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BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER was the name of the most famous of literary firms

Francis Beaumont (1584-1616) and John Fletcher (1579–1625). They wrote some plays in collaboration, and each wrote some alone; and no editor has been able to classify them completely. In their partnership, which lasted from about 1607 till the death of Beaumont, they lived in the same house and had even their clothes in common. Fletcher was a son of the Dean of Peterborough, and was a native of Rye, Sussex. He was educated at Cambridge, and about the time of his graduation, in 1597, his father's death left him in poverty. He produced one play, “The Woman-hater,” before his partnership with Beaumont. After the death of Beaumont he collaborated with Massinger, Rowley, and Shirley, and he also assisted Shakespeare in the composition of "The Two Noble Kinsmen," and probably in “ Henry the Eighth.” He died of the plague in August, 1625. The entire works attributed to Beaumont and Fletcher include fifty-two plays, a masque, and a few minor poems. The masque and all the poems except one were the work of Beaumont alone. Eighteen plays are attributed to Fletcher alone, beginning with “The Loyal Subject" (1618) and ending with “The Noble Gentleman (1626). Of these, “The Faithful Shepherdess," produced at some date before 1610, is believed to have been unsuccessful on its first representation; but it was revived in 1633, and was played before the Court and at Blackfriars Theatre. Thirty years later Pepys wrote of it in his diary: “A most simple thing, and yet much thronged after, and often shown, but it is only for the scene's sake, which is very fine indeed and worth seeing.” Ben Jonson wrote these lines on "The Faith. ful Shepherdess”:

“The wise and many-headed bench, that sits
Upon the life and death of plays and wits,
(Composed of gamester, captain, knight, knight's man,
Lady or pusill, i that wears mask 2 or fan,
Velvet or taffata cap, cauked in the dark
With the shop's foreman, or some such brave spark,
That may judge for his sixpence) had, before
They saw it half, damned the whole play and more:
Their motives were, since it had not to do
With vices, which they looked for and came to.
I, that am glad thy innocence was thy guilt,
And wish that all the Muses blood were spilt
In such a martyrdom, to vex their eyes,
Do crown thy murdered poem: which shall rise
A glorifièd work to time, when fire
Or moths shall eat what all these fools admire."

1 Fr. pucelle.
2 Masks were worn by women in theatres till the middle of the eighteenth century.

TO THAT NOBLE AND TRUE LOVER OF LEARNING,

SIR WALTER ASTON, 1

KNIGHT OF THE BATH

SIR, I must ask your patience and be true;
This play was never liked, unless by few
That brought their judgments with 'em; for, of late,
First the infection, then the common prate
Of common people, have such customs got,
Either to silence plays or like them not:
Under the last of which this interlude
Had fallen for ever, pressed down by the rude,
That like a torrent, which the moist south feeds,
Drowns both before him the ripe com and weeds,
Had not the saving sense of better men
Redeemed it from corruption. Dear sir, then,
Among the better souls, be you the best,
In whom, as in a centre, I take rest
And proper being; from whose equal eye
And judgment nothing grows but purity.
Nor do I Aatter, for, by all those dead,
Great in the Muses, by Apollo's head,
He that adds anything to you, 't is done
Like his that lights a candle to the sun:
Then be, as you were ever, yourself still,
Moved by your judgment, not by love or will;
And when I sing again (as who can tell
My next devotion to that holy well?),
Your goodness to the Muses shall be all
Able to make a work heroical.

Given to your service,

JOHN FLETCHER.

. One of the first created baronets, made a Knight of the Bath at the coronation of James I.

TO THE INHERITOR OF ALL WORTHINESS

SIR WILLIAM SCIPWITH 1

ODE

IF, from servile hope or love,

I may prove
But so happy to be thought for
Such a one, whose greatest ease

Is to please,
Worthy sir, I've all I sought for:

For no itch of greater name,

Which some claim
By their verses, do I show it
To the world; nor to protest

'Tis the best;
These are lean faults in a poet ;

Nor to make it serve to feed

At my need,
Nor to gain acquaintance by it,
Nor to ravish kind attornies

In their journies
Nor to read it after diet.

Far from me are all these aims,

Fittest frames
To build weakness on and pity.
Only to yourself and such

Whose true touch
Makes all good, let me seem witty.

The admirer of your virtues,

JOHN FLETCHER.

1 Celebrated among his friends for his witty conceits in making fit and acute epigrams, pocsics, mottoes, and devices. – Burton,

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TO THE PERFECT GENTLEMAN

SIR ROBERT TOWNSHEND I

If the greatest faults may crave
Pardon where contrition is,
Noble sir, I need must have
A bong one for a long amiss. 2
If you ask me, how is this?

Upon my faith, I'll tell you frankly,
You love above my means to thank ye.

Yet, according to my talent,
As sour fortune loves to use me,
A poor shepherd I have sent
In home-spun gray for to excuse me;
And may all my hopes refuse me,

But when better comes ashore,
You shall have better, newer, more !

Till when, like our desperate debtors,
Or our three-piled 'sweet protesters,
I must please you in bare letters,
And so pay my debts, like jesters;
Yet I oft have seen good feasters,

Only for to please the pallet,
Leave great meat and choose a sallet.

All yours,

JOHN FLETCHER.

1 Youngest son of Sir Roger Townshend, ancestor of the present noble family of that name. He was a member of all parliaments from the Forty-second Elizabeth to the last of James I.

2 A fault of long continuance. -Dyce. 3 Wearers of the finest velvet.

TO THE READER

IF you be not reasonably assured of your knowledge in this kind of poem, lay down the book, or read this, which I would wish had been the prologue. It is a pastoral tragi-comedy, which the people seeing when it was played, having ever had a singular gift in defining, concluded to be a play of country hired shepherds in gray cloaks, with curtailed dogs in strings, sometimes laughing together, and sometimes killing one another; and, missing Whitsun-ales, cream, wassail, and morris-dances, began to be angry. In their error I would not have you fall, lest you incur their censure. Understand, therefore, a pastoral to be a representation of shepherds and shepherdesses with their actions and passions, which must be such as may agree with their natures, at least not exceeding former fictions and vulgar traditions; they are not to be adorned with any art, but such improper I ones as nature is said to bestow, as singing and poetry; or such as experience may teach them, as the virtues of herbs and fountains, the ordinary course of the sun, moon, and stars, and such like. But you are ever to remember shepherds to be such as al the ancient poets, and modern, of understanding, have received them ; that is, the owners of flocks, and not hirelings. A tragi-comedy is not so called in respect of mirth and killing, but in respect it wants deaths, which is enough to make it no tragedy, yet brings some near it, which is enough to make it no comedy, which must be a representation of familiar people, with such kind of trouble as no life be ques. tioned; so that a god is as lawful in this as in a tragedy, and mean people as in a comedy. Thus much I hope will serve to justify my poem, and make you understand it; to teach you more for nothing, I do not know that I am in conscience bound.

JOHN FLETCHER.

1 Common.

DRAMATIS PERSONA

PERIGOT, a Shepherd in love with Amoret.
THENOT, a Shepherd in love with Clorin.
DAPHNIS, a Modest Shepherd.
ALEXis, a Wanton Shepherd.
Sullen Shepherd.
Old Shepherd.
Priest of Pan.
God of the River.
Satyr.
Shepherds.
AMORET, the Faithful Shepherdess in love with Perigot.
CLORIN, a Holy Shepherdess.
AMARILLIS, a Shepherdess in love with Perigot.
Cloe, a Wanton Shepherdess.
Shepherdesses.

SCENE THESSALY

180

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