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from both. Nevertheless, the pieces still continued for a considerable period to amuse the multitude ;* and even Elizabeth, remembering, perhaps, the gratification she had derived from them in her youth, commanded within the last ten years of the sixteenth century, the representation of a Morality, (the Contention of Liberality and Prodigality), whose first appearance dated so far back as the commencement of her father's reign. Nevertheless, that which was originally instituted for the promotion of morals would appear ultimately to have degenerated into coarseness and immorality; at least we find that in the proclamation of James I. (1618), ordering that all lawful sports and honest recreations should continue to be allowed on festivals and on Sundays after evening service, Interludes are joined with other offensive amusements, such as bull and bear-baiting, and bowling, which are prohibited. Probably, however, the Moral-plays, properly speaking, may not be here included under the title of “Interludes.”
That to this improvement and modification of the Moral-plays, the study of ancient art and literature contributed in some degree, must unhesitatingly be admitted, since among the poets of the time we meet with scholars like Rightwise, Radcliffe, and others; and since the admiration of antiquity was now so rife even in England, that the princess Elizabeth was well educated in Latin and Greek, being able to read Sophocles in the original with the greatest facility. Thus, too, “ Jac Juggler,” a Morality by an unknown hand, which in all probability was written in the reign of Edward VI. or Mary, although it was not printed until long after, owed its origin, as the author himself confesses in the Prologue to Plautus' first comedy; and it is likewise probable that still earlier the Andria of Terence had been translated into English, and publicly represented. (Collier, ii. 363.) The effect, however, which the revived study of ancient learning had on the formation of the national drama was very subordinate; it was insufficient either to limit its free development, or to corrupt it by dragging it through the mire of mere slavish imitation.
* In 1561, the Scots, among other festivities intended to do honour to the arrival of Mary Stuart, exhibited, out of bitter hatred to the unreformed worship, some plays, in which were represented “God's bitter judgment on Idolatry," and the “Destruction of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, with their Companies." These pieces, which Randolph, the English ambassador, called in his despatch “ Pageants," may have been a species of Interlude or dumb-show. Randolph, in “ Von Raumer's Contribution to Modern History," i. 13.
The true cause of the improvement of dramatic art which took place at this period was the rapidly advancing intellectual development of the nation itself. In the history of the world the Reformation now appeared as the proclamation, as it were, that the nations of Europe were of age. Whilst it rose up against the Papacy, against the stern objectivity, the dead formalism, and sensuous externalism of the Romish Church; and while, supported by the power of a living faith and a pure Gospel, it restored that mental freedom, that unchecked development of mind, which resting ultimately on faith is even required by the Gospel, it was itself little else than the first and greatest sign of the awakened consciousness of the Christian mind. The epical adherence to tradition, and whatever is handed down from the past—the lyrical dreams and hope of an ideal future for Church and State, such as had found utterance in the dreaming expectations of the Crusaders, and in the lyrical poetry which flourished contemporaneously with them—both these tendencies had long since run out, and the age had become essentially dramatic. For the drama is the poetry of the present, wherein past and future are organically combined ; it is the reflex image of history, so far as this is the result both of the objectivity of the existentthe external power of right and morality—and of the free subjective self-determination of the agent; it is, therefore, the artistic expression of self-consciousness, the perception of the mind, which knows that its own development is the final aim of life, its history the history of the world, and that, consequently, it possesses the right and the power to break the fetters of despotism and a servile faith. (See below, § iii.) This the Reformation effected, and consequently the age of the Reformation was, whereever other circumstances did not interfere to prevent it, the birth of the Drama.
Nevertheless, it was well that the influence of ancient art and literature on the formation of the English drama did for a considerable period increase. In the schools and universities it was long the custom for the students to exercise themselves in free translations of the classic dramatists; and in time, original pieces, composed after ancient models, were acted, in addition to these
translations, in their schools and halls. These essays, in which the young scholars generally took delight, became gradually public, and from the schools they passed to the courts of justice, the inns of law, and town-halls, and were anxiously looked for on all occasions of public festivity.
In the years 1559—1566, Jasper Heywood translated into English ten of Seneca's tragedies, with additions and alterations, in the representation of which, each act, according to the old custom, was preceded by dumb-show; and, in 1566, the Phænissæ of Euripides, as recast by Gascoigne, G. Yelverton, and Kinwelmarsh, under the title of “ Jocasta," was exhibited to the great gratification of a learned audience. The benefit which must hence have accrued to English art must be apparent to all. The want of regular dramatic form was the obvious defect of the tragedies which arose out of the Moralities, while finished perfection of form is the pre-eminent distinction of the ancient drama. In this respect modern art-not merely poetry, but also painting and sculpture -- had much to learn of the ancients, and has in fact been every where taught by it. The secret of form, however, is the last and highest consummation of art. It is, therefore, we think, not without good reason, that we have noted the epoch at which the English drama began to attain to greater regularity under the influence of ancient art-(a development, moreover, which in its first germ coincided with the gradual transformation of the Moralities into tragedy and comedy) — as marking the commencement of a new æra in the history of the English stage.
