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"Hence all ye vain delights,
the title of The Fair Penitent; but the trick must have been indebted when he wrote his was unsuspected, for who would take the trouble Il Penseroso : to read Massinger? A better taste seems now gaining ground. The Duke of Milan has been successfully revived; The Fatal Dowry has appeared in a form more equitable to its author; and for the credit of the age, we trust the trash of the modern stage will soon give place to the sterling productions of the old English drama.
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
As short as are the nights
Oh, sweetest melancholy;
A look that's fasten'd to the ground,
"Fountain heads, and pathless groves,
These authors, the Pylades and Orestes of literature, are remarkable on several accounts. Their friendship presents the singular and pleasing spectacle of two great geniuses so closely united in their feelings and pursuits, that in upwards of fifty dramas which they wrote conjunctively, it is utterly impossible to distinguish This great tragic poet was educated at Camto which of them we are indebted for any parti- bridge, where he took the degree of B. A. 1583, cular scene or character. Their compositions and of M. A. 1587; his passions appear to have are so homogeneous, that were we not assured been very violent, and his whole life was stormy of the contrary, we should ascribe them, without and unsettled. His mind was of the highest besitation, to the efforts of a single mind. Here order; but, imagining for himself a universe of we may observe, that nothing in Shakspeare's perfect beauty and felicity, he was filled with age is more worthy of commemoration, than the disgust at the sorrows and disappointments good understanding which subsisted among the of the real world around him. The manner galaxy of master-spirits that adorned those times. of his death was extremely tragical: he was They lived together like a family of brothers, passionately fond of a beautiful girl, whose cirno petty jealousies disturbed their community; cumstances were but humble: visiting her one we continually find them advancing, without evening, he found a low fellow in her company ostentation, each other's labours, and engaged of whom he was jealous; in the frenzy of the in a friendly competition of good offices. Hence moment he drew his poniard (a weapon then we observe many plays written by three or four commonly worn), intending to stab the unweldifferent hands; and this practice, so opposite come intruder, but his antagonist wrenched the to the grovelling selfishness of modern writers, dagger from his grasp, and Marlowe falling seems to have excited no surprise. The solitary forwards, received it in his heart. The wits of anti-social pride of intellectual superiority was his age seem to have had a very high opinion of sacrificed on the altar of friendship. The poetry Marlowe's talents. Heywood, no incompetent of Beaumont and Fletcher's dramas is often ex-judge, styles him the best of poets; and Drayton ceedingly fine; they are frequently prosaic, and writes of him thus: even common-place, but these feelings are redeemed by bursts of passion and eloquence truly overpowering. In nice discrimination of character too, they are by no means deficient, and nothing can excuse the depravity of taste which bas consigned their works to dust and silence. They are said to have ridiculed Shakspeare in Some of their plays, particularly in The Knight of the Burning Pestle. If such liberties were taken, they gave no offence, for that wonderful man often assisted them in their compositions. The following song is from The Nice Valour, or The Passionate Madman, to which Milton
'Next, Marlowe, bathed in the Thespian springs,
The phrase, fine madness, very aptly expresses the character of his genius. In The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, the reader is continually startled by the wildness and incoherence of the poet's conceptions; he transports us into a world of shadows, and surrounds us with the terrible creations of an over-excited fancy; yet so distinctly and vividly are these
strange imaginations pourtrayed, that we tremble | The public of his day were content with the great elements of all true poetry, passion and imagination; and if an author could supply these.
and weep while they pass in review before us. Notwithstanding all his powerful claims to our admiration, Marlowe is scarcely known at pre-his productions were not rejected for any desent but as the author of a little poem, beginning "Come live with me, and be my love." Kean brought out his Jew of Malta (perhaps, the worst of his plays), at Drury-lane Theatre; it attracted for a few nights, but four-legged performers were just then coming into fashion, and the affair was hopeless.
