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The tragedies in question are therefore connected by no unimportant link with the more vital art of the romantic Drama.
'Gorboduc' has long been famous as the first tragedy written in our tongue. Sir Philip Sidney in his ' Defence of Poesy' hailed it as the dawn-star of a brighter day for English literature. After blaming the playwrights of his time as bastards of the Muses, “paper-blurrers,' churls with servile wits, who think it enough if they can be rewarded of the printer,' he passes a sweeping censure on their dramatic compositions, charging them with neglect of rule and precedent, and showing how they violate the laws of 'honest civility and skilful poetry. The one exception he makes, is in favour of Gorboduc.' It is full,' he says, 'of stately speeches and well-sounding phrases, climbing to the height of Seneca his style.' The only grave blot he detects in it, is non-observance of the unity of time. In this criticism, delivered by so excellent a wit as Sidney, by Sidney whom the ballad of Chevy Chase' stirred like the sound of the trumpet, we learn how the best intellects lay under bondage to that false ideal which I have attempted to describe. What Sidney demands of the tragic drama, is solemn diction, sonorous declamation, conformity to the unities. He knows of no model superior to Seneca. Judged by these standards, *Gorboduc' is almost perfect. Unruffled calm, sententious maxims, lengthy speeches, ceremonious style, the action dealt with by narration : all these qualities it possesses in as full a measure as a play by Trissino himself. Alas, adds Sidney, that the unity of time was not observed ! Only that was lacking to a work of absolute art in English.
NORTON AND SACKVILLE.
'Gorboduc' was written by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville. Norton was a strict reformer of the bitterest sect, a polemical pamphleteer, and persecutor of the Roman Catholics. Though a barrister by profession, his inclination led him to theology. He translated Calvin's Institutions of the Christian Religion,' and versified the Psalms in wretched doggrel. Sackville's career
career belongs to English history. Son of Elizabeth's kinsman, Sir Richard Sackville, the Privy Councillor and Chancellor of the Court of Augmentations, he grew up in close intimacy with the Queen. As his will informs us, he was 'in his younger years, by her particular choice and liking, selected to a continual private attendance upon her own person.' His youth was wild and extravagant; and at one period, between the years 1563 and 1566, he lost the favour of his royal cousin. Elizabeth declared that she would not know him till he knew himself.' Sackville returned to a knowledge of himself in time, however, to secure a brilliant future. On his father's death in 1566, he entered into the enjoyment of a vast estate. He was created Knight of the Garter, Privy Councillor, Baron Buckhurst, Earl of Dorset, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and Lord High Treasurer of England.
In his early manhood, and while his extravagance was moving Elizabeth's indignation, Sackville played no mean part in English literature. To him we owe the finest portions of · The Mirror for Magistrates,' that great collection of poems which has been justly said to connect the work of Lydgate with the work of Spenser. Sackville's part in it has certainly more of
Spenser's than of Lydgate's spirit ; and the Induction, though sombre enough to justify Campbell in calling it'a landscape on which the sun never shines,' forms a worthy exordium to the graver poetry of the Elizabethan age.
With the publication of that work in 1565, his literary activity ceased. Gorboduc'had already been played in 1561, when Sackville was but twenty-five years
of and had not yet deserved the Queen's displeasure. Norton, his collaborator in the tragedy, was four years his senior. Upon the title-page of the first and pirated edition (1565), the first three acts are ascribed to Norton, the fourth and fifth to Sackville. Nor does there seem to be sufficient reason for disputing this assignment, which was not contradicted by the authors when the play was reprinted (with their sanction apparently) under the title of · Ferrex and Porrex' in 1570. It is difficult to trace any important difference of style, although the only pathetic passage in the drama, and some descriptions not wholly unworthy of Sackville's contribution to “The Mirror for Magistrates,' occur in the fourth act.
Framed upon the model of Seneca, Gorboduc' is made up of dissertations, reflective diatribes, and lengthy choruses. The action, of which there is plenty behind the scenes, is reported by Messengers. The dialogue does not spring spontaneously from the occasion ; nor is it used to bring the characters into relief by natural collision. Each personage delivers a set oration, framed to suit his part, and then gives way to the next comer. The second scene of the first act might be used to illustrate this method. Gorboduc, having decided to divide the realm of Britain PLOT OF 'GORBODUC.'
between his two sons Ferrex and Porrex, seeks the advice of his Privy Council. First of all, the King sets forth at great length his reasons for desiring a change. Then each of the three Councillors unfolds a different theory of government in measured terms. Gorboduc thanks them, replies that he adheres to his opinion, and dismisses the assembly. There is no argument, no persuasion, no contention, no pleading, in this cold debate. Our mind reverts to Marlowe's disputes between Edward II. and his barons, not to speak of Shakspere's scenes of a like order.
The plot of ‘Gorboduc’is well explained in the Argument prefixed to the first edition. «Gorboduc, King of Britain, divided his realm in his lifetime to his sons, Ferrex and Porrex. The sons fell to division and dissension. The younger killed the elder. The mother, that more dearly loved the elder, for revenge killed the younger. The people, moved with the cruelty of the fact, rose in rebellion and slew both father and mother. The nobility assembled and most terribly destroyed the rebels. And afterwards, for want of issue of the Prince, whereby the succession of the crown became uncertain, they fell to civil war, in which both they and many of their issues were slain, and the land for a long time almost desolate and miserably wasted.' This programme is fertile in surprising incidents, rife with horrors, replete with all the circumstances of a sanguinary history. Its defect is superfluity of motives. The murder of the King and Queen by their rebellious subjects should properly have closed the play. By curtailing the conclusion, Gorboduc would have taken his proper place as the
tragic protagonist, and would have closely resembled a hero of the Attic stage who perishes through his own
The error of Gorboduc, what Aristotle styles the duapría of the hero, was his rash and inconsiderate division of the realm for which he was responsible as monarch. Though an error, it was not ignoble. It had in it an element of greatness, blended with the folly which brought forth bitter fruits. Those fruits were discord between the Princes, the murder of the elder by the younger, and the Queen's act of unnatural vengeance on her fratricidal son. She in her death was justly punished, while Gorboduc perished in the general ruin he had brought by ill-considered generosity upon his kingdom. Up to this point, therefore, the plot has tragic unity. The civil wars, which followed on the King's death, may interest the philosophical historian, but do not concern the dramatist.
The authors of 'Gorboduc'can hardly be censured for drawing out the plot beyond its due dramatic limits, for the very simple reason that they did not attempt to treat it dramatically at all. Having caught this wild beast of a subject, they tamed it down, and cut its claws by a variety of shrewd devices. Though blood flows in rivers, not a drop is spilt upon the stage. We only hear of murders and wars in brief allusions, formal announcements, and obscure hints dropped by the Chorus. The division of the play into acts is characteristically regular, and corresponds exactly to the movement of the fable. In the first act Gorboduc declares his intention of partitioning his kingdom, and Videna, the Queen, expresses her disapprobation. In the second act Ferrex and Porrex are incited by their