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THOMAS CAMPBELL, ESQ.
THE DRAMATIC WORKS
MASSINGER AND FORD
BY HARTLEY COLERIDGE.
HE lives of our dramatists "of the great race" furnish few materials for drama. They are provokingly barren of incident. They present neither complicated plots, nor striking situations*, nor well-contrasted characters. In their own age, they were overlooked as too familiar-in the next, cast aside as unfashionable. The conjectures of recent curiosity are not more certain than the Syrian Pantheism of the Irish round towers, the hieroglyphic dynasties of Egypt, or the earthenware theology of Etruria.
Many causes may have contributed to efface the footsteps of those great masters from the sands of time. Theatres were burned by accident or design-demolished by authority of mob, parliament, corporation, and prentices, and at last suppressed by a civil conflict, which, realizing the extremities of tragedy and farce, absorbed all memories, all hopes, and interests, in itself. Libraries were dispersed, plundered, or
* I beg pardon. The life of Ben Jonson does present at least one striking situation, which would make a fine picture either on the stage or on canvas. I allude to that juncture, when amid a company of friends assembled to congratulate his discharge from prison, his mother produced the packet of poison, which she meant to have given him, had he been sentenced to pillory and mutilation for his reflections on the King's countrymen. But is there any good authority for the story?
The fate of Marlow was a real tragedy; I am afraid but too certain. George Peele was actually introduced upon the stage under the designation of George Pie-board in the "Widow of Watling Street;" a play which Schlegel maintains to have been written by Shakspeare.
Those who are curious to ascertain the degree of certainty intended, may "Round Towers of Ireland," the works of Champollion, Klaproth, &c., and the Popoli Italiani, di Giuseppe Micali.”
consult Mr. O'Brien's
Storia degli antichi
A ludicrous" Ballade in praise of London' Prentices, and what they did at the Cockpit Play-house in Drury Lane," may be found in the first volume of Mr. Collier's " Annals of the Stage," p. 402. This outrage took place in 1617, on Shrove Tuesday, a day of general licence, barbarity, and riot; when the London apprentices claimed an immemorial privilege of attacking houses of ill-fame, covering their true English love of mischief with a pretence of moral reform. The following verse may be quoted as illustrative of the text.
"Bookes old and young on heap they flung,
And burn'd them in the blazes,
Tom Decker, Heywood, Middleton,
And other wandering crazies;