Theatre, signifies the place in which spectacles, or dramatic representations, arc exhibited.
The drama was originally invented in Greece; whence the rules of it have been gradually dispersed over the civilized nations of Europe. It would, however, be inconsistent with our limits, to trace its progress from rudeness to refinement, or vice versa : we shall, therefore, content ourselves with remarking, that dramatic performances afford to many persons an agreeable relaxation, after the toils of their industrious pursuits. And, though play-houses have often met with violent opposition, as tending to corrupt the morals of the people; yet, if they be managed with a due regard to decorum, and moral truth, inculcating only virtuous precepts, they doubtless deserve encouragement. Indeed, the ten-dency of plays depends principally on the opinions, manners, and taste of the public: for, as the chief object of those who devote them-selves to the stage, is the acquisition of wealth and fame, or notoriety, it follows that if such taste be gross or corrupted, the representations will also partake of the general depravity, in order to please a mixed audience : on the other hand, if the national sentiments be elevated and refined, the perform-ances will likewise be divested of rude and licentious expressions; so that the theatre will then be favourable to the cause of virtue and morality. Whether these observations be applicable to the present condition of the British stage, we submit to the judgment of the attentive reader: but, there are a few remarks, which we cannot on this occasion suppress.
As the language of the drama ought to be alike free from affec-tation and ambiguity, we think it highly censurable in performers, either to extemporize, where a favourable opportunity offers for pass-ing off a vulgar joke ; or to substitute words, the meaning of which admits of an explanation unfavourable to moral purity. It would be superfluous to point out the danger of such licentiousness, especially to the young female breast, which is thus imperceptibly contaminated in the presence of parents and guardians. Nor can we approve of another singular custom, now prevalent in our theatres; namely, that of accompanying the most serious drama, or a tragedy, with what is vulgarly called an entertainment, or a farce: thus, every grain of taste in the audience, is completely effaced ; and it appears to us nearly in the same light, as if a person-, after hearing an impressive discourse, retires to an adjoining tavern, in order to drown the calls of conscience, by profuse libations to Bacchus.