« AnteriorContinuar »
thirty plays in which he is stated to have been more or less concerned, only the present and three others have been preserved. He has force as well as fertility, but it is apt to run into rant and absurdity. John Marston is the author of eight plays, and appears to have enjoyed in his own day a great reputation as a dramatist. He is to be classed, however, with Sackville and Chapman, as having more poetical than dramatic genius; although he has given no proof of a creative imagination equal to what is displayed in the early poetry of the former, and the best of Chapman's is instinct with a diviner fire. . But he is, nevertheless, a very imposing declaimer in verse. Besides his plays, Marston published two volumes of poetry: the second, by which he is best known, a collection of satires, in three books, entitled ‘The Scourge of Villainy,’ a set of very vigourous and animated Juvemalian chants. Of Robert Tailor nothing is known, except that he is the author of one play, a comedy, entitled The Hog hath lost his Pearl, which was acted ir 1613, and published the following year. It is reprinted in Dodsley's Collection, and Mr. Lamb has extracted from it the most interesting scenes, which, however, derive their interest rather from the force of the situation . (one that has been turned to better account in other hands) than from anything very impressive in its treatment. The merit of a perspicuous style is nearly all that can be awarded to this writer. Cyril Tourneur is known as the author of two surviving dramas—The Revenger's Tragedy, and The Atheist's Tragedy, besides a tragi-comedy, called The Nobleman, which is lost.*
* Drake, in his work entitled Shakspeare and his Times (vol. ii. p. 570), speaks of The Nobleman as if he had read
The Revenger's Tragedy, in particular, which is reprinted in Dodsley's Collection, both in the development of character and the conduct of the action evinces a rare dramatic skill, and the dialogue in parts is wonderfully fine—natural and direct as that of real passion, yet ennobled by the breathing thoughts and burning words of a poetic imagination,--by images and lines that plough into the memory and the heart. William Rowley, whose co-operation in the Witch of Edmonton with Decker and Ford has been already noticed, owes the greater part of his reputation to his having been taken into partnership, in the composition of some of their pieces, by Middleton, Webster, Massinger, and other writers more eminent than himself; but he has also left us a tragedy and three comedies of his own. He has his share of the cordial and straightforward manner of our old dramatists; but not a great deal more that is of much value. Of the style of his comedy a judgment may be formed from the fact, recorded by Langbaine, that certain of the scenes of one of his pieces, “A Shoemaker's a Gentleman,” used to be commonly performed by the strolling actors at Bartholomew and Southwark fairs. Though he appears to have begun to write, at least in association with others, some ten years before the death of Shakspeare, Rowley probably survived the middle of the century. So, also, it is supposed, did Thomas Heywood, the most rapid and voluminous of English writers, who apit—telling us that it, as well as Tourneur's two tragedies, contains “some very beautiful passages and some entire scenes of great merit.” In fact, the play is believed never to have been printed; but a manuscript copy of it was in
the collection of Mr. Warburton, the Somerset herald, which was destroyed by his cook.
pears to have written for the stage as early as 1596, but whose last-published piece, written in conjunction with Rowley, was not printed till 1655.” Heywood, according to his own account, in an Address to the Reader prefixed to his tragi-comedy of The English Traveller, published in 1633, had then, as he phrases it, “had either an entire hand, or, at the least, a main finger,” in the incredible number of two hundred and twenty dramatic productions ! “True it is,” he adds, “that my plays are not exposed unto the world in volumes, to bear the title of Works, as others. One reason is that many of them, by shifting and change of companies, have been negligently lost; others of them are still retained in the hands of some actors who think it against their peculiar profit to have them come in print; and a third, that it never was any great ambition in me to be in this kind voluminously read.” Besides his plays, too, Heywood, who was an actor, and engaged in the practice of his profession for a great part of his life, wrote numerous other works, several of them large volumes in quarto and folio. Among them are a translation of Sallust; a folio volume entitled ‘The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels;” a ‘General History of Women;’ and another work entitled ‘Nine Books of Various History concerning Women,” a folio of between four and five hundred pages, which, in a Latin note on the last page, he tells us was all excogitated, written, and printed in seventeen weeks. Of his plays above twenty are still extant, about a tithe of the prodigious litter. Two of them, his
* See Dodsley's Old Plays, Edit. of 1826; vii. 218 and tragedy of A Woman Killed with Kindness, and his historical play of The Four 'Prentices of London, are in Dodsley; and three more, his tragi-comedies of The English Traveller, The Royal King and Loyal Subject, and A Challenge for Beauty, are in Dilke's Collection. Lamb has very happily characterised Heywood in a few words: “Heywood is a sort of prose Shakspeare. His scenes are to the full as natural and affecting. But we miss the poet, that which in Shakspeare always appears out and above the surface of the nature.” His plays, however, are for the greater part in verse, which at least has ease of flow enough; and he may be styled not only a prose Shakspeare, but a more poetical Richardson. If he has not quite the power of Lillo in what has been called the domestic tragedy, which is the species to which his best pieces belong, he excels that modern dramatist both in facility and variety.”
* Mr. Hallam (Introd. to Lit. of Eur. iii. 618) states that between forty and fifty plays are ascribed to Heywood; in fact, only twenty-six existing plays have been ascribed to him, and only twenty-three can be decisively said to be his (see Dodsley, edit. of 1826, vii. 218, et seq.). Mr. Hallam is also not quite correct in elsewhere stating (ii. 382) that Heywood's play of A Woman Killed with Kindness bears the date of 1600, and in speaking of it as certainly his earliest production. The earliest known edition, which is called the third, is dated 1617; and the earliest notice of the play being acted is in 1603. Two other plays, the First and Second Parts of The Death of Robert Earl of Huntingdon, otherwise called Robin Hood, which have been ascribed to Heywood, were published in 1601. But there is some doubt as to his claim to these pieces. Heywood's First and Second Parts of King Edward IV. have been reprinted for the *peare Society, under the care of Barron Field, Esq.,
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
But the names of the dramatic writers of the present period that hold rank the nearest to Shakspeare still remain to be mentioned. Those of Beaumont and Fletcher must be regarded as indicating one poet rather than two, for it is impossible to make anything of the contradictory accounts that have been handed down as to their respective shares in the plays published in their conjoint names, and the plays themselves furnish no evidence that is more decisive. The only ascertained facts relating to this point are the following:—that John Fletcher was about ten years older than his friend Francis Beaumont, the former having been born in 1576, the latter in 1585; that Beaumont, however, as far as is known, came first before the world as a writer of poetry, his translation of the story of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, from the Fourth Book of Ovid's Metamorphoses, having been published in 1602, when he was only in his seventeenth year; that the Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn (consisting of only a few pages), produced in 1612, was written by Beaumont alone; that the pastoral drama of the Faithful Shepherdess is entirely Fletcher's; that the first published of the pieces which have been ascribed to the two associated together, the comedy of The WomanHater, appeared in 1607; that Beaumont died in March, 1616; and that, between that date and the death of Fletcher, in 1625, there were brought out, as appears from the note-book of Sir Henry Herbert, Deputy Master of the Revels, at least eleven of the plays found in the collection of their works, besides two others that were brought out in 1626, and two more that are lost. Deducting the