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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 time the English lords shall mask with the Scottish ladies:' the third night terminates by the six or eight ladies masquers singing a song as full of harmony as may be devised.' The whole entertainment indicates a sincere desire of reconciliation on the part of Elizabeth; but the first scene-a prison -seems strangely ominous of the events which fol
Mr Collier, in his Annals of the Stage, has printed a document which gives a very distinct account of the court masque, as it was about the time when the drama arose in England; namely, in the early years of Elizabeth. That princess, as is well-known, designed an amicable meeting with Mary Queen of Scots, which was to have taken place at Nottingham castle, 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, flowers from the bower, throwing them into baskets which two sylvans held, attired in changeable taffety. Besides two other allegorical characters, Night and Hesperus, there were nine masquers, representing Apollo's knights, and personated by young men of rank.
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,
That Cynthia's robbed, but thou must grace the thief?
Flora. Be mild, stern Night;
Flora doth honour Cynthia and her right;
The nymph was Cynthia's while she was her own,
But now another claims in her a right,
By fate reserved thereto, and wise foresight.
hearts transfixed with arrows, others flaming, vir-
Almost naked, wanton, blind;
2d Grace. She that will but now discover
3d Grace. He hath marks about him plenty;
And his breath a flame entire,
1st Grace. At his sight the sun hath turn'd,
Zephyrus. Can Cynthia one kind virgin's loss be- 2d Grace. Wings he hath, which though ye clip,
How, if perhaps she brings her ten for one?
After some more such dialogue, in which Hesperus takes part, Cynthia is reconciled to the loss of her
He will leap from lip to lip,
nymph; the trees sink, by means of enginery, under 3d Grace. He doth bear a golden bow,
the stage, and the masquers come out of their tops to fine music. Dances, processions, speeches, and songs follow, the last being a duet between a Sylvan and an Hour, by the way of tenor and bass.
Syl. Tell me, gentle Hour of Night,
Wherein dost thou most delight?
Hour. Not in sleep. Syl. Wherein, then?
Hour. In the frolic view of men.
Syl. Lov'st thou music? Hour. Oh, 'tis sweet.
Syl. What's dancing? Hour. Even the mirth of feet.
Syl. Joy you in fairies and in elves?
Hour. We are of that sort ourselves :
But, Sylvan, say, why do you love
Syl. Life is fullest of content,
Where delight is innocent.
Hour. Pleasure must vary, not be long; Come, then, let's close and end our song.
Then the masquers made an obeisance to the king, and attended him to the banqueting room.
The masques of Jonson contain a great deal of fine poetry, and even the prose descriptive parts are remarkable for grace and delicacy of language-as, for instance, where he speaks of a sea at the back of a scene, catching 'the eye afar off with a wander ing beauty. In that which was produced at the marriage of Ramsay, Lord Haddington, to Lady Elizabeth Ratcliff, the scene presented a steep red cliff, topped by clouds, allusive to the red cliff from which the lady's name was said to be derived; before which were two pillars charged with spoils of love, amongst which were old and young persons bound
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,
All his practice is deceit ;
Every gift it is a bait ;
Not a kiss but poison bears;
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 :
Up, youths and virgins, up, and praise
The god, whose nights outshine his days;
Could never boast of brighter lights;
Two of your troop, that with the morn were free,
Shine, Hesperus, shine forth, thou wished star!
What joy, what honours can compare
With holy nuptials, when they are
Of years, of states, of hands, of hearts!
The spouse and spoused have foremost voice!
Live what they are,
And such ours be.
Shine, Hesperus, shine forth, thou wished star!
Still further to illustrate this curious subject, and to revive a department of our literature almost totally unknown, we present one entire masque of Jonson, a short but beautiful one, which was represent at court in 1615, by the lords and gentlemen, the king's servants,' and seems to have been designed as a compliment to the king on the point of his love of justice.
The Golden Age Restored.
The court being seated and in expectation,
Loud Music: PALLAS in her chariot descending to a softer music.
Look, look! rejoice and wonder
That you, offending mortals, are (For all your crimes) so much the care Of him that bears the thunder.
