Frederick Gard Fleay.

A biographical chronicle of the English drama, 1559-1642 (Volume 1) online

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Excursus on the Mirror for Magistrates . . , .17
Biographies of the Playwrights: i 557-1642








This book in outward form closely resembles the Blographia
Dramatica of 1764, 1782, and 18 12, founded on Lang-
baine's Dramatic Poets of 1 69 i , which contains all that is
of any value in J. 0. Halliwell's Dictionary of Old English
Plays, i860, a mere scissors-and-paste compilation, with
a few additions, but inaccurate and void of all historical
grasp of the subject. Langbaine's book was excellent for
its date, and the successive labours of Baker, Reed, and
Jones, the editors of the Blographia, had considerable
value ; but Halliwell, by ignoring all notice of the biog-
raphies of dramatic authors, deprived their work of its
principal recommendation to notice as a guide to the
student. Yet his book has hitherto been accepted as
our chief work of reference on this important subject it
is a misleading and careless one in every way. The pre-
sent attempt to supply the deficiency of a di'amatic history,
or rather chronicle on which a future history should be
based, however like its predecessor in appearance, differs
VOL. I. k


altogetlier in import. The Biographia professed to give
lives of the playmakers similar to those in any other Dic-
tionary or Cyclopedia, and, alongside of these, lists of their
plays, in order of publication, with such brief notices of the
plays themselves as could be gathered from their title-pages,
with such additions as could be gathered from the im-
perfectly understood stage history of the early theatres and
actiug companies. My object has been to arrange the
plays in order of original production, with such notices of
their authors, and such only, as bear upon the history of
the drama itself. The ideal of my work would be reached
if I could give for every play, from the opening of the
theatres in i 5 7 6 to their closure before the civil wars in
164.2, the authorship in each instance, the date of original
production, the theatre at which it was acted, the com-
pany by whom it was played, the relation it bore to other
plays and to dramatic history generally. This is a vastly
more extended scope than anything hitherto attempted,
and satisfactory results are not always attainable ; but I
trust that my readers will find that in most cases of import-
ance I have hit, if not the bull's-eye, at any rate an inner
ring. Many of the larger problems, such as the separation
of the authorship of the Beaumont and Fletcher folio, the
chronological arrangement of Fletcher's plays, the dates of
production of the plays of Heywood, Dekker, Chapman,
Webster, &c., were regarded as insoluble even by Dyce, the
best of play-editors. How far this is the case the reader
may judge for himself. But the value of solution, when
attainable, is considerable. Daily the mass of idle guess-
work accumulates into dust-heaps ; we are deluged with
such stuff as treatises on Shakespeare's supposed thefts from
Montaigne, Jonson's supposed satire of him as Crispinus,
Chapman's supposed authorship of Bcrnavcldt, Alpltonsus of


Germany, and The Second 3Iaidens Tragedy, Shakespeare's
supposed ■writing for the Admiral's men at the Rose, and
the like. All this "literature" (bless the mark!) will
surely be spared if we can get a trustworthy record of
what really was doing in the theatrical world in Shake-
speare's time and immediately after. One-third of the
Variorum notes of editors would be saved, and the only
loss would fall on the writers of popular handbooks on
early dramatic authors, who would lose all chance of pad-
ding their stolen materials with futile and mutually destruc-
tive hypotheses of fictions, leasings, and chima^ras. It will
perhaps be the readiest way to accentuate this statement if
I now lay before the reader the plan on which the present
work is disposed.

The authors are alphabetically arranged. Under each
name I give first a list of his extant dramatic works in order
of publication, then such particulars of his career as have
any bearing on dramatic history ; but I have endeavoured
to eliminate everything which, however interesting as re-
gards the man, is unconnected with him as a writer. In
other words, I have relegated many things which would
rightly find a place in a Biographical Dictionary, while I
have inserted many other things, often of the most trivial
value in themselves, but of import from their connexion
with or alluding to circumstances that determine date,
authorship, &c., of the plays here treated of. In this
matter I differ largely from men whose opinions in most
things I greatly respect. I am, as Furness puts it, " more
clamorous than a parrot against rain" about these trifles,
and ' ' to my temperament " the subject has the deepest
" relation to the play itself, and to the enjoyment thereof."
See Furness' Variorum As You Like It, 304. I do not
care to know whether Troylus and Cressida was acted in


