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Greene's Mourning Garment, Greene's Fare well to Folly, The Repentance of Robert Greene, &c. A third class of his performances disclosed the writer's peculiar knowledge of all town vices and villainies-as A Notable Discovery of Cozenage, Coney-catching, The Black Book's Messenger, &c. The plays of Greene are-Orlando Furioso, a tragedy; Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay; Alphonsus, King of Arragon; James IV.; George-a-Green, the Pinner of Wakefield; and a 'mystery play,' written in conjunction with Lodge, called A Looking-glass for London and England. Amidst a good deal of bombast and extravagance, there is genuine poetry in these plays. Some of the verses scattered through the tales are also remarkable for sweetness of expression and ornate diction. In his Pandosto, from which Shakspeare took the plot of his Winter's Tale, are the following lines:
Ah, were she pitiful as she is fair,
Or but as mild as she is seeming so,
Then were my hopes greater than my despair-
The blank verse of Greene approaches next to that of Marlowe, though less energetic. His imagination was lively and discursive, fond of legendary lore, and filled with classical images and illustrations. In his Orlando, he thus apostrophises the evening star :
Fair queen of love, thou mistress of delight,
meets with the kings of Scotland and England, Robin Hood, Maid Marian, &c. and who, after various tricks, receives the pardon of King Edward:
Sweet solitary groves, whereas the nymphs
thought! Smile, joy in her that my content hath wrought. Passages like this prove that Greene succeeds well, as Hallam remarks, 'in that florid and gay style, a little redundant in images, which Shakspeare frequently gives to his princes and courtiers, and which renders some unimpassioned scenes in the historic plays effective and brilliant. Professor Tieck gives him the high praise of possessing a happy talent, a clear spirit, and a lively imagination.' His comedies have a good deal of boisterous merriment and farcical humour. George-a-Green is a shrewd Yorkshireman, who
George-a-Green, give me thy hand: there is
The following is a specimen of the simple humour and practical jokes in the play; it is in a scene between George and his servant :
Fenkin. This fellow comes to me,
George. Thou clown, didst thou set his horse upon thy cloak?
Jenkin. Ay, but mark how I served him.
In some hour of repentance, when death was nigh at hand, Greene wrote a tract, called A Groats Worth of Wit, bought with a Million of Repentance, in which he deplores his fate more feelingly than Nash, and also gives ghostly advice to his acquaintances 'that spend their wit in making plays.' The first he styles 'thou famous gracer of tragedians,' and he accuses him of atheism why should thy excellent wit, His gift, be so blinded, that thou shouldst give no glory to the giver?' The allusion here is clearly to Marlowe, whom all his contemporaries charge with atheism. The second dramatist is addressed as 'Young Juvenal, that biting satirist that lastly with me together writ a comedy! sweet boy, might I advise thee, be advised, and get not many enemies by bitter words; inveigh against vain men, for thou canst do it-no man better, no man so well.' Lodge is supposed to be the party here addressed. Finally, Greene counsels another dramatist, 'no less deserving than the
Wash ye with roses when she longs to drink.
Ah thought, my heaven! Ah heaven, that knows my other two,' and who was like himself 'driven to extreme shifts,' not to depend on so mean a stay as the stage. Peele is evidently this third party. Greene then glances at Shakspeare: "For there that, with his tiger's heart wrapt in a player's is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers, hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes Fac-totum, is, in his own conceit, the only Shake-scene in a country.' The punning allusion to Shakspeare is palpable: the expressions, tiger's heart,' &c. are a parody on the line in Henry VI. part third
O tiger's heart, wrapt in a woman's hide!
Madge and he were no sooner gone down into the ditch,
Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay is Greene's best comedy. His friars are conjurers, and the piece concludes with one of their pupils being carried off to hell on the back of one of Friar Bacon's devils. Mr Collier thinks this was one of the latest instances of the devil being brought upon the stage in propriâ personâ. The play was acted in 1591, but may have been produced a year or two earlier.
