Slike strani
PDF
ePub

ed. Arthur Symons, in Vizetelly's in a volume entitled "Shakespeare.

· Mermaid" series; another, ed. | Vol. I." Payne Collier reprinted it Rev. R. Bayne, in Mr. J. M. Dent's in his Shakespeare of 1878, but Temple Dramatists."'

without any substantial reason. The' Birth of Merlin, “by Sir John Oldcastle, published William Rowley and William 1600, and included in the Third Folio Shakespeare," printed 1662. No- and Hazlitt," by William Shakething of Shakespeare. Reprinted speare." Said to be by Munday, at Halle, 1887.

Drayton, and others. Cardenio, by Fletcher

and The London Prodigal, a comedy, Shakespeare." Not licensed till published 1605, and included in the 1653, and now lost. Probably from Third Folio and Hazlitt,“ by William Cervantes' tale of Cardenio in Don Shakespeare." Quirote, Shakespeare's actors are The Puritan, or the Widow of known to have produced a play Watling Street, a similar comedy, called Cardenno in 1613. Fletcher's" by W. S.," published 1607. in fondness for Spanish comedies makes the Third Folio and Hazlitt. it possible that this may have been, Thomas Lord Cromwell, “by at any rate, his work.

W. S.” Licensed and published Edward III, an unequal, but 1602 ; 2nd ed. 1613. In the Third not very interesting historical play, Folio and Hazlitt. hinging on the legend of the Order The Troublesome Reign of King of the Garter. It has received a John, published 1591, in edition of good deal of attention from Shake 1611, "by W. Sh.," and in 1622, spearean critics ; and the obvious" by W. Shakespeare." The foundainfluence of Marlowe's style in it tion of Shakespeare's King John points to a distant possibility of (1595). Shakespearean authorship.

Li- The Two Noble Kinsmen, " by censed 1595, published 1596. Re: Fletcher and Shakespeare," is almost printed in Edward Cape'ls Pro. certainly in part Shakespeare's, allusions (1760). There is a recent though there is a present tendency edition, ed. Mr. G. C. M. Smith, in to allow most of the conjectural part the “ Temple Dramatists."

to Massinger. Published 1634. Faire Em, a dull and halting Edited and reprinted several times. comedy, acted by Shakespeare's The best reprint is that of the New company, probably about 1592. Shakspere Society, 1876, ed. Mr. H. Published 1631, and included in an Littledale. There is also a reprint edition of Shakespearean plays in in the “ Temple Dramatists." . For Charles Il's library.

sources, see Section A of notes to Locrine, a dull, rhetorical tragedy this chapter. in Marlowe's less happy vein, “ by A Warning to Fair Women (1599), W. S.," printed 1595. Borrowed another of the domestic tragedies, largely from Robert Greene's Seli- | probably by William Rowley. mus, also of doubtful authenticity. The Yorkshire Tragedy. “ by Wil. Appeared in the Third Folio (1663), liam Shakespeare," published 1608. and, with the other Third Folio A one-act tragedy full of horrors, plays (including Pericles), was placed founded (like Arden of Feversham) in the supplementary volume to on a contemporary murder, enhanced Hazlitt's edition of the text.

by additional details from similar The Merry Devil of Edmonton, a crimes. Reprinted in the Third Folio humorous comedy of considerable and in Hazlitt. It is assigned with merit. Licensed 1607, published some probability to George Wilkins, 1608. There is an edition in the the supposed partner of Shakespeare “ Temple Dramatists."

in Timon and Pericles, whose Mucedorus, a comedy, published Miseries of Enforced Marriage (1607) 1598 and again in 1610. It comes treated the same theme. to its doubtful reputation through For a chronological list of Shake. Charles Il's library, where it was speare's genuine plays see the Apbound together with Faire Em pendices to the present volume.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE LATER ELIZABETHAN AND JACOBEAN DRAMATISTS.

§ 1. Characteristics of the lesser dramatists. § 2. First period.-BEN

JONSON : Lise ; Character ; Comedies ; Tragedies; Masques. § 3. CHAPMAN: the tragedies borrowed from French history.

4. DEKKER; MARSTON. § 5. The Silver Age : BEAUMONT and FLETCHER. § 6. MIDDLETON. $ 7. WEBSTER. & 8. TOURNEUR. $ 9. THOMAS HEYWOOD and the bourgeois drama. § 10. The decadence : MASSINGER. $ 11. FORD. $ 12. SHIRLEY and the transition to Restoration comedy.