1 60 1 or 1 607 as an abstract separate fact any more than Fur-
ness does, but I do care to know Shakespeare's relations with
Ben Jonson ; and when I find that, from an exact determi-
nation of the date of this play, I am led by a gradual in-
duction (as will be seen in the body of this book under
Jonson's Poetaster) to the conclusion that he satirised
Jonson therein, and that the play containing this satire
was acted, not on the London stage, but at my own Uni-
versity, then I acquire an interest in these dates somewhat
greater than in the ' ' cost per yard of Rosalind's hose." I
will now go farther : if I could find an entry in some newly
discovered Diary — say Burbadge's — of Rosalind's hose, I
would note it carefully ; for it was by the entry of Labesha's
son's hose in Henslow's Diary that I proved that the Humours
acted at the Rose was Chapman's Humorous Bay's Mirth,
and not Jonson's Every Man in his Humour, and thus
demolished the elaborate structure raised on that insecure
guess by Collier and his followers. Hundreds of such in-
stances will be found in subsequent pages. I have also, in
some instances, apparently been very inconsequent in the
details of non-dramatic work by the authors of whom I
treat. For example, I have for Greene, Nash, and others
given elaborate lists of their prose works, while even the
poems of Lovelace, Sackville, &c., are passed over without
mention ; but the reason is, that I am writing a Biographical
Chronicle of the Drama, not a Historical Biography of the
Dramatists. The notice of the prose works of Greene, with
their changes of motto, was absolutely needed to determine
the chronology of his plays and to destroy Simpson's fig-
ments of his relations to Shakespeare, while any mention of
Lucasta would not have advanced my investigations by one
jot. Moreover, I should only have been increasing the bulk of
my book by doing what had already been well done by others.


After these life-notices I give a detailed notice of the
author's plays (whether extant or not), in chronological
order. In most instances I have succeeded, I believe, in
ascertaining this, and in supplying the previously unknown
names of the theatres and companies of their first pro-
duction. Of course, these depend largely on my previous
History of the Stage; but the reader will, I think, have
confidence in the results obtained in that book, now that
they have been endorsed by the, as far as I know, unani-
mous •' verdict of the press. In fact, had it not been for the
genial S3^mpathy of the reviewers (may I, among so many,
mention especially the Spectator and the Manchester Guar-
dian ?) I should not have proceeded with the present book,
which will supply some lacitncB and correct a few en-ors in
the former one (mostly errata merely), but far fewer than I
had dared to hope for ; indeed the general confirmation of
the one series of investigations by the other — which, be it
noted, could not have been produced independently — is
most striking, and proves the general accuracy of the
earlier series.

In the publication lists and in the detailed notices of
plays each play is preceded by a reference number, which
is also used in the Index. As these numbers are for refer-
ence only, and in many instances had to be inserted after
the first trial list was indexed, I find it far less likely to
introduce errors if I asterise the inserted titles than if I

1 One instance of the contrary has reached me since I penned the above
text. A lady critic in Poet Lore, 1891, March, complains that mine is one of
the books "a little dull at first glance, because stuffed so full of details." She
has not grasped the purport of the book : it is a lens to aid the sight, not an
eye to see with, and requires an eye behind it. The lens without the eye
reveals no order, and therefore no beauty. The eye is in her wanting, as is
evident from her concluding sentence, in which she ranks the book as second
to my Life of Shakespeare. Nevertheless her notice is, on the whole, genial and
favourable, though not appreciative.


go over the whole list and renmnber from the beginning,
especially in the plays of anonymous authorship. The
reader will therefore frequently meet with 150'"" and the
like, where, if a perfect list had been at first accessible, I
should have written 151, &c. This will not cause any
practical inconvenience.