The Winter's Tale is believed to be one of Shakspeare's late dramas, not written till long after Greene's death; consequently, if this be correct, the unhappy man could not allude to the plagiarism of the plot from his tale of Pandosto. Some forgotten play of Greene and his friend may have been alluded to; perhaps the old dramas on which Shakspeare constructed his Henry VI. for in one of these the line O tiger's heart, &c. also occurs. These old plays, however, seem above the pitch of Greene in tragedy. Shakspeare was certainly indebted to Marlowe, one of the dramatists thus addressed by Greene. The Groat's Worth of Wit was published after Greene's death by a brotherdramatist, Henry Chettle, who, in the preface to a subsequent work, apologised indirectly for the allusion to Shakspeare. I am as sorry,' he says, 'as if the original fault had been my fault, because myself have seen his demeanour no less civil than he excellent in the quality he professes. Besides, divers of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing, that approves his art.' This is a valuable statement: full justice is done to Shakspeare's moral worth and civil deportment, and to his respectability as an actor and author. Chettle's apology or explanation was made in 1593.
The conclusion of Greene's Groat's Worth of Wit contains more pathos than all his plays; it is a harrowing picture of genius debased by vice, and sorrowing in repentance:
But now return I again to you three [Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele], knowing my misery is to you no news: and let me heartily entreat you to be warned by my harms. Delight not, as I have done, in irreligious caths, despise drunkenness, fly lust, abhor those epicures whose loose life hath made religion loathsome to your ears; and when they soothe you with terms of mastership, remember Robert Greene-whom they have often flattered-perishes for want of comfort. Remember, gentlemen, your lives are like so many light-tapers that are with care delivered to all of you to maintain; these, with wind-puffed wrath, may be extinguished, with drunkenness put out, with negligence let fall. The fire of my light is now at the last snuff. My hand is tired, and I forced to leave where I would begin ; desirous that you should live, though himself be dying. -ROBERT GREENE.
His death was wretched in the extreme. Having, at a supper where Nash was a guest, indulged to excess in pickled herrings and Rhenish wine, he contracted a mortal illness, under which he continued for a month, supported by a poor charitable cordwainer; and he was buried the day after his death in the New Churchyard near Bedlam, the cost of his funeral being 6s. 4d. Harvey says Greene's corpse was decked by the cordwainer's wife with 'a garland of bays, pursuant to his last request !'
Sweet are the thoughts that savour of content:
Sweet are the nights in careless slumber spent:
It was near a thicky shade,
That broad leaves of beech had made,
That breast and bosom in did wrap,
His colour was both fresh and gay;
1 Alder, of all; alderleefest, or alderlevest, dearest of all.
Buxom, blithe, and young, ween,
With drops of blood, to make the white
She wore a chaplet on her head;
THOMAS LODGE is usually classed among the precursors of Shakspeare; he was a poor dramatist. He wrote one tragedy, The Wounds of Civil War, lively set forth in the True Tragedies of Marius and Sylla, 1594. This is in blank verse, but without modulation, and the play is heavy and uninteresting. The 'mystery-play,' A Looking-glass for London and England, written by Lodge and Greene, is directed to the defence of the stage. It applies the scriptural story of Nineveh to the city of London, and amidst drunken buffoonery and clownish mirth, contains some powerful satirical writing.
The greatest of Shakspeare's precursors in the drama was CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE—a fiery imaginative spirit, who first imparted consistent character and energy to the stage, in connection with a high-sounding and varied blank verse. Marlowe was born at Canterbury, and baptised on the 26th of February 1563-4. He was the son of a shoemaker, but through the aid of some local patron-supposed to be Sir Roger Manwood, chief baron of the Exchequer, on whom he wrote a Latin epitaph-he was admitted into the King's School of Canterbury, founded for the education of fifty scholars, who received each a stipend of £4 per annum, and retained their scholarships for five years. From this institution, Marlowe was enabled to proceed, in 1581, to Bennet College, Cambridge, where he took the degree of B.A. in 1583, and that of M.A. in 1587. Previous to this, he is supposed to have written his tragedy of Tamburlaine the Great, which was successfully brought out on the stage, and long continued a favourite. Shakspeare makes ancient Pistol quote, in ridicule, part of this play:
Holla, ye pampered jades of Asia, &c.
