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goria Graceless, William with the two Wives, St. Laurence, Mother Crooke, Judas, Dives, and Godly Admonition," etc. etc. Like many other dramatic pieces of the same age, it is evidently the offspring of the old Moralities, an attachment to which continued to linger among the lower classes for many subsequent years. 11. WHETSTONE, GEORGE. To this bard, more remarkable for his miscellaneous than his dramatic poetry, we are indebted for one play, viz. "The right excellent and famous Historie of Promos and Cassandra. Devided into two 64 Commicall Discoures." 4to. B. l. 1578.
An extrinsic importance affixing itself to this production, in consequence of its having furnished Shakspeare with several hints for his Measure for Measure, has occasioned its re-publication.* "The curious reader," remarks Mr. Steevens, will find that this old play exhibits an almost complete embryo of Measure for Measure; yet the hints on which it is formed are so slight, that it is nearly as impossible to detect them, as it is to point out in the acorn the future ramifications es of the oak."
The fable of Promos and Cassandra furnishes little interest, in the hands of Whetstone; nor are the diction and versification such as can claim even the award of mediocrity. It is chiefly written in alternate rhyme, with no pathos in its serious, and with feeble efforts at humour in its comic, parts.
12. WOOD, NATHANIEL, a clergyman of the city of Norwich, and only known as the producer of "An excellent New Comedie, entitled, The Conflict of Conscience, contayninge a most lamentable example of the doleful desperation of a miserable wordlinge, termed by the name of Philologus, who forsooke the trueth of God's Gospel for feare of the losse of life and worldly goods." 4to, 1581. This is another of the numerous spawn which issued from the ancient Mysteries and Moralities; the Dramatis Personæ, consisting of a strange medley of personified vices and real characters, are divided into six parts, "most convenient," says the author, "for such as be disposed either to shew this Comedie in private houses or otherwise." It is in the Garrick Collection, and very rare.
13. PEELE, GEORGE, the first of a train of play-wrights, who made a conspicuous figure just previous to the commencement, and during the earlier years, of Shakspeare's dramatic career. Educated at the University of Oxford, where he took his degree of Master of Arts in 1579, Peele shortly afterwards removed to London, and became the city poet, and a conductor of the pageants. His dramatic talents, like those which he exhibited in miscellaneous poetry, have been rated too high; the latter, notwithstanding Nash terms him "the chief supporter of pleasance, the atlas of poetrie, and primus verborum artifex," with the exception of two or three pastoral pieces, seldom attain mediocrity; and the former, though Wood has told us that his plays were not only often acted with great applause in his life-time, but did also endure reading, with due commendation, many years after his death," are now, and perhaps not undeservedly, held in little estimation. The piece which entitles him to notice in this chapter was printed in 1584, under the appellation of The Arraignment of Paris; it is a pastoral drama, which was performed before the Queen, by the children of her chapel, and has had the honour of being attributed, though without any foundation, to the muse of Shakspeare. Peele, who is supposed to have died about 1597, produced four additional plays, namely. "Edward the First," 4to, 1593; The Old Wive's Tale," 4to, 1595; "King David and Fair Bethsabe," published after his death in 1599, and " The Turkish Mahomet and Hyron the Fair Greek," which was never printed, and is now lost. From this unpublished play Shakspeare has taken a passage which he puts into the mouth of Pistol, who, in reference to Doll Tearsheet, calls out, Have we not Hiren here? a quotation which is to be detected in several other plays, Hiren, as we find, from one of our author's
• Among "Six Old Plays, on which Shakspeare founded his Measure for Measure, Comedy of Errors," &e &e, reprinted from the original editions, 2 vols. 8vo. 1779.
tracts, named "The Merie Conceited Jests of George Peele," being synonymous with the word courtezan. These allusions, however, mark the popularity of the piece, and his contemporary Robert Greene classes him with Marlowe and Lodge, no less deserving," he remarks, "in some things rarer, in nothing inferior." From the specimens, however, which we possess of his dramatic genius, the opinion of Greene will not readily meet with a modern assent; the pastoral and descriptive parts of his plays are the best, which are often clothed in sweet and flowing verse; but, as dramas, they are nerveless, passionless, and therefore ineffective in point of character.