In determining authorship (especially joint-authorship)
the ground is appai-ently not so firm as in the other prob-
lems, because internal evidence much more than external
has to be taken into account ; and the personal equation of
the critic, his crotchets, weaknesses, and other disabilities,
may interfere with the accuracy of his results. Yet the all
but unanimous agreement of subsequent critics with what I
published in 1874 on the authorship of plays attributed to
Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Kowley, and Massinger
(I except Middleton and Field, whom I had incompletely
studied, and concerning whom I advanced nothing but
what was expressly stated to be conjectural) encourages
me to believe that in this matter also I have succeeded
in getting near the truth. The evidence adduced in the
present work is of a different character from the metrical
considerations in my early work, but it must not be sup-
posed that these have been neglected when not expressly
referred to. I see no good end in reproducing the elaborate
tables I have already published for Shakesj^eare, Fletcher,
&c. ; and in other instances, such as Heywood, other tests
are more available. Nevertheless, every play that I possess
has been metrically analysed, and I hold the results ready
for reference at the service of any critic who may desire to
avail himself thereof. In no single instance have I found
a contradiction between this kind of evidence and other
kinds in determining authorship, and in very few cases
have I found it useful in determining date. This arises


partly from the truism, that only the greatest minds (Shake-
speare, to wit) develop in form continuously throughout their
career, but still more from the fact that plays were altered
for revivals, Court performances, &c., at dates long apart;
and it is not till we know the stage history of a play that
we are in a position to disentangle the added and reformed
parts, which is a necessary preliminary to the application
of metrical tests, but which, at the same time, makes the
application needless. It may be well, however, to refer
here to my SJiakespeare Manual for a few notes on the
chief playwrights' metrical characteristics.

There is a closely allied method of testing the chrono-
logical arrangement of poets' work, of which, being chiefly
applicable to non-dramatic forms, I must here give only
one illustration — I mean the elaborate choice at different
periods of different forms of versification. Those who
care to pursue the subject will find further applications to
Spenser and Chaucer in other publications of mine. I here
choose Drayton because the succession of his writings is
valuable for Dramatic History. The notation adopted is,
I think, self-explanatory ; it is fully exemplified in my
Logical English Grammar, and is, so far as I know, the
only complete metrical notation for English verse as yet

I begin with Iambic five-foot lines.

Quadrains, 5xa ABAB (Gondibert metre), used by Dray-,
ton in The Harmony of the. Church, 1591, Nos. 8, 11, 14.
Eclogues, 1593, Nos, 2, 4, 6, 9. Moses, 1630. Elysium,
1630, No. 10.

5xa ABBA, used in The Harmony, Nos. 2, 9, 10. Ely-
sium, 1630, No. 4.

I think it fair to conclude that the "Quadrains" in
Moses and the Muses Elysium were written very early.


c. 1592, though published late, in the year before Drayton's
death. He had distinctly discarded this metrical form.

Quinzains, 5xa ABABB. Eclogues, 1593, No. 5.

Sestins, 5 xa AB ABCC. Harmo7iy, i 5 9 1 , No. i . Eclogues,
1593, Nos. I, 7, 8, 10. Gavcston, 1594.

Stanza of seven, 5xa ABABB CO. Matilda, 1594. Eolcrt,
i^g6. Mortimeriados, 1596-

Ariosto's stanza, 5xa ABAB ABCC. Barons Wars, 1603.
Cromwell, 1607. Margaret, 1627. Agincourt, 1627.

Drayton, in 1603, deliberately abandoned all these stanzas
except Ariosto's, and declared his reasons. The "often
harmony " of the Septain was too soft ; the Quadrain never
brought forth " Gemells " or Couplets; the Quinzain too
soon; the Sestin " hath twins in the base, but they detain
not the music nor the close long enough." Surely this
justifies me in making 1603 the commencement of Dray-
ton's second manner.

Geminels, Heroics, 5 xaAA. Endymion, i$g^. Hcroical
Epistles, 1597 (written some years before). did, 1604.
Man in the Moon, 1605. Mooncalf, 1627. Elegies, 1627
(written earlier). Elysium, 1630, Nos. ^^ 7- •^'^'^^j David,

Sonnets, 5xa ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG. Most of the
earlier sonnets, 1594, are of this lax form, and this was
the form adopted from Drayton by Shakespeare.

5xa ABBA, CDDC, EFFE, GG, Nos. 12, 13, 14,
16, 17, 18, 29, 34, 35, 40, 42, and one of the omitted
early ones are of this form. I now note the long-line

6xa AA. : Uarmony, i 591, Nos. i, 18, 20. Pohjolhion,
161 3-19. Elysium, 1630, No. 6.

