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Usually, besides gods, goddesses, and nymphs from classical antiquity, there were such personages as Night, Day, Beauty, Fortitude, and so forth; but though the persons of the drama were thus removed from common life, the reference of the whole business of the scene to the occasion which had called it forth, was as direct as it could well be, and even ludicrously so, particularly when the object was to pay a compliment to any of the courtly audience. This, however, was partly justified by the private character of the entertainment; and it is easy to conceive that, when a gipsy stepped from the scene, and, taking the king's hand, assigned him all the good fortune which a loyal subject should wish to a Sovereign, there would be such a marked increase of sensation in the audience, as to convince the poet that there lay the happiest stroke of his play.
On the second night, a castle is presented in the hall, and Peace comes in riding in a chariot drawn by an elephant, on which sits Friendship. The latter pronounces a speech on the event of the preceding evening, and Peace is left to dwell with Prudence and Temperance. The third night showed Disdain on a wild boar, accompanied by Prepensed Malice, as a serpent, striving to procure the liberation of Discord and False Report, but opposed successfully by Courage and Discretion. At the end of the fight, Disdain shall run his ways, and escape with life, but Prepensed Malice shall be slain; signifying that some ungodly men may still disdain the perpetual peace made between these two virtues; but as for their prepensed malice, it is easy trodden under these ladies' feet.' The second night ends with a flowing of wine from conduits, during which Mr Collier, in his Annals of the Stage, has printed time the English lords shall mask with the Scottish a document which gives a very distinct account of ladies: the third night terminates by the six or the court masque, as it was about the time when the eight ladies masquers singing a song as full of drama arose in England; namely, in the early years harmony as may be devised.' The whole entertainof Elizabeth. That princess, as is well-known, de- ment indicates a sincere desire of reconciliation on signed an amicable meeting with Mary Queen of the part of Elizabeth; but the first scene-a prison Scots, which was to have taken place at Nottingham -seems strangely ominous of the events which folcastle, in May 1562, but was given up in conse-lowed six years after. quence, as is believed, of the jealousy of Elizabeth regarding the superior beauty of Mary. A masque was devised to celebrate the meeting and entertain the united courts, and it is the poet's scheme of this entertainment, docketed by Lord Burleigh, to which reference is now made. The masque seems to have been simply an acted allegory, relating to the circumstances of the two queens; and it throws a curious light not only upon the taste, but upon the political history of the period. We give the procedure of the first night.
'First, a prison to be made in the hall, the name whereof is Extreme Oblivion, and the keeper's name thereof Argus, otherwise called Circumspection: then a masque of ladies to come in after this sort:
First Pallas, riding upon an unicorn, having in her hand a standard, in which is to be painted two ladies' hands, knit in one fast within the other, and over the hands, written in letters of gold, Fides.
Then two ladies riding together, the one upon a golden lion with a crown of gold on his head, the other upon a red lion, with the like crown of gold; signifying two virtues; that is to say, the lady on the golden lion is to be called Prudentia, and the lady on the red lion Temperantia.
After this, to follow six or eight ladies masquers, bringing in captive Discord and False Report, with ropes of gold about their necks. When these have marched about the hall, then Pallas to declare before the queen's majesty, in verse, that the goddess, understanding the noble meeting of these two queens, hath willed her to declare unto them that those two virtues, Prudentia and Temperantia, have made great and long suit unto Jupiter, that it would please him to give unto them False Report and Discord, to be punished as they think good; and that those ladies have now in their presence determined to commit them fast bound unto the aforesaid prison of Extreme Oblivion, there to be kept by the aforesaid jailor Argus, otherwise Circumspection, for ever, unto whom Prudentia shall deliver a lock, whereupon shall be written In Eternum. Then Temperantia shall likewise deliver unto Argus a key, whose name shall be Nunquam, signifying that, when False Report and Discord are committed to the prison of Extreme Oblivion, and locked there everlastingly, he should put in the key to let them out nunquam [never]; and when he hath so done, then the trumpets to blow, and the English ladies to take the nobility of the strangers, and dance.'
The masque, as has been stated, attained the zenith of its glory in the reign of James I., the most festive known in England between those of Henry VIII. and Charles II. The queen, the princes, and nobles and ladies of the highest rank, took parts in them, and they engaged the genius of Jonson, Inigo Jones, and Henry Lawes, each in his various department of poet, machinist, and musician; while no expense was spared to render them worthy of the place, the occasion, and the audience. It appears from the accounts of the Master of Revels, that no less than £4215 was lavished on these entertainments in the first six years of the king's reign. Jonson himself composed twenty-three masques; and Dekker, Middleton, and others of the leading dramatic authors, Shakspeare alone excepted, were glad to contribute in this manner to the pleasures of a court whose patronage was so essential to them.
The marriage of Lord James Hay to Anne, daughter and heir of Lord Denny, January 6th, 1607, was distinguished at court (Whitehall) by what was called the Memorable Masque, the production of Dr Thomas Campion, an admired musician as well as poet of that day, now forgotten. On this occasion, the great hall of the palace was fitted up in a way that shows the mysteries of theatrical scenery and decoration to have been better understood, and carried to a greater height, in that age, than is generally supposed. One end of the hall was set apart for the audience, having the king's seat in the centre; next to it was a space for ten concerted musicians-base and mean lutes, a bandora, a double sackbut, a harpsichord, and two treble violins-besides whom there were nine violins, three lutes, six cornets, and six chapel singers. The stage was concealed by a curtain resembling dark clouds, which being withdrawn, disclosed a green valley with green round about it, and in the midst of them nine golden ones of fifteen feet high. The bower of Flora was on their right, the house of Night on the left; between them a hill hanging like a cliff over the grove. The bower of Flora was spacious, garnished with flowers and flowery branches, with lights among them; the house of Night ample and stately, with black columns studded with golden stars; while about it were placed, on wires, artificial bats and owls continually moving. As soon as the king entered the great hall, the hautboys were heard from the top of the hill and from the wood, till
Flora and Zephyrus were seen busily gathering with roses, wedding garments, rocks, and spindles,
After songs and recitative, the whole vale was suddenly withdrawn, and a hill with Diana's tree discovered. Night appeared in her house with Nine Hours, apparelled in large robes of black taffety, painted thick with stars; their hair long, black, and spangled with gold; on their heads coronets of stars, and their faces black. Every Hour bore in his hand a black torch painted with stars, and lighted.
