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obscenity and grossness with the same gusto as the cheese and ale and onions of their supper table. Nor let it be forgotten that the urbane Pope of the House of Medici, the pupil of Poliziano, the patron of Raphael, could turn from Beroaldo's “Tacitus' and Bembo's courtly elegiacs, to split his sides with laughing at Bibbiena's ribaldries. Allowing for the differences between Italy and England, the “Calandria' is hardly more refined than · Gammer Gurton's Needle.' Beneath its classical veneer and smooth Italian varnish, it hides as coarse a view of human nature and a nastier fable.

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VI.

There are many reasons why Comedy should have preceded Tragedy in the evolution of our Drama. The comic scenes, which formed a regular department of the Miracle, allowed themselves to be detached from the whole scheme. From the first they were extraneous to the sacred subject-matter of those Pageants; and after passing through the intermediate stage of the Morality, they readily blent with Latin models (as in the case of 'Roister Doister '), and no less readily settled into the form of the five-act farce (as in the case of 'Gammer Gurton '). Comedy attracts an uninstructed audience more powerfully than Tragedy. Of this we have plenty of evidence in our own days ; when “the better vulgar' crowd the Music Halls, and gather to Burlesques, but barely lounge at fashion's beck to a Shaksperian Revival. Comedy of the average type can be more easily invented than Tragedy. It appeals to a commoner intelligence. It

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PRIORITY OF COMIC DRAMA.

209

deals with more familiar motives. Lastly, but by no means least, it makes far slighter demands upon the capacity of actors. Passing over into caricature, it is not only tolerable, but oftentimes enhanced in effect. Whereas Tragedy, hyperbolised—Herod out-Heroding Herod, Ercles' and Cambyses' vein — becomes supremely ridiculous to those very sympathies which Tragedy appeals to. Among the Northern nations grotesqueness was indigenous. They found buffoonery ready to their hand. For the statelier and sterner forms of dramatic art, models were needed. What the Teutonic genius originated in the serious style, was epical ; connected with the minstrel's rather than the jongleur's skill. Comedy, again, was better fitted than Tragedy to fill

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spaces of a banquet or to crown a revel. The jongleurs and jugglers, who descended from the Roman histriones, had their proper place in medieval society; and these jesters were essentially mimes. Comedy belonged of right to them. Every

. daïs in the hall of manor-house or castle had from immemorial time furnished forth a comic stage. The Court-fools were public characters. Sumner, Will Kempe, Tarleton, and Wilson were as well known to our ancestors of the sixteenth century as Garrick and the Kembles to our great grandfathers.

The occasional and extemporaneous jesting of these men passed by degrees into settled types of presentation. They wrote, or had written for them, Merriments, which they enriched with sallies of the choicest gag, illustrated with movements of the most fantastic humour. When formal plays came into fashion by the labour of the learned, these professional comedians struck the

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key-note of character, and took a prominent part in all performances. From what we know about private or semi-private theatricals in our own days, we are able furthermore to comprehend howanxiously young gentlemen at College, or fashionable members of an Inn of Court, would imitate the gestures of a Tarleton ; how pliantly the scholar-playwright would adapt his leading comic motive to the humours of a Kempe. It was thus through many co-operating circumstances that Comedy took the start of Tragedy upon the English stage. The graver portions of the Miracles, the heavier parts of the Moral Plays, meanwhile, developed a school of acting which made Tragedy possible. The public by these antecedents were educated to tolerate a serious style of art. But the playwright's genius-adequate to a first-rate Interlude like the ‘Four P's,' to a first-rate Comedy of manners like · Roister Doister,' to a firstrate screaming farce like ‘Gammer Gurton'—was still unequal to the task of a true tragic piece.

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CHAPTER VI.

THE RISE OF TRAGEDY.

1. Classical Influence in England - The Revival of Learning English

Humanism-Ascham's 'Schoolmaster'- Italian Examples.-II. The Italian Drama–Paramount Authority of Seneca-C acter of Seneca's Plays.-III. English Translations of Seneca--English Translations of Italian Plays.—IV. English Adaptations of the Latin Tragedy-Lord Brooke-Samuel Daniel - Translations from the French -Latin Tragedies-False Dramatic Theory.-V. «Gorboduc'-Sir Philip Sidney's Eulogy of it-Lives of Sackville and Norton-General Character of this Tragedy-Its Argument-Distribution of Material -Chorus-Dumb Show—The Actors—Use of Blank Verse.—VI. “The Misfortunes of Arthur'-—Thomas Hughes and Francis Bacon --The Plot-Its Adaptation to the Græco-Roman Style of Tragedy-Part of Guenevora—The Ghost-Advance on‘Gorboduc'in Dramatic Force and Versification.-VII. Failure of this Pseudo-Classical Attempt What it effected for English Tragedy.

N.B. The two chief tragedies discussed in this chapter will be found in the old Shakespeare Society's Publications, 1847, and in Hazlitt's Dodsley, vol. iv.

I.

The history of our Tragic Drama is closely connected with that of an attempt to fix the rules of antique composition on the playwright's art in England. Up to the present point we have been dealing with those religious pageants, which the English shared in common with other European nations during the Middle Ages, and with a thoroughly native outgrowth from them in our Moral Plays and Comedies. The debt, already indicated, of ‘Jack Juggler' to the 'Amphitryon' of Plautus, and that of Roister Doister' to the

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· Miles Gloriosus,' together with a very early English version of the Andria' of Terence, prove, however, that classical studies were beginning to affect our theatre even in the period of its origins. To trace the further and far more pronounced influence of these studies on tragic poetry, will be the object of this chapter. I shall have to show in what way, when men of culture turned their attention to the stage, a determined effort was made to impose the canons of classical art, as they were then received in Southern Europe, on our playwrights; how the genius of the people proved too strong for the control of critics and 'courtly makers ; ' how the romantic drama triumphed over the pseudo-classic type of comedy and tragedy ; and how England, by these means, was delivered from a danger which threatened her theatre with a failure like to that of the Italian.

The Revival of Learning may be said to have begun in Italy early in the fourteenth century, when Petrarch, by his study of Cicero, and Boccaccio, by his exploration of Greek literature, prepared the way for discoverers of MSS. like Poggio and Filelfo, for founders of libraries like Nicholas V. and Cosimo de' Medici, for critics and translators like Lorenzo Valla, for poets like Poliziano, for editors like Aldus Manutius, and for writers on philosophy like Ficino and Cristofero Landino. A new type of education sprang up in the universities and schools of Italy, supplanting the medieval curriculum of Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic by a wider and more genial study of the Greek and Latin authors. This education, reduced to a system by Vittorino da Feltre at Mantua,

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