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JOHN WEBSTER.

[In the case of nearly every one of the dramatists already noticed, we have had to lament the scantiness of biographical materials ; but in no instance is this scantiness more lament. able than in the case of the ‘noble-minded' John Webster. Regarding this author, nearly all that is known for certain is, that he was contemporary with most of the dramatists already mentioned, and that he wrote certain dramas of a high order, some of which are still extant. On the title-page of one of his works he is styled 'merchant-tailor,' and in the dedication to the same work he describes himself as one born free of the Merchant-Tailors' Company.' Gildon, who wrote about 1698, asserts that Webster was clerk of the parish of St. Andrew's, Holborn ; but Dyce, after careful search of the registers and other documents relating to that church, could not find the dramatist's name mentioned. The same industrious editor found the names of three John Websters who had been made free of Merchant-Tailors' Company between 1571 and 1617, but none of these can be identified with the dramatist. It has also been conjectured that, like many of his contemporaries, he was an actor as well as a writer of plays. This exhausts nearly all that is known or has been conjectured concerning this shadowy but highly-gifted dramatist, except the allusions made to him in Henslowe's diary, the first of which occurrs in 1601 in connection with a play entitled The Guise ; but whether this was a work of Webster's own, or an old play which he had 'doctored' for the stage, it is now impossible to say. To be as definite as we dare, we may state that Professor Masson gives the dates of Webster's life and death approximately as 1570-1640.

Webster wrote a number of dramas in conjunction with some of his contemporaries. In 1607 were printed The Famous History of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Westward Hoe, and Northward Hoe, the joint productions of Webster and Decker. The extant dramas undoubtedly Webster's own are The White Devil, or Vittoria Corombona (printed 1612); The Duchess of Malfi (published 1623, but first produced about 1616); The Devil's Law Case (1623); Appius and Virginia (first printed in 1654). All who have written on the subject agree in placing Webster in the very highest rank of the second-rate dramatists, i.e. of all those inferior to Shakespeare. His two tragedies, The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, are by far his best ; and, according to Hazlitt, "upon the whole, perhaps, come the nearest to Shakespeare of anything we have upon record.' Webster's genius was of a weird, gloomy, morbid cast, like Marlowe's raised to a higher power ; his works are full of rich but 'terrible graces.' Comparing Webster with Decker, Hazlitt says: ‘Webster gives more scope to the various combinations and changeable aspects (of the simple uncompounded elements of nature and passion), brings them into dramatic play by contrast and comparisons, flings them into a state of confusion by a kindled fancy, makes them describe a wider arc of oscillation from the impulse of unbridled passion, and carries both terror and pity to a more painful and sometimes unwarrantable excess.' Webster delights to suggest horrible imaginings,' and to 'adorn his sentiments with some image of tender and awful beauty.' We have selected as a specimen of Webster's dramas, The Duchess of Malfi, in speaking of which Charles Lamb says, the duchess has lived among horrors till she has become “native and endowed into that element.” She speaks the dialect of despair ; her tongue has a snatch of Tartarus and the souls of hell. To move a horror skilfully, to touch a soul to the quick, to lay upon fear as much as it can bear ; to wean and weary a life till it is ready to drop, and then step in with mortal instruments to take its last forfeits ; this only a Webster can do.')

THE TRAGEDY OF THE DUCHESS OF MALFI.

AS IT WAS PRESENTED PRIVATELY AT THE BLACK FRIARS, AND PUBLICLY

AT THE GLOBE, BY THE KING'S MAJESTY'S SERVANTS.
The perfect and exact copy, with diverse things printed that the length of the play

would not bear in the presentment.

WRITTEN BY JOHN WEBSTER,

London, 1623.

TO THE

RIGHT HONOURABLE GEORGE HARDING,

BARON BERKELEY, OF BERKELEY CASTLE, AND KNIGHT OF THE ORDER OF THE BATH

TO THE ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCE CHARLES

My NOBLE LORD,—That I may present my ex- | eyes to look down upon their sheets of paper, cuse why, being a stranger to your lordship, I when the poets themselves were bound up in offer this poem to your patronage, I plead this their winding-sheets. The like courtesy from warrant:-men who never saw the sea, yet desire your lordship shall make you live in your grave, to behold that regiment of waters, choose some and laurel spring out of it, when the ignorant eminent river to guide them thither, and make scorners of the Muses, that like worms in that, as it were, their conduct or postilion: by | libraries seem to live only to destroy learning, the like ingenious means has your fame arrived shall wither neglected and forgotten. This work at my knowledge, receiving it from some of and myself I humbly present to your approved worth, who, both in contemplation and practice, censure, it being the utmost of my wishes to owe to your honour their clearest service. I do have your honourable self my weighty and pernot altogether look up at your title; the ancientest | spicuous comment; which grace so dono me nobility being but a relic of time past, and the shall ever be acknowledged truest honour indeed being for a man to confer

By your lordship's honour on himself, which your learning strives to propagate, and shall make you arrive at the

in all duty and observance, dignity of a great example. I am confident this

JOHN WEBSTER. work is not unworthy your honour's perusal; for by such poems as this poets have kissed the

1 censure-judgment, criticism; from Lat. censeo, to hands of great princes, and drawn their gentle think, judge,

Dramatis Personæ. FERDINAND, Duke of Calabria.'

Lord GRISOLAN.
CARDINAL, his Brother.

DOCTOR.
ANTONIO BOLOGNA, Steward of the Household to The ral Madmen.

the Duchess. DELIO, his Friend.

DUCHESS OF MALFI. DANIEL DE BOSOLA, Gentleman of the Horse to CARIOLA, her Woman. the Duchess.

JULIA, Castruccio's Wife, and the Cardinal's CASTRUCCIO, an old Lord.

Mistress.
MARQUIS OF PESCARA.

Old Lady.
COUNT MALATESTI.
LORD RODERIGO.

Court Officers, Three Young Children, Two SILVIO.

Pilgrims, Ladies, &c.

SCENE-Italy.

JOHN WEBSTER.

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[In the case of nearly every one of the dramatists already noticed, we have had to lament the scantiness of biographical materials ; but in no instance is this scantiness more lamentable than in the case of the 'noble-minded' John Webster. Regarding this author, Dearly all that is known for certain is, that he was contemporary with most of the dramatists already mentioned, and that he wrote certain dramas of a high order, some of which are stil extant. On the title-page of one of his works he is styled “merchant-tailor,' and in the dedication to the same work he describes himself as one born free of the Merchant-Tailors Company.' Gildon, who wrote about 1698, asserts that Webster was clerk of the parish of St. Andrew's, Holborn ; but Dyce, after careful search of the registers and other documents relating to that church, could not find the dramatist's name mentioned. The same industrious editor found the names of three John Websters who had been made free of Merchant-Tailors' Company between 1571 and 1617, but none of these can be identified with the dramatist. It has also been conjectured that, like many of his contemporaries, be was an actor as well as a writer of plays. This exhausts nearly all that is known or bes. been conjectured concerning this shadowy but highly-gifted dramatist, except the allusions, made to him in Henslowe's diary, the first of which occurrs in 1601 in connection with a play entitled The Guise ; but whether this was a work of Webster's own, or an old play which he had • doctored for the stage, it is now impossible to say. To be as definite as we dare, we may state that Professor Masson gives the dates of Webster's life and deat approximately as 1570–1640.

Webster wrote a number of dramas in conjunction with some of his contemporaries. In 1607 were printed The Famous History of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Westward Hoe, and North ward Hoe, the joint productions of Webster and Decker. The extant dramas undoubtedly Webster's own are The White Devil

, or Vittoria Corombona (printed 1612); The Duches er Malfi (published 1623, but first produced about 1616); The Devil's Law Case (1623); Appius and Virginia (first printed in 1654). All who have written on the subject agree in placing Webster in the very highest rank of the second-rate dramatists

, i.e. of all those inferior to Shakespeare. His two tragedies, The White Devil and The Duchess of Malf, ane by far his best ; and, according to Hazlitt, “upon the whole, perhaps, come the nearest to Shakespeare of anything we have upon record. Webster's genius was of a weird, gloomy, morbid cast, like Marlowe's raised to a higher power ; his works are full of rich but "terrible graces.' Comparing Webster with Decker, Hazlitt says : Webster gives more scope to the various combinations and changeable aspects (of the simple uncompounded elements of nature and passion), brings them into dramatic play by contrast and comparison, ona them into a state of confusion by a kindled fancy, makes them describe a wider te oscillation from the impulse of unbridled passion, and carries bolt painful and sometimes unwarrantable excess. Webster deligh' ings,' and to 'adorn his sentiments with some image of ten selected as a specimen of Webster's dramas, The Duch Charles Lamb says, the duchess ‘has lived among hor

Broom endowed into that element.” She speaks the dialect Tartarus and the souls of hell. To move a horror lay upon fear as much as it can bear ; to wean then step in with mortal instruments to take it

and pity to Seet horrible

beauty

THE TRASEI

AS IT WAS FEEST T

41 LEI: The personi za 5.

RIGHT ESTBAROS BEKLEI, (* ETIL

Mr NOBLE LORD, -Til sa 1 cuse why, being a stanga i que offer this poem to TESLA warrant:-men L. DETZ Step to behold that rezinezt a eminent river to galeren en that, as it were, their onine

the like ingenious means has 732 1

at my knowledge, maaring i 2. worth, who, both in conteazistis ssd az owe to your honour their dans ce not altogether look up at yost, Dobility being but a relie of sime ju. Por truest honour indeed being for smak i ospor honour on himself, which your main ons I to propagate, and shall make you are 2 % dignity of a great example. I a més work is not unwortby your bonore u for by such poems as this poets have iza hands of great princes and draws fhéz te

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FERDINAND, Duke of CaleCARDINAL, his Brother. ANTONIO BOLOGNA,

the Duchess. Drug his Friend DAL DK Bosoi

W Duchess.

rse.
I him
s him.