14. LILLY, JOHN. This once courtly author, whom we have had occasion to censure for his affected innovation, and stilted elegance in prose composition, was, says Phillips, "a writer of several old-fashioned Comedies and Tragedies, which have been printed together in a volume, and might perhaps, when time was, be in very good request.'
The dramas here alluded to, but of which Phillips has given a defective and incorrect enumeration, are
1. Alexander and Campaspe, 1584, 4to. Tragi-comedy.-2. Sappho and Phaon, 1584, 4lo. Comedy.-3. Endimion, 1591. 4to. Comedy.-4. Galatea, 1592, 4to. Comedy.5. Mydas, 1592, 4to. Comedy.-6. Mother Bombie, 1594, 4to. Comedy.-7. The Woman in the Moon. 1597, 4to. Comedy.-8. The Maid her Metamorphosis, 1600.-9. Love bis Metamorphosis, 1601, 4to. Pastoral.
The volume mentioned by Phillips was published by Edward Blount in 1632, containing six of these pieces, to which he has affixed the title of "Sixe Court Comedies."
Notwithstanding the encomia of Mr. Blount, the genius of this "insufferable Elizabethan coxcomb," as he has been not unaptly called, was by no means calculated for dramatic effect. Epigrammatic wit, forced conceits, and pedantic allusion, are such bad substitutes for character and humour, that we cannot wonder if fatigue or insipidity should be the result of their employment. Campaspe has little interest, and no unity in its fable, and though termed a tragi-comedy, is written in prose; Sappho and Phaon has some beautiful passages, but is generally quaint and unnatural; Endimion has scarcely any thing to recommend it; and disgusts by its gross and fulsome flattery of Elizabeth; Galatea displays some luxuriant imagery, and Phillida and Galatea are not bad copies from the Iphis and Ianthe of Ovid; Mydas is partly a political production, and though void of interest, has more simplicity and purity both of thought and diction than is usual with this writer; Mother Bombie is altogether worthless in a dramatic light; The Woman in the Moon is little better; The Maid her Metamorphosis, the greater part of which is in verse, is one of the author's experiments for the refinement of our language,—an attempt which, if any where more peculiarly absurd, must be pronounced to be so on the stage; Love his Metamormophosis, of which the very title-page pronounces its condemnation, being designated as "A Wittie and Courtly Pastoral."*
Though only two or three of Lilly's earlier dramas fall within the period allotted to this chapter, yet, in order to prevent a tiresome repetition of the subject, we have here enumerated the whole of his comedies; a plan that we shall pursue with regard to the remaining poets of this era.
It may be necessary to remark, that we must not estimate the poetical talents of Lilly from his failure as a dramatist; for in the Lyric department he has shown very superior abilities, whether we consider the freedom and melody of his versification, or the fancy and sentiment which he displays. His plays abound with songs alike admirable for their beauty, sweetness, and polish.†
For these plays, the reader may consult Dodsley's Old Plays, 1780; Hawkins's Origin of the Eagluh Drama; Ancient British Drama apud Sir Walter Scott; and old Plays, vols. 1 and 2. 8vo. 1814. Numerous specimens of these Songs, in case the dramas are not at hand, will be found in Eilis's
Lilly, who had received an excellent classical education, and was a member of both the Universities, died about the year 1600.
15. HUGHES, THOMAS, the author of a singular old play, entitled "The Misfortunes of Arthur (Uther Pendragon's sonne) reduced into tragical notes by Thomas Hughes, one of the Societie of Graye's Inne." 12mo, 1587.
In conformity with some prior examples, this production has an argument, a dumb show, and a chorus to each act; "it is beautifully printed in the black letter," observes the editor of the Biographia Dramatica, "and has many cancels consisting of single words, half lines, and entire speeches; these were reprinted and pasted over the cancelled passages; a practice, I believe, very rarely seen." Arthur was performed before the Queen at Greenwich, on the 28th of February, and in the thirtieth year of her reign, and exhibits in its title-page a remarkable proof of the license which actors at that time took in curtailing or enlarging the composition of the original author, informing us that the play "was set downe as it passed from under his (the poet's) hands, and as it was presented, excepting certain words and lines, where some of the actors either helped their memories by brief omission, or fitted their acting by alteration." The writer appears to have been familiar with the Roman classics, but the rarity of his piece is much greater than its merit.*
16. KYD, THOMAS, to whom has been ascribed four plays, viz. "Jeronimo;" "The Spanish Tragedy;" Solyman and Perseda," and "Cornelia." Of these the first, which appeared on the stage about the year 1588, seems to have been given to Kyd, in consequence of his resuming the name and story in his Spanish tragedy; it is a short piece not divided into acts and scenes, of little value, and was printed in 1605, under the title of "The First Part of Jeronimo. With the Warres of Portugal, and the Life and Death of Don Andrea." 4to.