Jove can endure no longer,
Your great ones should your less invade;
Or that your weak, though bad, be made A prey unto the stronger,
And therefore means to settle
Astræa in her seat again;
And let down in his golden chain An age of better metal.
Which deed he doth the rather,
That even Envy may behold
But that his care conserveth,
As time, so all time's honours too, Regarding still what heav'n should do, And not what earth deserveth.
[A tumult, and clashing of arms heard within.
But hark! what tumult from yond' cave is heard?
Hide me, soft cloud, from their profaner eyes,
The IRON AGE presents itself, calling forth the EVILS.
The king of gods hath on us!
He is not of the Iron breed,
That would, though Fate did help the deed,
Rise, rise then up, thou grandame Vice
Bring with thee Fraud and Slander,
Thy boys, Ambition, Pride, and Scorn,
Arm Folly forth, and Ignorance,
Upon this enemy so great,
And but this once bring under,
Which of you would not in a war
To keep your own states even?
About it, then, and let him feel
The EVILS enter for the Antimasque, and dance to two drums, trumpets, and a confusion of martial music. At the end of which PALLAS re-appears, showing her shield. The EVILS are turned to statues.
Pal. So change, and perish, scarcely knowing how, That 'gainst the gods do take so vain a vow, And think to equal with your mortal dates, Their lives that are obnoxious to no fates. 'Twas time t' appear, and let their folly see 'Gainst whom they fought, and with what destiny. Die all that can remain of you, but stone, And that be seen a while, and then be none ! Now, now descend, you both belov'd of Jove, And of the good on earth no less the love.
[The scene changes, and she calls ASTREA and the GOLDEN AGE. Descend, you long, long wish'd and wanted pair, And as your softer times divide the air, So shake all clouds off with your golden hair; For Spite is spent: the Iron Age is fled, And, with her power on earth, her name is dead.
G. Age. True.
Cho. Let narrow natures, how they will, mistake, The great should still be good for their own sake. [They come forward.
Pal. Welcome to earth, and reign.
Pal. Leave that to Jove: therein you are
You far-famed spirits of this happy isle,
To wait upon the Age that shall your names new nourish,
Since Virtue press'd shall grow, and buried Arts shall
That in Elysian bowers the blessed seats do keep, That for their living good, now semi-gods are made, And went away from earth, as if but tanı'd with sleep? These we must join to wake; for these are of the strain That justice dare defend, and will the age sustain.
Cho. Awake, awake, for whom these times were kept. O wake, wake, wake, as you had never slept! Make haste and put on air, to be their guard, Whom once but to defend, is still reward.
Pal. Thus Pallas throws a lightning from her shield. [The scene of light discovered.
Cho. To which let all that doubtful darkness yield. Ast. Now Peace.
The first Dance.
Pal. Already do not all things smile? Ast. But when they have enjoy'd a while The Age's quickening power:
Age. That every thought a seed doth bring, And every look a plant doth spring, And every breath a flower:
Pal. The earth unplough'd shall yield her crop,
The fountain shall run milk:
Cho. The very shrub shall balsam sweat,
Here the main Dance. After which,
Pal. But here's not all: you must do more,
Poe. The male and female us'd to join,
That pure simplicity.
Then Feature did to Form advance,
It was a time of no distrust,
So much of love had nought of lust ;
The language melted in the ear,
Cho. Each touch and kiss was so well plac'd,
Here they dance with the Ladies.
My silver feet, like roots, are wreath'd
Of all there seems a second birth;
And Jove is present here.
I feel the godhead; nor will doubt
This, this, and only such as this,
Where she would pray to live;
Here they dance the Galliards and Corantos.
PALLAS [ascending, and calling the Poets.]
'Tis now enough; behold you here,
And as his bounty gives you cause,
To show the world your fire.
Like lights about Astræa's throne,
Who vows, against or heat or cold,
That want may touch you never ;
To write your names in some new flower,
Cho. To Jove, to Jove, be all the honour given,
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 inte resting 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 could not stay with you, I made a vow,
Could call together, never to be known,
Whilst there was hope to hide me from men's eyes,
Abide with you: then sat I by the fount
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,