This writer, whose lofty endowments have seldom been duly appreciated, was born 1557, and in his early years owed much to the patronage of sir Thomas Walsingham. Prince Henry, that amiable scion of royalty, and the far-famed earl of Somerset, were also his friends; but his comedy of Eastward Hoe, in which he bitterly reflects on the Scotch, so offended king James that he was obliged to leave the court, and relinquish his prospects of preferment. However, he was one of heaven's nobility, and the frowns of the great could not diminish his self-esteem. He lived respected and died lamented by the best and greatest men of his age. His Translation of Homer surpasses in genius any that has yet appeared. Pope's is more elegant, no doubt; but in all the essentials of true poetry old Chapman has much the advantage. His dramatic performances savour considerably of antiquity, but in reading them we find frequent occasion to commend and admire. Ben Jonson, we are told, was jealous of his great abilities; Shakspeare honoured and fostered them. There is an anonymous poem in praise of this last author which has been attributed to Chapman, and it is calculated to heighten our estimation even of his powers.
ficiencies of elegance and refinement. In his White Devil, and the Duchess of Malfey, bis capital works, Webster continually sins against the arbitrary enactments of criticism, and not seldom against the more equitable laws of taste; but he atones for these faults by displaying a strength of passion, and a boldness of imagination, which have hardly ever been surpassed.
This poet, like many of his gifted contemporaries, has left no record behind him but his works. He appears, however, to have studied at Oxford; and judging from the chastity and purity of his language, we may suppose, that he formed his style on classic models. His plays are eight in number, but the most remarkable are Antonio and Melida, 1602; The Malcontent, 1604; and The Wonder of Women, or Sophonisba, 1606; which last is dedicated in warm terms to Ben Jonson, though he afterwards had some disagreement with that poet.
The companion of Jonson, Fletcher, Massinger, and Rowley, with all of whom he occasionally wrote in concert, though his fame may safely rest on compositions which are entirely his own. Some of his dramas bear date so recently as the reign of Charles I., but his best plays were published much earlier. A Mad World, my Masters, acted by the Children of Paul's, 1608, is an excellent play; and many modern writers, thinking themselves safe in its obscurity, have pillaged from it very freely. Mrs. Behn, in her City Heiress, and Johnson, in his Country Lasses, have taken the most liberties.
This dramatist, though inferior to some of his illustrious companions, will deservedly rank high as one of the benefactors of the English
This poet, whose situation in life was very humble, his highest worldly distinction having been that of parish clerk at St. Andrew's, Holborn, was certainly endowed with talents of no common order; and although, from the want of the discipline which education affords, his ge-stage. He flourished in the reign of James L. nius frequently run riot, and developed itself in the most eccentric manner, there can be little doubt that the representation of his plays was attended by delighted and applauding audiences.
and was attached to a company of players belonging to the prince of Wales. He was rather eminent as a comedian; little is known of him more than his close connexion with all the great
test wits and poets of his age, by whom he was much beloved. He assisted Middleton, Day, Heywood, and Webster, in their writings, and has left us five plays of his own, besides one which he wrote in conjunction with Shakspeare. One of his comedies, A New Wonder, a Woman never Vext, has been revived at Covent Garden Theatre, with considerable success.
One of the first of our dramatic writers, both in point of time and genius. Sir Thomas Moore was particularly fond of him; he was a frequent companion of the princess Mary, and his musical skill made him a great favourite with Henry VIII. During the short reign of Edward VI. he still continued at court, admired and beloved; and on Mary's accession to the throne, he was admitted to the closest intimacy that subject could enjoy. The insinuating mildness of his temper, though in absolute contrast to the harshness and irritability of her disposition, frequently softened its asperities; and we are even told that the playful humour of his conversation, occasionally beguiled even the agony of ber death-bed. He was of course a zealous catholic; and on the accession of Elizabeth, he went into voluntary exile, and died at Mechlin, in Brabant, 1565. His longest work is entitled A parable of the Spider and the Flie, of which Holinshed says, "One also has made a booke of the Spider and the Flie, wherein he dealeth so profoundlie, and beyond all measure of skill, that neither he himselfe that made it, neither anie one that readeth it, can reach into the meaning there-of." His great merit is that he contributed much to bring the Mysteries into disrepute, and to create a taste for more rational stage representations. None of his dramas extend beyond the limits of an interlude; among them we find A Play of Love, 1533, and A Play of Gentleness and Nobilitie, 1535. Heywood can scarcely be called a contemporary of Shakspeare; but he is mentioned here as the first regular dramatist our stage has produced.
