A Select Collection of Old English Plays, Volume 7 online

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Fourth Edition

Originally published by Robert Dodsley in the Year 1744.

Now first chronologically arranged, revised and enlarged
with the Notes of all the Commentators, and new Notes.



Tancred And Gismunda
The Wounds Of Civil War
The Two Angry Women Of Abington
Look About You


The Tragedie of Tancred and Gismund. Compiled by the Gentlemen of the
Inner Temple, and by them presented before her Maiestie. Newly reuiued
and polished according to the decorum of these daies. By R.W. London,
Printed by Thomas Scarlet, and are to be solde by R. Robinson, 1591,

[Some copies are dated 1592; but there was only a single edition. Of the
original text, as written in 1568, there is no printed copy; but MSS. of
it are in MS. Lansdowne 786, and Hargrave MS. 205, neither of which
appears to present any evidence of identity with the copy mentioned by
Isaac Reed below as then in private hands. Both these MSS. have now been
collated with the text of 1591, and the conclusion must be, that Wilmot,
though he unquestionably revived, did not do so much, as he might wish
to have it inferred, in _polishing_ the play. The production was formed
on a classical model, and bears marks of resemblance in tone and style
to the "Jocasta" of Euripides, as paraphrased by Gascoigne in 1566. The
Lansdowne MS. of "Tancred and Gismunda" was written, about 1568-70,
while the Hargrave is much more modern.]


It appears from William Webbe's Epistle prefixed to this piece, that
after its first exhibition it was laid aside, and at some distance of
time was new-written by R. Wilmot. The reader, therefore, may not be
displeased with a specimen of it in its original dress. It is here given
from the fragment of an ancient MS. taken out of a chest of papers
formerly belonging to Mr Powell, father-in-law to the author of
"Paradise Lost," at Forest Hill, about four miles from Oxford, where in
all probability some curiosities of the same kind may remain, the
contents of these chests (for I think there are more than one) having
never yet been properly examined. The following extract is from the
conclusion of the piece. - _Reed_. [Reed's extract has been collated with
the two MSS. before-mentioned; where the Powell MS. may now be, the
editor cannot say. The differences, on the whole, are not material;
but the Lansdowne MS. 786 has supplied a few superior readings and

But in thy brest if eny spark remaine
Of thy dere love. If ever yet I coulde
So moche of thee deserve, or at the least
If with my last desire I may obtaine
This at thy handes, geve me this one request
And let me not spend my last breath in vaine.
My life desire I not, which neither is
In thee to geve nor in my self to save,
Althoughe I wolde. Nor yet I aske not this
As mercye for myne Erle in ought to crave,
Whom I to well do knowe howe thou hast slayen.
No, no, father, thy hard and cruell wronge
With pacience as I may I will sustaine
In woefull life which now shall not be longe.
But this one suite, father, if unto me
Thou graunt, though I cannot the same reacquite
Th'immortall goddes shall render unto thee
Thy due reward and largely guerdon it,
That sins it pleased thee not thus secretly
I might enjoy my love, his corps and myne
May nathelesse together graved be
And in one tombe our bodies both to shrine
With which this small request eke do I praie
That on the same graven in brasse thou place
This woefull epitaphe which I shall saye,
That all lovers may rue this mornefull case;
Loe here within one tombe where harbor twaine
Gismonda Quene and Countie Pallurine!
She loved him, he for her love was slayen,
For whoes revenge eke lyes she here in shrine.
[GISMONDA _dieth_

TANCRED. O me alas, nowe do the cruell paines
Of cursed death my dere daughter bereave.
Alas whie bide I here? the sight constraines
Me woefull man this woefull place to leaue.


TANCRED _cometh out of_ GISMOND'S _Chamber_.

