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cedents afforded by Greece and Rome. Of comedy, of patient sprite to others wrapp'd in woe, which was an improvement upon the interludes, and And can in speech both rule and conquer kind, may be more remotely traced in the ludicrous parts Who, if by proof they might feel nature's force, of the moral plays, the earliest specimen that can Would show themselves men as they are indeed, now be found bears the uncouth title of Ralph Which now will needs be gods. Royster Doyster, and was the production of NICOLAS UDALL, master of Westminster school. It is sup- Porrex, both tragedies and comedies had become not
Not long after the appearance of Ferrex and posed to have been written in the reign of Henry VIII., but certainly not later than 1551. The scene tragedy upon a classical subject, was acted before
Damon and Pythias, the first English is in London, and the characters, thirteen in num- the queen at Oxford, in 1566 ; it was the composition ber, exhibit the manners of the middle orders of the of Richard Edwards, a learned member of the unipeople of that day. It is divided into five acts, and the plot is amusing and well constructed. Mr J. versity, but was inferior to Ferrex and Porrex, in as Payne Collier, who has devoted years of anxious far as it carried an admixture of vulgar comedy, and study to the history and illustration of dramatic was written in rhyme. In the same year, two plays literature, has discovered four acts of a comedy, respectively styled the Supposes and Jocasta, the one which he assigns to the year 1560. This play is a cornedy adapted from Ariosto, the other a traentitled Mesogonus, and bears to be written by gedy from Euripides, were acted in Gray's Inn Hall. • Thomas Rychardes.' The scene is laid in Italy, but the manners are English, and the character of the domestic fool, so important in the old comedy, is fully delineated. The next in point of time is Gammer Gurton's Needle, supposed to have been written about 1565 (or still earlier) by John STILL, Master of Arts, and afterwards bishop of Bath and Wells. This is a piece of low rustic humour, the whole turning upon the loss and recovery of the needle with which Gammer Gurton was mending a piece of attire belonging to her man Hodge. But it is cleverly hit off, and contains a few well-sketched characters.
The language of Ralph Royster Doyster, and of Gammer Gurton's Needle, is in long and irregularly measured rhyme, of which a specimen may be given from a speech of Dame Custance in the former play, respecting the difficulty of preserving a good reputation :
How necessary it is now a-days,
Tragedy, of later origin than comedy, came directly from the more elevated portions of the moral plays, and from the pure models of Greece and Rome. The earliest known specimen of this kind of composition is the Tragedy of Ferrex and Porrer, composed by Thomas Sackville, afterwards Earl of Dorset, and by Thomas Norton, and played before Queen Elizabeth at Whitehall, by the members of the Inner Temple, in January 1561. It is founded on a fabulous incident in early British history, and is full of slaughter and civil broils. It is written, however, in regular blank verse, consists of five acts,
Gray's Inn Hall. and observes some of the more useful rules of the A tragedy, called Tancred and Gismunda, composed classic drama of antiquity, to which it bears resem- by five members of the Inner Temple, and presented blance in the introduction of a chorus—that is, a group of persons whose sole business it is to inter- there before the queen in 1568, was the first Engsperse the play with moral observations and infe- dramatic pieces now followed, and between the years
lish play taken from an Italian novel. Various rences, expressed in lyrical stanzas. It may occasion 1568 and 1580, no less than fifty-two dramas were some surprise, that the first English tragedy should acted at court under the superintendence of the contain lines like the following:
Master of the Revels. Under the date of 1578, we Acastus. Your grace should now, in these grave have the play of Promos and Cassandra, by GEORGE years of yours,
WHETSONE, on which Shakspeare founded his Have found ere this the price of mortal joys ; Measure for Measure. Historical plays were also How short they be, how fading here in earth ; produced, and the Troublesome Reign of King John, How full of change, how little our estate
the Famous Victories of Henry V., and the Chronicle Of nothing sure save only of the death,
History of Leir, King of England, formed the quarry To whom both man and all the world doth owe from which Shakspeare constructed his dramas on Their end at last : neither should nature's power the same events. The first regularly licensed theatre In other sort against your heart prevail,
in London was opened at Blackfriars in 1576; and in Than as the naked hand whose stroke assays
ten years, it is mentioned by Secretary Walsingham, The armed breast where force doth light in vain. that there were two hundred players in and near Gorboduc. Many can yield right sage and grave the metropolis. This was probably an exaggeration, advice
but it is certain there were five public theatres open
