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Beaumont and Fletcher continually poke fun at them'. The plays of the later dramatists, particularly Shirley, Nabbes, and Habington, are seamed with contemptuous references to them. These small satirical allusions and episodes in the old dramatists, of little significance singly, in their collective aspect form a convincing evidence of the prevalence and the deleterious effect of the fashion of romance-reading, and illuminate to an invaluable degree the cause and point of Beaumont's elaborate satire.
b. Miscellaneous Stage-favorites of the Citizens. The emphasis of the literary satire in The Knight of the Burning Pestle is upon the romances and the chivalric drama. There are oblique thrusts, however, at a class of city stage-favorites, which, for lack of a better term, may be called the civic drama. This was a numerous series of plays which flamboyantly set forth the lives of famous London worthies, and extolled the virtues of London shopkeepers and apprentices. It is productions of this sort which the Citizen, in the Induction of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, insists should be substituted for the bill offered by the Prologue; he is only pacified when the Wife suggests the even more delectable treat to be enjoyed through Ralph's essay of a chivalric role. The Legend of Whittington, a lost play, The Life and Death of Sir Thomas Gresham, a play written by Heywood under the actual title of If you know not me, you know no body, and a play which the Wife calls Jane Shore, but which is probably Heywood's First and
1 Cf. Rule a Wife 4. 2; Wild Goose Chase 1. I; Little French Lawyer 2. 3 ; Scarnful Lady 3. 1; Philaster 5. 4; &c.
* Cf., for example, Shirley's Bird in a Cage 3. 2, and Honoria and Hammon 2. 1; Nabbes' Tottenham Court 4. 7.
Second Parts of King Edward the Fourth, are the representatives of the type mentioned in the Induction.
The fact that egregiously open addresses were made to the vanity of the tradesmen is illustrated, indeed, in such a play as The Four Prentices of London. It will easily be seen that The Four Prentices is intended to idealize the supposititious valor of the London shop-boys, and that to do so it stops short of no limit of probability or reason. Indeed, Heywood inscribes his preface of the printed copy 'to the honest and high-spirited prentises, the readers,' compliments them on their absurdly pretentious military drills in the newly revived practice of arms in the Artillery Gardens, and concludes thus :
But to returne agayne to you, my braue spirited Prentises, vpon whom I haue freely bestowed these Foure, I wish you all, that haue
their courages and forwardnesse, their noble Fates and Fortunes. • The noble Fates and Fortunes' of the sons of Bouillon were, then, deliberately set forth as within the scope of possible attainment by the valiant apprentices, and were doubtless so looked upon by those gullible youths. That their masters, too, regarded the fiction as authentic and praiseworthy is evidenced by the Citizen's triumphant appeal to it as a witness that a grocer's boy may properly court a king's daughter, if he so aspires (4. 64). The lines of the play itself contain numbers of straightforward appeals to the tradesmen's pride of caste and wealth. The noble four loudly proclaim the honor and dignity of their tradesmen's calling. Godfrey declares:
I hold it no disparage to my birth
And the full knowledge of the Mercer's trade. Guy expatiates upon the worth of the goldsmith's vocation as a means to purchase 'steadfast wealth,
while state' may waste, and towring honours fall’; and Charles cries out to the old earl, his father :
Or should I say the Citty-trades are base
There is more of the same sort. It is sufficient to say that Eustace proudly emblazons the grocer's arms upon his ensign, and Guy adopts the goldsmith's emblem; while throughout the headlong rush of adventures the heroes loquaciously signify that they are exerting their prowess to 'try what London prentises can doe.'
The other plays named by the spectators were palatable to them for much the same reason as was The Four Prentices. The Legend of Whittington was un. doubtedly a dramatization of the familiar story of that celebrated grandee and his cat. The fabulous nature of the tale must have made a deep impression upon the childishly credulous fancy of the commoners of the time, and, through the embodiment of their commercial dignity and importance in this eminent representative, their pride must have been immeasurably flattered.
The second part of If you know not me is largely devoted to a laudatory account of the public benefactions of the famous merchant Sir Thomas Gresham, particularly his erection of the great Bourse known as the Royal Exchange. The play is tediously drawn out in long-winded discourses, in which there are many bombastic descriptions of the careers of provident, valiant and learned citizens,' now gone to their reward, and many boastful utterances from Sir Thomas himself regarding the magnanimity of his present enterprise, which, however, he incautiously
remarks, is undertaken that thereafter young tradesmen established in the Exchange may
speake in Gresham's praise, In Gresham's work we did our fortunes raise. What little action there is moves lumberingly along, till, with much splurge and display, the climax is reached in the christening of the building under the hand of Queen Elizabeth herself. Monotonous and dramatically hollow as is the piece, its popularity among the purse-proud brethren of Sir Thomas was natural enough, but it was as naturally exposed to the gibes and ridicule of dramatists who could despise its obsequious flattery of the citizens, and detect its pretentiousness and absurdity.
A production more creditable to Heywood is his King Edward IV. The main theme is concerned with the king's mistress, Jane Shore, the story of whose rise from obscurity, brief enjoyment of grandeur and singular power, final downfall and repentance, is treated with much of the simple dramatic effectiveness and homely tenderness' for which Heywood is famous. An underplot has to do with the besieging of London by the Bastard Falconbridge, and the valiant defence of the same by the Lord Maior and the Citizens. It is in this latter feature that our Citizen doutbless takes his greatest delight. Here the worthiness of himself and his fellows is set forth in glowing colors. Their apprentices bravely defy the rebels in these terms:
Nay scorn us not that we are prentices.
To make the volume larger than it is. The prentices make good their boast in the stirring repulses which they give the enemy. The army of
citizens at length gains the victory, the leaders are knighted by the king, and the episode concludes with the Lord Mayor's somewhat unprovoked, but edifying, account of his rise from a grocer's apprenticeship in his youth to his present high dignity.
The plebeian appeal of such plays as these is self-evident! Another of Beaumont's objects of attack is a nondescript drama of marvels and adventure, represented by The story of Queen Elenor,' Mucedorus, and The Travailes of the Three English Brothers. Queen Eleanor's story is told in Peele's King Edward the First, a sub-plot of which is entitled the sinking of Queene Elinor, who sunck at Charing crosse, and rose againe at Potters-hith, now named Queenehith. This fate was supposed to have been meted out to the unpopular, but really virtuous, princess because of her reported murder of the Lord Mayor's wife, and its incidents were very absurdly set forth for the stage in Peele's version of the scandal. Plays like Mucedorus are of a hybrid order, developing in a most childish fashion some of the features of the romances such as rescues of fair damsels from beasts and wild-men-of-the-woods -together with the broadest buffoonery of the old-time Vice, through his descendant, the clown. The Travailes of the Three English Brothers was written by Day, Rowley, and Wilkins. The fortunes of the three ShirleysThomas, Anthony, and Robert at the courts of Persia and other Eastern countries, form an interesting chapter in the history of Elizabethan travelers. Many fabulous stories were related about these men, and
* It is concisely illustrated by Earle in his Microcosmography, 1628, in his character of "A Mere Gull Citizen': 'He is one loves to hear the famous acts of citizens, whereof the gilding of the cross [by Ed. I in memory of Queen Elenor) he counts the glory of this age, and the four prentices of London above all the nine worthies.'