« PředchozíPokračovat »
THE WOMAN IN THE MOON.'
was printed with his name in 1597, three years before his death, there is no sufficient reason to reject it from the list of his works. We must rather suppose that he had not formed his style when he made this earliest attempt at writing for the stage. The allegory, if it was meant to have any reference to the Queen, is rather satirical than complimentary. Nature forms a woman at the entreaty of the shepherds of Utopia. She calls her Pandora, and dowers her with exceeding beauty. The stars in jealousy shower vices on her head. Saturn gives her churlishness; Jupiter adds pride; Mars turns her to a vixen. Under the rule of Sol, she marries Stesias, a shepherd of that land. In the ascendency of Venus, she turns wanton. Mercury fills her with cunning and falsehood. Cynthia makes her, like herself, `new-fangled, fickle, slothful, foolish, mad.' Stesias watches all these phases of her nature with horror, and prays to be delivered from the torment of such a wife. Pandora at length is relegated to the moon, and ordered to rule that inconstant luminary, while Cynthia haunts the woods or dwells with Pluto on the throne of Hecate. It seems singular that Lyly should have made his début at Court with this satire upon women and on Cynthia herself.'
1 Were it not for the reason given above, I should be inclined to reject The Woman in the Moon. If it was Lyly's first work, it must have been written before 1584 (the date of Campaspe's publication). This was very early in the development of dramatic blank verse. The title, again, might pass for a parody of his Endimion or The Man in the Moon ; while the satire of the piece parodies his style of compliment to Elizabeth. The title-page of 1597 adds, “as it was presented before her Highness.' Yet Edward Blount, in his edition of Lyly's Six Court Comedies (1632), neither included nor mentioned it. Love's Metamorphosis he also excluded ; but in the first edition of this play (1601) it is not mentioned as having been performed before the Queen.
As the first considerable poet who composed the imaginative pieces which we call Court Comedies, Lyly holds an important place in our dramatic history. He invented a species. Both Shakspere and Fletcher knew well how to profit by his discovery. Shakspere was just twenty when `Alexander and Campaspe' appeared. He arrived in London, and began to work for the stage soon after this date. Lyly exercised considerable influence over his imagination and his method of production. The earlier Shaksperian Comedies abound in euphuistic dialogues, and display minute evidences of euphuistic studies. Beatrice and Benedick, Timon and Apemantus, can be traced by no uncertain method to the poet's early admiration for John Lyly. Dogberry owes something to the Watch in Endimion ;' the fairies of · The Merry Wives of Windsor even more to a catch-song in that comedy. The confused sexes and complicated loves of Phyllida and Gallathea reappear in ' As You Like It.' Lyly's larknote from 'Campaspe' sounds again in Cymbeline.' The elder playwright had styled two of his Comedies ( Sapho' and The Woman in the Moon ') dreams. The younger gave the world a masterpiece in the romantic style of Comedy, when he produced his • Midsummer Night's Dream.'
Lyly was emphatically a discoverer. He discovered euphuism, and created a fashionable affectation, which ran its course of more than twenty years. He discovered the dialogue of repartee in witty prose.
He discovered the ambiguity of the sexes, as a motive of dramatic curiosity. He discovered what effective use might be made of the occasional lyric, as an adjunct to dramatic action. He discovered the suggestion of dramatic dreaming. He discovered the combination of Masque and Drama, which gave rise to the Courtly or Romantic Comedy.
Shakspere bettered Lyly's best, and used his discoveries with such artistic freedom, such poetic supremacy, that we are tempted to forget the quaint petitioner at Court who 'fished the murex up.' It is the duty, however, of historic criticism to indicate origins. And in the study of Shakspere we are bound to remember that Lyly preceded him ; just as when we estimate the greatness of Michel Angelo in Rome, we have to turn our eyes back upon Ghirlandajo and Signorelli.
GREENE, PEELE, NASH, AND LODGE.
1. Playwrights in Possession of the Stage before Shakspere— The Scholar
Poets — Jonson’s Comparison of Shakspere with his Peers— The Meaning of those Lines-Analysis of the Six Scholar-Poets.--I 1. Men of Fair Birth and Good Education - The Four Subjects of this Study.-III. The Romance of Robert Greene's Life-His Autobiographical Novels-His Miserable Death-The Criticism of his Character–His Associates.-IV. Greene's Quarrel with Shakspere and the Playing Companies-His Vicissitudes as a Playwright-His Jealousy.-V. Greene's transient Popularity-Euphuistic Novels Specimens of his Lyrics-Facility of Lyric Verse in England. - VI. Greene's Plays betray the Novelist-None survive from the Period before Marlowe— James IV. of Scotland'-Its Induction—The Character of Ida—'Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay'-Florid Pedantry a Mark of Greene's Style.–VII. Peele-Campbell's Criticism — His Place among Contemporaries – Edward 1.'—Battle of Alcazar — "Old Wives' Tale’--Milton's · Comus ' _^ The Arraignment of Paris' _David and Bethsabe'-Non-Dramatic Pieces by Peele.-VIII. Thomas Nash The Satirist -- His Quarrel with Harvey-His Description of a Bohemian Poet's Difficulties - The Isle of DogsHis Part in ‘Dido, Queen of Carthage'-'Will Summer's Testament' -Nash's Songs.-IX. Thomas Lodge-His Life-His Miscellaneous Writings—'Wounds of Civil War.'-X. The Relative Value of these Four Authors.
When Shakspere left Stratford-upon-Avon for London, and began his career as actor and arranger of old plays for the Lord Chamberlain's Servants, a group of distinguished scholar-poets held possession of the stage. The date of this event, so memorable in modern literary history, cannot be fixed with certainty. But we may refer it with probability to the year 1585.
Before 1600 Shakspere had already shown himself the greatest dramatist of the romantic school, not only by the production but also by the publication of his earlier comedies and tragedies. In that period of fifteen years, between 1585 and 1600, the men of whom I speak either died or left off writing for the theatre. They were Robert Greene, George Peele, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Lodge, Thomas Nash, and Thomas Kyd. Greene died in 1592, Marlowe in 1593, Peele in 1597, Kyd not later than 1594. Nash produced his only extant play in 1592, and died soon after 1600. The tragedy by which Lodge is best known as a playwright, was printed in 1594. He exchanged literature for medicine, and practised as a physician until his death in 1625. Lyly, it will be remembered, died soon after 1600.
These are the playwrights with whom Ben Jonson, in his famous elegy, thought fit to compare Shakspere —not, as it seems to me, in spite, but because they were contemporaries. William Basse, writing on the same occasion, bade Spenser, Chaucer, and Beaumont lie somewhat closer, each to each, in order to make room for Shakspere in their threefold, fourfold tomb.'
onson says he will not use a similar rhetorical contrivance ; for Shakspere is ‘a monument without a tomb,' living as long as his book lives, as long as there are men to read and praise him. Then he proceeds :
That I not mix thee so, my brain excuses,