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helplessly from the path, is a question that may well perplex critics. Was the artist's hand paralysed by the consciousness of an inability to work out in detail the great conception ? I think not. It is more reasonable to assume that the play was required by the actors at a very short notice, and that Marlowe merely sketched roughly the last three acts, leaving it to another hand to. fill in the details; or it may be that he put the play aside, under stress of more pressing work, with the intention of resuming the half-told story at a later date, an intention which was frustrated by his sudden death. In any case it is a sheer impossibility to believe that the play in its present form represents the poet's finished work. Marlowe is not less guiltless of the extravagance and buffoonery in the last three acts of the Jew of Malta than of the grotesque and farcical additions made to Dr. Faustus. Yet it was doubtless to this very extravagance that the play owed much of its popularity.” It has not yet been discovered where Marlowe procured the materials for his play. Probably he used some forgotten novel; nor is it unlikely that he had been afforded opportunities of personally studying Jewish character. The old notion that there were no Jews in England during the Elizabethan time has been shownby modern research to be wholly untenable.” Barabas'
* The extraordinary size of Barabas' nose was long remembered. William Rowley, in his Search for Money, 1609, speaks of the “artificial Jew of Malta's nose." * I refer the reader to Mr. S. L. Lee's article on The original of Shylock (in the Gentleman's Magazine for February, 1880). Mr. Lee WOL. I. d
devoted love for his daughter is so fully emphasized in the first two acts that we cannot but suppose Marlowe to have been acquainted with at least one leading trait in Jewish character, the intense family-affection which has distinguished the Jews of all ages. Round the person of Barabas, in the two first acts, is thrown such a halo of poetry as circles Shylock from first to last. His figure seems to assume gigantic proportions; his lust of gold is conceived on so grand a scale that the grovelling passion is transmuted, by the alchemy of the poet's imagination, into a magnificent ambition. Our senses are dazzled, sober reason is staggered by the vastness of . Barabas' greed:— "Give me the merchants of the Indian mines, That trade in metal of the purest mould ; The wealthy Moor that in the Eastern rocks Without control can pick his riches up, And in his house heap pearl like pebble-stones, Receive them free and sell them by the weight; Bags of fiery opals, sapphires, amethysts, Jacinths, hard topaz, grass-green emeralds, And seld-seen costly stones of so great price, As one of them, indifferently rated, And of a carat of this quantity, May serve, in peril of calamity, To ransom great kings from captivity.”
Very impressive is the scene where Barabas is shown pacing beneath the casement, “in the shadow of the
is understood to be engaged on a searching inquiry as to the residence of Jews in England between 1290 and 1655, the dates of their expulsion and return.
silent night,” like an unquiet spirit round a spot where treasure has been buried. And what a burst of lyric ecstacy when he clasps once more his money-bags 1– “Now, Phoebus, ope the eye-lids" of the day, And, for the raven, wake the morning lark, That I may hover with her in the air, Singing o'er these, as she does o'er her young.” Again and again must we regret that the last three acts were not composed on the same scale as the earlier part of the play. Edward the Second was entered in the Stationers' Books on 6th July 1593. In the Dyce Library at South Kensington there is a quarto with a MS. titlepage (in a hand of the late 17th century), dated 1593. The first page is in MS., and contains several mistakes, but the text of the printed matter agrees throughout with the quarto of 1598; it may therefore be assumed that the date 1593 is a mistake of the copyist for 1598.” Warton states that the play “was written in the year 1590,” but he adduces no evidence in support of his assertion. It is certainly the most elaborate of Marlowe's works, and it has fortunately descended to us with a text free from any serious corruptions. We can hardly assign an earlier date than 1590 for its composition. – A comparison between Edward II. and A'ichard II.
* The expression “eye-lids of the day," recalls the language of Job— “By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eye-lids of the morning."
* There are two copies of ed. 1598 in the British Museum. In one or two passages the texts differ, a circumstance not uncommon in copies of the same edition of an old play.
naturally suggests itself to every reader. Charles Lamb remarked that “the reluctant pangs of abdicating royalty in Edward furnished hints which Shakespeare scarce improved in his Richard the Second; and the deathscene of Marlowe's king moves pity and terror beyond any scene, ancient or modern, with which I am acquainted.” Mr. Swinburne thinks that there is more discrimination of character in Marlowe's play than Shakespeare's; that the figures are more life-like, stand out more clearly as individual personalities. It may also be urged that there is more “business” in Marlowe's play; that the action is never allowed to flag. The character of the gay, frank, fearless, shameless favourite, Piers Gaveston, is admirably drawn. Even in the presence of death, with the wolfish eyes of the grim nobles bent on him from every side, he loses nothing of his old jauntiness. Marlowe has thoroughly realised this character, and portrayed it in every detail with consummate ability. Hardly less successful is the character of Young Spenser, the insolent compound of recklessness and craft, posing as the saviour of society, while he stealthily pursues his own selfish projects. In his drawing of female characters, Marlowe showed no great skill or variety. The features in some of his portraits are either so dim as to present no likeness at all, or they are excessively unlovely. Isabella is a vain, selfish woman, without any strength of character. She is hurt at finding herself neglected by the king, but the wound is only surface-deep. She acquiesces passively in her husband's death, and with equal indifference would have sacrificed her paramour. Edward, with all his weakness, is not wholly ignoble. In all literature there are few finer touches than when, after recounting his fearful suffering and privations in the dungeon, he gathers his breath for one last kingly utterance —
“Tell Isabel, the queen, I looked not thus
What heart-breaking pathos in those lines | For a moment, as his thoughts travel back across the years, he forgets the squalor of his dungeon and rides blithely beneath the beaming eyes of his lady. It has been objected that the representation of the king's physical suffering oversteps the limit of dramatic art. Euripides was censured by ancient critics for demeaning tragedy; but to-day the judgment of readers is on the side of Euripides, not of his critics. Besides, if Euripides erred, Sophocles erred also. The physical suffering of Philoctetes excites far more disgust than anything that we find in Euripides. There are those who think that the blinding of Gloster, in Lear, surpasses in horror any scene of physical agony enacted on the English stage. But criticism, which fears to raise its voice against Shakespeare, shows no mercy to Shakespeare's contemporaries. It has been usually stated that Fabyan's Chronicle was Marlowe's authority for the plot of Edward II, but Mr. Fleay has made it abundantly clear that the poet's indebtedness to Fabyan was very slight, and that the