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faults lie so behind his back, that he seeth not himself to dance the same measure, whereto yet nothing can more open his eyes than to see his own actions contemptibly set forth; so that the right use of comedy will, I think, by nobody be blamed.
And much less of the high and excellent Tragedy, that peneth the greatest wounds, and showeth forth the ulcers that are covered with tissue; that maketh kings fear to be tyrants, and tyrants to manifest their tyrannical humours; that with stirring the effects of admiration and commiseration teacheth the uncertainty of this world, and upon how weak foundations gilded roofs are builded; that maketh us know, "qui sceptra duro savus imperio regit, timet timentes, metus in auctorem redit." But how much it can move, Plutarch yieldeth a notable testimony of the abominable tyrant Alexander Pheraus; from whose eyes a tragedy, well made and represented, drew abundance of tears, who without all pity had murdered infinite numbers, and some of his own blood; so as he that was not ashamed to make matters for tragedies, yet could not resist the sweet violence of a tragedy. And if it wrought no farther good in him, it was that he, in despite of himself, withdrew himself from hearkening to that which might mollify his hardened heart.
Of the defect of art in our earliest plays, Sidney
Our tragedies and comedies, not without cause, are cried out against, observing rules neither of honest civility nor skiifal poetry. Excepting Gorboduc (again I say of those that I have seen) which notwithstanding, as it is full of stately speeches and well-sounding phrases, climbing to the height of Seneca his style, and as full of notable morality, which it doth most delightfully teach and so obtain the very end of poesy; yet, in truth, it is very defectuous in the circumstances, which grieves me, because it might not nain as an exact model of all tragedies. For it is faulty both in place and time, the two necessary companions of all corporal actions. For where the stage should alway repre*nt but one place; and the uttermost time presupposed in it, should be, both by Aristotle's precept, and common reason, but one day; there is both many days and many places inartificially imagined.
Bt if it be so in Gorboduc, how much more in all the rst: where you shall have Asia of the one side, and Afric of the other, and so many other under kingdoms, that the player, when he comes in, must ever begin with telling where he is, or else the tale will not be conceived. Now shall you have three ladies walk to gather flowers, and then we must have the stage to be a garden. By and by, we hear news of shipwreck in the same place, then we are to blame if we at it not for a rock. Upon the back of that comes out a boss monster with fire and smoke, and then the miserable btouders are bound to take it for a cave; while, in the mean tine, two armies fly in, represented with four swords and bakers, and then, what hard heart will not receive it for a patched tebi?
Now of time they are much more liberal; for ordinary it is that two young princes fall in love; after many traverses she is get with child; delivered of a fair boy; he is lost, with a man, falleth in love, and is ready to get another did, and all this in two hours' space; which, how absurd
"The cruel man who with a hard rule holds the sceptre, fears those who fear bia, the dread comes home to its author." Two lines from Art of the "Oedipus" of Seneca.
it is in sense, even sense may imagine; and art hath taught and all ancient examples justified, and at this day the ordinary players in Italy will not err in. Yet will some bring in an example of the Eunuch in Terence, that containeth matter of two days, yet far short of twenty years. True it is, and so was it to be played in two days, and so fitted to the time it set forth. And though Plautus have in one place done amiss, let us hit it with him, and not miss with him. But they will say, How then shall we set forth a story which contains both many places and many times? And do they not know, that a tragedy is tied to the laws of poesy, and not of history; not bound to follow the story, but having liberty either to feign a quite new matter, or to frame the history to the most tragical convenience? Again, many things may be told, which cannot be showed; if they know the difference betwixt reporting and representing. As for example, I may speak, though I am here, of Peru, and in speech digress from that to the description of Calicut; but in action I cannot represent it without Pacolet's horse. And so was the manner the ancients took by some "Nuntius," to recount things done in former time, or other place.
Lastly, if they will represent an history, they must not, as Horace saith, begin "ab ovo," but they must come to the principal point of that one action which they will represent. By example this will be best expressed: I have a story of young Polydorus, delivered, for safety's sake, with great riches, by his father Priamus to Polymnestor, King of Thrace, in the Trojan war time. He, after some years, hearing of the overthrow of Priamus, for to make the treasure his own, murdereth the child; the body of the child is taken up; Hecuba, she, the same day, findeth a sleight to be revenged most cruelly of the tyrant. Where, now, would one of our tragedy-writers begin, but with the delivery of the child? Then should he sail over into Thrace, and so spend I know not how many years, and travel numbers of places. But where doth Euripides? Even with the finding of the body; leaving the rest to be told by the spirit of Polydorus. This needs no farther to be enlarged; the dullest wit may conceive it.