about the commencement of Shakspeare's career, and ness of some of the language put into the mouths of several private or select establishments. Curiosity females in the old plays, while it serves to point out is naturally excited to learn something of the struc- still more clearly the depth of that innate sense of ture and appearance of the buildings in which his beauty and excellence which prompted the exquisite immortal dramas first saw the light, and where he pictures of loveliness and perfection in Shakspeare's unwillingly made himself a motley to the view,' in female characters. At the end of each performance, his character of actor. The theatres were constructed the clown, or buffoon actor of the company, recited
or sung a rhyming medley called a jig, in which he often contrived to introduce satirical allusions to public men or events; and before dismissing the audience, the actors knelt in front of the stage, and offered up a prayer for the queen! Reviewing these rude arrangements of the old theatres, Mr Dyce happily remarks — What a contrast between the almost total want of scenery in those days, and the splendid representations of external nature in our modern playhouses! Yet perhaps the decline of the drama may in a great measure be attributed to this improvement. The attention of an audience is now directed rather to the efforts of the painter than to those of the actor, who is lost amid the marvellous effects of light and shade on our gigantic stages.'*
The only information we possess as to the payment of dramatic authors at this time, is contained in the memoranda of Philip Henslowe, a theatrical manager, preserved in Dulwich college, and quoted by Malone and Collier. Before the year 1600, the price, paid by Henslowe for a new play never exceeded £8; but after this date, perhaps in consequence of the exertions of rival companies, larger sums were given, and prices of £20 and £25 are
mentioned. The proceeds of the second day's perGlobe Theatre
formance were afterwards added to the author's
emoluments. Furnishing prologues for new plays, of wood, of a circular form, open to the weather, the prices of which varied from five to twenty shilexcepting over the stage, which was covered with a lings, was another source of gain : but the proverbial thatched roof. Outside, on the roof, a dag was poverty of poets seems to have been exemplified in hoisted during the time of performance, which com- the old dramatists, even when they were actors as menced at three o'clock, at the third sounding or well as authors. The shareholders of the theatre flourish of trumpets. The cavaliers and fair dames derived considerable profits from the performances, of the court of Elizabeth sat in boxes below the and were occasionally paid for exhibitions in the houses gallery, or were accommodated with stools on the of the nobility. In 1602, a sum of ten pounds was. stage, where some of the young gallants also threw given to · Burbidge's players' for performing Othello. themselves at length on the rush-strewn floor, while before Queen Elizabeth, at Harefield, the seat of Sir their pages handed them pipes and tobacco, then a Thomas Egerton. Nearly all the dramatic authors fashionable and highly-prized luxury. The middle classes were crowded in the pit, or yard, which was men who had received a learned education at the
preceding and contemporary with Shakspeare were not furnished with seats. Moveable scenery was first introduced by Davenant, after the Restoration,* of classical imagery abounds in their plays, but they
university of Oxford or Cambridge. A profusion but rude imitations of towers, woods, animals, or did not copy the severe and correct taste of the furniture, served to illustrate the scene. To point ancient models. They wrote to supply the popular out the place of action, a board containing the name, demand for novelty and excitement for broad farce painted or written in large letters, was hung out or superlative tragedy-to introduce the coarse during the performance. Anciently, an allegorical raillery or comic incidents of low life-to dramatise exhibition, called the Dumb Show, was exhibited a murder, or embody the vulgar idea of oriental before every act, and gave an outline of the action bloodshed and splendid extravagance. "If we seek or circumstances to follow. Shakspeare has pre- for a poetical image,' says a writer on our drama, served this peculiarity in the play acted before the a burst of passion, a beautiful sentiment, a trait of king and queen in Hamlet; but he never employs it nature, we seek not in vain in the works of our very in his own dramas. Such machinery, indeed, would oldest dramatists. But none of the predecessors of be incompatible with the increased action and busi- Shakspeare must be thought of along with him, ness of the stage, when the miracle plays had given when he appears before us like Prometheus, moulding place to the .pomp and circumstance of historical the figures of men, and breathing into them the dramas, and the bustling liveliness of comedy. The animation and all the passions of life.' Among the chorus was longer retained, and appears in Marlow's immediate predecessors of the great poet are some Faustus, and in Henry VI. Actresses were not seen worthy of separate notice. A host of playwrights on the stage till after the Restoration, and the abounded, and nearly all of them have touches of female parts were played by boys, or delicate-looking that happy poetic diction, free, yet choice and select, young men. This may perhaps palliate the gross which gives a permanent value and interest to these
elder masters of English poetry.
