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Enter MENDOZo, supporting the DUCHESS; GUERRINO; the Ladies that are on the stage rise. FERRARDO ushers in the DUCHESS; then takes a Lady to tread
Aurelia. We are not pleased with your intrusion upon our private retirement; we are not pleased: you have forgot yourselves.
Enter a PAGE.
Celso. Boy, thy master? where's the Duke?
Page. Alas, I left him burying the earth with his spread joyless limbs; he told me he was heavy, would sleep: bid me walk off, for the strength of fantasy oft made him talk in his dreams: I strait obeyed, nor ever saw him since; but wheresoe'er he is, he's sad. Aurelia. Music, sound high, as is our heart; sound high.
Enter MALEVOLE and her Husband, disguised like a Hermit.
Act IV. Scene 3.
The passage in Ford appears to me an ill-judged copy from this. That a woman should call for music, and dance on in spite of the death of her husband whom she hates, without regard to common decency, is but too possible: that she should dance on with the same heroic perseverance in spite of the death of her husband, of her father, and of every one else whom she loves, from regard to common courtesy or appearance, is not surely natural. The passions may silence the voice of humanity, but it is, I think, equally against probability and decorum to make both the passions and the voice of humanity give way (as in the example of Calantha) to a mere form of outward behaviour. Such a suppression of the strongest and most uncontroulable feelings can only be justified from necessity, for some great purpose, which is not the case in Ford's play; or it must be done for the effect and eclat of the thing, which is not fortitude but affectation. Mr. Lamb, in his impressive eulogy on this passage in 'The
Broken Heart,' has failed (as far as I can judge) in establishing the parallel between this uncalled-for exhibition of stoicism, and the story of the Spartan boy.
It may be proper to remark here, that most of the great men of the period I have treated of (except the greatest of all, and one other,) were men of classical education. They were learned men in an unlettered age; not self-taught men in a literary and critical age. This circumstance should be taken into the account in a theory of the dramatic genius of that age. Except Shakspeare, nearly all of them, indeed, came up from Oxford or Cambridge, and immediately began to write for the stage. wonder. The first coming up to London in those days must have had a singular effect upon a young man of genius, almost like visiting Babylon or Susa, or a journey to the other world. The stage (even as it then was,) after the recluseness and austerity of a college life, must have appeared like Armida's enchanted palace, and its gay votaries like
"Fairy elves beyond the Indian mount,
Or dreams he sees; while overhead the moon
Sits arbitress, and nearer to the earth
Wheels her pale course: they on their mirth and dance
Intent, with jocund music charm his ear:
At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds."
So our young novices must have felt when they first saw the magic of the scene, and heard its syren sounds with rustic wonder and the scholar's pride: and the joy that streamed from their eyes at that fantastic vision, at that gaudy shadow of life, of all its business and all its pleasures, and kindled their enthusiasm to join the mimic throng, still has left a long lingering glory behind it; and though now "deaf the praised ear, and mute the tuneful tongue," lives in their eloquent page, "informed with music, sentiment, and thought, never to die!"
On Single Plays, Poems, &c.-The Four P's, The Return from Parnassus, Gammer Gurton's Needle, and other Works.
I SHALL, in this lecture, turn back to give some account of single plays, poems, &c.; the authors of which are either not known or not very eminent, and the productions themselves, in general, more remarkable for their singularity, or as specimens of the style and manners of the age, than for their intrinsic merit or poetical excellence. There are many more works of this kind, however, remaining, than I can pretend to give an account of; and what I shall chiefly aim at, will be to excite the curiosity of the reader, rather than to satisfy it.
The Four P's' is an interlude, or comic dialogue, in verse, between a Palmer, a Pardoner, a Poticary, and a Pedlar, in which each exposes the tricks of his own and his neighbours' profession, with much humour and shrewdness. It was written by John Heywood, the Epigrammatist, who flourished chiefly in the reign of Henry VIII., was the intimate friend of Sir Thomas More, with whom he seems to have had a congenial spirit, and died abroad, in consequence of his devotion to the Roman Catholic cause, about the year 1565. His zeal, however, on this head, does not seem to have blinded his judgment, or to have prevented him from using the utmost freedom and severity in lashing the abuses of Popery, at which he seems to have looked "with the malice of a friend." The Four P's' bears the date of 1547. It is very curious, as an evidence both of the wit, the manners, and opinions of the time. Each of the parties in the dialogue gives an account of the boasted advantages of his own particular calling, that is, of the frauds which he practises on credulity and ignorance, and is laughed at by the others in turn. In fact, they all of them strive to outbrave each other, till the contest becomes a jest, and it ends in a wager who shall tell the greatest lie, when
the prize is adjudged to him who says that he had found a patient woman. The common superstitions (here recorded) in civil and religious matters are almost incredible; and the chopped logic, which was the fashion of the time, and which comes in aid of the author's shrewd and pleasant sallies to expose them, is highly entertaining. Thus the Pardoner, scorning the Palmer's long pilgrimages and circuitous road to heaven, flouts him to his face, and vaunts his own superior pretensions:
"Pard. By the first part of this last tale,
It seemeth you came of late from the ale:
But in one part you are beyond me,
For you may lie by authority,
That no man can be their controller,
And where you esteem your labour so much
That if there were a thousand souls on a heap,
Which is far a-this side heaven, by God:
These pardons bring them to heaven plain:
Give me but a penny or two-pence,
And as soon as the soul departeth hence,
The Poticary does not approve of this arrogance of the Friar, and undertakes, in mood and figure, to prove them both "false knaves." It is he, he says, who sends most souls to heaven, and who ought, therefore, to have the credit of it.
"No soul, ye know, entereth heaven-gate,
Till from the body he be separate:
* Or, never known one otherwise than patient.
Without help of the Poticary?
Nay, all that cometh to our handling,
Have thank of all their coming thither ?"
The Pardoner here interrupts him captiously
"If ye kill'd a thousand in an hour's space,
But the Poticary, not so baffled, retorts—
"If a thousand pardons about your necks were tied;
But when ye feel your conscience ready,
I can send you to heaven very quickly."
The Pedlar finds out the weak side of his new companions, and tells them very bluntly, on their referring their dispute to him, a piece of his mind.
"Now have I found one mastery,
That ye can do indifferently;
At this game of imposture, the cunning dealer in pins and laces undertakes to judge their merits; and they accordingly set to work like regular graduates. The Pardoner takes the lead, with an account of the virtues of his relics; and here we may find a plentiful mixture of popish superstition and indecency. The bigotry of any age is by no means a test of its piety, or even sincerity. Men seemed to make themselves amends for the enormity of their faith by levity of feeling, as well as by laxity of principle; and in the indifference or ridicule with which they treated the wilful absurdities and extravagances to which they hood-winked their understandings, almost resembled children playing at blindman's-buff, who grope their way in the dark, and make blunders on purpose to laugh at their own idleness and