But, amidst the rant and fustian of Tamburlaine, there are passages of great beauty and wild grandeur, and the versification justifies the compliment afterwards paid by Ben Jonson, in the words, 'Marlowe's mighty line.' His lofty blank verse is one of his most characteristic features. His second play, the Life and Death of Dr Faustus, exhibits a far wider range of dramatic power than his first tragedy. The hero studies necromancy, and makes a solemn disposal of his soul to Lucifer, on condition of having a familiar spirit at his command, and unlimited enjoyment for twenty-four years; during which period Faustus visits different countries, calls up spirits from the vasty deep,' and revels in luxury and splendour. At length the time expires, the bond becomes due, and a party of evil spirits enter, amidst thunder and lightning, to claim his forfeited life and person. Such a plot afforded scope for deep passion and variety of adventure, and Marlowe has constructed from it a powerful though irregular play. Scenes and passages of terrific grandeur and the most thrilling agony, are intermixed with low humour and preternatural machinery, often ludicrous and grotesque. The ambition of Faustus is a sensual, not a lofty ambition. A feeling of curiosity and
wonder is excited by his necromancy and his strange compact with Lucifer; but we do not fairly sympathise with him till all his disguises are stripped off, and his meretricious splendour is succeeded by horror and despair. Then, when he stands on the brink of everlasting ruin, waiting for the fatal moment, imploring, yet distrusting repentance, a scene of enchaining interest, fervid passion, and overwhelming pathos, carries captive the sternest heart, and proclaims the full triumph of the tragic poet.
Scenes from Marlowe's Faustus.
FAUSTUS.-WAGNER, his Servant.
Faustus. Say, Wagner, thou hast perused my will. How dost thou like it?
Wagner. Sir, so wondrous well,
As in all humble duty I do yield
My life and lasting service for your love.
Three Scholars enter.
Faust. O gentlemen.
Second Scholar. What ails Faustus?
Faust. Ah, my sweet chamber-fellow, had I lived with thee, then had I lived still, but now must die eternally. Look, sirs, comes he not? comes he not?
First Sch. O my dear Faustus, what imports this
FAUSTUS alone. -The Clock strikes Eleven.
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
Faust. Gramercy, Wagner.
First Scholar. Now, worthy Faustus, methinks your A year, a month, a week, a natural day, looks are changed.
That Faustus may repent and save his soul.
First Sch. 'Tis but a surfeit, sir; fear nothing. Faust. A surfeit of a deadly sin, that hath damned both body and soul.
Sec. Sch. Yet, Faustus, look up to Heaven, and remember mercy is infinite.
Faust. But Faustus's offence can ne'er be pardoned. The serpent that tempted Eve may be saved, but not Faustus. O gentlemen, hear me with patience, and tremble not at my speeches. Though my heart pant and quiver to remember that I have been a student here these thirty years, oh, would I had ne'er seen Wirtemberg, never read book! and what wonders have I done, all Germany can witness, yea, all the world: for which Faustus hath lost both Germany and the world; yea, heaven itself-heaven the seat of God, the throne of the blessed, the kingdom of joy-and must remain in hell for ever. Hell, O hell, for ever. Sweet friends, what shall become of Faustus being in hell for ever?
Sec. Sch. Yet, Faustus, call on God.
Faust. On God, whom Faustus hath abjured? on God, whom Faustus hath blasphemed? O my God, I would weep, but the devil draws in my tears. Gush forth blood instead of tears, yea, life and soul! Oh, he stays my tongue: I would lift up my hands, but see, they hold 'em, they hold 'em!
and now it is too late. Gentlemen, away, lest you perish with me.
