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the tide of London life in the busiest of her thoroughfares. The ‘Cleopatra’ of SAMUEL DANIEL places him amongst the dramatic poets of this period; but his vocation was not to the drama. He was induced, by the persuasion of the Countess of Pembroke,
“To sing of state, and 'tragic notes to frame.”
After Shakspere had arisen he adhered to the model of the Greek theatre. According to Jonson, “Samuel Daniel was no poet.” Jonson thought Daniel “envied him,” as he wrote to the Countess of Rutland. He tells Drummond that “Daniel was at jealousies with him.” Yet for all this even with Jonson he was “a good man.” Spenser formed the same estimate of Daniel's genius as the Countess of Pembroke did :
“Then rouse thy feathers quickly, Daniel,
Daniel did wisely when he confined his “tragic plaints” to narrative poetry. He went over the same ground as Shakspere in his ‘Civil Wars;’ and there are passages of resemblance between the dramatist and the descriptive poet which are closer than mere accident could have produced. The imitation, on whatever side it was, was indicative of respect. John MARSTON, a man of original talent, took his Bachelor's degree at Oxford in 1592. There is very little known with any precision about his life; but a pretty accurate opinion of his character may be collected from the notices of his contemporaries, and from his own writings. He began in the most dangerous path of literary ambition, that of satire, bitter and personal —
“Let others sing, as their good genius moves,
Quake, guzzle-dogs, that live on spotted lime, Scud from the lashes of my yerking rhyme.”
His first performance, “The Metamorphoses
In his parody, if parody it be, he has contrived to produce a poem, of which the licentiousness is the only quality. Thus we look upon a sleeping Wenus of Titian, and see but the wonderful art of the painter; a dauber copies it, and then beauty becomes deformity. He is angry that his object is misunderstood, as well it might be:—
“0 these same buzzing gnats That sting my sleeping brows, these Nilus rats, Half dung, that have their life from putrid slime, These that do praise my loose lascivious rhyme, For these same shades I seriously protest, I slubbered up that chaos indigest, To fish for fools, that stalk in goodly shape: What though in velvet cloak, yet still an ape 1"
He had the ordinary fate of satirists—to live in a state of perpetual warfare, and to have offences imputed to him of which he was blameless. The “galled jade” not only winces, but kicks. The comedy of ‘The Malecontent,’ written in 1600, appears to have been Marston's first play; it was printed in 1605. He says in the Preface, “In despite of my endeavours, I understand some have been most unadvisedly overcunning in misinterpreting me, and with subtilty (as deep as hell) have maliciously spread ill rumours, which springing from themselves, might to themselves have heavily returned.” Marston says in the Preface to one of his later plays, “So powerfully have I been enticed with the delights of poetry, and (I mustingenuously confess), above better desert, so fortunate in these stage-pleasings, that (let my resolutions be never so fixed, to call mine eyes unto myself) I much fear that most lamentable death of him— * Quinimis notus omnibus, Ignotus moritur sibi.’”—Seneca.
* “Colin Clout's come Home again.”
* “Scourge of Villainy; Three Books of Satire:’ 1598.
He adds, “the over-vehement pursuit of these delights hath been the sickness of my youth.” He unquestionably writes as one who is absorbed by his pursuit; over whom it has the mastery. In his plays, as well as in his satires, there is no languid task-work; but, as may be expected, he cannot go out of himself. It is John Marston who is lashing vice and folly, whatever character may fill the scene; and from first to last in his reproof of licentiousness we not only see his familiarity with many gross things, but cannot feel quite assured that he looks upon them wholly with pure eyes. His temper was no doubt capricious. It is clear that Jonson had been attacked by him previous to the production of ‘The Poetaster.” He endured the lash which was inflicted on him in return, and became again, as he probably was before, the friend of Jonson, to whom he dedicates “The Malecontent” in 1605. Gifford has clearly made out that the Crispinus of ‘The Poetaster’ was Marston. Tucca thus describes him, in addressing the player: “Go, and be acquainted with him then; he is a gentleman, parcel poet, you slave ; his father was a man of worship, I tell thee. Go, he pens high, lofty, in a new stalking strain, bigger than half the rhymers in the town again : he was born to fill thy mouth, Minotaurus, he was ; he will teach thee to tear and rand. Rascal, to him, cherish his muse, go ; thou hast forty—forty shillings, I mean, stinkard ; give him in earnest, do, he shall write for thee, slave If he pen for thee once, thou shalt not need to travel with thy pumps full of gravel any more, after a blind jade and a hamper, and stalk upon boards and barrel heads to an old cracked trumpet.” Jonson, in the same play, has parodied Marston's manner, and has introduced many of his expressions, in the following verses, which are produced as those of Crispinus:—
“Ramp up, my genius, be not retrograde;
The following advice is subsequently given to him :—
“You must not hunt for wild outlandish terms,
Rack your poor verse to give it entertainment,
Marston, with all his faults, was a scholar and a man of high talent ; and it is pleasant to know that he and Ben were friends after this wordy war. He appears to us to describe himself in the following narrative of a scholar in “What You Will:’—
“I was a scholar: seven useful springs
* Mr. Dilke, in his valuable “Selection from the Early Dramatic Writers,” prints three of Marston's plays. He says this word may be derived from baiser, to kiss; and that basse has been used by Chaucer in this sense.
