« 上一頁繼續 »
tragedy that was ever written, observing all | his knowledge. Though he is a "high flyer the critical laws, as height of style, and in wit," as Edward Phillips calls him, yet is gravity of person, enrich it with the senten- he a poet. As he advanced in years, he was tious Chorus, and, as it were, 'liven death, wielding greater powers, and dealing with in the passionate and weighty Nuntias; yet, nobler things, than belonged to the satirist. after all this divine rapture, O dura messorum In his higher walk he is of the school of ilia, the breath that comes from the un- nature and simplicity. Hazlitt speaks of capable multitude is able to poison it; and, one of his plays, perhaps the best, with true ere it be acted, let the author resolve to fix artistical feeling :-" The rest of the chato every scene this of Horace racter is answerable to the beginning. The execution is, throughout, as exact as the conception is new and masterly. There is the least colour possible used; the pencil drags; the canvas is almost seen through: but then, what precision of outline, what truth and purity of tone, what firmness of hand, what marking of character! . . . . It is as if there were some fine art to chisel thought, and to embody the inmost movements of the mind in every-day actions and familiar speech."* Dekker acquired some of his satirical propensities, but the tenderness of his heart was also called forth, in the crooked ways and dark places of misfortune. Almost the first record of his life is a memorandum by Henslow of the loan of forty shillings, "to discharge Mr. Dicker out of the Counter in the Poultry." Oldys, in his manuscript notes upon Langbaine, affirms that he was in the King's Bench Prison from 1613 to 1616. His own calamities furnish a commentary to the tenderness of many such passages as the following, in which a father is told of the miseries of his erring daughter :
'Hæc porcis hodie comedenda relinques.'" As early as 1602, Webster was a writer for Henslow's theatre, in conjunction with Dekker, Drayton, Middleton, Chettle, Heywood, and Wentworth Smith. At a later period he was more directly associated with Dekker alone. His great tragedies of 'The White Devil' and 'The Duchess of Malfi' were produced at the period when Shakspere had almost ceased to write; and it is probably to this circumstance we owe these original and unaided efforts of Webster's genius. There was a void to be filled up, and it was filled up worthily.
Webster has placed his coadjutor DEKKER next to Shakspere. He looked upon the world with an observant eye; and of him it has been said, that his "pamphlets and plays alone would furnish a more complete view of the habits and customs of his contemporaries in vulgar and middle life than could easily be collected from all the grave annals of the times."* He was confident in his powers; and claimed to be a satirist by as indefeasible a title as that of his greater rival Jonson :-"I am snake-proof; and though, with Hannibal, you bring whole hogsheads of vinegar-railings, it is impossible for you to quench or come over my Alpine resolution. I will sail boldly and desperately alongst the shores of the isle of Gulls; and in defiance of those terrible block-houses, their loggerheads, make a true discovery of their wild yet habitable country."+ Thomas Dekker is certainly one of those who gather humours from all men ; but his wit is not of the highest or the most delicate character. He knows the town, and he makes the most of
"I'm glad you are wax, not marble; you are made
Of man's best temper; there are now good
That all these heaps of ice about your heart,
from your eyes:
We are ne'er like angels till our passion dies.
The praise of industry belongs to Dekker, though its fruits were poverty. He lived to a considerable age, and he laboured to the last at play or pamphlet. But the amount
* Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth.'
of his productions becomes almost insignificant when compared with the more than "copious industry" of THOMAS HEYWOOD. He was a scholar, having been educated at Cambridge at Peterhouse, it is said; but he became an actor as early as 1598, being then a sharer in Henslow's company. In 1633 he claimed for himself the authorship, entirely or in part, of two hundred and twenty dramas. Many of his two hundred and twenty dramas were probably such short pieces as 'The Yorkshire Tragedy.' Heywood had the power of stirring the affections, of moving pity and terror by true representations of the course of crime and misery in real life. Charles Lamb has summed up the character of his writings in three lines:"Heywood is a sort of prose Shakspeare. His scenes are to the full as natural and affecting. But we miss the poet, that which in Shakspeare always appears out and above the surface of the nature." Winstanley, not a very trustworthy authority, speaking of Heywood's wonderful fertility, says " He not only acted himself almost every day, but also wrote each day a sheet; and that he might lose no time, many of his plays were composed in the tavern, on the back side of tavern bills; which may be an occasion that so many of them are lost."
