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HERBERT S. MURCH, PH.D.
INSTRUCTOR IN ENGLISH IN PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

A Thesis presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Yale

University in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

NEW YORK

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY

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PREFACE

The Knight of the Burning Pestle performs an exceptional office in the Jacobean drama. As the only considerable stage burlesque of its day, it passes an unparalleled censure upon many of the theatrical

agaries of a decadent time. It is no less unique in that it affords a refreshing contrast to the tone of its authors' other work. Here, for once, Beaumont and Fletcher move in a pure and wholesome atmosphere. Through delightfully humorous agencies, the rare old comedy discloses the genuine humanity of a vanished age, its lineaments undisguised by the delusive artifice which is a besetting sin of these playwrights. If the modern reader is enabled to understand the antique subject-matter, he can easily see in this humanity, moreover, an authentic reflection of our own, (and appreciate, in the dramatists' portrayal of some of the elemental absurdities of our nature, a masterpiece of comic creation.)

But the subject matter is remote and obsolete. The burlesque is immediately concerned with the Jacobean commoners' taste for the romances of chivalry, the eccentric plays which were the products of that taste, other forgotten stage-favorites of the Jacobeans, and the singular manners of Jacobean audiences. These peculiarities of a former civiliz ation have long since passed out of the life of the race.

It is the purpose of the present edition to make them intelligible, for the sake of completely revealing both the historic

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