At length he wak'd, and yawn'd, and by yon sky, For aught I knew, he knew as much as I.
How 'twas created, how the soul exists:
motes; Another fire, to other light, a third a spark of
star-like nature ; Hippo, water; Anaximenes, air; Aristoxenus, music; Critias, I know not what; A company of odd Phrenetici Did eat my youth; and when I crept abroad, Finding my numbness in this nimble age, I fell a railing.”
In the following Chapters of this Book we shall give a brief analysis of several of the plays belonging to this period, which have been ascribed to Shakspere.
SIR JOHN OLD CASTLE. PART I.
THE mode in which some of the German critics have spoken of this play is a rebuke to dogmatic assertions and criticism. Schlegel says—putting ‘Sir John Oldcastle,” “Thomas Lord Cromwell,” and “The Yorkshire Tragedy’ in the same class—“The last three pieces are not only unquestionably Shakspere's, but in my opinion they deserve to be classed among his best and maturest works. . . . ‘Thomas Lord Cromwell’ and ‘Sir John Oldcastle” are biographical dramas, and models in this species; the first is linked, from its subject, to “Henry VIII,’ and the second to “Henry W.’” Tieck is equally confident in assigning the authorship of this play to Shakspere. Ulrici, on the contrary, takes a more sober view of the matter. He says—“The whole betrays a poet who endeavoured to form himself on Shakspere's model, nay, even to imitate him,
but who stood far below him in mind and talent.” Our own critics, relying upon the internal evidence, agreed in rejecting it. Malone could “not perceive the least trace of our great poet in any part of this play.” He observes that it was originally entered on the Stationers’ registers without the name of Shakspere; but he does not mention the fact, that of two editions printed in 1600 one bears the name of Shakspere, the other not. The one which has the name says—“As it hath bene lately acted by the Right honorable the Earle of Notingham, Lord High Admirall of England, his Seruants.” In 1594 a play of Shakspere's might have been acted, as, we believe, ‘Hamlet” was, at Henslowe's theatre, which was that of the Lord High Admiral his servants, but in 1600 a play of Shakspere's would have unquestion
ably been acted by the Lord Chamberlain his servants. However, this conjectural evidence is quite unnecessary. Henslowe, the head of the Lord Admiral's company, as we learn by his diary, on the 16th of October, 1599, paid “for The first part of the Lyfe of Sir Jhon Ouldcastell, and in earnest of the Second Pte, for the use of the company, ten pound ;” and the money was received by “Thomas Downton” “to pay Mr. Monday, Mr. Drayton, Mr. Wilson, and Hathaway.” We might here dismiss the question of the authorship of this play, did it not furnish a very curious example of the imperfect manner in which it was attempted to imitate the excellence and to rival the popularity of Shakspere's best historical plays at the time of their original production. It is not the least curious also of the circumstances connected with ‘The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle,” that, whilst the bookseller affixed the name of Shakspere to the performance, it has been supposed that the Falstaff of his “Henry IV.’ was pointed at in the following prologue:—
“The doubtful title, gentlemen, prefix’d
The line in the prologue which we have just quoted—
“Since forg'd invention former time defac'd,”
might appear to point to an earlier period of the stage than that in which Shakspere's “Henry IV.’ was produced. Indeed, the old play of ‘The Famous Victories’ contains the character of Sir John Oldcastle. He is a low, ruffianly sort of fellow, who may be called “an aged counsellor to youthful sin;” but he is not represented as “a pampered
glutton.” In our opinion, there was either another play besides ‘The Famous Victories’ in which the name of Oldcastle was introduced, or the remarks of contemporary writers applied to Shakspere's Falstaff, who had originally borne the name of Oldcastle. The following passage is from Fuller's ‘Church History:’—“Stage-poets have themselves been very bold with, and others very merry at, the memory of Sir John Oldcastle, whom they have fancied a boon companion, a jovial royster, and a coward to boot. The best is, Sir John Falstaff hath relieved the memory of Sir John Oldcastle, and of late is substituted buffoon in his place.” This description of Fuller cannot apply to the Sir John Oldcastle of “The Famous Victories.” The dull dog of that play is neither a jovial companion nor a coward to boot. Whether or not Falstaff was originally called Oldcastle, Shakspere was, after the character was fairly established as Falstaff, anxious to vindicate himself from the charge that he had attempted to represent the Oldcastle of history. In the epilogue to ‘The Second Part of Henry IV. we find this passage:– “For anything I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless already he be killed with your hard opinions; for Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man.” “The Second Part of Henry IV.,’ the epilogue of which contains this passage, was entered in the Stationers’ registers in 1600, and was published in that year. When ‘The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle' was published in the same year, Falstaff is distinctly recognised as the companion of Prince Henry. In that play Henry W. is represented as robbed by the parson of Wrotham, a very queer hedgepriest indeed, bearing the name of Sir John, as if in rivalry of another Sir John ; and the following dialogue takes place —
“Sir John. Sirrah, no more ado; come, come, give me the money you have. Despatch; I cannot stand all day.