The martlet, guest of summer, chose her nest-
* Memoir of Shakspeare-Aldine Poets.
† Blackwood's Magazine, vol. ii., from Essays on the Old No pencil's aid as yet had dar'd supply,
Drama, said to have been contributed by Henry Mackenzie, Seen only by th' intellectual eyo.'—C. LAND.
author of the Man of Feeling.'
Brave prick-song! who is't now we hear !
None but the lark so shrill and clear, 'John Lyly, born in Kent in 1554, produced nine Now at heaven's gate she claps her wings, plays between the years 1579 and 1600. They The morn not waking till she sings. were mostly written for court entertainments, and Hark, hark ! but what a pretty note, performed by the scholars of St Paul's. He was edu- Poor Robin red-breast tunes his throat; cated at Oxford, and many of his plays are on my- Hark, how the jolly cuckoos sing thological subjects, as Sappho and Phaon, Endymion, • Cuckoo !' to welcome in the spring. the Maid's Metamorphosis, &c. His style is affected and unnatural, yet, like his own Niobe, in the Metamorphosis, oftentimes he had sweet thoughts, sometimes hard conceits; betwixt both a kind of
GEORGE PEELE held the situation of city poet and yielding.' By his Euphues, or the Anatomy of Wit, conductor of pageants for the court. He was also Lyly exercised a powerful though injurious influ- an actor and a shareholder with Shakspeare and ence on the fashionable literature of his day, in prose others, in 1589, in the Blackfriars theatre. In 1584, composition as well as in discourse. His plays were his Arraignment of Paris, a court show, was reprenot important enough to found a school. Hazlitt sented before Elizabeth. The author was then a was a warm admirer of Lyly's Endymion, but evi- young man, who had recently left Christ-church, dently from the feelings and sentiments it awakened, Oxford. In 1593, Peele gave an example of an Engrather than the poetry. “I know few things more lish historical play in his Edward I. The style of perfect in characteristic painting,' he remarks, this piece is turgid and monotonous; yet, in the fol
than the exclamation of the Phrygian shepherds, lowing allusion to England, we see something of the who, afraid of betraying the secret of Midas's ears, high-sounding kingly speeches in Shakspeare's hisfancy that “the very reeds bow down, as though torical plays :they listened to their talk;” nor more affecting in sentiment, than the apostrophe addressed by his Illustrious England, ancient seat of kings, friend Eumenides to Endymion, on waking from his Whose chivalry hath royalis’d thy fame, long sleep, “ Behold the twig to which thou laidest That, sounding bravely through terrestrial vale, down thy head is now become a tree.”' There are Proclaiming conquests, spoils, and rictories, finer things in the Metainorphosis, as where the Rings glorious echoes through the farthest world ! prince laments Eurymene lost in the woods—
What warlike nation, traind in feats of arnis,
What barbarous people, stubborn, or untam’d, Adorned with the presence of my love,
What climate under the meridian signs, The woods I fear such secret power shall prove,
Or frozen zone under his brumal stage, As they'll shut up each path, hide every way,
Erst have not quak'd and trembled at the name Because they still would have her go astray, Of Britain and her mighty conquerors ? And in that place would always have her seen,
Her neighbour realms, as Scotland, Denmark, France, Only because they would be ever green,
Awed with their deeds, and jealous of her arms, And keep the winged choristers still there,
Have begg'd defensive and offensive leagues. To banish winter clean out of the year.