"The Spanish Tragedy, or, Hieronimo is mad again, Containing the lamentable end of Don Horatio and Belimperia. With the pitifull Death of Hieronimo," is supposed to have been first acted in 1588, or 1589, immediately following up the elder Jeronimo which had been well received.
Though this drama was an incessant object of ridicule to the contemporaries and immediate successors of its author, it nevertheless acquired great popularity, and long maintained possession of the stage. The consequence of this partiality was shown in a perversion of the public taste, for nothing can exceed the bom bast and pueritities of this play and of those to which it gave almost instant birth. Kyd, in fact, whilst aspiring to the delineation of the most tremendous incidents, and the most uncontrolled passions, seems totally unconscious of his own imbecility; and the result, therefore, has usually been, either unqualified horror, unmitigated disgust, or the most ludicrous emotion. There is neither symmetry, consistency, nor humanity in the characters; they are beings not of this world, and the finest parts of the play, which occur in the fourth act, possess a tone of sorrow altogether wild and preternatural. The catastrophe is absurdly horrible. Such were the attractions, however, of this sanguinary tragedy, that Ben Jonson, who, according to Decker, originally performed the character of Jeronimo, was employed by Mr. Henslow, in 1602, to give it a fresh claim on curiosity by his additions.
"The Tragedie of Solyman and Perseda, wherein is laide open Love's Constancy, Fortune's Inconstancy, and Death's Triumphs," is conjectured by Mr. Hawkins to have been the production of Kyd. Like Jeronimo, it is not divided nto acts, and was entered on the Stationers' books in the same year with the Spanish Tragedy, a circumstance which leads us to suppose, that its date of perormance was nearly contemporary with that production. Its style and manner,
necimens of the Early English Poets, vol. ii ; and in Beloe's Anecdotes of Literature and Scarce Books, * See a further account of this play, and a specimen of the chorus, in Beloe's Anecdotes, vol. i. p. 386.
too, are such as assimilate it to the peculiar genius which breathes throngh the undisputed writings of the tragedian to whom it has been ascribed.
"Cornelia," thus named when first published in 4to, 1594, but reprinted in 1595, under the enlarged title of "Pompey the Great his Fair Cornelia's Tragedy, effected by her Father and Husband's Downcast, Death, and Fortune," 4to. This play being merely a translation from the French of Garnier, and consequently an imitation of the ancients through a third or fourth medium, requires little notice. The dialogue is in blank verse, and the choruses in various lyric metres.*
Kyd died, oppressed by poverty, about the year 1595.
17. MARLOWE, CHRISTOPHER, as an author, an object of great admiration and encomium in his own times, and, of all the dramatic poets who preceded Shakspeare, certainly the one who possessed the most genius. He was egregiously misled, however, by bad models, and his want of taste has condemned him, as a writer for the stage, to an obscurity from which he is not likely to emerge.
This "famous gracer of tragedians," as he is termed by Greene, in his Groatsworth of Wit, produced eight plays:
1. "Tamburlaine the Great, or the Scythian Shepherd. Part the First." 4to. 2.Tamburlaine the Great. Part the Second." 4to.
Of this tragedy, in two parts, which was brought on the stage about the year 1588, though not printed until 1590, it is impossible to speak without a mixture of wonder and contempt; for, whilst a few passages indicate talents of no common order, the residue is a tissue of unmingled rant, absurdity, and fustian: yet strange as it may appear, the most extravagant flights of this eccentric composition were the most popular, and numerous allusions to its moon-struck reveries are to be found in the productions of its times. That it should be an object of ridicule to Shakspeare, and of quotation to Pistol, are alike in character.†
3. "Lust's Dominion, or the Lascivious Queen, a Tragedy." 12mo. This, like the two former plays, is tragedy run mad, and its spirit may be justly described in the words of one of its characters; Eleazor the Moor, who exclaims,- Tragedy, thou minion of the night, to thee I'll sing Upon an harp made of dead Spanish bones, The proudest instrument the world affords; "Whilst" thou in crimson jollity shall bathe Thy limbs, as black as mine, in springs of blood Still gushing.