Faust. God forbid it indeed, but Faustus hath done it for the vain pleasure of four-and-twenty years hath Faustus lost eternal joy and felicity. I writ them a bill with mine own blood; the date is expired: this is the time, and he will fetch me.
Sec. Sch. Oh, what may we do to save Faustus!
First Sch. Why did not Faustus tell of this before, that divines might have prayed for thee?
Faust. Oft have I thought to have done so; but the devil threatened to tear me in pieces if I named God; to fetch me body and soul if I once gave ear to divinity;
into the next room and pray for him.
Faust. Ay, pray for me, pray for me; and what noise soever you hear, come not unto me, for nothing can rescue me.
Sec. Sch. Pray thou, and we will pray, that God may have mercy upon thee.
Faust. Gentlemen, farewell; if I-live till morning, I'll visit you if not, Faustus is gone to hell. Scholars. Faustus, farewell.
The Watch strikes.
Oh, half the hour is past: 'twill all be past anon.
All beasts are happy, for when they die,
Scholars. Who, Faustus?
Faust. Why, Lucifer and Mephistophilis. O gentle- Cursed be the parents that engendered me!
Scholars. O God forbid!
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damned.
See where Christ's blood streams in the firmament:
The Clock strikes Twelve.
It strikes, it strikes ; now, body, turn to air,
Thunder, and enter the Devils.
O soul, be changed into small water-drops,
That sometime grew within this learned man:
The classical taste of Marlowe is evinced in the fine apostrophe to Helen of Greece, whom the spirit Mephistophilis conjures up between two Cupids,' to gratify the sensual gaze of Faustus:
Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
I will be Paris, and for love of thee,
Before 1593, Marlowe produced three other dramas the Few of Malta, the Massacre at Paris, and a historical play, Edward II. The more malignant passions of the human breast have rarely been represented with such force as they are in the Jew.
The plagues of Egypt, and the curse of heaven,
Inflict upon them, thou great Primus Motor!
So deeply have his misfortunes imbittered his life, that he would have it appear he is tired of it:
Edward II. is greatly superior to the two plays mentioned in connection with it: it is a noble drama, with ably drawn characters and splendid scenes. Another tragedy, Lust's Dominion, was published long after Marlowe's death, with his has shewn that this play, as it was then printed, name, as author, on the title-page. Mr Collier was a much later production, and was probably written by Dekker and others. It contains passages and characters, however, characteristic of Marlowe's style, and he may have written the original outline. The old play of Taming of a Shrew, printed in 1594, contains numerous lines to be found also in Marlowe's acknowledged works, and hence it has been conjectured that he was its author. Great uncertainty hangs over many of the old dramas, from the common practice of managers of theatres employing different authors, at subsequent periods, to furnish additional matter for established plays. Even Faustus was dressed up in this manner: In 1597-four years after Marlowe's death-Dekker was paid 20s. for making additions to this tragedy; and in other five years, Birde and Rowley were paid £4 for further additions to it. Another source of uncertainty as to the paternity of old plays, was the unscrupulous manner in which booksellers appropriated any popular name of the day, and affixed it to their publications. In addition to the above dramatic productions, Marlowe joined with Nash in writing the tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage, and translated part of Hero and Leander-afterwards completed by Chapman
and the Elegies of Ovid. The latter was so licentious as to be burned by order of the Archbishop of Canterbury, yet they were often reprinted, in defiance of the ecclesiastical interdict.
Passages from the few of Malta.
wealth by the governor of Malta. While being comforted in his distress by two Jewish friends, he thus denounces his oppressors:
In one of the early scenes, Barabas the Jew is deprived of his Poor Marlowe lived, as he wrote, wildly he was accused of entertaining atheistical opinions, a charge brought against him equally by his associates and by rigid moral censors. He evidently felt what he makes his own Tamburlaine express: