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component parts by mechanical tests. As a contemporary, Berkenhead, declared in a commendatory poem
'Each piece is wholly two, yet never splits;
He th' understanding, thou the quick free-will,
But as two voices in one song embrace,
Fletcher's keen treble and deep Beaumont's base.'
Early tradition merely indicates that Beaumont supplied 'judg. ment,' and checked his companion's exuberance of 'wit.' Thus Cartwright, in lines addressed to Fletcher, asserts—
'Beaumont was fain
Such a con
To bid thee be more dull; that's write again And bate some of thy fire, which from thee came In a clear, bright, full, but too large aflame.' Aubrey and Dryden have borne similar witness. census of tradition cannot be ignored, but it is difficult to see in what respects the joint-plays are more signalised by 'judgment' 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 characteristics, 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.1 But the results of this method arouse
1 In a later note (January 1876) Mr. Fleay makes a qualification which goes far to rob his conclusions of their significance. 'These two friends
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.
Characteristics of the Play. But however we may apportion 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 kin ship 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 Cymbe
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 hand can frequently be traced in Beaumont's prose scenes, though he never introduces prose himself.'
line. 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.
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 nature. Pharamond, a somewhat outré variation on the miles 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.
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 Snakspere'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 theatres, under the title of
The Club-Men. In 1664 a ballad, 'Love in Languishment,' embodying the story of the drama, was published in Thomas Jordan's Royal Arbor of Loyal Poesie. In 1695 Elkanah Settle produced, at the Theatre Royal, a revised version of the play, with the last two Acts rewritten, and with a Prologue and Epilogue. The Prologue contains the following tribute :
'Poets of their new plays so vainly fond,
A staunch old Orient with true lustre dres't,
In 1714 there was printed in a collection of the works of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, The Restauration; or, Right will take Place: a Tragic-comedy, which is an adaptation of Philaster, with the names of the dramatis persona entirely changed. It is, however, doubtful whether the Duke is really responsible for the piece.
The most successful version of the play was that of George Colman, produced at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in 1763. His aim was to remove the objections to the performance of this excellent play on the modern stage,' and he therefore left out several scenes, including Act 11. Scene 4. The Prologue is interesting as a sign of the growing reaction from the pseudoclassic to the romantic drama.
'While modern tragedy, by rule exact,
Spins out a thin-wrought fable, Act by Act,