But, besides these gross absurdities, how all their plays be neither right tragedies nor right comedies, mingling kings and clowns, not because the matter so carrieth it, but thrust in the clown by head and shoulders to play a part in majestical matters, with neither decency nor discretion; so as neither the admiration and commiseration, nor the right sportfulness, is by their mongrel tragi-comedy obtained. I know Apuleius did somewhat so, but that is a thing recounted with space of time, not represented in one moment: and I know the ancients have one or two examples of tragi-comedies as Plautus hath Amphytrio. But, if we mark them well, we shall find, that they never, or very daintily, match hornpipes and funerals. So falleth it out, that having indeed no right comedy in that comical part of our tragedy, we have nothing but scurrility, unworthy of any chaste ears; or some extreme show of doltishness, indeed fit to lift up a loud laughter, and nothing else where the whole tract of a comedy should be full of delight; as the tragedy should be still maintained in a well-raised admiration.
But our comedians think there is no delight without laughter, which is very wrong; for though laughter may come with delight, yet cometh it not of delight, as though delight should be the cause of laughter; but well may one thing breed both together. Nay, in themselves, they have, as it were, a kind of contrariety. For delight we scarcely do, but in things that have a conveniency to ourselves, or to the general nature. Laughter almost ever cometh of things most disproportioned to ourselves and nature: delight hath a joy
in it either permanent or present; laughter hath only a scornful tickling. For example; we are ravished with delight to see a fair woman, and yet are far from being moved to laughter we laugh at deformed creatures, wherein certainly we cannot delight: we delight in good chances: we laugh at mischances we delight to hear the happiness of our friends and country, at which he were worthy to be laughed at that would laugh we shall, contrarily, sometimes laugh to find a matter quite mistaken, and go down the hill against the bias,' in the mouth of some such men as, for the respect of them, one shall be heartily sorry he cannot choose but laugh, and so is rather pained than delighted with laughter. Yet deny
I not, but that they may go well together; for, as in Alexander's picture well set out, we delight without laughter, and in twenty mad antics we laugh without delight: so in Hercules, painted with his great beard and furious countenance, in a woman's attire, spinning at Omphale's commandment, it breeds both delight and laughter; for the representing of so strange a power in love, procures delight, and the scornfulness of the action stirreth laughter.
But I speak to this purpose, that all the end of the comical part be not upon such scornful matters as stir laughter only, but mix with it that delightful teaching which is the end of poesy. And the great fault, even in that point of laughter, and forbidden plainly by Aristotle, is, that they stir laughter in sinful things, which are rather execrable than ridiculous; or in miserable, which are rather to be pitied than scorned. For what is it to make folks gape at a wretched beggar, and a beggarly clown; or against the law of hospitality, to jest at strangers, because they speak not English so well as we do? what do we learn, since it is certain
Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se,
But rather a busy loving courtier, and a heartless threatening Thraso; a self-wise seeming schoolmaster; a wry-transformed traveller: these, if we saw walk in stage names, which we play naturally, therein were delightful laughter, and teaching delightfulness: as in the other, the tragedies of Buchanan3 do justly bring forth a divine admiration.
But I have lavished out too many words of this play matter; I do it, because, as they are excelling parts of poesy, so is there none so much used in England, and none can be more pitifully abused; which, like an unmannerly daughter, showing a bad education, causeth her mother Poesy's honesty to be called in question.
So stood opinion between the poets and the Puritans in 1580. Stephen Gosson, sincere in attack, although his view of the case was not a wide one, withdrew from the stage to poverty, and was for five years a tutor in the country. He took some part in continuance of the controversy raised against the players, who defended themselves in their own way in February, 1582, with "A Play of Plays," which was then acted at the Shoreditch "Theatre." The players had much favour, and more play-houses were built.
In 1580, a theatre was established on the ground of the suppressed monastery at Whitefriars. But
1 Bias, Old French "biais," slope.
2 From the third Satire of Juvenal, thus paraphrased by Samuel Johnson in his "London:"
"Of all the griefs that harass the distress'd, Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest." The Tragedies of George Buchanan were in Latin.
Rose, the Hope, and the Swan, on Bankside, opened about 1581. The Hope was used as a bear-garden on two days of the week.
On the 13th of June, 1583, several persons were killed and many maimed during a play acted on Sunday, by the fall of a rotten gallery in the old building used at Paris Garden as a theatre. This was accepted as God's judgment upon the question of Sabbath-day performances. They were then prohibited by the Privy Council; and when Shakespeare came to London, three years later, that old cause of offence was at an end.
Among the court plays, ancient history and mytho logy still furnished a large part of the material for exercise of fancy; and about the year 1583 George Peele, then twenty-five years old, wrote "The Arraignment of Paris," which was presented before Queen Elizabeth by the children of her chapel, and first printed, without the author's name, in 1584.
George Peele was of Devonshire, and cites his native county, "No better hay in all Devonshire," in the piece here taken as an illustration of his genius. He was about six years older than Shakespeare; studied at Broadgates Hall, now Pembroke | College, Oxford; graduated as B.A. in 1577, and as M.A. in 1579; and was a noted poet in his
How Danaus' daughters ply their endless task,
All these are old and known I know, yet, if thou wilt have
Choose some of these, for, trust me, else Enone hath not many.
Par. Nay, what thou wilt: but sith my cunning not compares with thine,
Begin some toy that I can play upon this pipe of mine.