TANCRED. O dolorous happe, ruthefull and all of woe
Alas I carefull wretche what resteth me?
Shall I now live that with these eyes did soe
Beholde my daughter die? what, shall I see
Her death before my face that was my lyfe
And I to lyve that was her lyves decay?
Shall not this hand reache to this hart the knife
That maye bereve bothe sight and life away,
And in the shadowes darke to seke her ghoste
And wander there with her? shall not, alas,
This spedy death be wrought, sithe I have lost
My dearest ioy of all? what, shall I passe
My later dayes in paine, and spende myne age
In teres and plaint! shall I now leade my life
All solitarie as doeth bird in cage,
And fede my woefull yeres with waillfull grefe?
No, no, so will not I my dayes prolonge
To seke to live one houre sith she is gone:
This brest so can not bende to suche a wronge,
That she shold dye and I to live alone.
No, this will I: she shall have her request
And in most royall sorte her funerall
Will I performe. Within one tombe shall rest
Her earle and she, her epitaph withall
Graved thereon shal be. This will I doe
And when these eyes some aged teres have shed
The tomb my self then will I crepe into
And with my blood all bayne their bodies dead.
This heart there will I perce, and reve this brest
The irksome life, and wreke my wrathful ire
Upon my self. She shall have her request,
And I by death will purchace my desyre.



If now perhappes ye either loke to see
Th'unhappie lovers, or the cruell sire
Here to be buried as fittes their degree
Or as the dyeng ladie did require
Or as the ruthefull kinge in deepe despaire
Behight of late (who nowe himself hath slayen)
Or if perchaunse you stand in doutfull fere
Sithe mad Megera is not returnde againe
Least wandring in the world she so bestowe
The snakes that crall about her furious face
As they may raise new ruthes, new kindes of woe
Bothe so and there, and such as you percase
Wold be full lothe so great so nere to see
I am come forth to do you all to wete
Through grefe wherin the lordes of Salerne be
The buriall pompe is not prepared yet:
And for the furie, you shall onderstand
That neither doeth the litle greatest god
Finde such rebelling here in Britain land
Against his royall power as asketh rod
Of ruth from hell to wreke his names decaie
Nor Pluto heareth English ghostes complaine
Our dames disteyned lyves. Therfore ye maye
Be free from feare, sufficeth to maintaine
The vertues which we honor in you all,
So as our Britain ghostes when life is past
Maie praise in heven, not plaine in Plutoes hall
Our dames, but hold them vertuous and chast,
Worthie to live where furie never came,
Where love can see, and beares no deadly bowe,
Whoes lyves eternall tromp of glorious fame
With joyfull sounde to honest eares shall blowe.


The Tragedie of Gismonde of Salerne.

Such is a specimen of the play as it was originally acted before Queen
Elizabeth, at the Inner Temple, in the year 1568. It was the production
of five gentlemen, who were probably students of that society; and by
one of them, Robert Wilmot, afterwards much altered and published in the
year 1591.[1] [Wilmot had meanwhile become rector of North Okenham, in
Essex];[2] and in his Dedication to the Societies of the Inner and
Middle Temples, he speaks of the censure which might be cast upon him
from the indecorum of publishing a dramatic work arising from his
calling. When he died, or whether he left any other works, are points
equally uncertain.

"Nearly a century after the date of that play," observes Lamb, in his
'Extracts from the Garrick Plays,' "Dryden produced his admirable
version of the same story from Boccaccio. The speech here extracted
(the scene between the messengers and Gismunda) may be compared with
the corresponding passage in the 'Sigismunda and Guiscardo' with no
disadvantage to the older performance. It is quite as weighty, as
pointed, and as passionate."

To the Right Worshipful and Virtuous Ladies, the Lady MARY PETER
and the Lady ANNE GRAY, long health of body, with quiet of mind,
in the favour of God and men for ever.

It is most certain (right virtuous and worshipful) that of all human
learning, poetry (how contemptible soever it is in these days) is the
most ancient; and, in poetry, there is no argument of more antiquity and
elegancy than is the matter of love; for it seems to be as old as the
world, and to bear date from the first time that man and woman was:
therefore in this, as in the finest metal, the freshest wits have in all
ages shown their best workmanship. So amongst others these gentlemen,
which with what sweetness of voice and liveliness of action they then
expressed it, they which were of her Majesty's right Honourable maidens
can testify.

Which being a discourse of two lovers, perhaps it may seem a thing
neither fit to be offered unto your ladyships, nor worthy me to busy
myself withal: yet can I tell you, madames, it differeth so far from the
ordinary amorous discourses of our days, as the manners of our time do
from the modesty and innocency of that age.

