Imagens das páginas

admiration of Shakespeare's genius has already been described. One of his younger associates, Herrick, has also left a memorial of the literary meetings in which Jonson led:

“Ah Ben!
Say how or when
Shall we, thy guests,
Meet at those lyrick feasts

Made at the Sun,
The Dog, the Triple Tunne?
Where we such clusters had
As made us nobly wild, not mad;

And yet each verse of thine

Outdid the meate, outdid the frolick wine. Jonson's later days were dark and painful. The simple slab which marks his grave in Westminster Abbey bears only three words, but they speak volumes; they are “O Rare Ben Jonson." Of his numerous songs, the best is “ To Celia,” which, set to exquisite music by Mozart, is, thanks to the phonograph, familiar to millions of people to-day:

“Drink to me only with thine eyes

And I will pledge with mine.
Or leave a kiss but in the cup

And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise,

Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,

I would not change for thine.
“I sent thee late a rosy wreath,

Not so much honoring thee,
As giving it a hope that there

It could not withered be,
But thou thereon didst only breathe,

And sent'st it back to me;
Since when it grows and smells, I swear,

Not of itself, but thee.” Thomas Dekker (1570–1637) spent a considerable portion of his life in jail for debt, quarrelled with Ben Jonson, and wrote several good plays, among them being “ The Shoemaker's Holiday,' Old Fortunatus,” and “Satiromastix.” He collaborated with Webster in “Sir Thomas Wyatt,” “Westward Ho," and "Northward Ho”; with Middleton in “The Roaring Girl "; and with Ford in “The Witch of Edmonton." Charles Lamb says Dekker has poetry enough for anything, and Swinburne that his wood-notes remind him of

Tibed. orial di

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Shakespeare. He certainly knew how to add to golden numbers golden numbers, as this stanza demonstrates:

'Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers?

O sweet Content!
Art thou rich, yet is thy mind perplexed ?

O Punishment !
Dost laugh to see how fools are vexed
To add to golden numbers golden numbers?

O sweet Content, О sweet, O sweet Content.”
Those who argue that Bacon wrote Shakespeare because we know
so little of the latter's life might argue with even more plausibility
that Bacon wrote John Webster's “ White Devil,” “ Appius and Vir-
ginia,” “ The Devil's Law Case," and " The Duchess of Malfi.” Even
the dates of his birth and death are unknown. His plays are all
somber tragedies wherein the reader sups full on horrors. Edmund
Gosse says that “ The Duchess of Malfi” is unquestionably the most
elevated tragic poem in the language not written by the pen of

“The Revenger's Tragedy” and “The Atheist's Tragedy " by Cyril Tourneur (1575–1626) are two of the most revolting plays in literature. Charles Lamb could never read the former but his ears tingled.

Thomas Heywood (1575–1641) was an actor and a voluminous playwright. Lamb called him a sort of prose Shakespeare without the poetry. He at least had one trait which is found in Shakespeare and is lacking in Jonson, Webster, Tourneur, Beaumont, and Fletcheran instinctive perception of nobility. Among his best plays are "A Woman Killed with Kindness," “ The Fair Maid of the West,” “ The English Traveller," "The Wise Woman of Hogsdon," and " Edward IV.” Some of his verses have a fine swing. For example:

Pack, clouds, away, and welcome day;

With night we banish sorrow;
Sweet air, blow soft; mount, lark, aloft,

To give my love good morrow.'
Thomas Middleton (1570–1627) perhaps had a hand in the com-
position of “ Macbeth.” He certainly collaborated with Dekker, Row-
ley, and Massinger. Of his own plays one critic says: “If 'The
Changeling,' Women beware Women,' 'The Spanish Gypsy,' and

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

'A Fair Quarrel’ do not justify Middleton's claim to be considered a great artist, I know not which of Shakespeare's followers is worthy of the title.”

John Marston (1575–1634) wrote several plays full of rough satire. With Jonson and Chapman he was imprisoned, it will be remembered, for some caustic allusions in “ Eastward Ho” to the Scotch. Among his plays are "Sophonisba," "The Malcontent,” and “What You Will."

Philip Massinger (1583–1640), one of the most accomplished and eloquent dramatists of his time, lived in poverty, died a pauper, and was buried at St. Saviour's Church, Southwark, with no memorial except this note in the parish register, “ Philip Massinger, a stranger.” Like other dramatists, he was often in jail for debt. Fifteen of his plays have been preserved; the manuscripts of eight others were burned by an ignorant domestic about 1750 for kitchen uses. Coleridge says that some of his plays are as interesting as a novel, others as solid as a treatise on political philosophy. The best are “ The Virgin Martyr ” and “ A New Way to Pay Old Debts.” The character of Sir Giles Overreach, in the latter, is such a masterpiece that the play held the stage well into the nineteenth century. To Hallam, Massinger's tragedies seemed second only to Shakespeare's. They also made such an impression on Charles James Fox when he first read them that for several days he could talk of nothing else. Lamb said his English is purer than that of any other contemporary dramatist.