Still, of course, this beginning must not be taken for more than a beginning. “The Gorboduc; or, Ferrex and Porrex," written conjointly by Lord Buckhurst and Sir Thomas Norton, after ancient models, (in rhymeless decasyllabic Iambics, but with rhyming choruses,) and acted for the first time, 1561, in the Inner Temple-a piece which until the last twenty years has been regarded as the oldest extant instance of a regular English drama, and which, if we overlook the kind of religious pieces above mentioned, may be really regarded as such in the domain of tragedy-is, as A. W. Schlegel has already justly remarked, a stiff and lifeless composition, in which every incident of the plot is preceded by long and tedious deliberations, and followed by lengthy narratives, and, being without anything like a proper action, or an advancing, self-developing movement, is consequently most imperfect in form. It is, however, remarkable as the earliest piece in which, instead of the rhyming verses of various measures then common, the so-called blank-verse,-i.e. the well-known rhymeless Iambics, in which most of Shakspeare's plays are written,—was employed. However, the piece of Nicholas Udall, (a scholar and sometime Master of Westminster School, who in the prologue declares that he had laboured to imitate Plautus,) entitled " Ralph Royster Doyster," and called a Comedy or Interlude, which was printed in 1566, but mentioned as early as 1551, in “Wilson's Rule of Reason,” is consequently the first regular English Drama. The only extant copy of this piece was first discovered in 1818. It is divided into acts and scenes, and has the large number of thirteen distinct characters. It is unquestionably superior to Gorboduc both in subject and language, and is not without merit, and possesses some life in the movement and action; but, as to progressive development of plot, the organic evolution of several elements out of the unity of a single leading idea—wherein consists the secret of dramatic form—of this it exhibits little more than the very first germ. Such nearly is the case also with the “Misogonus," a comedy, which has only recently been recovered in an imperfect MS., but must have been written about 1560, and was probably the work of one Thomas Rycharde, whose name is signed to the Prologue. The language and characters are far from bad ; the invention gives proof of a lively fancy, while, on the other hand, the action proceeds irregularly and by starts, some of the characters having nothing to do with the plot, and many scenes being superfluous, and others tediously long: in short, it is apparent that the writer possessed at best a very obscure notion of dramatic composition. Still, these two plays are, in this respect, greatly superior to the youthful work of Bishop John Still, which previously to their discovery had been held to be the oldest regular comedy extant. This little drama, bearing the title of " Gammer Gurton's Needle," was probably first acted in 1566, and for the simple dry humour which prevails in it, as well as for the sustained tone and colouring, which are in perfect keeping with the subject, and the sphere of life in which its scene is laid, is not unworthy of its place in the history of the English drama. However, in language, delineation of character, and invention, it falls far short of the other two. Particularly famous in their day were the two pieces of Richard Edwards, the Queen's music-master, which he composed and published a year before his death, (which took place in 1566), under the titles of “Damon and Pythias," and of “Palamon and Arcites.” The former is given in Dodsley's Collection, and the latter has been made use of by Fletcher in his “Two Noble Kinsmen.” A contemporary, Thomas Twine, calls Edwards
" the flower of our realm,
And Phoenix of our age.” In truth, his “Damon and Pythias,” spite of its many absurdities, is distinguished from all its predecessors by great poetical merits, beauty of language, and the easy flow of its rhyming verses ; although in respect to dramatic form, development of plot, and invention, the improvement, if any, is very slight.
Whetstone's “Promos and Cassandra,” (1578) which in all likelihood furnished Shakspeare with materials for his "Measure for Measure,”—forms, as Tieck correctly observes, the transition from the learned imitations of the ancients to the proper national drama, notwithstanding that the latter is ridiculed and censured in Whetstone's dedication, for its neglect of Aristotle's rules. However, the learned style never ceased entirely. Even in 1587, the students of Gray's Inn acted before the Queen a tragedy of Thomas Hughes, “ The Misfortunes of Arthur," which was written altogether after the ancient models, and was furnished, in compliance with the prevailing taste, with Dumb-shows, in the management of which the famous Sir Francis, afterwards Lord, Bacon took part. The rules of Aristotle are here, indeed, more strictly observed than in the older pieces of a like nature. The whole consists accordingly of long speeches, with nothing like a proper action, though in other respects it is not without merit.
It would be as unjust as it would be contrary to fact, to allow no place in the history of art to these early attempts to shape the modern drama after the ancient models, or to seek to gainsay the degree in which they contributed to its development. The in