FRANCIS BEAUMONT was a boy at the period to which our slight notice of his great coadjutor Fletcher belongs*. The poetical union of Beaumont and Fletcher has given birth to stories, such as Aubrey delights in telling, that their friendship extended even to a community of lodging and clothes, with others matters in common that are held to belong to the perfection of the social system. We neither believe these things entirely, nor do we quite receive the assertion of Dr. Earle, that Beaumont's "main business was to correct the overflowings of Mr. Fletcher's wit." Edward Phillips repeats this assertion. They first came before the world in the association of a title-page in 1607. The junior always preceded the elder poet in such announcements of their works; and this was probably determined by the alphabetical arrangement. We have many
* Book vi. chap. i. page 264.
indications that Beaumont was regarded by his contemporaries as a man of great and original power. It was not with the exaggeration of a brother's love that Sir John Beaumont wrote his affecting epitaph upon the death of Francis:—
"Thou shouldst have follow'd me, but death to blame
Miscounted years, and measur'd age by fame." He was buried by the side of Chaucer and Spenser, in the hallowed earth where it was wished that Shakspere should have been laid :—
"Renowned Spenser, lie a thought more nigh
To lodge all four in one bed make a shift,
When Shakspere's company performed at Wilton, in December, 1603, it is more than probable that there was a young man present at those performances, whose course of life might have been determined by the impulses of those festive hours. PHILIP MASSINGER, who in 1603 was nineteen years of age, was the son of a gentleman filling a service of trust in the household of the Earls of Pembroke. At this period Philip was a commoner of St. Alban Hall, Oxford. "Being sufficiently famed for several specimens of wit, he betook himself to making plays." This is Anthony Wood's account of the dedication of Massinger to a pursuit which brought him little but hopeless poverty. Amongst Henslow's papers was found an undated letter, addressed to him by Nathaniel Field, with postscripts signed by Robert Daborne and Philip Massinger. Malone conjectures that the letter was written between 1612 and 1615, Henslow having died in January, 1616. The letter, which is a melancholy illustration of the oft-told tale of the misfortunes of genius, was first given in the additions to Malone's • Historical Account of the English Stage:'
* Elegy on Shakespear, by W. Basse.
"To our most loving friend, Mr. Philip Hinchlow, and died: "However I could never arrive
"You understand our unfortunate extremity, and I do not think you so void of Christianity but that you would throw so much money into the Thames as we request now of you, rather than endanger so many innocent lives. You know there is xl. more at least to be received of you for the play. We desire you to lend us vl. of that; which shall be allowed to you; without which we cannot be bailed, nor I play any more till this be dispatched. It will lose you xxl. ere the end of the next week, besides the hinderance of the next new play. Pray, Sir, consider our cases with humanity, and now give us cause to acknowledge you our true friend in time of need. We have entreated Mr. Davison to deliver this note, as well to witness your love as our promises, and always acknowledgment to be
By an indorsement on the letter it is
shown that Henslow made the advance which these unfortunate men required. But how was it that Massinger, who was brought up under the patronage of a family distinguished for their encouragement of genius, was doomed to struggle with abject penury?* Gifford conjectures that he became a Roman Catholic early in life, and thus gave offence to the noble family with whom his father had been so intimately connected. In 1623 Massinger published his 'Bondman,' dedicating it to the second of the Herberts, Philip, Earl of Montgomery. The dedication shows that he had been an alien from the house in the service of which his father lived
*In Mr. Collier's Memoirs of Actors' the fact of Massinger's burial at St. Saviour's church, in 1639, being recorded as that of Philip Masenger, stranger,' is not regarded as any indication of his poverty and loneliness: "Every person, there interred, who did not belong to the parish, was called a stranger." The payment of 21. for expenses would show "that Massinger was interred with peculiar cost and ceremony."
at the happiness to be made known to your
NAT. FIELD, the writer of the letter to Henslow, was a player, as we learn by that letter. The same document shows that he was a player in the service of Henslow. But he is mentioned in the first folio edition of Shakspere's plays, as one of the principal
actors in them. The best evidence of the genius of Field is his association with Massinger in the noble play of 'The Fatal Dowry.' He probably was not connected with Shakspere's company during Shakspere's * Introduction to the Works of Massinger.
life; but he is named in a patent to the actors at the Blackfriars and Globe in 1620. Robert Daborne, who was associated with Field and Massinger in their "extremity," was either at this period, or subsequently, in holy orders.