And now for that weary winter is come upon us, which bringeth with him
drooping days and tedious nights, if it be true, that the motions of our
minds follow the temperature of the air wherein we live, then I think
the perusing of some mournful matter, tending to the view of a notable
example, will refresh your wits in a gloomy day, and ease your weariness
of the louring night. Which if it please you, may serve ye also for a
solemn revel against this festival time, for _Gismund's_ bloody shadow,
with a little cost, may be entreated in her self-like person to speak
to ye.

Having therefore a desire to be known to your W., I devised this way
with myself to procure the same, persuading myself, there is nothing
more welcome to your wisdoms than the knowledge of wise, grave, and
worthy matters, tending to the good instructions of youths, of whom you
are mothers.

In this respect, therefore, I shall humbly desire ye to bestow a
favourable countenance upon this little labour, which when ye have
graced it withal, I must and will acknowledge myself greatly indebted
unto your ladyships in this behalf: neither shall I amongst the rest,
that admire your rare virtues (which are not a few in Essex), cease to
commend this undeserved gentleness.

Thus desiring the king of heaven to increase his graces in ye both,
granting that your ends may be as honourable as your lives are
virtuous, I leave with a vain babble of many needless words to trouble
you longer.

Your Worships' most dutiful
and humble Orator,


Master R.W., look not now for the terms of an intreater: I will beg no
longer; and for your promises, I will refuse them as bad payment:
neither can I be satisfied with anything but a peremptory performance of
an old intention of yours, the publishing I mean of those waste papers
(as it pleaseth you to call them, but, as I esteem them, a most
exquisite invention) of Gismund's tragedy. Think not to shift me off
with longer delays, nor allege more excuses to get further respite, lest
I arrest you with my _actum est_, and commence such a suit of unkindness
against you, as when the case shall be scann'd before the judges of
courtesy, the court will cry out of your immoderate modesty. And thus
much I tell you before: you shall not be able to wage against me in the
charges growing upon this action, especially if the worshipful company
of the Inner-Temple gentlemen patronise my cause, as undoubtedly they
will, yea, and rather plead partially for me, than let my cause
miscarry, because themselves are parties. The tragedy was by them most
pithily framed, and no less curiously acted in view of her Majesty, by
whom it was then as princely accepted, as of the whole honourable
audience notably applauded: yea, and of all men generally desired, as a
work, either in stateliness of show, depth of conceit, or true ornaments
of poetical art, inferior to none of the best in that kind: no, were the
Roman Seneca the censurer. The brave youths that then (to their high
praises) so feelingly performed the same in action, did shortly after
lay up the book unregarded, or perhaps let it run abroad (as many
parents do their children once past dandling) not respecting so much
what hard fortune might befall it being out of their fingers, as how
their heroical wits might again be quickly conceived have been ever
since wonderful fertile. But this orphan of theirs (for he wand'reth as
it were fatherless) hath notwithstanding, by the rare and beautiful
perfections appearing in him, hitherto never wanted great favourers and
loving preservers. Among whom I cannot sufficiently commend your
charitable zeal and scholarly compassion towards him, that have not only
rescued and defended him from the devouring jaws of oblivion, but
vouchsafed also to apparel him in a new suit at your own charges,
wherein he may again more boldly come abroad, and by your permission
return to his old parents, clothed perhaps not in richer or more costly
furniture than it went from them, but in handsomeness and fashion more
answerable to these times, wherein fashions are so often altered. Let
one word suffice for your encouragement herein; namely, that your
commendable pains in disrobing him of his antique curiosity, and
adorning him with the approved guise of our stateliest English terms
(not diminishing, but more augmenting his artificial colours of absolute
poesy, derived from his first parents) cannot but be grateful to most
men's appetites, who upon our experience we know highly to esteem such
lofty measures of sententiously composed tragedies.

How much you shall make me and the rest of your private friends beholden
to you, I list not to discourse: and therefore grounding upon these
alleged reasons; that the suppressing of this tragedy, so worthy for the
press, were no other thing than wilfully to defraud yourself of an
universal thank, your friends of their expectations, and sweet Gismund
of a famous eternity, I will cease to doubt of any other pretence to
cloak your bashfulness, hoping to read it in print (which lately lay
neglected amongst your papers) at our next appointed meeting.