The lesser dramatists

9.1. The greater glory of Shakespeare has somewhat obscured the light, not only of his predecessors, but of his contemporaries

and successors in the drama. But, from the closing years of Elizabeth's reign down to a period as late

as 1640, the drama was unquestionably the chief method of literary expression ; and, among the writers of that age which we loosely call Elizabethan, the dramatists easily hold the first place. They were men, as we shall see, of all conditions in life, whose genius was wonderfully uniform ; it is almost impossible to select one from them, after Shakespeare, and hold him up to exclusive admiration. Generally speaking, they were well acquainted with one another, and their habit of writing plays in conjunction has been a fruitful source of trouble to critics. At the present day their study is come into fashion, and most readers know that the greatness of the Elizabethan drama cannot be measured by the greatness of any other department of literature; but the body of constant students is almost inevitably small. In construction and form

many of these writers were hopelessly deficient, and ral defects.

many plays which are full of fine passages are ruined

by a chaotic plot, or the intrusion of a totally irrelevant underplot. This of itself is wearisome ; and, in addition, the unmitigated coarseness of thought and language which pervades the best tragedies and is the life and soul of some of the comedies, is quite unpalatable and repellent to most readers. But it must never be forgotten that this freedom of speech was a superficial habit of the day, and that no nation and no drama could possibly be more intolerant of vice than England and her drama in the age of Elizabeth. Similarly characteristic is the

Their gene

huffing, extravagant tone of many stage heroes of the time, ridiculous in our own day, but natural at an epoch when men did not hesitate to set their own price upon themselves. And the reader who remembers the different conditions of the English character before and after the Civil War, and is ready to overlook weaknesses of construction in his estimate of these extraordinary men and their profound analysis of human character and passion, will find ample compensation for the faults of taste that have at first dismayed him.

$ 2. Second only to Shakespeare is the monumental name of BEN JONSON, whose genius, in its massiveness and originality, is solitary and unique. He seems to have been born in London, but his grandfather had come from Ben Jonson

(. Carlisle, and he himself said that his fainily, as he thought, was from Annandale, north of the Border. His father died a month before his birth, and his mother, left in some poverty, married a second husband, who was a master-bricklayer. Jonson was educated at Westminster School, largely, we may believe, by the kindness of Camden, who was then second master; and here he laid the foundation of that scholarship which, judging from his plays, was his devouring passion. It has been a pious article of belief that he continued his studies at St. John's College, Cambridge; he himself, however, in his conversations with Drummond of Hawthornden, omits any mention of this; while he expressly says that the honorary degrees which he received from both Universities were due “to their favour, not to his study.” At any rate, he went, in process of time, into his stepfather's brickyard, and soon exchanged this ungrateful bondage for the army. He fought for a while in the Netherlands, and, having thus laid the foundation of his experience, returned to London about 1592 or 1593, and married not long after. It was during the four or five years following that his genius was matured. We know nothing at all of their events, save the birth of his son in 1596 ; but it is not merely imagination which supposes that, during this period, he pursued, not only his classical studies, but also his intimate familiarity with the life of London--that minute knowledge of the middle and lower classes and their manners which is one of the most evident features of his work. No method exists, at any rate, by which we can trace the development of his art as we can that of Shakespeare. In 1597 we find him as a player and engaged as a playwright, and in 1598, Every Man in His Humour, the first of his great comic master- of Jonson's

Beginning pieces, was acted at the Globe Theatre. Shake- career as a speare and Burbage took parts in it. This was not playwright. the present version, which was written about 1606 and published, with a dedication to Camden, in 1616, but a version in which the characters or “humours” of the play bore Italian names typical of their dispositions. This earlier edition was published in 1601. We must not, of course, imagine that this was Jonson's first play ; but it is certain that his apprenticeship to his art was short, and that now, while still a very young man, he came forward with considerable authority and a very definite method of his own. It was at this time, however, that, by fighting a

duel with the actor, Gabriel Spencer, and killing His first im. prisonment.

him, he was, in his own words, “ brought near the

gallows." While in prison he was converted to the Roman communion by a priest who was probably his fellowprisoner. He was acquitted, but, with a sturdy sincerity, maintained his faith for twelve years amid the manifold dangers to which it was then subject.