The most voluminous of all play-wrights, with the exception of Lope de Vega; for, in a preface to one of his dramas, he informs us, that it was the last of two hundred and twenty in which he had either an entire hand, or at least a main finger." Such crude and hasty
productions were not written for posterity; of most of them we are ignorant, even of the names. Among those preserved are the following: Edward IV. two parts, 1599; Four Prentices of London, 1615; and Maidenhead well Lost, 1634. Heywood also wrote an Apology for Actors, of which fraternity he was himself a member. He was undoubtedly a man of talent : his comic scenes were full of humour, and his tragic ones abound with situations deeply pathetic; but he always writes like an author who is composing by contract, unless his Woman killed with Kindness be an exception.
This admirable dramatist was born 1586, and his great talents procured the esteem and friendship of all the excellent writers in whose age he flourished. He was most successful in delineating the gloomy scenes of life; he delighted not in the inspirations of Thalia, but mixed all the powers of his melancholy spirit with the dark and terrible visions of Melpomene. Hence one of his contemporaries pleasantly says,
"Deep in a dump, John Forde was alone got,
A fine vein of tragedy runs through all his plays; but, Tis Pity She's a Whore is undoubtedly his masterpiece, and would have done honour to Shakspeare. The character of Annabella, the heroine, is exquisitely beautiful; and though, in a moral point of view, the situations of the drama are objectionable, we cannot deny that all the legitimate purposes of tragedy, the powerful excitement of terror and pity, are fully attained.
This writer's reputation has probably been increased by his quarrel with Ben Jonson, in ridicule of whom he wrote a play called, The Untrussing of a humorous Poet. Yet he was the bosom friend of Webster, Forde, and Rowley, a distinction which nothing but his genius could have purchased him. Brome, too, calls him father and constantly speaks of him with the utmost reverence and affection. His Honest Whore, and Old Fortunatus, are his best works; the latter, notwithstanding the extreme absurdity of the fable on which it is founded, is illustrated with so much fine writing, that it give us the highest opinion of Decker's abilities.
which though at present scarcely ever read, abounds with animated description and elegant illustration. Drayton was a favourite court poet; be assisted at the coronation of James 1. and was never in circumstances to make the is said to have written The Merry Devil of Edpraises of the million important to him. He
monton; but this is doubtful, and were the fact established, it would contribute but little to his
the robe of allegory which it assumed, is the This poet, whose great genius is obscured by author of a singular production called the Purple Island, in which all the various parts of the human body are described with wonderful ingenuity and truth. The subject was an unhappy one; and the poem, in spite of its great merit, is seldom or ever perused. Fletcher also wrote Piscatory Eclogues, short pieces possessing considerable excellence, and one or two dramatic performances which have no striking recommendation
This prolific dramatist was of a very ancient family, and was born in London, 1594. He was a pupil at Merchant Tailors' School, and afterwards studied at Oxford, where Dr. Laud conceived a warm affection for him, in regard to his great talents; yet, Shirley purposing to take orders, he would often tell him, "that he was an unfit person to take the sacred function upon him, and should never have his consent." Why, does the reader suppose? On account of some moral defect? No; but because Shirley had a large mole on his left cheek, which Laud thought a deformity. He took orders, notwithstanding, and obtained a living at St. Albans; but he shortly became a Romanist, and resigning his preferment, commenced schoolmaster; this new profession growing odious to him, he went to London and began to compose plays. In this way he gained, not merely an existence, but was much encouraged by many of the nobility; and ultimately, queen Henrietta being much pleased with his writings, attached him to her household. During the rebellion, he attended the earl of Newcastle, and was in several battles. The king's cause being ruined, he returned to London, and was supported for some time by Mr. Stanley, the author of the Lives of the Philosophers. Plays were now de- own time, both as a poet and historian, was This author, who was considerable in his nounced as an abomination, and he recom-born 1562. His style is remarkably correct, menced pedagogue in the White Friars, and continued to brandish his birchen sceptre till the Restoration. The theatre was again open to him, and many of his dramas were performed with great applause. In 1666, occurred the terrible fire of London; he was burnt out of his house near Fleet-street, and removed into the parish of St. Giles's, but being overcome with horror at the frightful conflagration, he and his wife both expired within a few hours, and were buried in the same grave. Shirley succeeded best in comedy; there is a light airy playfulness in his humour which is peculiarly delightful, and must have been quite refreshing to the royalists after the sour fanaticism of the puriians. The Ball, 1639, is a favourable specimen ; but all his dramas, nearly forty in number, are highly amusing. A contemporary poet has this couplet in his honour:
* Shirley (the morning child) the Muses bred, And sent lum born with bays upon his head,"
Few writers have been more famous in their day than the author of the Poly-Olbion ; a poem,
and at once free from bombastical extravagance and meagre unmeaning simplicity. In Spenser's Colin Clout's Come Home Again, he is highly praised, and indeed most of the writers of that age agree in eulogizing his productions. He succeeded Spenser in the laureateship. His Philotas, 1605, when first acted, gave offence, as it was thought the hero was drawn from Elizabeth's unfortunate favourite, the earl of Essex. In this play he treads closely in the steps of the ancients, and has introduced choruses between the acts. In his Cleopatra, 1594, he follows Plutarch's account of that remarkable woman, and has produced a very excellent drama. The dialogue in both instances is extremely poetical.
