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And Bosola answers,
I think not so; her infelicity
There is a terrible concentration in these phrases; the very essence of tragic poetry. Webster's invention displayed itself more willingly in strange incident than in long speeches. "To move a horror skilfully, to touch a soul to the quick, to lay upon fear as much as it can bear, to wean and weary a life till it is ready to drop, and then step in with mortal instruments to take its last forfeit, this only a Webster can do."1
Thomas Middleton was born about 1570. He studied law at Gray's Inn, and became connected with the stage about 1599. He collaborated with Rowley, Dekker, Massinger and Webster, and
died in 1627.
He knew London life, which he depicted on the stage, and wrote successful comedies of intrigue. The best known of his plays are The Witch (1613), and A Game at Chess (1624). Some of the scenes in The Witch were interpolated in Shakespeare's Macbeth at a later date.
IV. Marston, Heywood, Dekker, and Shirley.
John Marston was born about 1575 and educated at Oxford. He then studied law, but not finding this occupation to his taste, about 1599 he began Marston. to write for the stage. Later he left playwriting and took holy orders. He died in 1634.
He wrote eight plays, of which three are tragedies. The tragedy Antonio and Mellida, and the sequel, Antonio's Revenge, both printed in 1602, contain fine passages. Marston collaborated with Jonson and Chapman in Eastward Ho!, a comedy of city life.
The date of Thomas Heywood's birth is not known. He engaged in all kinds of literary work, but
1 Charles Lamb.
is best remembered by his plays, of which he declares that he "had either an entire hand or at the least a
main finger" in the composition of 220. Heywood. His history plays, notably Edward IV.
(c. 1611), deserve mention, but his masterpiece is A Woman Killed with Kindness, a domestic drama, produced about 1603. He died about 1650.
Thomas Dekker was born in London about 1570. He wrote two delightful comedies, the Shoemaker's Holiday and Old Fortunatus. In the Satiromastix (1602) he ridiculed Ben Jonson, because Jonson had attacked him in his Every Man Out of His Humour, and in Cynthia's Revels; before the quarrel Jonson and Dekker had written plays together. As already mentioned, Dekker collaborated with Ford and Rowley in a tragedy, The Witch of Edmonton. Besides plays he wrote pamphlets that describe the social life of England in his day.
"Gentle-hearted" Dekker, as he has been called, is a true poet, and three or four of his songs are among the best in our literature.
James Shirley, the last of the Elizabethan dramatists, who was born in 1596, and lived until Shirley. 1666, had a fertile and inventive genius. The
Traitor, an effective tragedy, and The Brothers, a comedy, are his best productions. His songs strike a solemn note, and his lyric, "The glories of our blood and state”, in The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses, is one of the finest specimens of grave, stately, musical verse in our language.
The drama had already begun to decline from the lofty heights it had reached while Shakespeare wrote. The chivalrous and courtly manners of the men The drama who surrounded Elizabeth gave way under after the Stuarts to a freer, easier behaviour, to a more unreserved self-indulgence, and to less worthy forms of affectation than those which prevailed at Elizabeth's court. The "king's young courtier" was deserting the ways of his father, the "old courtier of the queen". This decadence reflected itself in the drama;
for a dramatist must be himself infected with the spirit of his age; and if he is successful, as the writers dealt with in this chapter undoubtedly were, it is because his work hits the popular taste. Hazlitt has well summed up the characteristics of this period. "There is nobody in tragedy and dramatic poetry (I do not here speak of comedy), to be compared to the great men of the age of Shakespeare, and immediately after. They are a mighty phalanx of kindred spirits closing him round, moving in the same orbit, and impelled by the same causes in their whirling and eccentric career. They had the same faults and the same excellences; the same strength, and depth, and richness, the same truth of character, passion, imagination, thought and language, thrown, heaped, massed together without careful polishing or exact method, but poured out in unconcerned profusion from the lap of nature and genius in boundless and unrivalled magnificence. The sweetness of Dekker, the thought of Marston, the grace of Fletcher and his young-eyed wit, Jonson's learned sock, the flowing vein of Middleton, Heywood's ease, and the pathos of Webster, add a double lustre to the sweetness, thought, gravity, grace, wit, artless nature, copiousness, ease, pathos, and sublime conceptions of Shakespeare's muse."
[Older students should read Ward's History of English Dramatic Literature, II., chaps. vi. to viii. In Lamb's Specimens of English Dramatic Poets will be found extracts from all the writers mentioned in this chapter. Select plays by Jonson, Fletcher, Webster and others will be found in the Mermaid Series editions of these writers, and separate plays in the Temple Dramatists. Bullen's Lyrics from the Dramatists of the Elizabethan Age is a beautiful collection.]
THE LESSER ELIZABETHAN WRITERS.
I. The Lyrical Poets and the Song-writers.
The example set by Tottel in his Miscellany was largely followed, and many similar collections Collections of lyrical poems were published after his day. of poems.
In 1578 appeared the Gorgeous Gallery of Gallant Inventions, edited by Thomas Proctor and Matthew Roydon; in 1584 A Handful of Pleasant Delights, edited by Clement Robinson; in 1593 The Phonix Nest, edited by "R. S., gentleman of the Inner Temple"; in 1600 England's Helicon, republished with additions in 1614; and in 1602 Francis Davison's Poetical Rhapsody.
Of these the most notable is perhaps England's Helicon; the editor, A. B., is unknown, but the volume contains some of the loveliest lyrical and pastoral poetry of the Elizabethan age. What can be prettier than these opening stanzas of notable. a pastoral dialogue between a shepherd and his love?—
Phillida.-Corydon! arise, my Corydon!
Corydon. Who is it that calleth Corydon?
Phillida.-Phillida, thy true love, calleth thee:
Arise then, arise then,
Arise and keep thy flock with me!
I come then, I come then,
I come and keep my flock with thee.
1 Cf. vol. i. 118-119.
'England's Helicon the most
2 The full title is "The Phoenix Nest, built up with the most rare and refined works of Noblemen, worthy knights, gentlemen, masters of arts, and brave scholars,--full of variety, excellent monition, and singular delight". The first poem in it is Matthew Roydon's fine elegy on Sidney. Peele and Lodge were among the contributors.
Phillida. -Here are cherries ripe, my Corydon!
Eat them for my sake!
Corydon. Here's my oaten pipe, my Lovely One!
Phillida.-Here are threads, my true love! fine as silk,
A pair of stockings white as milk.
Here are reeds, my true love, fine and neat,
A bonnet to withstand the heat.
Elizabethan musicians seem to have appreciated fine Elizabethan poetry, and their melodies are "married to song-writers. immortal verse", in many cases of their own composition.
Thomas Campion, by profession a physician, was one of the best of the Elizabethan musicians; he often wrote the words as well as the music of his Campion. songs, and very sweet lyrics they are. He published Books of Airs in 1601, 1613, and 1617. He also wrote masques, and treatises on music, and on poetry. It is curious that in the last he advocated the disuse of rime in English poetry, and the adoption, instead, of classical unrimed metres. Here is the first stanza of Campion's pretty song, Cherry Ripe:—
There is a garden in her face
Where roses and white lilies blow;
A heavenly paradise is that place
Another Elizabethan song-writer was William Byrd.
the last appearing in 1611. John Dowland, a famous musician, published Books of Songs in 1597, 1600, 1603, and 1612. At one period of his life, he was attached to the Danish court in the capacity of lutanist.