THOMAS MIDDLETON was a contemporary of Shakspere. We find him early associated with other writers, and in 1602 was published his comedy of Blurt Master-Constable.' Edward Phillips describes him as "a copious writer for the English stage, contemporary with Jonson and Fletcher, though not of equal repute, and yet on the other side not altogether contemptible." He continued to write on till the suppression of the theatres,
and the opinion of Phillips was the impression as to his powers at the period of the Restoration. Ford,-who has truly been called "of the first order of poets"-Rowley, Wilson, Hathway, Porter, Houghton, Day, Tourneur, Taylor, arose as the day-star of Shakspere was setting. Each might have been remarkable in an age of mediocrity, some are still illustrious. The great dramatic literature of England was the creation of half a century only; and in that short space was heaped up such a prodigality of riches that we regard this wondrous accumulation with something too much of indifference to the lesser gems, dazzled by the lustre of the
"One entire and perfect chrysolite."
THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN.
THE title-page of the original edition of "The | into violent conflict, rendered the
works, in 1647, for the reason assigned in the
stage so The pro
justly obnoxious to the Puritans.
"If we let fall the nobleness of this,
And the first sound this child hear be a hiss, How will it shake the bones of that good man,
And make him cry from under-ground, 'Oh, fan
From me the witless chaff of such a writer That blasts my bays, and my famed works makes lighter
Than Robin Hood?""
The expression "such a writer" is almost evidence against the double authorship. It implies, too, that, if Fletcher were the author, the play was presented before his death; for if the players had produced the drama after his death, they would have probably spoken of him (he being its sole author) in the terms
of eulogy with which they accompanied the | his pains." It is clear that the fable of performance of The Loyal Subject:'
"We need not, noble gentlemen, to invite Attention, pre-instruct you who did write This worthy story, being confident
Chaucer must have been treated in a different manner by Edwards than we find it treated in 'The Two Noble Kinsmen.' We have another record of a play on a similar subject. In Henslow's 'Diary' we have an
The mirth join'd with grave matter and entry, under the date of September 1594, of
To yield the hearers profit with delight,
'Palamon and Arsett' being acted four times. It is impossible to imagine that 'The Two Noble Kinsmen' is the same play. Here, then, was a subject adapted to a writer who worked in the spirit in which Shakspere almost uniformly worked. It was familiar to the people in their popular poetry; it was familiar to the stage. To arrive at a right
Two Noble Kinsmen,' we must examine the play line by line in its relation to 'The Knight's Tale' of Chaucer.
'The Knight's Tale' opens with the return to Athens of the "duke that highté Theseus" after he had
The inferences, therefore, to be deduced from the prologue to 'The Two Noble Kins-judgment regarding the authorship of "The men' (supposing Fletcher to be concerned in this drama),—that it was acted during his life-time, and that he either claimed the sole authorship, or suppressed all mention of the joint-authorship, are to be weighed against the assertion of the title-page, that it was "written by the two memorable worthies of their time." We are thrown upon the examination of the internal evidence, then, without any material bias from the publication of the play, or its stage representation.
Before the first builders-up of that wondrous edifice, the English drama, lay the whole world of classical and romantic fable, "where to choose." One of the earliest, and
"conquer'd all the regne of Feminie,
With muchel glory and great solempnitie,
The Two Noble Kinsmen' opens with
bration of his marriage with the "dreaded Amazonian." Their bridal procession is interrupted by the
"three queens whose sovereigns fell before The wrath of cruel Creon."
In Chaucer the suppliants are a more
As Theseus was ap
consequently least skilful, of those work-polyta and her sister, proceeding to the celemen, Richard Edwards, went to the ancient stores for his 'Damon and Pythias,' and to Chaucer for his 'Palamon and Arcyte.' We learn from Wood's MSS. that when Elizabeth visited Oxford, in 1566, "at night the Queen heard the first part of an English play, named 'Palæmon, or Palamon Arcyte,' made by Mr. Richard Edwards, a gentleman of her chapel, acted with very great applause in Christ Church Hall." An accident happened at the beginning of the play by the falling of a stage, through which three persons were killed-a scholar of St. Mary's Hall, and two who were probably more missed, a college brewer and a cook. The mirth, however, went on, and "afterwards the actors performed their parts so well, that the Queen laughed heartily thereat, and gave the author of the play great thanks for
"He was 'ware, as he cast his eye aside,
Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth,' vol. i. pp. 210, 211.