The most noteworthy partnership in English letters is that of Francis Beaumont (1584-1616) and John Fletcher (1579-1625). The collaboration of the other dramatists of their day was generally brief and incidental. Theirs lasted ten years, during which they lived together, both being bachelors, sat on the same bench, shared their clothes, and wrote a series of passionate, romantic, and comic plays with such perfect coöperation that their fame has ever since been perfectly blended. Aubrey, a contemporary writer, says that Beaumont's task was to correct the exuberance of Fletcher's genius. They were imitators but not slavish imitators of Shakespeare. Next after Marlowe, Jonson, and Shakespeare, they are probably the best playwrights of their age. Dryden thought that they drew the characters

to be one llowers

of gentlemen better than did Shakespeare, and says that in his day (1632–1700) two of their plays were acted for one of his. The following table shows, so far as it is known or guessed, the authorship of the most important plays in which they had a share:

s's full soned it ard Ho he Malicia

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


: da paly th no me

[ocr errors]

zer, a staz

I. By Beaumont and Fletcher: “ Four Plays in One

“A King and no King

“ Laws of Candy ” “Thierry and Theodoret "

“ The Knight of the Burning “The Maid's Tragedy


“ The Scornful Lady.”
II. By Fletcher and Shakespeare:
The Two Noble Kinsmen.”

III. By Fletcher alone:
“The Faithful Shepherdess” Bonduca
The False One”

“ Wit without Money."
Of these the best are Philaster,

.” “ The Maid's Tragedy,” Two Noble Kinsmen,” and “ The Faithful Shepherdess. Critics believe that, on the whole, Beaumont had the deeper genius, Fletcher


ht others


[ocr errors]

en uses

a novel :

[ocr errors]

best are

The cher piece

TO E Deare's

the gayer.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

William Rowley (1585–1642) collaborated with Middleton, Dekker, Heywood, Webster, Massinger, and Ford, and wrote several plays of his own.

His work is rough but rich in humor. John Ford (1586-1656) was the last great tragic writer of this period. His best plays, “ 'Tis Pity," "The Broken Heart," and “Love's Sacrifice,” unlike most contemporary dramas, observe the unities of time, place, and action.

The great series of Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists that began with Christopher Marlowe closed with James Shirley (1596– 1666). Between 50 and 60 of his plays have come down to us. In them there is some of the grace, melody, and fancy that characterized the great Elizabethans, but their power is gone.

Between 1642 and 1660 there were no theaters in England. In the former year parliament rebelled against the king, and civil war broke out. The complete triumph of parliament gave the Puritans supreme power. Their intolerance of all worldly things is happily

[blocks in formation]

Neste e best


hit off in the following verse by Richard Brathwaite (1588–1673):

“To Banbury came I, O profane one,
Where I met a puritane one
Hanging of his cat on Monday

For killing of a mouse on Sunday.” The hatred of men imbued with this spirit for an institution as corrupt as the theater had then become can be imagined. The playhouses were closed and did not reopen until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

Aside from the drama, the reigns of Elizabeth and James were distinguished by an unusual number of vigorous writers both in prose and verse. Of these the most interesting are mentioned in the following notes, which are arranged in the order of the dates of their births.

Sir John Harrington (1561-1612) wrote a translation of Ariosto's “ Orlando Furioso ” and a Book of Epigrams.” The best of the latter is:

“Treason doth never prosper : what's the reason ?

For if it prosper, none dare call it treason." Sir Henry Wotton (1568–1639) was the author of the justly famous poem,

The Character of a Happy Life," which begins: “How happy is he born or taught

That serveth not another's will,
Whose armour is his honest thought,

And simple truth his utmost skill.” He was a wit. Among his sayings were these: “ An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the commonwealth ” and “ Hanging was the worst use a man could be put to." He was one of the first to recognize Milton's poetic genius; and, when the young Puritan poet was setting out for Italy, he gave him the sound advice“ to keep his thoughts close and his countenance loose.”

Sir John Davies (1570-1626) wrote a famous poem on dancing. He is chiefly remembered, however, for this quatrain:

“Wedlock, indeed, hath oft compared been

To public feasts, where meet a public rout,
Where those that are without would fain go in

And those that are within would fain go out.”
Sir Robert Carey (1560-1639) wrote the first autobiography in
English. In 1589 he won 2000 pounds on a wager by walking from

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »