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yet who, even
as the boy doth dance Between the acts, will censure the whole play'. It is sometimes very naturally surmised that The Knight of the Burning Pestle was written as a rebuke to the city for its rejection of The Faithful Shepherdess?, but if that is so, the author has wholly submerged the personal motive, and refrained from expressed denunciation. * Like a true dramatist, he himself is completely non-commital. He allows his bigoted citizens to be exposed to humiliating ridicule through their own self-projected absurdities, and the process is neither hindered nor abetted by interpretations injected by the author from without. The satire is a faithful reflex of actual life,
fwholly unspoiled by the tang and asperity of the cantankerous Ben's admixtures. It is inwrought with the texture of the piece itself; it is conceived, not as a polemic or a diatribe, but as a pure expression of vital dramatic humor.
3. Minor Objects of the Satire. During the course of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Beaumont laughs in an indulgent way at numbers of the small foibles and superstitions of the commoners.
The Wife's vociferous repugnance to the new fashion of smoking tobacco (1. 224-8); her faith in the medicinal efficacy of green ginger (2. 279), of a mouse's skin (3. 212), of 'smelling to the toes (3. 216), and of carduus benedictus and mare's milk (3. 336); the delight of her spouse and herself in the puppet-shows and other rare sights (3. 295–308); the boastful spirit aroused by the exercises at the fencingschools (2. 368—71); the absurdities of the old civic
1 Cf. The Works of Beaumont & Fletcher, ed. Dyce, 2. 9. 2 Cf. Macaulay, Francis Beaumont, p. 152.
display known as Arthur's Show (4. 65); the childish interest of the citizens in the May-game (4. 420–92.)
these and other eccentricities of the common folk the dramatist archly glances at in passing, and, in a clever but kindly manner, he sets them out to denote the ignorance and the egotism of the selfconstituted censors of the stage whom he desires to ridicule and reprove. The features of these minute media of the satire are sufficiently illustrated in the notes, and need not here be further specified.
A word should be said, however, upon one of the lesser satirical episodes which Beaumont developes at some length, and with inimitable spirit. I refer to the playful burlesque upon the drills at Mile End Green in Act 4, 11. 65-185. The mimicry which is there introduced through the Wife's suggestion is in ridicule of the pompous maneuvers of the City train bands, merged in later times in the Royal London Militia. Mile End, just outside the bounds of Old London, was established as the mustering place of this order by Henry VIII in 1532, when the organization was provisionally formed. Entick says:
The king laid a scheme to find out the real strength of his metropolis, by ordering a general muster to be made of all the defensible men within the City or the liberties, from the age of 16, to 60, to be held at Mile-end, on the fields between Whitechapel church and Stephney church ; and commanding that their names, and an account of the weapons, armour, and other military accoutrements belonging
to the City, should then be also taken down and sent him". There are records of two important musters under Elizabeth, one in 1559 at Greenwich, the other in 1585, when about 4000. men were chosen out of the Companies of the City by command of the Queen. They mustered daily at Mile End and in St. George's Fields, and were inspected by the Queen at Green
· Survey of London 1. 184.
wich. By a commission dated Aug. 21, 1605, King James authorized a general muster to be made of the forces of the City, and especially of such trained men as had been enrolled under Elizabeth. Eventually these bodies were organized into companies, under the name of train bands. They were officered by members of the Honorable Artillery Company, with which they are sometimes confounded. The Artillery Company dates its present existence from 1610, hence from the immediate period of our play. Its formation immensely stimulated the military interest of the Londoners, and induced the excessive fondness for drills which the play satirizes. The train bands were not brought into active requisition until the Civil War. Then, however, though their practical utility had been cheaply esteemed, they distinguished themselves by their skill and their bravery'.
It is the factitious dangers and illusory bravery involved in these battles at Mile End which so mightily stir the military ardor of our representative Citizen and his wife, and which so dilate the bosom of the redoubtable Ralph, as he marshals his invincible troops across the stage. Nothing could more cleverly denote the childish futility of these displays, and the citizens' inflated pride in their imagined magnificence and importance, than our grocer's seeming belief in his own hairbreadth escapes when he himself was a pikeman there in the hottest of the day,' or his terror before the sham fire, and his devout gratitude that 'for all this I am heere wench,' or Ralph's solemn inspection of the faulty munitions, or Greengoose's egregious rashness in firing his gun, 'partly to scoure
1 For accounts of the City train bands, cf. Francis Grose, The Antiquarian Repertory i. 251-270, and G. A. Raikes, The History of the Honourable Artillery Company.
her, and partly for audacity,' or the captain's fear of the Butchers hookes at white-Chappel,' or his inspiring address to the soldiers, with his reassuring adjuration: 'Feare not the face of the enemy, nor the noise of the guns: for beleeue me brethren, the rude rumbling of a Brewers Carre is farre more terrible, and his comforting promise to them: 'for you shall see (I do not doubt it) and that very shortly, your louing wives againe, and your sweet children, whose care doth beare you company in baskets.'
Here again the genius of a truly dramatic satirist is at work. The citizens are allowed to bring down ridicule upon themselves of their own initiative, and from impulses which are native, in varying degrees, to all mankind. The satire is implicit in its objects, and is made expressive by means of the unfolding of a typical, if designedly exaggerated, picture of absurd contemporary customs, through which, however, are exposed the fundamental and eternally ludicrous vanities and weaknesses of human nature itself. Here, ás elsewhere in The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Beaumont, though his medium is somewhat obscure, because of its remoteness from our experience, is directing his ridicule at the ingrained absurdities of men, and, therefore, is here, as elsewhere, manifesting his powers, not merely as a social satirist, whose work must necessarily have a temporary application only, but as a dramatist setting forth a vitally humorous, hence penetrating and perennially truthful interpretation of life.
It is in this larger aspect that, in the last analysis, The Knight of the Burning Pestle should be remembered. It shadows forth popular fashions and manners and social oddities which have long since vanished;
it is in its occasion a burlesque upon some of the outworn vagaries of the race; but, unlike many of its forgotten contemporaries on the public stage, its essence in heres not in its occasion or its immediate material, but in the elemental peculiarities of our common nature. It should excite, therefore, not merely an antiquarian, but also a vital and sympathetic interest.