Thus Europe, rich and mighty in her kings, Or the song of the fairies
Hath fear'd brave England, dreadful in her kings.
And now, to eternise Albion's champions,
Equivalent with Trojan's ancient faine,
Comes lovely Edward from Jerusalem,
Veering before the wind, ploughing the sea;
His stretched sails fill'd with the breath of men,
That through the world admire his manliness.
And lo, at last arrived in Dover road,
Longshank, your king, your glory, and our son, The genius of Lyly was essentially lyrical. The With troops of conquering lords and warlike knights, songs in his plays seem to flow freely from nature. Like bloody-crested Mars, o'erlooks his host, The following exquisite little pieces are in his drama Higher than all his army by the head, of Alexander and Campaspe, written about 1583:- Marching along as bright as Phæbus' eyes !
And we, his mother, shall behold our son,
And England's peers shall see their sovereign.
Peele was also author of the Old Wires' Tale, a legen.
dary story, part in prose, and part in blank verse, He stakes his quiver, bow, and arrows,
which afforded Milton a rude outline of his fable of His mother's doves and team of sparrows; Comus. The Old Wives' Tale was printed in 1595, Loses them too, and down he throws
as acted by the Queen's Majesty's Players.' The The coral of his lip—the rose
greatest work of Peele is his Scripture drama the Growing on's cheek, but none knows how ;
Love of King David and Fair Bethsabe, with the With these the crystal on his brow,
tragedy of Absalom, which Mr Campbell terms 'the And then the dimple of his chin;
earliest fountain of pathos and harmony that can be All these did my Campaspe win:
traced in our dramatic poetry.' The date of represenAt last he set her both his eyes ;
tation of this drama is not known: it was not printed She won, and Cupid blind did rise.
till 1599, after Shakspeare had written some of his Oh Love, hath she done this to thee!
finest comedies, and opened up a fountain compared What shall, alas, become of me !
with which the feeble tricklings of Peele were wholly
insignificant. It is not probable that Peele's play was Song.
written before 1590, as one passage in it is a direct What bird so sings, yet so does wail !
plagiarism from the Faery Queen of Spenser. We O'tis the ravish'd nightingale
may allow Peele the merit of a delicate poetical Jug, jug, jug, jug-tereu-she cries,
fancy and smooth musical versification. The defect And still her woes at midnight rise.
of his blank verse is its want of variety: the art of
varying the pauses and modulating the verse with. That precious fount bear sand of purest gold;
Of moss that sleeps with sound the waters make
For joy to feed the fount with their recourse ;
Bear manna every morn, instead of dew;
Or let the dew be sweeter far than that
That hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon hill,
Or balm which trickled from old Aaron's beard.
The fairest daughter that obeys the king,
In all the land the Lord subdued to me,
Fairer than Isaac's lover at the well,
Brighter than inside bark of new-hewn cedar,
Sweeter than flames of fine perfumed myrrh ;
On zephyr's wings before the King of Heaven.
Cusay. Is it not Bethsabe the Hethite's wife,
Urias, now at Rabath siege with Joab ?
David. Go now and bring her quickly to the king ;
Tell her, her graces hath found grace with him. The hearers' minds above the towers of heaven, Cusay. I will, my lord.
(Exit. And guide them so in this thrice haughty flight, David. Bright Bethsabe shall wash in David's Their mounting feathers scorch not with the fire
In water mixed with purest alınond flower,
And bathe her beauty in the milk of kids ;
Bright Bethsabe gives earth to my desires,
Verdure to earth, and to that verdure flowers,
To flowers sweet odours, and to olours wings,
That carries pleasures to the hearts of kings.
