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narratives of Stow and Holinshed, who tread closely in
the steps of Sir Thomas de la More, were largely used. The two remaining plays, the Massacre at Paris and
the Tragedy of Dido, are preserved in a very unsatis
factory state: the former had been cruelly mutilated,
and the latter—left unfinished at the author's deathwas completed by Thomas Nashe, an unequalled master of invective, but a tragic poet of no high order. In Henslowe's Diary (ed. J. P. Collier, p. 30), under date 3oth January 1593–4, there is an entry—“Rd. at the tragedy of the guyes [Guise] . . . iij . . . iiij".” In this part of the Diary the dates are in some confusion; and it is clear from the preceding and following entries that the year should be 1592-3, not 1593-4. In the margin opposite the entry Henslowe has written “ne” to show that it was a new play. External evidence, therefore, seems to insist that the Massacre at Paris was one of Marlowe's latest works. Even if we suppose that the performance of the play did not immediately follow its composition, yet we cannot regard the Massacre at Paris as avery early work of Marlowe's; for Henry III., with whose assassination the play ends, died on 2nd August 1589. But we have clear proof that the play has come down in a corrupt and mutilated state. There is preserved in an early MS.* a portion of scene xix., probably a fragment of an original play-house copy. A comparison of the text of the MS (vid. Vol II. 277-8) with the text of the printed copy shows how cruelly the play suffered in passing through the press. But when all allowances have been made on the score of curtailments and corruptions, it is certain that the Massacre at: Paris was the feeblest of Marlowe's works. Only in one passage does the poet rise to the height of his theme. I refer of course to the fine soliloquy of the Duke of Guise in the second scene. There, and there only, we find the old splendour of diction and magni. ficence of imagination, the old yearning after limitless power. The other characters are writ in water. The Tragedy of Dido was published in 1594. On the title-page it is stated to have been written by “Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nash, Gent.” Probably Marlowe left it incomplete at his death, and Nashe finished it. The tragic power shown in Dido is very slight. For once Marlowe seems to have descended from his fiery flight above the clouds, and to have sought repose in a trim garden-plot; instead of daring imagination, we have quaint conceits and dainty play of fancy. My own opinion is, that the play is in the main by Marlowe, and that Nashe's work lay chiefly in completing certain scenes which Marlowe had sketched in the rough. To Marlowe must surely be given such lines as these in the opening scene:– “Vulcan shall dance to make thee laughing-sport, And my nine daughters sing when thou art sad; From Juno's bird I'll pluck her spotted pride, To make thee wings wherewith to cool thy face;
* First printed in Collier's History of Engl. Dram. Lit. iii. 134 (ed. 1).
The rhythm of these passages is precisely the same as in the passage (iii. 1) where Dido offers to Aeneas a fleet with “tackling made of rivell'd gold.” As Mr. Symonds observes, “The blank verse, falling in couplets, seems to cry aloud for rhymes.” These passages, and the pretty scene where the old nurse tempts away Cupid (who is disguised as Ascanius) by a playfully exaggerated description of the delights of her orchard and flowergarden, must have come from the same hand,-the hand that wrote the song of the “Passionate Shepherd to his Love.” In the second act, where Aeneas relates to Dido the story of the fall of Troy, occurs the passage,
which Shakespeare burlesqued in Hamlet,” describing the slaughter of Priam. It is hard to believe that in its present shape the narrative of Aeneas was written wholly by Marlowe. In parts it is so absurdly grandiose that a very slight heightening is required in order to get the effect of burlesque. Let us take the description of the slaughter of Priam:
“At which the frantic queen leaped on his face,
1 A few years ago a theory was gravely propounded that the player's speech in Hamlet was “written originally by Shakespeare to complete Marlowe's play.” This titanic absurdity—“gross as a mountain, open, palpable"—was received with much applause in certain quarters.
Which he disdaining, whisk'd his sword about,
If these lines are Marlowe's they must have been written at the very beginning of his career. Compared with this extraordinary passage the rant of Zamburlaine is tame. It seems probable that Marlowe left the scene unfinished, and that Nashe worked it up into its present ridiculous shape. If the lines I have quoted are Nashe's he must surely have been laughing in his sleeve when he wrote them. It was a good opportunity of showing that he had learnt the trick of “bragging blank verse,” and could swagger in “drumming decasyllabons.” Earlier in the same scene we find passages quite worthy of Marlowe, as in the description how, when Sinon unlocked the wooden horse,
About the authorship of such lines as those there can– be no possible doubt; but there are very few passages in Dido where the “mighty line” rings so unmistakeably.
The exquisite fragment of Hero and Leander, which was entered in the Stationers' Books on 28th September 1593, was first published in 1598, and a second edition,”
* Two copies of this edition were discovered a few years ago by Mr.
with Chapman's continuation, appeared in the same year. From a passage of the Third Sestiad it appears that Marlowe, perhaps with a foreboding of his untimely death, had enjoined upon Chapman the task of completing the poem. The lines are these :“Then, ho, most strangely-intellectual fire That, proper to my soul, hast power to inspire Her burning faculties, and with the wings Of thy unsphered flame visits’t the springs Of spirits immortal. Now, as swift as Time Doth follow Motion, find th' eternal clime Of his free soul whose living subject stood Up to the chin in the Pierian flood, And drunk to me half this Musaean story, Inscribing it to deathless memory; Confer with it, and make my pledge as deep 7hat neither’s draught be consecrate to sleep: Tell it how much his late desires / tender (If yet it know not), and to light surrender My soul's dark offspring.” When Chapman is inspired he is not always articulate. In this apostrophe to the “free soul” of Marlowe we cannot fail to be moved by the impassioned fervour of the language; but when we come to re-read the passage, and ask ourselves what is the meaning of the italicised, lines, we are beset with some difficulties. It is certain that the words “late desires” cannot refer to any deathbed utterance of Marlowe; for we know that his end was fearfully sudden. But if it has any meaning at all,
Charles Edmonds in a lumber-room at Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire, the seat of Sir Charles Isham, Bart. No edition of the complete poem earlier than that of 16oo had been previously known.