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Awed with their deeds, and jealous of her arms,
Longshank, your king, your glory, and our son,
And England's peers shall see their sovereign.
Peele was the author of a number of other dramas, such as Old Wives' Tale, and the Love of King David and Fair Bethsabe; the former of which written part in in blank and part prose afforded Milton a rude outline of his fable of 'Comus.' The latter, which is Peele's greatest work, with the tragedy of Absolem, Campbell terms, 'the earliest fountain of pathos and harmony that can be traced in our dramatic poetry.' This play was not published till 1599, after Shakspeare had written some of his finest comedies, and opened up a fountain compared with which the feeble tricklings of Peele were wholly insignificant. We may, however, allow to Peele the merit of a delicate poetical fancy, and smooth musical versification. The defect in his blank verse is want of variety: the art of varying the pauses and modulating the verse without the aid of rhyme, had not yet been generally adopted. In 'David and Bethsabe' this monotony is less observable, because his lines are smoother, and there is, in some of the scenes, a play of peculiarly rich and luxuriant fancy. We have, however, only space for a single passage from this important work:
PROLOGUE TO KING DAVID AND FAIR BETHSABE.
Of Israel's sweetest singer now I sing,
His holy style and happy victories;
Whose muse was dipt in that inspiring dew,
The cherubim and angels laid their breasts;
The golden wires of his ravishing harp,
He gave alarum to the host of heaven,
That, wing'd with lightning, brake the clouds, and cast
Their crystal armour at his conquering feet.
Of this sweet poet, Jove's musician,
And of his beauteous son, I press to sing;
Peele, like most of his dramatic brethren of that period, led a very irregular life, and died in the midst of poverty, in 1599.
THOMAS KID follows in the order of succession, the dramatists just noticed. He was born about 1560, and apparently liberally educated, but under what circumstances is unknown. In 1588, he produced his play of Hieronimo or Jeronimo, and a few years afterward a second part under the title of the Spanish Tragedy, or Hieronimo is Mad Again. The latter tragedy is said to have gone through more editions than any other play of that period. It was revived in 1602, when Ben Jonson is supposed to have improved it by the addition of new scenes. These new scenes are said, by Lamb, to be 'the very salt of the old play,' and so superior to Jonson's acknowledged works that he attributes them to Webster, or even to Shakspeare. The following scene, whoever may have been the author of it, is so exquisite that we can not withhold it. Hieronimo, whose son had been murdered, goes distracted, and he wishes the painter to represent the fatal catastrophe on canvas. He finds that the artist is suffering under a bereavement similar to his own, and the following dialogue ensues :
'THE PAINTER ENTERS.
Paint. God bless you, Sir!
Hieron. Wherefore? why, thou scornful villain!
How, where, or by what means should I be blest?
Isab. What would you have, good fellow ?
Paint. Justice, Madam.
Hieron. Oh! ambitious fellow, would'st thou have that
That lives not in the world?
Why all the undelved minds can not buy
An ounce of justice; 'tis a jewel so inestimable.
I tell thee, God has engrossed all justice in his hand,
And there is none but what comes from him.
Paint. Oh! then I see that God must right me for my murder'd son!
Hieron. How! was thy son murder'd?
Paint. Ay, Sir; no man did hold a son so dear.
Hieron. What! not as thine? That's a lie
As massy as the earth! I had a son,
A thousand of thy sons! and he was murder'd!
Paint. Alas! Sir, I had no more but he.
Hieron. Nor I, nor I; but this same one of mine
The nature and simplicity of this scene is worth all the ambitious imagery, and rhetorical ornaments, which modern authors lavish upon their dramas, combined. Kid died toward the close of Elizabeth's reign.
Of the dramatic authors who preceded Shakspeare, we have still to notice Nash, Greene, Lodge, Munday, Chettle, and Marlow.
THOMAS NASH was born at Leostoff, Suffolk, in 1562. He was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, and took orders; but the irregularity of his life preventing his preferment, he repaired to the metropolis, and was soon after known as a professed wit. After indulging his satirical vein for some time against the 'Puritans,' he became a dramatist, and produced, as his first play, a comedy called Summer's Last Will and Testament, which was exhibited before Queen Elizabeth in 1592. He next wrote a satirical play under the title of the Isle of Dogs, for the severity of which, though the play was never printed, he was, for some time, imprisoned. Another production of Nash's, entitled the Supplication of Pierce Penniless to the Devil, was published in 1592, and was followed during the next year by his last important performance, Christ's Tears over Jerusalem. He died about 1600, after a 'life spent,' he says, 'in fantastical satirism, in whose veins heretofore I misspent my spirit, and prodigally conspired against good hours.'