Now comes my lover tripping like the roe,
In oblique turnings wind the nimble waves
About the circles of her curious walks,
And with their murmur summon easeful sleep,
To lay his golden sceptre on her brows.
Mr Lamb says justly, that the line 'seated in hearing
of a hundred streams' is the best in the above pasAnd stroke my bosom with the silken fan :
sage. It is indeed a noble poetical image. Peele This shade (sun proof) is yet no proof for thee ;
died before 1599, and seems, like most of his draThy body, smoother than this waveless spring,
matic brethren, to have led an irregular life, in the And purer than the substance of the same,
midst of severe poverty. A volume of Merry ConCan creep through that his lances cannot pierce.
ceited Jests, said to have been by him, was published Thou and thy sister, soft and sacred air,
after his death in 1607, which shows that he was Goddess of life and governess of health,
not scrupulous as to the means of relieving his Kecps every fountain fresh and arbour sweet ;
In 1588, THOMAS Ked produced his play of HieroDarid. What tunes, what words, what looks, what nimo or Jeronimo, and some years afterwards a second wonders pierce
part to it, under the title of the Spanish Tragedy, or My soul, incensed with a sudden fire!
Hieronimo is Mad Again. This second part is supWhat tree, what shade, what spring, what paradise, posed to have gone through more editions than any Enjoys the beauty of so fair a dame !
play of the time. Ben Jonson was afterwards enFair Eva, plac'd in perfect happiness,
gaged to make additions to it, when it was revived Lending her praise-notes to the liberal heavens, in 1601, and further additions in 1602. These new Struck with the accents of archangels' tunes,
scenes are said by Lamb to be the very salt of the Wrought not more pleasure to her husband's thoughts old play, and so superior to Jonson's acknowledged Than this fair woman's words and notes to mine. works, that he attributes them to Webster, or some May that sweet plain that bears her pleasant weight, more potent spirit' than Ben. This seems refining Be still enamellid with discolour'd flowers ;
too much in criticism. Kyd, like Marlow, often
verges upon bombast, and deals largely in blood 1 The sun's rays. and death,
written in conjunction with Lodge. Greene died
in September 1592, owing, it is said, to a surfeit of Thomas Nash, a lively satirist, who amused the red herrings and Rhenish wine! Besides his plays, town with his attacks on Gabriel Harvey and the he wrote a number of tracts, one of which, Pandosto, Puritans, wrote a comedy called Summer's Last Will the Triumph of Time, 1588, was the source from and Testament, which was exhibited before Queen which Shakspeare derived the plot of his Winter's Elizabeth in 1592. He was also concerned with Tale. Some lines contained in this tale are very Marlow in writing the tragedy of Dido, Queen of beautiful :Carthage. He was imprisoned for being the author. Ah, were she pitiful as she is fair, of a satirical play, never printed, called the Isle of Or but as mild as she is seeming so, Dogs. Another piece of Nash's, entitled the Supp?i. Then were my hopes greater than my despair cation of Pierce Penniless to the Devil
, was printed in Then all the world were heaven, nothing woe. 1592, which was followed next year by Christ's Tears Ah, were her heart relenting as her hand, over Jerusalem.
Nash was a native of Leostoff, in That seems to melt e'en with the mildest touch, Suffolk, and was born about the year 1564; he was then knew I where to seat me in a land of St John's college, Cambridge, He died about Under the wide heavens, but yet not such. the year 1600, after a life spent,' he says, 'in So as she shows, she seerns the budding rose, fantastical satirism, in whose veins heretofore I Yet sweeter far than is an earthly flower; mispent my spirit, and prodigally conspired against Sovereign of beauty, like the spray she grows, good hours. He was the Churchill of his day, and Compassid she is with thorns and canker'd flower ; was much famed for his satires. One of his con
Yet, were she willing to be pluck'd and worn, temporaries remarks of him, in a happy couplet- She would be gather'd though she grew on thorn.