I bid you heartily farewell. From Pyrgo in Essex, August the eighth,

_Tuus fide & facultate_


To the Worshipful and Learned Society, the GENTLEMEN STUDENTS of
the Inner Temple, with the rest of his singular good Friends, the
GENTLEMEN of the Middle Temple, and to all other courteous Readers,
R.W. wisheth increase of all health, worship, and learning, with
the immortal glory of the graces adorning the same.

Ye may perceive (right Worshipful) in perusing the former epistle sent
to me, how sore I am beset with the importunities of my friends to
publish this pamphlet: truly I am and have been (if there be in me any
soundness of judgment) of this opinion, that whatsoever is committed to
the press is commended to eternity, and it shall stand a lively witness
with our conscience, to our comfort or confusion, in the reckoning of
that great day.

Advisedly, therefore, was that proverb used of our elder philosophers,
_Manum a tabula_: withhold thy hand from the paper, and thy papers from
the print or light of the world: for a lewd word escaped is irrevocable,
but a bad or base discourse published in print is intolerable.

Hereupon I have endured some conflicts between reason and judgment,
whether it were convenient for the commonwealth, with the _indecorum_ of
my calling (as some think it) that the memory of Tancred's tragedy
should be again by my means revived, which the oftener I read over, and
the more I considered thereon, the sooner I was won to consent
thereunto: calling to mind that neither the thrice reverend and learned
father, M. Beza, was ashamed in his younger years to send abroad, in his
own name, his tragedy of "Abraham,"[4] nor that rare Scot (the scholar
of our age) Buchanan, his most pathetical Jephtha.

Indeed I must willingly confess this work simple, and not worth
comparison to any of theirs: for the writers of them were grave men; of
this, young heads: in them is shown the perfection of their studies; in
this, the imperfection of their wits. Nevertheless herein they all
agree, commending virtue, detesting vice, and lively deciphering their
overthrow that suppress not their unruly affections. These things noted
herein, how simple soever the verse be, I hope the matter will be
acceptable to the wise.

Wherefore I am now bold to present Gismund to your sights, and unto
yours only, for therefore have I conjured her, by the love that hath
been these twenty-four years betwixt us, that she wax not so proud of
her fresh painting, to straggle in her plumes abroad, but to contain
herself within the walls of your house; so am I sure she shall be safe
from the _tragedian tyrants_ of our time, who are not ashamed to affirm
that there can no amorous poem savour of any sharpness of wit, unless it
be seasoned with scurrilous words.

But leaving them to their lewdness, I hope you, and all discreet
readers, will thankfully receive my pains, the fruits of my first
harvest: the rather, perceiving that my purpose in this tragedy tendeth
only to the exaltation of virtue and suppression of vice, with pleasure
to profit and help all men, but to offend or hurt no man. As for such as
have neither the grace, nor the good gift, to do well themselves, nor
the common honesty to speak well of others, I must (as I may) hear and
bear their baitings with patience.

Yours devoted in his ability,




They which tofore thought that the heaven's throne
Is placed above the skies, and there do feign
The gods and all the heavenly powers to reign,
They err, and but deceive themselves alone.
Heaven (unless you think mo be than one)
Is here in earth, and by the pleasant side
Of famous Thames at Greenwich court doth 'bide.
And as for other heaven is there none.
There are the goddesses we honour so:
There Pallas sits: there shineth Venus' face:
Bright beauty there possesseth all the place:
Virtue and honour there do live and grow:
There reigneth she such heaven that doth deserve,
Worthy whom so fair goddesses should serve.


Flowers of prime, pearls couched all in gold,
Light of our days, that glads the fainting hearts
Of them that shall your shining gleams behold,
Salve of each sore, recure of inward smarts,
In whom virtue and beauty striveth so
As neither yields: behold here, for your gain,
Gismund's unlucky love, her fault, her woe,
And death; at last her cruel father slain
Through his mishap; and though you do not see,
Yet read and rue their woful tragedy.
So Jove, as your high virtues done deserve,
Grant you such pheers[6] as may your virtues serve
With like virtues; and blissful Venus send
Unto your happy loves an happy end.


