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and mighty men who have fought her battles, the Queen descends from her "chariot throne" to make her "hearty prayers on her bended knees." Leicester, the favourite to whose weak hand was nominally intrusted the command of the troops, has not lived to see this triumph. But Essex, the new favourite, would be there; and Hunsdon, the General for the Queen. There too would be Raleigh, and Hawkins, and Frobisher, and Drake, and Howard of Effingham-one

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who forgot all distinctions of sect in the common danger of his country. Well might the young poet thus apostrophize this country!

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But, glorious as was the contemplation of the attitude of England during the year of the Armada, the very energy that had called forth this noble display of patriotic spirit exhibited itself in domestic controversy when the pressure from without was removed. The poet might then, indeed, qualify his former admiration:

"O England! model to thy inward greatness,

Like little body with a mighty heart,

What mightst thou do that honour would thee do,

Were all thy children kind and natural!"

The same season that witnessed the utter destruction of the armament of Spain saw London excited to the pitch of fury by polemical disputes. It was not now the quarrel between Protestant and Romanist, but between the National Church and Puritanism. The theatres, those new and powerful teachers, lent themselves to the controversy. In some of these their licence to entertain the people was abused by the introduction of matters connected with religion and politics; so that in 1589 Lord Burghley not only directed the Lord Mayor to inquire what companies of players had offended, but a commission was appointed for the same purpose. How Shakspere's company proceeded during this inquiry has been made out most clearly by the valuable document discovered at Bridgewater House by Mr. Collier, wherein they disclaim to have conducted themselves amiss. "These are to certify your right Honourable Lordships that her Majesty's poor players, James Burbage, Richard Burbage, John Laneham, Thomas Greene, Robert Wilson, John Taylor, Anth. Wadeson, Thomas Pope, George Peele, Augustine Phillipps, Nicholas Towley, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Johnson, Baptiste Goodale, and

Robert Armyn, being all of them sharers in the Blackfriars playhouse, have never given cause of displeasure, in that they have brought into their plays matters of state and religion, unfit to be handled by them or to be presented before lewd spectators: neither hath any complaint in that kind ever been preferred against them or any of them. Wherefore they trust most humbly in your Lordships' consideration of their former good behaviour, being at all times ready and willing to yield obedience to any command whatsoever your Lordships in your wisdom may think in such case meet," &c.

"Nov. 1589."

In this petition, Shakspere, a sharer in the theatre, but with others below him in the list, says, and they all say, that "they have never brought into their plays matters of state and religion." The public mind in 1589-90 was furiously agitated by "matters of state and religion." A controversy was going on which is now known as that of Martin Marprelate, in which the constitution and discipline of the Church were most furiously attacked in a succession of pamphlets; and they were defended with equal violence and scurrility. Izaak Walton says, "There was not only one Martin Marprelate, but other venomous books daily printed and dispersed,-books that were so absurd and scurrilous, that the graver divines disdained them an answer." Walton adds,— "And yet these were grown into high esteem with the common people, till Tom Nash appeared against them all, who was a man of a sharp wit, and the master of a scoffing, satirical, merry pen." Connected with this controversy, there was subsequently a more personal one between Nash and Gabriel Harvey; but they were each engaged in the Marprelate dispute. John Lyly was the author of one of the most remarkable pamphlets produced on this occasion, called Pap with a Hatchet.' Harvey, it must be observed, was the intimate friend of Spenser; and in a pamphlet which he dates from Trinity Hall, November 5, 1589, he thus attacks the author of 'Pap with a Hatchet,' the more celebrated Euphuist, whom Sir Walter Scott's novel has made familiar to


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"I am threatened with a bable, and Martin menaced with a comedy-a fit motion for a jester and a player to try what may be done by employment of his faculty. Bables and comedies are parlous fellows to decipher and discourage men (that is the point) with their witty flouts and learned jerks, enough to lash any man out of countenance. Nay, if you shake the painted scabbard at me, I have done; and all you that tender the preservation of your good names were best to please Pap-Hatchet, and fee Euphues betimes, for fear lest he be moved, or some one of his apes hired, to make a play of you, and then is your credit quite undone for ever and ever. Such is the public reputation of their plays. He must needs be discouraged whom they decipher. Better anger an hundred other than two such that have the stage at commandment, and can furnish out vices and devils at their pleasure."*

We thus see that Harvey, the friend of Spenser, is threatened by one of those who "have the stage at commandment" with having a play made of him. * Pierce's Supererogation.' Reprinted in Archaica,' p. 137.