Night. Vanish, dark vales, let night in glory shine,
Syl. Tell me, gentle Hour of Night, Wherein dost thou most delight?
Hour. Not in sleep. Syl. Wherein, then?
1st Grace. Beauties, have you seen this toy,
2d Grace. She that will but now discover
Flora. Be mild, stern Night;
Flora doth honour Cynthia and her right;
How, if perhaps she brings her ten for one?
He will leap from lip to lip,
Syl. Lov'st thou music? Hour. Oh, 'tis sweet.
Syl. Joy you in fairies and in elves?
Hour. We are of that sort ourselves:
3d Grace. He hath marks about him plenty;
And his breath a flame entire,
That, being shot like lightning in,
After some more such dialogue, in which Hesperus
1st Grace. At his sight the sun hath turn'd,
And a quiver hanging low,
1st Grace. Still the fairest are his fuel.
When his days are to be cruel,
2d Grace. Trust him not; his words, though sweet,
But, Sylvan, say, why do you love
Syl. Life is fullest of content,
Hour. Pleasure must vary, not be long;
The masques of Jonson contain a great deal of
3d Grace. Idle minutes are his reign;
Then the straggler makes his gain,
To have all childish as himself.
Love,' who dance, and then Venus apprehends her son, and a pretty dialogue ensues between them and Hymen. Vulcan afterwards appears, and, claiming the pillars as his workmanship, strikes the red cliff, which opens, and shows a large luminous sphere containing the astronomical lines and signs of the zodiac. He makes a quaint speech, and presents the sphere as his gift to Venus on the triumph of her son. The Lesbian god and his consort retire amicably to their chariot, and the piece ends by the singing of an epithalamium, interspersed with dances of masquers :
But hark! what tumult from yond' cave is heard?
Hide me, soft cloud, from their profaner eyes,
Like lights about Astræa's throne, You here must shine, and all be one, In fervour and in flame;
That by your union she may grow, And, you sustaining her, may know The Age still by her name.
Who vows, against or heat or cold,
That want may touch you never;
Cho. To Jove, to Jove, be all the honour given, That thankful hearts can raise from earth to heaven.
FRANCIS BEAUMONT-JOHN FLETCHER.
The literary partnerships of the drama which we have had occasion to notice were generally brief and incidental, confined to a few scenes or a single play. In BEAUMONT and FLETCHER, we have the interesting spectacle of two young men of high genius, of good birth and connexions, living together for ten years, and writing in union a series of dramas, passionate, romantic, and comic, thus blending together their genius and their fame in indissoluble connexion. Shakspeare was undoubtedly the inspirer of these kindred spirits. They appeared when his
genius was in its meridian splendour, and they were completely subdued by its overpowering influence. They reflected its leading characteristics, not as slavish copyists, but as men of high powers and attainments, proud of borrowing inspiration from a source which they could so well appreciate, and which was at once ennobling and inexhaustible. Francis Beaumont was the son of Judge Beaumont, a member of an ancient family settled at Grace Dieu, in Leicestershire. He was born in 1586, and educated at Cambridge. He became a student of the Inner Temple, probably to gratify his father, but does not seem to have prosecuted the study of the law. He was married to the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Henry Isley of Kent, by whom he had two daughters. He died before he had completed his thirtieth year, and was buried, March 9, 1615-6, at the entrance to St Benedict's chapel, Westminster Abbey. John Fletcher was the son of Dr Richard Fletcher, bishop
of Bristol, and afterwards of Worcester. He was born ten years before his friend, in 1576, and he survived him ten years, dying of the great plague in 1625, and was buried in St Mary Overy's church, Southwark, on the 19th of August.
The dramas of Beaumont and Fletcher are fiftytwo in number. The greater part of them were not printed till 1647, and hence it is impossible to assign the respective dates to each. Dryden mentions, that Philaster was the first play that brought them into esteem with the public, though they had written two or three before. It is improbable in plot, but interesting in character and situations. The jealousy of Philaster is forced and unnatural; the character of Euphrasia, disguised as Bellario, the page, is a copy from Viola, yet there is something peculiarly delicate in the following account of her hopeless attachment to Philaster:
My father oft would speak
Your worth and virtue; and, as I did grow
I I grew acquainted with my heart, and search'd
In presence of you, I had had my end.
Philaster had previously described his finding the disguised maiden by the fount, and the description is highly poetical and picturesque :
Hunting the buck, I found him sitting by a fountain-side, Of which he borrow'd some to quench his thirst, And paid the nymph again as much in tears. A garland lay him by, made by himself, Of many several flowers, bred in the bay, Stuck in that mystic order, that the rareness Delighted me: But ever when he turn'd His tender eyes upon them he would weep, As if he meant to make them grow again. Seeing such pretty helpless innocence Dwell in his face, I ask'd him all his story. He told me that his parents gentle died, Leaving him to the mercy of the fields, Which gave him roots; and of the crystal springs, Which did not stop their courses; and the sun, Which still, he thank'd him, yielded him his light Then took he up his garland, and did show What every flower, as country people hold,