Its horrors, however, for this is the only epithet its incidents can claim, are often clothed in poetical imagery, and even luscious versification; it has also more fine passages to boast of than Tamburlaine, and it has, likewise, more development of character; but all these are powerless in mitigating the disgust which its fable and conduct inspire.
4. "The Troublesome Raigne and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England." 4to.
Edward the Second is a proof, that, when Marlowe chose to drop the barbarities of his age, and the bombast of "King Cambyses' Vein," he could exert an influence over the heart which has not often been excelled. There is a truth, simplicity, and moral feeling in this play which irresistibly attracts, and would fain induce us to hope, that its author could not have exhibited the impious and abandoned traits of character which have usually been attributed to him. The deathscene of Edward is a master-piece of pity and terror.
5. "The Massacre of Paris, with the Death of the Duke of Guise. 8vo." A subject congenial with the general cast of Marlowe's gloomy and ferocious style
"There is particularly remembered," remarks Philips, "his tragedy Cornelia." Theatrum Poetaram, apud Brydges, p. 206. Henry the Fourth, Part II. act ii. sc. 4.
of colouring, nor is it deficient in his wonted accumulation of horrors. It possesses, however, a few good scenes, and may be classed midway between the author's worst and best productions.
6. "The Rich Jew of Malta," 4to. The prejudice against the Jews, during the reign of Elizabeth, was excessive; none were suffered to reside in the kingdom, and every art encouraged that could stimulate the hatred of the people against this persecuted race. No engine was better calculated for this purpose than the stage, and no characters were ever more relished, or more malignantly enjoyed, than the Barabas of Marlowe, and the Shylock of Shakspeare. The distance, however, between them, as well with regard to truth of delineation as to poetical vigour of conception, is infinite; for whilst the Jew of Marlowe can be considered in no other light than as the mere incarnation of a fiend, that of Shakspeare possesses, with all his ferocity and cruelty, such a touch of humanity as classes him distinctly with his species, and renders him, if not a very probable, yet a very possible being.
7. "The Tragical Historie of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus." 4to. This, in point of preternatural wildness, and metaphysical horror, is the chefd'œuvre of Marlowe. It unfolds not only genius of a sublimated and exotic cast, but seems to have been the product of a mind inflamed by unhallowed curiosity, and an eager irreligious desire of invading the secrets of another world, and so far gives credence to the imputations which have stained the memory of its author; for this play breathes not a poetic preternaturalism, if we may use the expression, but looks like the creature of an atmosphere emerging from the gulph of lawless spirits, and vainly employed in pursuing the corruscations which traverse its illimitable gloom.
The catastrophe of this play makes the heart shudder, and the hair involuntarily start erect; and the agonies of Faustus on the fast-approaching expiration of his compact with the Devil, are depicted with a strength truly appalling. Yet amidst all this diabolism, there occasionally occur passages of great moral sublimity, passages on which Milton seems to have fixed his eye. Thus, the reply of the Demon Mephostophilis to the enquiry of Faustus, concerning the locality of Hell, bears a striking analogy to the descriptions of Satan's internal and ever-present torments at the commencement of the fourth book of Paradise Lost. "Tell me," exclaims the daring necromancer, "where is the place that men call Hell ?"
"Mephostophilis. Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place; but where we are is hell,
All places shall be hell that are not heaven."
8. "The Tragedie of Dido, Queene of Carthage."-This drama was written in conjunction with Thomas Nash, and printed in 1594.*
Marlowe has been lavishly panegyrised by Jonson, Heywood, Drayton, Peele, Meres, Nash, etc.; but by none so emphatically as by Phillips, who, at the very opening of his article on this poet, calls him "a kind of a second Shakspeare." This seems, however, to have been done rather with a reference to the similarities arising from his having, like Shakspeare, been actor, player, and author of a poem on a congenial subject with Venus and Adonis, namely, his Hero and Leander, than from any approximation in the value of their dramatic works.
The death of Marlowe, which took place before the year 1593, was violent and premature, the melancholy termination of a life rendered still more melancholy by vice and infidelity. †
This rare play was purchased, at the Roxburghe sale, for seventeen suineas!
+ Two accounts, varying materially, have been given by Wood and Vaughan, of this poet's untimely