En. There is a pretty sonnet, then, we call it Cupid's Curse,
"They that do change old love for new, pray gods they change for worse!"
The note is fine and quick withal, the ditty will agree,
Our music figure of the love that grows 'twixt thee and me.
They sing; and while ENONE sings, he pipes.
En. Fair and fair, and twice so fair,
The fairest shepherd on our green,
Par. Fair and fair, and twice so fair,
Thy love is fair for thee alone,
My merry merry merry roundelay, Concludes with Cupid's curse,—— They that do change old love for new, Pray gods they change for worse! Both. They that do change, &c. En. Fair and fair, &c.
Par. Fair and fair, &c.
Thy love is fair, &c.
En. My love can pipe, my love can sing, My love can many a pretty thing, And of his lovely praises ring
My merry merry roundelays,
Amen to Cupid's curse,
They that do change, &c.
Par. They that do change, &c.
Both. Fair and fair, &c.
The song being ended, they rise.
En. Sweet shepherd, for ŒEnone's sake be cunning in this
And keep thy love, and love thy choice, or else thou dost her wrong.
Par. My vow is made and witnesséd, the poplar will not start,
Nor shall the nymph Enone's love from forth my bleeding heart.
I will go bring thee on thy way, my flock are here behind, And I will have a lover's fee; they say, unkiss'd unkind.
The storm being past of thunder and lightning, and ATE having trundled the ball into place, crying "Fatum Trojæ,"1 Juno takes it up.
Juno. Pallas, the storm is past and gone, and Phoebus clears the skies,
And, lo, behold a ball of gold, a fair and worthy prize!
Ven. This posy wills the apple to the fairest given be; Then is it mine, for Venus hight the fairest of the three. Pal. The fairest here, as fair is meant, am I, ye do me
And if the fairest have it must, to me it doth belong.
The brief is this, Detur pulcherrimæ,
Let this unto the fairest given be,
Let this unto the fairest given be,
Juno. My face is fair; but yet the Majesty
Ven. That Venus is the fairest, this doth prove,
If, then, this prize be but bequeath'd to beauty,
Pal. To stand on terms of beauty as you take it,
So much the mistress of those gifts divine
T'en. Nay, Pallas, by your leave you wander clean:
Pal. Our reasons will be infinite, I trow,
But first here's none, methinks, dispos'd to yield,
So ends the first act.
In the next the three goddesses appear again. The weather changes as they speak, and
1 The Fate of Troy: because the favour of Venus won by Paris, Prince of Troy, led to his carrying off Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, from her Greek husband Menelaus. This caused the Greeks to besiege Troy, and leave it in ruin.
Whoe'er he be that cometh next in place,
Ven. So can it not go wrong with me at all.
Juno. Then yonder, lo, that shepherd swain is he, That must be umpire in this controversy!
Ven. Juno, in happy time, I do accept the man; It seemeth by his looks some skill of love he can.
Par. [Aside.] The nymph is gone, and I, all solitary, Must wend to tend my charge, oppress'd with melancholy. This day (or else me fails my shepherd's skill) Will tide me passing good or passing ill.
Juno. Shepherd, abash not, though at sudden thus
Not earthly but divine, and goddesses all three ;
Ven. And, shepherd, say that I the fairest am,
Juno. Nay, shepherd, look upon my stately grace,
Is mighty, and may easily suffice,
At Phoebe's hand to gain a golden prize.
And for thy meed, sith I am queen of riches,
Rich robes, of sumptuous workmanship and cost,
If thou aspire to wisdom's worthiness,
To fight it out, and in the champaign field
Enter Nine Knights in armour, treading a warlike almain, by drum and fife; and then they having marched forth again, VENUS speaks.
Ven. Come, shepherd, come, sweet shepherd, look on me, These bene too hot alarums these for thee: But if thou wilt give me the golden ball, Cupid my boy shall ha't to play withal, That, whensoe'er this apple he shall see, The God of Love himself shall think on thee, And bid thee look and choose, and he will wound Whereso thy fancy's object shall be found; And lightly when he shoots he doth not miss: And I will give thee many a lovely kiss, And come and play with thee on Ida here; And if thou wilt a face that hath no peer,
To ravish all thy beating veins with joy,
Enter HELEN in her bravery, with four Cupids attending on her, each having his fan in his hand to fan fresh air in her face she sings as follows.2
Se Diana nel cielo è una stella
Par. Most heavenly dames, was never man as I,
1 Almain (Allemande) was a stately form of dance introduced from Germany. Its solemn musical accompaniment, without the dance, was also called sometimes an Almain.
2 If Diana in Heaven is a clear and shining star, full of splendour, who gives light to the troubled heart; if Diana in Hell is a goddess who gives comfort to the condemned souls that have died in despair through love; if Diana who is on Earth the empress queen of the nymphs of the sweet flowers, among thickets and woods gives death to the shepherds: I am a Diana sweet and rare, who with my glances can give battle to Dian of Hell, in Heaven, or on Earth.