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Love's Sacrifice.] The underplot of this drama arises out of the licentious amours of a profligate courtier, named Ferentes, and will not bear detail ; even the guilt of much higher parties must be disclosed with a very sparing hand. Caraffa, Duke of Pavia, had accidentally, while hunting, beheld the daughter of a private gentleman of Milan, by name Bianca. Her exquisite beauty made an instant impression on his heart; and from seeing to wedding the fair Milanese seems to have been with the weak-minded Caraffa the work of a very short period. “He saw her, lov'd her, woo'd her, won her, match'd her.” Unhappily a sense of the young dutchess's charms was not confined to the heart of her lord : they made a traitor of the duke's bosom friend Fernando ; and his suit to the beautiful Bianca, though apparently scorned and rejected at first, is presently requited by the acknowledgment of a passion, if possible, more warm and vivid than his own. The guilty attachment is not long in reaching the ears of him whose feelings were most concerned in a knowledge of it. Fiormonda, the widowed sister of Caraffa, had for some time loved Fernando with all an Italian woman's fondness; and the coldness with which her bold advances were received exciting her suspicions, the jealous eye of love soon detected the cause of Fernando's indifference; and through her creature Roderico d'Avolos, the feelings of the injured husband are wound up into a phrensy of resentment, which terminates in the most fatal consequences to the leading personages of the drama.
From what sources these materials of our author were derived will be pretty evident from the nature of them. A plot, which turns almost exclusively on the development of the most violent of our passions, a strong feeling and steady adherence to which seems, in the original writer's mind, to have comprehended every virtue and to have cancelled every defect, must have been the growth of some Spanish or Italian novel or play, and, from the scene of action, most probably the latter. Careless as our earlier dramatists too frequently were as to the moral tendencies of their performances, some suspicion seems to have infused itself into Ford's mind, that the scenes in his “Love's
Sacrifice” tended “to make the worse appear the better cause,” and a little correction appears, accordingly, to have been intended in the vacillations of purpose and imbecilities of language which the Duke of Pavia occasionally displays, and still more in those instantaneous results which take place in his dutchess, when her mind has once thrown aside the first of female ornaments, that spotless modesty, for the want of which no splendour of situation, no variety of attainment or accomplishment can at all atone. The broad insinuations, the audacious avowal, and the taunting provocation which Bianca displays, when accident alone prevents the consummation of her intended guilt, can only be exceeded by the strain of “Pict-hatch” eloquence in which her feelings are clothed, and from which, as Mr. Gifford observes, it might have been thought that the veriest waistcoater of Ford's day would have recoiled in horror. Startling as such exhibitions must necessarily be, even in our chastised details, they form the only excuse which we can find for allowing the following scenes to find a place in this collection ; while the best apology for such offences in the dramatists of that age themselves must be found in the recollection, that both they and their audiences had but recently escaped the yoke of that papal church, which has too often found in the vices of the human race rather a source of profit and power, than proofs of a depravity in our nature, which must be shamed into better feelings by remonstrance, or forced into them by actual punishment.
MY TRUEST FRIEND, MY WORTHIEST KINSMAN,
JOHN FORD OF GRAYE'S INNE, Esq.
The title of this little work, my good cousin, is in sense but the argument of a dedication;' which, being in most writers a custom, in many a compliment, I question not but your clear knowledge of my intents will, in me, read as the earnest of affection. My ambition herein aims at a fair flight, borne up on the double wings of gratitude for a received, and acknowledgment for a continued love. It is not so frequent to number many kinsmen, and among them some friends, as to presume on some friends, and among them little friendship. But in every fulness of these particulars, I do not more partake through you, my cousin, the delight than enjoy the benefit of them. This inscription to your name is only a faithful deliverance to memory, of the truth of my respects to virtue, and to the equal in honour with virtue, desert. The contempt thrown on studies of this kind, by such as dote on their own singularity," hath almost so outfaced invention, and proscribed
1 The title of this little work, my good cousin, is in sense but the argument of a dedication,] i. e. Love's SACRIFICE. The affection between the cousins appears to be mutual; for, on the appearance of Perkin Warbeck, this gentleman returned the compliment with an introductory copy of verses, which are neither the best nor the worst called forth by that drama.-GIFFORD.
2 Here is an allusion to Prynne, who is also noticed by Shirley, in the complimentary verses prefixed to this play. That restless " paperworm,” as Needham calls him, had the year before produced his Histriomastix, or Actors' Tragedy, to the sore annoyance of the stage; and was at this time before the Star-chamber for the scurrilous and libellous language in that “voluminous” farrago of puritanic rancour.
There is a quaintness in the style of this little piece; but the frank and grateful torie of affection which it displays is truly pleasing. It is not his dramatic powers that Ford is solicitous to assert; but his respect to virtue and desert, and his boldness to avow and praise them in a dear relation.-GIFFORD.
judgment, that it is more safe, more wise, to be suspectedly silent, than modestly confident of opinion, herein. Let me be bold to tell the severity of censurers, how willingly I neglect their practice, so long as I digress from no becoming thankfulness. Accept, then, my cousin, this witness to posterity of my constancy to your merits; for no ties of blood, no engagements of friendship, shall more justly live a precedent, than the sincerity of both in the heart of
JOHN FORD. 20
Philippo Caraffa, Duke of Pavy.
Attendants, Courtiers, Officers, 8c.
SCENE, Pavy (Pavia).