Gismund, that whilome liv'd her father's joy
And died his death, now dead, doth (as she may)
By us pray you to pity her annoy.
And, to requite the same, doth humbly pray,
Heavens to forefend[7] your loves from like decay.
The faithful earl doth also make request,
Wishing those worthy knights whom ye embrace,
The constant truth that lodged in his breast.
His hearty love, not his unhappy case,
Befall to such as triumph in your grace.
The king prays pardon of his cruel hest,[8]
And for amends desires it may suffice.
That by his blood he warneth all the rest
Of fond fathers, that they in kinder wise
Intreat the jewels where their comfort lies.
We, as their messengers, beseech ye all
On their behalfs to pity all their smarts.
And for ourselves (although the worth be small)
We pray ye to accept our humble hearts,
Avow'd to serve with prayer and with praise
Your honours, all unworthy other ways.[9]


TANCRED, _the King_.
GISMUNDA, _the King's Daughter_.
LUCRECE, _her Aunt_.
GUISCARD, _Count Palurin_.
RENUCHIO, _Captain of the Guard_.
JULIO, _Lord Chamberlain_.


Tancred, the Prince of Salerne, overloves
His only daughter (wonder of that age)
Gismund, who loves the County[13] Palurin
Guiscard, who quites her likings with his love:
A letter in a cane describes the means
Of their two meetings in a secret cave.
Unconstant fortune leadeth forth the king
To this unhappy sight, wherewith in rage
The gentle earl he doometh to his death,
And greets his daughter with her lover's heart.
Gismunda fills the goblet with her tears,
And drinks a poison which she had distill'd,
Whereof she dies, whose deadly countenance
So grieves her father, that he slew himself.


Tancred, King of Naples and Prince of Salerne, gave his only daughter
Gismund (whom he most dearly loved) in marriage to a foreign prince,
after whose death she returned home to her father, who having felt great
grief of her absence whilst her husband lived, immeasurably esteeming
her, determined never to suffer any second marriage to bereave him of
her. She, on the other side, waxing weary of that her father's purpose,
bent her mind to the secret love of the County Palurin: to whom (he
being likewise inflamed with love of her) by a letter subtly enclosed in
a cloven cane, she gave to understand a convenient way for their desired
meetings, through an old ruinous vault, whose mouth opened directly
under her chamber floor. Into this vault when she was one day descended
(for the conveyance of her lover), her father in the mean season (whose
only joy was in his daughter) came to her chamber, and not finding her
there, supposing her to have been walked abroad for her[15] disport, he
threw him down on her bed, and covered his head with a curtain, minding
to abide and rest there till her return. She, nothing suspecting this
her father's unseasonable coming, brought up her lover out of the cave
into her chamber, where her father espied their secret love: and he (not
espied of them) was upon this sight stricken with marvellous grief; but
either for that the sudden despite had amazed him, and taken from him
all use of speech, or for that he resolved himself to a more convenient
revenge, he then spake nothing, but noted their return into the vault,
and secretly departed. Afterward, bewailing his mishap, he commanded the
earl to be attached, imprisoned, strangled, unbowelled, and his heart in
a cup of gold to be presented to his daughter:[16] she thankfully
receiveth the present, filling the cup (wherein the heart was) with her
tears, with a venomous potion (by her distilled for that purpose) she
drank to her earl. Which her father hearing of, came too late to comfort
his dying daughter, who for her last request besought him that her lover
and herself might in one tomb be together buried for a perpetual memory
of their faithful loves; which request he granted, adding to the burial
himself, slain with his own hands, to his own reproach, and the terror
of all other hard-hearted fathers.

Introductio in Actum Secundum.

Before the second act there was heard a sweet noise of still pipes,
which sounding, Lucrece entered, attended by a maiden of honour with a
covered goddard of gold, and, drawing the curtains, she offereth unto
Gismunda to taste thereof; which when she had done, the maid returned,
and Lucrece raiseth up Gismunda from her bed, and then it followeth _ut_
in act ii. sc. 1.

Introductio in Actum Tertium.

Before this act the hautboys sounded a lofty almain, and Cupid ushereth
after him Guiscard and Gismunda, hand in hand; Julio and Lucrece,
Renuchio and another maiden of honour. The measures trod, Gismunda gives
a cane into Guiscard's hand, and they are all led forth again by Cupid,
_ut sequitur_.

Introductio in Actum Quartum.

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