K. Henry. Well, if thou wilt needs have it, here it is. Just the proverb, one thief robs another. Where the devil are all my old thieves? Falstaff, that villain, is so fat, he cannot get on his horse; but methinks Poins and Peto should be stirring hereabouts.
Sir John. How much is there on 't, o' thy word ** Falstaff is again mentioned in the same scene with the priest, who asserts that the king was once a thief; and in answer to the question “How canst thou tell ?” replies,
“How because he once robbed me before I fell to the trade myself, when that foul villainous guts, that led him to all that roguery, was in his company there, that Falstaff.”
We have here tolerable evidence that Falstaff was “not the man” Oldcastle in 1600. And yet the following very remarkable letter, or dedication, is written some years after:—
“To my noble friend Sir Henry Bourchier: “Sir Harry Bourchier, you are descended of noble ancestry, and in the duty of a good man love to hear and see fair reputation preserved from slander and oblivion. Wherefore to you I dedicate this edition of “Oeleve, where Sir John Oldcastle appears to have been a man of valour and virtue, and only lost in his own times because he would not bow under the foul superstition of Papistry, from whence, in so great a light of Gospel and learning, that there is not yet a more universal departure, is to me the greatest scorn of men. But of this more in another place, and in preface will you please to hear me that which follows? A young gentle lady of your acquaintance, having read the works of Shakespeare, made me this question: How Sir John Falstaffe, or Fastolf, as it is written in the statute-book of Maudlin College in Oxford, where every day that society were bound to make memory of his soul, could be dead in Harry's the Fifth's time and again live in the time of Harry the Sixth to be banished for cowardice Whereto I made answer that this was one of those humours and mistakes for which Plato banished all poets out of his commonwealth; that Sir John Falstaff was in those times a valiant soldier, as appears by a book in the Heralds' office dedicated unto him by a herald who had been with him, if I well remember, for the space of 25 years in the French wars; that he seems also to have been a man of learning, because in a library of Oxford I find a book of dedicating churches sent from him for a present unto Bishop Wainfleet, and inscribed with his own name. That in Shakespeare's first show of ‘Harry the Fifth,'
the person with which he undertook to play a buffoon was not Falstaff, but Sir John Oldcastle; and that, offence being worthily taken by personages descended from his title, as peradventure by many others also who ought to have him in honourable memory, the poet was put to make an ignorant shift of abusing Sir John Falstophe, a man not inferior of virtue, though not so famous in piety as the other, who gave witness unto the trust of our reformation with a constant and resolute martyrdom, unto which he was pursued by the priests, bishops, monks, and friars of those days. Noble sir, this is all my preface. God keep you and me, and all Christian people, from the bloody designs of that cruel religion. “Yours in all observance, “RICH. JAMES.”
This letter is contained in a manuscript preserved in the Bodleian Library, written by Dr. Richard James, who died in 1638. The manuscript to which it is prefixed is entitled ‘The Legend and Defence of the Noble Knight and Martyr, Sir John Oldcastel, and has been published by Mr. Halliwell, having been pointed out to him by the Rev. Dr. Bliss *.
The “young gentle lady” who, according to this letter, was so well employed in studying Shakspere's historical plays, read them as many other persons read, without any very accurate perception of what essentially belongs to the province of imagination, and of what is literally true. Whatever similarity there may be in the names of Sir John Falstaff and Sir John Fastolf, the young lady might have perceived that the poet had not the slightest intention of proposing the Fastolf of ‘Henry VI. as the Falstaff of ‘Henry IV.’ Assuredly the Falstaff that we last see in the closing scene of ‘The Second Part of Henry IV.”—a jester, surfeit-swelled, old, profane, as the king denounces him—is not the Fastolf that makes his appearance at the battle of Patay, in ‘The First Part of Henry WI., and is subsequently degraded from being a knight of the Garter for his conduct on that occasion. In these scenes of ‘Henry WI. Shakspere drew an historical character and represented an historical fact. The degradation of Fastolf was in all probability
* . On the Character of Sir John Falstaff,’ 1841.