His style was witty, though he had some gall, The blank verse of Greene approaches next to that Something he might have mended, so may all. of Marlow, though less energetic. His imagination
Return from Parnassus.
was lively and discursive, fond of legendary lore, and The versification of Nash is hard and monotonous. filled with classical images and illustrations. In his The following is fronı his comedy of Summer's Last Orlando, he thus apostrophises the evening star :Will and Testament,' and is a favourable specimen Fair queen of love, thou mistress of delight, of his blank verse : great part of the play is in Thou gladsome lamp that wait'st on Phæbe's train, prose :
Spreading thy kindness through the jarring orbs,
That in their union praise thy lasting powers ; I never lov'd ambitiously to climb,
Thou that hast stay'd the fiery Phlegon's course, Or thrust my hand too far into the fire.
And mad'st the coachman of the glorious wain
To droop in view of Daphne's excellence ;
Fair pride of morn, sweet beauty of the even, Cannot but be more labour than delight.
Look on Orlando languishing in love. Such is the state of men in honour placed :
Sweet solitary groves, whereas the nymphs They are gold vessels made for servile uses;
With pleasance laugh to see the satyrs play,
Witness Orlando's faith unto his love.
Tread she these lawns ?-kind Flora, boast thy pride.
Seek she for shades 4-spread, cedars, for her sake. Neither to be so great as to be envied, Nor yet so poor the world should pity me.
Fair Flora, make her couch amidst thy flowers.
Sweet crystal springs, In his poem of Pierce Penniless, Nash draws a har- Ah thought, my heaven! Ah heaven, that knows my
Wash ye with roses when she longs to drink. rowing picture of the despair of a poor scholar
thought ! Ah, worthless wit ! to train me to this woe :
Smile, joy in her that my content hath wrought. Deceitful arts that nourish discontent :
Passages like this prove that Greene succeeds well, Ill thrive the folly that bewitch'd me so !
as Hallam remarks, 'in that florid and gay style, a Vain thoughts adieu ! for now I will repent- little redundant in images, which Shakspeare freAnd yet my wants persuade me to proceed, quently gives to his princes and courtiers, and which For none take pity of a scholar's need.
renders some unimpassioned scenes in the historic Forgive me, God, although I curse my birth, plays effective and brilliant.' Professor Tieck gives And ban the air wherein I breathe a wretch, him the high praise of possessing a happy talent, a Since misery hath daunted all my mirth,
clear spirit, and a lively imagination.' His comedies And I am quite undone through promise breach ; have a good deal of boisterous merriment and farcical Ak, friends !--no friends that then ungentle frown humour. George-a-Green is a shrewd YorkshireWhen changing fortune casts us headlong down. man, who meets with the kings of Scotland and
England, Robin Hood, Maid Marian, &c., and who, after various tricks, receives the pardon of King
Edward ROBERT GREENE, a more distinguished dramatist, George-a-Green, give me thy hand : there is is conjectured to have been a native of Norfolk, as None in England that shall do thee wrong. he adds • Norfolciensis' to his name, in one of his pro- Even from my court I came to see thyself, ductions. He was educated at Clare-Hall, Cam- And now I see that fame speaks nought but truth. bridge, and in 1583 appeared as an author. He is supposed to have been in orders, and to have held the and practical jokes in the play: it is in a scene be
The following is a specimen of the simple humour vicarage of Toliesbury, in Essex, as, in 1585, Robert Greene, the vicar, lost his preferment. The plays of
tween George and his servant:Greene are the History of Orlando, Friar Bacon and Jenkin. This fellow comes to me, Friar Bungay, Alphonsus, King of Arragon, George-a- And takes me by the bosom : you slave, Green, the Pinner of Wakefield, James 15., and the Said he, bold my horse, and look Looking-glass for London and England: the latter was He takes no cold in his feet.