[Excit Attendant. ng. Good Lord Silvio, our noble friends

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by a deputy ? this might take idle, offensiva, and base office from him, whereas the other deprives

Cast. Believe my experience, that realm never long in quiet where the ruler is a soldier

Ferd. Thou toldest me thy wife could

and dogs when they have done us service;' bu ACT I.-SCENE I.

for a soldier that hazards his limbs in a barth

nothing but a kind of geometry is his last sa Enter ANTONIO and DELIO.

portation, Del. You are welcome to your country, dear

Del. Geometry! Antonio;

Bos. Ay, to hang in a fair pair of slings, tak You have been long in France, and you return

his latter swing in the world upon an honounide A very formal Frenchman in your habit:

pair of crutches, from hospital to hospital. For How do you like the French court?

ye well, sir: and yet do not you scorn us; ix Ant. I admire it:

places in the court are but like beds in the In seeking to reduce both state and people

hospital, where this man's head lies at this man's To a fix'd order, their judicious king

foot, and so lower and lower. Begins at home; quits first his royal palace

Del. I knew this fellow seven years in the Of flattering sycophants, of dissolute

galleys And infamous persons,—which he sweetly terms

For a notorious murder; and 'twas thought His master's masterpiece, the work of heaven:

The cardinal suborn'd it: he was releas'd Considering duly that a prince's court

By the French general, Gaston de Foix, Is like a common fountain, whence should flow

When he recover'd Naples. Pure silver drops in general, but if't chance

Ant. 'Tis great pity Some curs'd example poison'd near the head,

He should be thus neglected. I have heard Death and diseases through the whole land

He's very valiant. This foul melancholy spread.

Will poison all his goodness; for, I'll tell you, And what is't makes this blessed government

If too immoderate sleep be truly said But a most provident council, who dare freely

To be an inward rust unto the soul, Inform him the corruption of the times ?

It then doth follow want of action Though some o' the court hold it presumption

Breeds all black malcontents; and their close To instruct princes what they ought to do,

rearing, It is a noble duty to inform them

Like moths in cloth, do hurt for want of wearin..
What they ought to foresee.--Here comes Bosola,
The only court-gall; yet I observe his railing
Is not for simple love of piety:

ACT I.-SCENE II.
Indeed, he rails at those things which he wants;
Would be as lecherous, covetous, or proud,
Bloody, or envious, as any man,

Enter ANTONIO, DELIO, FERDINAND, CASTECORE If he had means to be so.--Here's the cardinal.

SILVIO, RODERIGO, GRISOLAN, and Attendants

Del. The presence 'gins to fill : you promis'i Enter CARDINAL and BOSOLA. Bos. I do haunt you still.

To make me the partaker of the natures Card. So.

Of some of your great courtiers. Bos. I have done you better service than to

Ant. The lord cardinal's, be slighted thus. Miserable age, where only the And other strangers that are now in court? reward of doing well is the doing of it!

I shall. - Here comes the great Calabrian dute Card. You enforce your merit too much.

Ferd. Who took the ring oftenest ? * Bos. I fell into the galleys in your service;

Sil. Antonio Bologna, my lord. where, for two years together, I wore two towels

Ferd. Our sister duchess' great-master of ber instead of a shirt, with a knot on the shoulder,

household? give him the jewel.–When shall after the fashion of a Roman mantle. Slighted

we leave this sportive action, and fall to action

indeed ? thus! I will thrive some way: blackbirds fatten best in hard weather; why not I in these dog

Cast. Methinks, my lord, you should not desire days?

Ferd. Now for some gravity:-why, my Jordi Card. Would you could become honest! Bos. With all your divinity do but direct me

Cast. It is fitting a soldier arise to be a princ the way to it. I have known many travel far for

but not necessary a prince descend to be * it, and yet return as arrant knaves as they went

captain.

Ferd. No? forth, because they carried themselves always along with them.” [Exit Cardinal.] Are you

Cast. No, my lord; he were far better do it by gone? Some fellows, they say, are possessed Ferd. Why should he not as well sleep or en

. with the devil, but this great fellow were able to possess the greatest devil, and make him Ant. He hath denied thee some suit ?

him of honour. Bos. He and his brother are like plum-trees that grow crooked over standing-pools; they are rich and o'erladen with fruit, but none but crows, pies, and caterpillars feed on them. Could I be

endure fighting. one of their flattering panders, I would hang on

Cast. True, my lord, their ears like a horseleech, till I were full, and

Ferd. And of a jest she broke of scor then drop off. I pray, leave me. Who would

met full of wounds. I have forgot it rely upon these miserable dependencies, in ex

Cast. She told him, my lord, bo pectation to be advanced to-morrow? what creature ever fed worse than hoping Tantalus ? nor ever died any man more fearfully than he that

i dogs when they had hoped for a pardon. There are rewards for hawks

dogges, and
& word having
omitted

? Who look
* quits-clears.

me

worse.

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