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for. A ‘fourth Impression' appeared in 1634, and it was followed by a reprint in 1639. This reprint was issued by William Leake, who published two further Quartos in 1652 and in 1660. The play was included in the Second Folio Edition of Beaumont and Fletcher's works, 1679, and subsequently was reissued in Quarto form in 1687 and 1717.
Date. The date of Philaster cannot be exactly fixed, but it is probably 1609 or 1610. John Davies of Hereford, in his Scourge of Folly, which is assigned by Oldys to 1611, alludes to the play in an epigram addressed to the well-deserving Mr. John Fletcher.' Dryden, in his Essay on Dramatic Poesy, states that the first play that brought Fletcher and [Beaumont) in esteem was their Philaster, for before that they had written two or three very unsuccessfully. The exact beginning of their literary partnership is not known, but it dates, in all probability, from about 1608. Allowing for the unsuccessful ventures of which Dryden speaks, we arrive at 1609 or 1610 as the approximate date of the play.
The Joint-Authorship of the Play. It is highly questionable whether any very fruitful result has been attained by attempts to pluck out the heart of the mystery of the great twin-brethren's joint-productions, and to assign to each his respective share of the creative work. The unique glory of their dramatic partnership lies in its successful preservation of its secret, and its organic creations cannot be analysed into
1 This is the hypothetical date assigned in the British Museum Catalogue to the Quarto, which contains no statement of its year of publication.
component parts by mechanical tests. As a contemporary, Berkenhead, declared in a commendatory poem
Each piece is wholly,two, yet never splits;
Fletcher's keen treble and deep Beaumont's base.'
• Beaumont was fain
In a clear, bright, full, but too large aflame.' Aubrey and Dryden have borne similar witness. Such a concensus of tradition cannot be ignored, but it is difficult to see in what respects the joint-plays are more signalised by judg. ment' than many of which Fletcher is sole author. Recent criticism has accordingly sought a more definite test in metrical characteristics. Mr. Fleay, in his well-known paper in the New Shakspere Society's Transactions, distinguishes in the plays written by Fletcher alone a number of well-marked character. istics, of which the chief are- -(1) the very frequent union of double endings with a pause in the sense at the end of the line ; (2) an infrequent use of rhyme ; (3) a complete absence of prose. In the joint plays, accordingly, where these characteristics occur, he traces the hand of Fletcher ; all other scenes he assigns to Beaumont.? But the results of this method arouse suspicion by the extravagantly preponderant share in the plays that is thus attributed to Beaumont. In the case of Philaster, Mr. Fleay leaves to Fletcher only the fourth scene of Act v., and another critic, Mr. G. C. Macaulay, in his Francis Beaumont, A Critical Study, goes one stage further, and asserts that in the play 'it is impossible to find any mark of Fletcher.' This is the reductio ad absurdum of the metrical test' method of investigation, and is a practical acknowledgment that Philaster, at any rate, defies the disruptive processes of the modern Chorizontes.
1 In a later note (January 1876) Mr. Fleay makes a qualification which goes raf to rob bis conclusions of their significance. These two friends
Characteristics of the Play. But however we may appor. tion the credit of the achievement between the two authors, there can be but one opinion as to the unique charm of the drama, 'the loveliest though not the loftiest of tragic plays which we owe to the comrades or the successors of Shakspere.' How far the plot is original we cannot tell, but hitherto no source has been discovered. The resemblance between the fortunes of Euphrasia-Bellario, and of Fellisarda in the Diana of Montemayor, or Zelmane in Sidney's Arcadia, does not go beyond the donning of page's attire by each of the ladies that she may follow her lover in disguise. There is more warrant for tracing Shaksperean influences. Euphrasia and Viola in their exquisite tenderness and supreme self-sacrifice have a kinship that cannot be accidental, and the relations of Arethusa, Philaster, and Pharamond are suggestively parallel to those of Imogen, Posthumus, and Cloten in the earlier scenes of Cymbeline. But most unmistakable is the resemblance in the First Act between the situation and character of Philaster and of Hamlet. The speech in which Philaster describes how his 'father's spirit' bids him be a king is assuredly an echo of the midnight interview between the Danish Prince and the ghostly visitant at Elsinore.
habitually aided each other, not only by writing scenes separately in each play, but also by writing portions of scenes, speeches, or even lines in the same scenes jointly. ... Fletcher's band can frequently be traced in Beaumont's prose scenes, though he never introduces prose himself.'
Whatever its debt to earlier romances or dramas, Philaster bears throughout the stamp of creative originality. Its merit does not lie primarily in its plot. The action in the earlier scenes moves at a lagging pace; the accusation of unchastity brought by Megra against Arethusa is too flimsy to bear the weight of the well-nigh tragic developments that follow ; and the citizen' scenes in the last Act are not vitally enough related to the main story. But Hallam is very far from justified in stigmatising the plot as most absurdly managed.' There is profound dramatic irony in the fact that Dion, in the hope of promoting Philaster's interests, should make a charge against Arethusa which involves his own daughter in dishonour, and the series of events which leads up to the revelation of her true sex is admirably devised.
But it is in character-drawing and in diction that the genius of the authors is pre-eminently shown. Philaster-though, as Dryden pointed out, he stains his manhood by wounding his mistress and afterwards his page is an interesting study of a finely-tempered but over-impulsive
gloriosus type, forms an effective foil ; and Dion is a clever sketch of a loyal, but at times wrong-headed, soldier-politician. Megra, however repul
1 It is possible, though not probable, that Philaster was an earlier play than Cymbeline.
outré variation on the mi, mature. Pharamond, a
sive, is drawn with much realistic vigour ; and Arethusa has a soft and winning grace. But eclipsing all the rest stands the figure of Euphrasia-Bellario, one of the most exquisite children of the Lyric Muse that has ever strayed from her native haunts into the dramatic sphere. From the opening unforgettable picture, in which Philaster tells how he found his 'boy' sitting by a fountain's side, till the speech in which the avowal of her true sex is wrung from her unwilling lips, Euphrasia lives and moves in an atmosphere of ideal beauty. • Her passions are made of nothing but the finest part of pure love,' and her lips are musical with the very quintessence of silvery eloquence.
This virginal charm of speech is, in its perfection, Euphrasia's alone, but the witchery of exquisitely limpid diction pervades the whole play. When Dryden declared that in Beaumont and Fletcher's dramas 'the English language arrived at its highest perfection,' he might have cited Philaster specially in support of his view. It is certainly remarkable that just when Shakspere's style was entering on its most elliptical and intricate stage, and when conceits' were reigning in lyric poetry, that such matchless purity and simplicity of expression should have been attained by the twin-dramatists. It is their glory to have done for our blank verse what Addison a century later was to do for our prose.
Later History of the Play. The enduring popularity of Philaster is attested not only by the numerous editions but by the successive adaptations which were made of the play. The fourth scene of Act v. was acted as a 'droll' at country fairs during the suppression of the thea under the title of