« ZurückWeiter »
NASH AS DRAMATIST.
collaboration. But after careful study of Queen Dido,' I am inclined to think that Nash's share in it was small, and that the play was one of Marlowe's earlier essays, thrust aside for some uncertain reason, and brought forth when death had added lustre to his
It abounds in rhyming lines and assonances, which points to an early date of composition; but its style is distinguished throughout by traces of Marlowe's peculiar manner.
Of what dramatic work, in conception and in versification, Nash himself was capable, is apparent from his sole surviving piece, “Will Summer's Testament. This is a Court Comedy, or Show, without a plot, depending for its now evaporated interest on learned quips and fashionable cranks served up with masquerade and satire for the Queen's amusement. It represents a bygone phase of taste, before the world had learned to read, when word-of-mouth tirades on things in general had their savour. The motive is a play of words maintained upon the name of Summer. Will Summer, the Court fool of Henry VIII., whose portrait by Holbein still exists at Kensington, speaks prologue, and conducts the piece. He or his ghost appears in clown's costume, and nodding to the audience, opens with : “I'll show you what a scurvy prologue our play-maker has made in an old vein of similitudes.' Summer then pulls forth and reads a pornpous parody of Euphuism in a long preposterously laboured diatribe of nonsense. This, when he has played with it for a few paragraphs, the fool tosses carelessly aside, and speaks in his own person to the audience. · How say you, my masters? Do you not laugh at him for
a coxcomb? Why, he hath made a prologue longer than his play! Nay, 'tis no play neither, but a show.' After this box-on-the-ears to Lyly, Summer, the Season, enters, holds his Court, reviews the revolutions of the year, and makes his will, reserving all the honours of the prime to Queen Elizabeth :
Unto Eliza, that most sacred dame,
While the Seasons in their masquing dresses pass across the stage and furnish forth appropriate entertainment, Summer, the Court fool, sits by and comments. To modern readers the fun of the show, if fun it ever had, is withered and gone by—more withered than the roses, and more wasted than the snows of yester-year. • Ingenious, fuent, facetious Thomas Nash,' wrote genial Dekker ; 'from what abundant pen flowed honey to thy friends, and mortal aconite to thy enemies ! Alas, poor Tom Nash! Little enough is left of thee, thy humour and thy satire ! The men of our days cannot taste thy honey, and thy aconite has lost its venom. Dust too are the pedants and the puritans on whom it was so freely spilt. Yet something still survives from this dry caput mortuum of an ephemeral medley. The first lyric printed in the Golden Treasury,' that gift-book to all children of our time and vade-mecum of all lovers of old literature, is a spring song from · Will Summer's Testament.' Nor is there wanting in its scenes a second ditty, of less general application, but sweeter still and sadder, in which the dying Summer proves that our 'young gallant Juvenal'
LODGE AS DRAMATIST.
was a real poet. Let one of its stanzas serve to vindicate this claim, and satisfy his disappointed ghost :
Beauty is but a flower,
Lord, have mercy on us !
One more dramatist of Greene's brood must be mentioned. Thomas Lodge, Lord Mayor's son, master of arts, law student, perhaps actor, buccaneer, physician, poet of Scylla and of Rosalynde, satirist of manners, defender of the stage, exposer of moneylenders and their myrmidons—this man of multifarious ability and chequered experience, was also a playwright. In proportion to his other works, the plays of Lodge are insignificant. He aided his friend Greene in ‘The Looking Glass for London,' and quarried a tragedy from Plutarch on the rivalries of Marius and Sylla. •The Wounds of Civil War' is disappointing in execution—especially in the versification, which shows no effort to profit by Marlowe's invention, and in the comic parts, which fall below the usual level of such stuff. Lodge may indeed be credited with an honest effort to trace firm outlines of his principal male characters.
Yet his reputation as an English poet will not rest upon this lifeless
play, but on the charming lyrics which are scattered through his novels.
It is time to leave the little coterie of friends who clustered around Greene in London, and to concentrate attention upon Marlowe, himself a member of their society, but far superior in all qualities which make a dramatist and poet. In the prose romances of this group, the influence of Lyly's style is still discernible. But Greene marks a new departure in dramatic literature. The romantic play, the English Farsa, may be called in a great measure his discovery. Nash marks a no less noticeable departure in the prose of controversy and satire. Peele is a sweet versifier and an artist gifted with a sense of proportion unusual in his age. Lodge distinguishes himself as a rarely musical and natural lyrist. Marlowe, intervening at the height of Greene's popularity, imposed his style in a measure on these contemporaries. But none of them were able effectively to profit by the contact of this fiery spirit. He took the town by storm; they adopted some of his inventions, without understanding their importance and without assimilating the more potent influences of his art.
1 Lodge has found so genial and able an expositor in Mr. Gosse, that I have purposely curtailed the above notice of his interesting career and distinguished literary work. See the first essay in that charming collection, Seventeenth Century Studies, by G. W. Gosse.
1. The Life of Marlowe-Catalogue of his works.-II. The Father of
English Dramatic Poetry—He Fixes the Romantic Type-Adopts the Popular Dramatic Form, the Blank Verse Metre of the Scholars -He Transfigures both Form and Metre—His Consciousness of his Vocation.-I11. The History of Blank Verse in England, Italian Precedent-Marlowe's Predecessors–Modern and Classical Metrical Systems-Quantity and Accent—The Licentiate lambic-Gascoigne's Critique-Marlowe's Innovations in Blank Verse— Pause-Emphasis -Rhetoric a Key to good Blank Verse—The Variety of Marlowe's Metre.-IV. His Transfiguration of Tragedy—The Immediate Effect of his Improvements—He marks an Epoch in the Drama.–V. Colossal Scale of Marlowe's Works-Dramatisation of Ideals-Defect of Humour – No Female Characters. -VI. Marlowe's Leading Motive—The Impossible Amour—The Love of the Impossible portrayed in the Guise-In Tamburlaine-In Faustus—In MortimerImpossible Beauty-What would Marlowe have made of “Tannhauser'? - Barabas– The Apotheosis of Avarice.-VII. The Poet and Dramatist inseparable in Marlowe-Character of Tamburlaine. -VIII. The German Faustiad—Its Northern Character—Psychological Analysis in ‘Doctor Faustus’—The Teutonic Sceptic-Forbidden Knowledge and Power-Grim Justice-Faustus and Mephistophilis—The Last Hour of Faustus-Autobiographical Elements in
Doctor Faustus.'-- IX. “The Jew of Malta'— Shylock -- Spanish Source of the Story-An Episode of Spanish Humour-Acting Qualities of Marlowe's Plays.-X. Edward II.'--Shakspere and Marlowe in the Chronicle-Play-Variety of Characters-Dialogue–The Opening of this Play – Gaveston -- Edward's Last Hours.--XI. “The Massacre at Paris '-Its Unfinished or Mangled Text-Tragedy of • Dido'- Hyperbolical Ornament- Romantic and Classic Art.—XII. Marlowe greater as a Poet than a Dramatist—His Reputation with Contemporaries.
I. Of the life of Christopher Marlowe very little is known. He was a shoemaker's son, born at Canterbury in 1564.