not in the least understand the very first principles of their craft. Pure landscape-painting into which no light or shade enters, pure portrait-painting into which no expression enters, are phrases less at variance with sound criticism than pure comedy into which no moral enters. But it is not the fact that the world of these dramatists is a world into which no moral enters. Morality constantly enters into that world, a sound morality, and an unsound morality; the sound morality to be insulted, derided, associated with everything mean and hateful; the unsound morality to be set off to every advantage, and inculcated by all methods, direct and indirect.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Comic Dramatists of the Restoration, Jan. 1841.
The vast and inexhaustible variety of knavery, folly, affectation, humour, etc., etc., as mingled with each other, or as modified by difference of age, sex, temper, education, profession, and habit of body, are all within the royalty of the modern comic dramatist . The ancients were much more limited in their circle of materials.