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That shook the aged forest with their echoes,
Arc. Yet, cousin,
Pal. Certainly, 'Tis a main goodness, cousin, that our fortunes Were twinn'd together; 'tis most true, two souls Put in two noble bodies, let 'em suffer The gall of hazard, so they grow together, Will never sink; they must not; say they could, A willing man dies sleeping, and all's done.
Arc. Shall we make worthy uses of this place, That all men hate so much?
Pal. How, gentle cousin ?
Arc. Let's think this prison a holy sanctuary To keep us from corruption of worse men! We're young, and yet desire the ways of honour : That, liberty and comnion conversation, The poison of pure spirits, might, like women, Woo us to wander from. What worthy blessing Can be, but our imaginations
May make it ours ? And here, being thus together,
should never know it, and so perish
Pal. You have made me
Arc. I would hear you still.
Pal. You shall.
Arc. Sure there cannot.
Pal. I do not think it possible our friendship Should ever leave us.
Are. Till our deaths it cannot.”
Thus they “sing their bondage freely:" but just then enters Æmilia, who parts all this friendship between them, and turns them to deadliest foes.
The jailor's daughter, who falls in love with Palamon, and goes mad, is a wretched interpolation in the story, and a fantastic copy of Ophelia. But they readily availed themselves of all the dramatic common-places to be found in Shakespear, love, madness, processions, sports, imprisonment, &c. and copied him too often in earnest, to have a right to parody him, as they sometimes did, in jest.—The story of the Two Noble Kinsmen is taken from Chaucer's Palamon and Arcite; but the latter part, which in Chaucer is full of dramatic power and interest, degenerates in the play into a mere narrative of the principal events, and possesses little value or effect.—It is not improbable that Beaumont and Fletcher's having dramatised this story, put Dryden upon modernising it.
I cannot go through all Beaumont and Fletcher's dramas (52 in number), but I have mentioned some of the principal, and the excellences and defects of the rest may be judged of from these. The Bloody Brother, A Wife for a Month, Bonduca, Thierry and Theodoret, are among the best of their tragedies: among the comedies, the Night Walker, the Little French Lawyer, and Monsieur Thomas, come perhaps next to the Chances, The Wild Goose Chase, and Rule a Wife and Have a Wife.—Philaster, or Love Lies a Bleeding, is one of the most admirable productions of these authors (the last I shall mention); and the patience of Euphrasia, disguised as Bellario, the tenderness of Arethusa, and the jealousy of Philaster, are beyond all praise. The passages of extreme romantic beauty and high-wrought passion that I might quote, are out of number. One only must suffice, the account of the commencement of Euphrasia's love to Philaster.
“ Sitting in my window,
So high in thoughts as I: you left a kiss
forever. I did hear you talk Far above singing!
And so it is our poets themselves write, above singing*.” I am loth to part with them, and wander down, as we now must,
“ Into a lower world, to theirs obscure
And wild-To breathe in other air
Ben Jonson's serious productions are, in my opinion, superior to his comic ones. What he does, is the result of strong sense and painful industry; but sense and industry agree better with the
and severe, than with the light and gay productions of the Muse.
“ His plays were works,” as some one said of them, “while others' works were plays." The observation had less of compliment than of truth in it. He may be said to mine his way into a subject, like a mole,
* Euphrasia as the Page, just before speaking of her life, which Philaster threatens to take from her, says,
" "Tis not a life;
What exquisite beauty and delicacy!