Every Man Out of His Humour (1599) was acted at the Globe soon after his release, and was presented, with a very

flattering epilogue, before Queen Elizabeth, who was The Come- duly pleased with this learned and witty satire. Its dies of the "humours.". success led to its publication in 1600, and, four

months after, the earlier comedy, which had hitherto existed for the stage alone, saw the light in print.

In 1599, too, he wrote plays in conjunction with Dekker and Chettle, and to the early part of this year seems to belong the play usually printed in his works, The Case is Altered, in which he worked with an unknown poet. But, in 1600, he returned to single-handed work with his third comedy, Cynthia's Revels, or the Fountain of Self-Love, in which he satirised the “humours"

of the Court. In this play he pointed his satire Jonson's quarrel with directly at Marston, who appears as Hedon, and Marston and at Dekker as Anaides; and, for the next two or Dekker.

three years, he was occupied in his famous feud with the minor dramatists of his time, who naturally came into collision with this blunt, solitary, confident writer. Cynthia's Revels was acted at the Blackfriars by the children of Queen Elizabeth's Chapel ; and, in 1601, this same company brought out The Poetaster, or his Arraignment, in which Jonson pilloried Marston and Dekker, as Dryden, much later in the century, pilloried Settle and Shadwell. The scene of the play was the Court of Augustus ; Jonson himself posed as Horace, and it is probable that by Virgil he intended the illustrious Chapman. Immediately after, Dekker retorted with Satiromastir, which ought to have made an earlier appearance, but was forestalled by its answer in The Poetaster. This quarrel gave Jonson a temporary distaste for comedy, and caused him to retire for a short period. In 1603, however, he reappeared at the Globe as the author of Sejanus, his Fall, a fresh tribute in another kind to that imperial Court with whose manners he was so familiar. The play was above the heads of his audience. It was assailed by the critics, and its sentiments were made the colour of a charge against Jonson, who had to appear before the Privy Council and assure them that no treason was intended. He fell into more serious trouble in the following year. Marston, won over by his immense genius, The play

made friends with, and dedicated his Malcontent to him, and the two were concerned, with George Chapman, in the performance and publication of Eastward Ho? contained an alleged libel on the Scots; the three, early in 1605, were imprisoned, and the report was that their ears and noses were to be cut off. Jonson's mother Jonson's provided her son (this rests on Drummond's authority) prisonment. with a paper full of “lusty, strong poison,” which he was to take before the execution of the sentence. However, James I, whose own classical taste must have given him some appreciation of Jonson's genius, remitted the punishment, and the three dramatists were released.

1605 was the year of Jonson's masterpiece, Volpone, or the Fox. That great and terrible satirical comedy was played at the Globe, and, in 1607, was published with a dedication to the Universities, where it had been received with Second

period of applause. This play was the first of a new series. Comedy.. Epicæne, or the Silent Woman, was performed in 1609 by the children of her Majesty's revels, and, in 1610, was followed by The Alchemist, a comedy whose superior construction and better-humoured tone has made it more popular than Volpone. It was about this time that, out of conviction, Jonson returned to the Church of England. In 1611, he went back to tragedy for a moment, and, in Catiline, his Conspiracy, painted a companion picture to Sejanus. This is said to have been his favourite play ; but its merits were, in the eyes of a less cultured audience, its faults, and its success was not conspicuous. When, in 1614, Bartholomew Fair appeared at the Hope Theatre—it was acted by the players in the service of the Princess Elizabeth—the audience was far more appreciative. The play was an inimitable picture of London manners and contained a brilliant satire on the Puritans. It was the end of his great period, whose fruits are contained within the covers of his folio edition, published in 1616. Bartholomew Fair, however, was apparently rather too late for this collection. The Devil is an Ass, an amusing and memorable comedy, but far below the old level of his work, belongs to 1616. Jonson was now the head of a school of poets—the famous Tribe of Ben-to which, it has been noted, almost every pre-Restoration poet, with the exception of Milton, belonged. His own poetical skill' is conspicuous in his long series of masques, beginning with The Queen's Masque of Blackness, acted at Whitehall on Twelfth Night, 1605, and in his numerous occasional poems, collected in The Forest and Underwoods. From 1616 to 1625, his attention was given up very much to his masques ; but in 1618 he made his journey to Hawthornden, and there, in his conversations with Drummond, gave utterance to those casual criticisms which, invaluable as they are, have left a misleading impression upon posterity. Jonson, like most men who rate their own genius highly, said more of his contemporaries than

« PrejšnjaNaprej »