A dramatist of whom no record remains. Indeed, the period to which these brief memoirs refer, abounds with instances of writers who are only known to have existed by their works. He wrote Hot Anger soon Cold, 1598; All is
Bot Gold that Glitters, 1600; Cardinal Wolsey, 1601; and various other plays, all distinguished by an originality of tone, which we should vainly look for in productions of loftier pretension.
The praise which Milton has bestowed on this poet, the author of Britannia's Pastorals, entitles him to our favourable notice; and there are such unequivocal evidences of genius in his works, that we cannot sufficiently regret, that he should have been ejected from his niche in the Temple of Fame by any newer candidate for immortality.
A very powerful writer, bold and original in conception, but rude and uncouth in expression. His principal works are, The Bristol Tragedy, 1602; and The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, with the Merry Humour of Tom Strowd, the Norfolk Yeoman, divers times publicly acted by the Prince his Servants, 1600.
A writer of pastorals, considered very excellent in his day, but now forgotten amidst the lumber of antiquity. He was likewise a dramatist of some eminence; and for many years, as city poet, had the ordering of the pageants on Lord Mayor's Day. His life appears to have been spent in a course of folies and debaucheries of the lowest description, which is the more singular, as he was educated at Oxford, then the school of every virtue. He wrote, among other dramas, Edward the First, 1593; and The Loves of King David and Faire Bethsabe, 1599.
The celebrated author of The Emblems, and equally remarkable for his genius and misfortunes. He was educated at Cambridge, where he distinguished himself by unaffected piety and unassuming talent. For a considerable time he was cupbearer to the queen of Bohemia, and chronologer to the city of London. Afterwards, he went over to Ireland, and became secretary to the truly good and amiable prelate, Usher, archbishop of Armagh; but the unsettled state of that country soon forced him to resign his post, and returning to England, he closed his earthly career 1644, aged 52. He was buried in the church of St. Vedast, Foster-lane. Quarles is best known by his Divine Emblems, a work once universally popular, but now, on account of its obsolete quaintness of style, little read, except by a particular class of religionists. He wrote The Virgin Widow, 1649, a play which has no faults and few merits. Langbaine sums up his character of Quarles in these This poet is supposed to be the same person words: "He was a poet that mixed religion and whose name appears with those of Burbage, fancy together, and was very careful in all his Hemmings and Condell, in the prefatory sheet writings not to intrench upon good manners of the first folio edition of Shakspeare. He is by any scurrility in his works, or any ways also mentioned in the dramatis personæ pre-offending against his duty to God, his neighfixed to the Cynthia's Revels of Ben Jonson, bour, or himself."
He is reported to have written something jointly with Shakspeare, and his intellectual character would justly have entitled him to the bonour of such an associate. His comedy of A New Trick to Cheat the Devil, abounds with grotesque and humorous situations, and his King John and Matilda abundantly prove his tragic powers.
and seems to have been a favourite actor.
An eccentric and unfortunate man of genius, whose vices were his worst enemies. After a restless life, passed in continual alterations from want to abundance, he died about 1601, as little lamented in dying, as respected when living. His Pierce Pennilesse is written with infinite fire and spirit, but seems to breathe the senti