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as we have already mentioned, Jonson himself was designated under the name of Horace
“Lup. A libel, Cæsar; a dangerous, seditious libel; a libel in picture.
Lup: Ay; I found it in this Horace his study, in Mecænas his house
Tuc. Ay, and remember to beg their land betimes; before some of these
Cæsar. Show it to Horace : ask him if he know it.
Lup. An emblem! right: that 's Greek for a libel. Do but mark how
Hor. A just man cannot fear, thou foolish tribune ;
Soon after the accession of James, Jonson himself went to prison for a supposed libel against the Scots in “Eastward Ho ;” in the composition of which comedy he assisted Chapman and Marston. They were soon pardoned : but it was previously reported that their ears and noses were to be slit. Jonson's mother, at an entertainment which he made on his liberation, “drank to him, and showed him a paper which she designed, if the sentence had taken effect, to have mixed with his drink, —and it was strong and hasty poison.” Jonson, who tells this story himself, says, "to show that she was no churl, she designed to have first drunk of it herself.” This is a terrible illustration of the ways of despotism. Jonson was pardoned, probably through some favouritism. Had it been otherwise, the future laureat of James would have died by poison in a wretched prison, and that poison given by his mother. Did the bricklayer's wife learn this terrible stoicism from her classical son ? Fortunately there was in the world at that day, as there is now, a higher spirit to make calamity endurable than that of mere philosophy ; and Jonson learnt this in sickness and old age. After he had become a favourite at court he still lost no proper occasion of lashing the rapacious courtiers. If a riot took place in a house, and manslaughter was committed, the house became a deodand to the Crown, and was begged as usual. In “ The Silent Woman,” first acted in 1609, one of the characters says, “O, sir, here hath like to have been murder since you went; a couple of knights fallen out about the bride's favours : we were fain to take away their weapous ; your house had been begged by this time else.” To the question, “For what?” comes the sarcastic answer, “For manslaughter, sir, as being accessary.”
The universal example of his age made Jonson what we should now call a court flatterer. Elizabeth-old, wrinkled, capricious, revengeful—was "the divine Cynthia." But Jonson compounded with his conscience for flattering the Queen, by satirizing her court with sufficient earnestness; and this, we dare say, was not in the least disagreeable to the Queen herself. In “Cynthia’s Revels” we have a very bizarre exhibition of the fantastic gallantry, the absurd coxcombities, the pretences to wit, which belonged to lords in waiting and maids of houour. Affectation here wears her insolent as well as her “ sickly mien.” Euphuism was not yet extinct; and so the gallant calls his mistress “my Honour," and she calls him "her Ambition.” But this is small work for a satirist of Jonson's turn ; and he boldly denounces " pride and ignorance” as “the two essential parts of the courtier.” “The ladies and gallants lie languishing upon the rushes ;” and this is a picture of the scenes in the antechambers :
“There stands a neophyte glazing of his face,
Preening his clothes, perfuming of his hair,
Then fall they in discourse
The dramatist has bolder delineations of profligacy and ambition-portraits in which the family likeness of two centuries and a half ago may yet be traced, if we make due allowances for the differences between the antique ruff and the costume of our unpicturesque days :
“Here stalks me by a proud and spangled sir,
That looks three handfuls higher than his foretop;
The drifts of both, which, with cross face, he bears
It was in such a state of society as this—a transition state, in which the contests of classes had ceased to be a contest of physical power—a condition in which "the age is grown so piiked that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, he galls his kibe,”—an age of separation, when tyranny had lost much of its force, and the weak had also surrendered its partial protection,—that Shakspere lived in his later years. They were his years of philosophy. He had seen the hollowness of “the ignorant present” and threw himself into the universal.
“At our feast we had a play called “Twelve Night; or, What you will, much like the ‘Comedy of Errors,' or “Menechmus’ in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in Italian called 'Inganni. A good practise in it to make the steward believe his lady widdowe was in love with him, by counterfayting a letter, as from a lady, in generall termes telling him what shee liked best in him, and prescribing his gestures, inscribing his apparaile, &c., and then when he came to practise, making him beleeve they tooke him to be mad.” The student of the Middle Temple, whose little diary, after snugly lying amongst the Harleian Manuscripts, now in the British Musuem, unnoticed for two centuries and a quarter, luckily turned up to give us one authentic memorial of a play of Shakspere's, is a facetious and gossiping young gentleman, who appears to have mixed with actors and authors, recording the scandal which met his ear with a diligent credulity. The 2nd of February, 1602, was the Feast of the Purification, which feast and All-Hallown Day, according to Dugdale, " are the only feasts in the whole year made purposely for the Judges and Serjeants of this Society, but of later time divers noblemen have been mixed with them.” The order of entertainment on these occasions is carefully recorded by the same learned antiquary.* The scarlet robes of the Judges and Serjeants, the meat carried to the table by gentlemen of the house under the bar, the solemn courtesies, the measures led by the Ancient with his white staff, the call by the reader at the cupboard“ to one of the gentlemen of the bar, as he is walking or dancing with the rest, to give the Judges a song,” the bowls of hypocras presented to the Judges with solemn congees by gentlemen under the bar,—all these ceremonials were matter of grave arrangement according to the most exact precedents. But Dugdale also tells us of “Post Revels performed by the better sort of the young gentlemen of the Society, with galliards, corantos, and other dances; or else with stage plays.” The historian does not tell us whether the stage plays were performed by the young gentlemen of the Society, or by the professional players. The exact description which the student gives of the play of “Twelfth Night” would lead us to believe that it had not been previously familiar to him. It was not printed. The probability therefore is that it was performed by the players, and by Shakspere's company. The vicinity of the Blackfriars would necessarily render the members of the two Societies well acquainted with the dramas of Shakspere, and with the poet himself. There would be other occasions than the feast days of the Society that Shakspere would be found amidst those Courts. Amongst “the solemn temples” which London contained, no one would present a greater interest than that ancient edifice in which he might have listened, when a young man, to the ablest defender of the Church which had been founded upon the earlier religion of England; one who did not see the wisdom of wholly rejecting all ceremonials consecrated by habit and tradition ; who eloquently wrote—“Of Law there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world : all things in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power.”+ It was in the spirit of this doctrine that Shakspere himself wrote
“ The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre,
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Dugdale's "Origines” was published six years after the Restoration. He speaks of the solemn revels of Inns of Court, with reference to their past and to their existing state. They had wont to be entertained with Post Revels, which had their dances and their stage plays. This was before the domination of the Puritans, when stage plays and dancing were equally denounced as “the very works, the pomps, inventions, and chief delights of the devil."$ There is a passage in Dugdale which shows how the revels at the Inns of Court gradually changed their character according to the prevailing opinions :—“When the last measure is dancing, the Reader at the Cupboard calls to one of the Gentlemen of the Bar, as he is walking or dancing with
* “Origines Juridiciales," p. 205. † Hooker's “Eccclesiastical Polity," Book I.
** Troilus and Cressida,” Act I., Scene 1II. $ Prynne's “ Histrio-Mastix.”