The versification of Nash is hard and monotonous, and his style possesses little variety. The following extract is from the comedy of 'Summer's Last Will and Testament,' and is a favorable specimen of his blank verse:
I never lov'd ambitiously to climb,
Or thrust my hand too far into the fire.
High trees that keep the weather from low houses,
I love to dwell betwixt the hills and dales,
Neither to be so great as to be envied,
Nor yet so poor the world should pity me.
In his poem of Pierce Penniless,' Nash draws the harrowing picture of
the despair of a poor
Ah, worthless wit! to train me to this woe:
Deceitful arts that nourish discontent:
Ill thrive the folly that bewitch'd me so!
Vain thoughts adieu! for now I will repent-
And ban the air wherein I breathe a wretch,
ROBERT GREENE was a native of Norfolk, and was educated at ClareHall, Cambridge. He early entered into orders, and for a short time held the vicarage of Tollesbury, in Essex, which, however, he lost in 1585. He had, a short time previous to this event, entered upon his career as an author, and in the course of a few years he produced the following plays: -History of Orlando, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, Alphonsus, King of Arragon, George-a-Green, The Pinner of Wakefield, James the Fourth, and the Looking-glass for London and England; the last of which was written in conjunction with Lodge. Besides his plays, Greene was the author of a number of tracts, one of which, Pandosto, the Triumph of Time, written in 1588, was the source whence Shakspeare derived his 'Winter's Tale.' Some lines contained in this tract, such as the following, are extremely beautiful:
Ah, were she pitiful as she is fair,
Or but as mild as she is seeming so,
Then were my hopes greater than my despair-
She would be gather'd though she grew on thorn.
Greene's imagination was lively and discursive, fond of legendary lore, and filled with classical images and illustrations. In his 'Orlando' he thus apostrophizes the evening star :
Fair queen of love, thou mistress of delight,
Sweet solitary groves, whereas the nymphs
Witness Orlando's faith unto his love.
Tread she these lawns?-Kind Flora, boast thy pride:
Seek she for shades?-Spread, cedars, for her sake.
Fair Flora, make her couch amidst thy flowers.
Sweet crystal springs,
Wash ye with roses when she longs to drink.
Ah thought, my heaven! Ah heaven that knows my thought!
passages as this prove that Greene succeeds well, as Hallam remarks, in that florid and gay style, a little redundant in images, which Shakspeare frequently gives to his princes and courtiers, and which renders some unimpassioned scenes in the historic plays, effective and brilliant.' His comedies contain much boisterous merriment and farcical humor. George-a-Green is
a shrewd Yorkshireman, who meets with the kings of Scotland and England, Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and others, and who, after various tricks, receives the pardon of king Edward, accompanied with the following assurance:
George-a-Green, give me thy hand: there is
None in England that shall do thee wrong.
And now I see that fame speaks nought but truth.
The following is a specimen of the simple humor and practical jokes in the play: it is in a scene between George and his servant :
Jenkin. This fellow comes to me,
And takes me by the bosom: you slave,
He takes no cold in his feet.
George. Thou clown, did'st thou set his horse upon thy cloak?
Madge and he were no sooner gone down into the ditch,
But Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay is much the best of Greene's comedies. His friars are conjurers, and the piece concludes with one of their pupils being carried off to hell on the back of one of friar Bacon's devils. This was, perhaps, the last time the devil was introduced upon the stage in his proper person. The play was performed for the first time in 1591, but was probably written a year or two earlier.
In some hour of repentance, when death was nigh at hand, Greene wrote a tract called A Groat's Worth of Wit, Bought with a Million of Repentance, in which he deplores his fate more feelingly than Nash, and also gives ghostly advice to his acquaintances, 'that spend their wit in making plays.' Marlow he accuses of Atheism; Lodge he designates 'young Juvenal' and 'a sweet boy;' Peele he considers too good for the stage; and he glances thus at Shakspeare, who, in all probability, at that early period began to