7xa AA. : Harmony, 1591, Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, 15, 17.
Cynthia, 1627.


6xa A, 7x3. A. : Harmony^ I59i, Nos, 3, 13. Then for
shorter lines.

4xa ABAB. : Harmony, 1591, Nos. 16, 19. Eclogues,
1593, Nos. 7, 9. Of the varied short metres in the Odes
and Eclogues, which, being used once only, cannot lead to
any result in testing, I need not take notice, but the repeti-
tion of the following in the Eclogues and NympJial is note-
worthy : —

4xa AA. : Eclogues, 1593, No. 2. El.ysium, 1630,
Nos. 2, 3, 8.

2 (4xa A, 3xa B), Ballad metre : Eclogue, 9. Elysiuvi,
Description, i, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9.

2 (4xa A A, 3xa B). : Eclogue, 4. Elysium, 3.

2 (3xa AAA, 2xa B) : Aginconrt (ballad), 1606. Ely-
sium, 3.

The metrical test would lead to the conclusion that the
Nymphals (with Cynthia and Sirena) were written much
earlier than the publication date, or that Drayton in his age
recurred to his 1605 manner, but I must refer for this to
the article in the body of this book.

Thus far I have endeavoured to justify my assumption in
the title that I have written a Biography of our earlier
Drama ; I have yet to show in what sense it is also a
Chronicle. While considering the form in which I should
arrange my material I was met by a great difficulty. If I
adopted the arrangement on which I ultimately decided, there
would result a book of reference useful, I hoped, and cer-
tainly in far the greater part of it new, but not as a whole
chronologically arranged. If I attempted to place the authors
in the succession of time, after the fashion of Morley's His-
tory of English Literature, I should have to dislocate the
careers of many authors ; for how else could I treat of Jonson,
Hey wood, Massinger, &c., whose careers extended over several


periods of the divisions into which I should necessarily have
to separate the subject ? And, moreover, the careers of many
authors — as, for instance, of Chapman, Marston, Dekker,
Hey wood, &c., — which run parallel for their mainly impor-
tant early portions, are widely separated in their later divisions.
After much consideration I hit on what seems to be a solu-
tion of the difficulty. I shall place at the end of the Index
a list of authors who wrote for one company, only arranged
chronoloy-icallv, and also a table in which the theatrical
career of each author who wrote for more than one com-
pany will be indicated by dates. Opposite each name will
be found the time durins: which he was connected with
every company for which he wrote. This will give, in brief,
his theatrical biography. But, as I have shown in my Sis-
tori/ of the Stage that only five companies were acting in
London at one time, I have only to arrange these dates in
five vertical columns to obtain simultaneously with the
authors' careers, which occupy horizontal lines, a statement of
which of these authors were at any given date engaged in
writing for any individual company. Thus, if the reader
merely wishes for information as to Marston, he will at once
turn up Marston's name in the book in its alphabetical
order. If he desires to know about Eastward Ho, or any
other play, he will seek out the play in the index ; but if
he is looking for the details of all that was doing by the
Chamberlain's company between 1594 and 1603, he will
run his eye down the last column of this table and look
up the separate notices of every author, Shakespeare, Jonson,
Drayton, &c., who therein have dates opposite their names,
and then refer to the other list ; and, finally, if he desire a
complete chronicle of our drama, he can examine the whole
book in the ordei- in which the names are given in these
tables, with the assurance that he will thus omit no name


of any particular Importance. These tables apply to pnh-
licly acted plays, not to masks at Court or University plays.
The case of divided authorship is further provided for by
numerous cross-references in the body of the work. So
much for publicly acted plays. For University plays (Eng-
lish and Latin), masks, entertainments, &c., separate indexes
are given ; and a r4sum6 will also be found of the University
plays, &c., with cross-references, in the body of the work.
I trust that this arrangement will be found convenient, and
justify the heavy labour it has cost me.

