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to fight in single combat with the defamer of his uncle Leicester, though his uncle richly deserved the gibbet. Cumberland was a knight-errant of the seas, strangely blending the love of glory with the love of gold, the spirit of wild adventure with the spirit of commercial thrift. Something imaginative, something which partook of the sentiment of the old time, was mingled with the bustling practicalities of the present. If we look at a man like Sir Francis Drake from the mere understanding, we find it difficult to decide whether his enterprises were private or national, whether the patriot predominated over the pirate, or the pirate over the patriot; but if we look at him from the Elizabethan point of view, it is not difficult to discern an enthusiastic, chivalric, loyal, Protestant spirit as the presiding element of his being and the source of his pecuniary success. He did many things which, if done now, would very properly send the perpetrator of them to the gallows; yet, as a man, he was very much superior to many a modern statesman and judge, who would conscientiously order his execution. Vitally right, but formally wrong, he in the Elizabethan age was immensely honored.
This slight reference to a few of the Elizabethan men of action shows that literature was but one out of many
expressions of the roused energies of the national heart
and brain, and that those who performed actions which poetry celebrates were as numerous as the poets. As the external inducements to adopt literature as a profession were not so great as in our day, as there was no reading public in our sense of the term, we are at first surprised that so much genius was diverted into this path. But both Elizabeth and James were learned sovereigns; both were writers; and in the courts of both literature and learning were the fashion, and often the avenues to distinction in Church and State. It was recognized that literary ability was but one phase of general ability. Buckhurst was an eminent statesman. Sidney and Spenser were men of affairs. Raleigh could do anything. Bacon was a lawyer and jurist. Hooker, Hall, Giles and Phineas Fletcher, and Donne were in the Church. The patronage of educated and accomplished nobles was extended to numerous writers like Daniel and Drayton, who could not have subsisted by the sale of their works. None of these can be styled authors by profession: that sad distinction was confined to the dramatists. In the time of Elizabeth and James the theatre was almost the only medium of communication between writers and the people, and attracted to it all those who aimed to gain a livelihood out of the products of their hearts and imaginations. Its literature was the popular literature of
the age. It was newspaper, magazine, novel, all in one. It was the Elizabethan "Times," the Elizabethan "Blackwood," the Elizabethan Temple Bar": it tempted into its arena equally the Elizabethan Thackerays and the Elizabethan Braddons; but the remuneration it afforded to the most distinguished of the swarm of playwrights who depended on it for bread was small. All experienced the full bitterness of poverty, if we except Shakespeare, Jonson, and Fletcher. Shakespeare was an excellent man of business, a part-proprietor of a theatre, and made his fortune. Jonson was patronized by James, and was as much a court poet as a popular poet. Fletcher, though the most fertile of the three in the number of his plays, and the greatest master of theatrical effect, did not, it is supposed, altogether depend on the stage for his support. But Chapman, Dekkar, Field, Rowley, Massinger, and all the other professional playwrights, were wretchedly poor. And it must be said, that, though we are in the custom of affirming that the circumstances of the age of Elizabeth were pre-eminently favorable to literature, most of the writers, including such men as Spenser and Jonson, were in the habit of moaning or grumbling over its degeneracy, and of wishing that they had been born in happier times. There were, then, three centres for the literature of the period, the Court, the Church, and the Theatre.
Let us consider the drama first, as it was nearer the popular heart, was the medium through which the grandest as well as meanest minds found expression, and was thoroughly national, or at least thoroughly nation
England had a drama as early as the twelfth century,
a drama used by the priests as a mode of amusing the people into a knowledge of religion. Its products were called Miracle Plays. They were written, and often acted, by ecclesiastics; they represented the persons and events of the Scriptures, of the apocryphal Gospels, and of the legends of saints and martyrs, and, were performed sometimes in the open air, on temporary stages and scaffolds, sometimes in churches and chapels. The earliest play of this sort of which we have any record was performed between the years 1100 and 1110. The general characteristic of these plays, if we should speak after the ideas of our time, was blasphemy, and blasphemy of the worst kind; for the irreverent utterance of sacred names is venial compared with the irreverent representation of sacred persons. The object of the writers was to bring Christianity within popular apprehension; and in the process they burlesqued it. They belonged to a class of writers and speakers, as common now as then, who vulgarize the highest subjects in the attempt to popularize them,
who degrade religion in the attempt to make it efficient. The writers of the Miracle Plays only appear worse than their Protestant successors, from the greater rudeness in the minds and manners to which they appealed. They did not aim to lift the people up, but to drag the Divinity down; and, not being in any sense poets, they could not make what was sacred familiarly apprehended, and at the same time preserve that ideal remoteness from ordinary life which is the condition of its being reverently apprehended. Their religious dramas, accordingly, were mostly monstrous farces, full of buffoonery and indecency, though not without a certain coarse humor and power of characterization. Thus, in the play of the Deluge, Noah and his wife are close copies of contemporary character and manners, projected on the Bible narrative. Mrs. Noah is a shrew and a vixen; refuses to leave her gossips and go into the ark; scolds Noah, and is soundly whipped by him; then wishes herself a widow, and thinks she but echoes the feeling of all the wives in the audience, in hoping for them the same good luck. Noah then takes occasion to inform all the husbands present that their proper course is to break in their wives after his fashion. By this time the water is nearly up to his wife's neck, and she is partly coaxed and partly forced into the ark by one of her sons. Again, in a play on the Adoration of the