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Day and his associates incorporated them into their play. This production is a very odd affair. The action is propelled by means of dumb shows and choruses, which transport the brothers all over Europe and Asia in a fashion more disconnected than that of The Four Prentices itself; and, after many strange happenings, the plot finds issue in the marriage of Sir Robert Shirley to the Sophy of Persia's daughter, concluding with the christening of their first-born in dumb show-an incident which our Citizen wishes Ralph to enact (4. 44).
Finally, a word should be said upon that much belabored old stage-piece, The Spanish Tragedy of Thomas Kyd. As is well known, the playwrights are never tired of casting slurs at the rant and bloodand-thunder fustian of this long-lived favorite of the citizens. Modern critics have found considerable dramatic skill and real tragic power beneath the weaknesses of the old play, but Kyd's contemporaries in the drama could only sneer—perhaps incited by some feeling of jealousy of its unequalled popularity. Beaumont and Fletcher make their most considerable sport of it in The Knight of the Burning Pestle. As early as the Induction, its plebeian patronage is denoted by the Citizen's declaring that Ralph was to have 'played Jeronimo with a shooemaker for a wager' before the wardens of the Grocers' Company. In two later passages it is outspokenly parodied. At the opening of The Spanish Tragedy, Andrea's ghost enters and says :
My name is Don Andrea ; my descent,
To gratious fortunes of my tender youth.
My name is Ralph, by due descent though not ignoble I,
Yet far inferior to the stock of gracious grocery. The whole of Ralph's concluding speech (5. 319-69), when his ghost enters with a forked arrow through his head, seems to be conceived in a spirit of burlesque upon Don Andrea's declamation. A few definite parallels can be established. Andrea's ghost begins :
When this eternall substance of my soule
I was a Courtier in the Spanish Court.
When I was mortal, this my costive corps
Did lap up figs and raisins in the Strand.
For there in prime and pride of all my years,
Which hight sweet Belimperia by name.
Where sitting, I espied a lovely dame,
Whose master wrought with lingel and with awl. From here on the speeches diverge according to the difference between Ralph's and Andrea's narratives of their achievements in life. There seems to be a connection, however, in the accounts of their deaths. Andrea says:
But in the harvest of my summer joys,
Death's winter nipt the blossoms of my bliss. Though totally dissimilar in content, Ralph's grotesque description may be a parody on Andrea's solemn utterance. Ralph has it:
Then coming home, and sitting in my shop
Lastly, there seems to be an intentionally ludicrous contrast drawn between the final havens of these two martial souls. When Andrea has arrived in Hades, Rhadamant declares :
He died in warre, and must to Martial fields.
But Ralph says, after describing the singular manner of his decease:
Then took I up my bow and shaft in hand,
2. The Manners of Jacobean Audiences. Perhaps the feature of The Knight of the Burning Pestle which is the most remote from modern comprehension is the conduct of the Citizen and his Wife. No amount of extraneous description or passing allusion in Jacobean literature can re-create for us the popular manners which Beaumont has typified in the behavior of his rough-and-ready spectators. To come into proper sympathy with these good people, one must realize them, not through written accounts of the rude social life of that olden time, but through a free exercise of his own creative imagination. He must project himself into a vanished civilization, whose rough, hearty life was essentially different from our modern urbanity and restraint, and he must make that life his own. Only by so doing can he accept with full relish and conviction the forceful, realistic humor of Beaumont's satire.
Most of all, for the right understanding of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, the modern playgoer must transport himself in imagination into the conditions which prevailed in the common theatre of the time of James the First. He must hold before his mental vision as clearly as may be the outlines of
the Jacobean playhouse—its high circular interior, roofless for the most part, and lighted by the open sky; its primitve stage, made of rough timbers projecting into the centre of the yard, and wholly devoid of curtains or of scenery, save for a few traverses and painted cloths; its low-thatched gallery, running around the walls at a short distance from the ground; and its more decorative balconies above and behind the platform, which are reserved for the well-to-do spectators. He must then bring into his mind's eye one of the typical audiences of London. He must picture the aristocratic, haughty occupants of the twelve-penny rooms' at the rear or sides of the stage. He must look with proper deference upon the gaudily dressed and copiously mannered gallants who are seated in cherished prominence upon the stage itself, where they blazon forth their finery, and, with complacent skill, blow fantastically fashioned wreaths of tobacco smoke, to the admiration or the envious opprobrium of all the opposed rascality' down in the yard below; or who, better still, are stretched their whole resplendent length upon the very boards, 'the very Rushes where the Comedy is to daunce, yea, and vnder the very state of Cambises himselfe,' where their recumbent forms interfere mightly with the business of the actors, who have to shuffle about as best they can in the narrow space which is yet vouchsafed to them. But still further must our hypothetical modern divest himself of his accustomed notions of a theatre familiar to his own experience, with its comfortable furnishings, its highly finished appointments, and its sleek and placid patrons; he must in imagination shove his way into the midst of the noisy, jostling throng gathered upon the bare earth there, and crowded about the very edge of the
stage itself in zealous determination to draw out every iota of their sixpence worth of delight from whatever dramatic display that unpromising structure may set forth. It is a motley and turbulent assemblage yeomen, tradesmen, sailors, quarrelsome apprentices, tittering servant-girls, and aggressive city wives, with here and there, mayhap, a furtive Puritan brother, who has slipped away from his disapproving fold to glance for a wicked hour upon the 'vanity,' and snatch a fleeting and fearful joy from this high carnival of the ungodly.
Here it is that our translated spectator will find the worthy grocer, accompanied by his bustling wife and his stage-struck apprentice-boy Ralph. The good man is protesting loudly to his assenting neighbors against the impertinence of that placard hanging from the rafters of the stage, which announces that the play to be presented is called The London Merchant. There is assuredly some sinister meaning in this name, for have not numerous stagepieces in these days, under cover of just such a smooth-sounding title as this, hurled ridicule and insult at the honorable tradesmen of London, who are the salt of the land, and the support and prop of the state ? And, indeed, have not many of their number of best degree and quality been brought into disrepute by these rascally players, so that more than once the Worshipful Company of Aldermen, and even the Lords of the Privy Council themselves, have interfered and forbidden the libelous performances ? And, moreover, is it not their money and their patronage by which these shows are maintained, and why should they not have in return for their outlay whatsoever kind of an entertainment may please them? Why should they not have something