I must now make a few general observations. The out-
come of the detailed investigations of this treatise has been
entirely satisfactory in confirming the results of my former
work ; it has brought out some things to be added thereto,
but has disclosed very little to be taken from it ; it has
especially confirmed the main division therein adopted into
periods, (i.) The first period, 15 57-1 5 86, enters only
slightly into the present treatise, although I should not
have felt justified in omitting mention of any play known
to have been produced between those dates. It was the
time of the birth of Tragedy and Comedy, and of the decay
of Moralities. I would call it the final period of Interludes,
or if, following Euskin's well-chosen method, we name it
after the author then most conspicuous, the period of
Lyly, or still better, of Wilson. (2.) The second period,
I 587-1593, is undoubtedly to be named from Marlow ;
it was in it that Tragedy, especially Historic Tragedy,
assumed a complete form in all essential particulars. The
Comedy of Greene was quite subordinate. (3.) The third
period, 1594— 1603, is that of Shakespeare (as a writer of
Comedies and Histories). No name appears by the side
of this central figure at this epoch ; for whatever stir the
theatrical war of Jonson, Marston, &c., made at the time.



it was ephemeral and resultless. (4.) The fourth period,
160 3-1 6 1 5, I name that of Jonson, as a mask-writer,
in spite of its being the time of the highest tragical
development of Beaumont, of Webster, and, above all, of
Shakespeare ; for their tragedy was, though colossal, still
simply the outcome of Marlow's — the manhood, so to say,
of the vigorous youth of the earlier bard. But the Jon-
sonian mask was, alike in its dedication to Court patronage
and in its introduction of expensive dresses, properties, and
movable scenes, pregnant with imminent change which
would affect the whole manner of presentation for the
future post- Restoration public stage, and whose influence is
overwhelming even in our own time. I mark these epochs
by birth-dates rather than by maxima of development, and
in this one the higher tragedy died in the fulness of its
strength, not leaving offspring for the stage even in the
works of Shelley or Browning, while the mask was the
parent of our modern Shakespearian revival, with its inci-
dental music, of the scenery and dress of modern presen-
tations, with all their local colour of the Terpsichorean
ballet, and even of Wagnerian opera. (5.) The fifth period,
16 16-162 5, is of course the period of Fletcher, the time
of Tragi-Comedy, in which the seeds of decay first begin
to germinate. (6.) The sixth period, 162 5- 1636, that of
Massinger, is that of Historical Tragedy, not the Chronicle
English Histoiy of Shakespeare, but the pseudo-classical or
Byzantine History, in which, not presentation of fact, but
distortion of fact to political ends, disguise of contemporary
events under the costume of antiquated stories, is the main-
spring of the machinery ; and finally, (7.) the period 1637—
1642 is that of Shirley at the Blackfriars as a reviver
of the Tragedy of the early Jacobean time, the only period
of Shirley's work of real importance — his comedies of


the preceding period having little more significance in
general dramatic history than those of Brome or Nabbes,
however interesting they may be to the antiquary and to
the dramatic specialist for their connexion with the work
of other and greater men. Such is the division almost
forced on us in this investigation, and fortunately exactly
coinciding with that jireviously obtained from entirely
different considerations.

I cannot pass over in silence one point which has been
impressed on me at every step in this long labour — the
central importance of Ben Jonson. Fourteen years since,
in a conversation with the present Laureate at his Hasle-
mere mansion, he rebuked me for my comparatively low
estimate of his illustrious predecessor ; and although he has
since forgotten me (for what reason I know not), I have
not forgotten one word of the many weighty apophthegms
which he uttered in that two days' converse. I have since
then studied Jonson deeply, and I do not exaggerate when
I say that, although Shakespeare is the central figure in
our dramatic literature, Jonson certainly is the central
figure in our dramatic history. In the variety of his work,
plays, poems, masks, entertainments, and especially in his
Discoveries (the full value of which has been appreciated,
as far as I know, by no one till Mr. Swinburne — to whom,
by-the-bye, I owe a debt of gratitude for personally direct-
ing my attention to Chapman twenty-six years since) ; in
his connection with the Court ; in his multiple relations
with " great ones," as shown in his numerous poems
addressed to them ; in his large acquaintance with other
authors, from Selden to Coryat ; in his origination of new
dramatic forms of masks, comical satire, and induction ;
in his personal experience as actor on many stages ; in his
personal biography, of which we know more (thanks to

Online LibraryFrederick Gard FleayA biographical chronicle of the English drama, 1559-1642 (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 28)