Such plays were made in 1589, and Nash thus boasts of them in one of his tracts printed in 1589:-" Methought Vetus Comœdia began to prick him at London in the right vein, when he brought forth Divinity with a scratched face, holding of her heart as if she were sick, because Martin would have forced her; but missing of his purpose, he left the print of his nails upon her cheeks, and poisoned her with a vomit, which he ministered unto her to make her cast up her dignities." Lyly, taking the same side, writes,—" Would those comedies might be allowed to be played that are penned, and then I am sure he [Martin Marprelate] would be deciphered, and so perhaps discouraged." Here are the very words which Harvey has repeated,—“ He must needs be discouraged whom they decipher." Harvey, in a subsequent passage of the same tract, refers to this prostitution of the stage to party purposes in very striking words:"The stately tragedy scorneth the trifling comedy, and the trifling comedy flouteth the new ruffianism." These circumstances appear to us very remarkable, with reference to the state of the drama about 1590. Shakspere's great contemporary, Edmund Spenser, in a poem entitled 'The Tears of the Muses,' originally published in 1591, describes, in the Complaint' of Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, the state of the drama at the time in which he is writing:

"Where be the sweet delights of learning's treasure,
That wont with comic sock to beautify
The painted theatres, and fill with pleasure
The listeners' eyes, and ears with melody;
In which I late was wont to reign as queen,
And mask in mirth with graces well beseen?

O! all is gone; and all that goodly glee,
Which wont to be the glory of gay wits,
Is laid a-bed, and nowhere now to see;

And in her room unseemly Sorrow sits,
With hollow brows and grissly countenance,
Marring my joyous gentle dalliance.

And him beside sits ugly Barbarism,

And brutish Ignorance, ycrept of late
Out of dread darkness of the deep abysm,

Where being bred, he light and heaven does hate;

They in the minds of men now tyrannize,

And the fair scene with rudeness foul disguise.

All places they with folly have possess'd,

And with vain toys the vulgar entertain;

But me have banished, with all the rest

That whilom wont to wait upon my train,

Fine Counterfesance, and unhurtful Sport,

Delight, and Laughter, deck'd in seemly sort."

Spenser was in England in 1590-1, and it is probable that 'The Tears of the Muses' was written in 1590, and that the poet described the prevailing state of the drama in London during the time of his visit.

The four stanzas which we have quoted are descriptive, as we think, of a

period of the drama when it had emerged from the semi-barbarism by which it was characterized, "from the commencement of Shakspere's boyhood, till about the earliest date at which his removal to London can be possibly fixed."* This description has nothing in common with those accounts of the drama which have reference to this "semi-barbarism." Nor does the writer of it belong to the school which considered a violation of the unities of time and place as the great defect of the English theatre. Nor does he assert his preference of the classic school over the romantic, by objecting, as Sir Philip Sidney objects, that " plays be neither right tragedies nor right comedies, mingling kings and clowns." There had been, according to Spenser, a state of the drama that would "Fill with pleasure

The listeners' eyes, and ears with melody."

Can any comedy be named, if we assume that Shakspere had, in 1590, not written any, which could be celebrated-and by the exquisite versifier of The Fairy Queen-for its "melody"? Could any also be praised for

"That goodly glee

Which wont to be the glory of gay wits"?

Could the plays before Shakspere be described by the most competent of judges -the most poetical mind of that age next to Shakspere—as abounding in

"Fine Counterfesance, and unhurtful Sport,

Delight, and Laughter, deck'd in seemly sort"?

We have not seen such a comedy, except some three or four of Shakspere's, which could have existed before 1590. We do not believe there is such a comedy from any other pen. What, according to the Complaint' of Thalia, has banished such comedy? Unseemly Sorrow," it appears, has been fashion

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able;—not the proprieties of tragedy, but a Sorrow

"With hollow brows and grissly countenance;"

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the violent scenes of blood which were offered for the excitement of the multitude, before the tragedy of real art was devised. But this state of the drama is shortly passed over. There is something more defined. By the side of this false tragic sit "ugly Barbarism and brutish Ignorance." These are not the barbarism and ignorance of the old stage;-they are


"Ycrept of late

Out of dread darkness of the deep abysm."

They now tyrannize;" they now "disguise" the fair scene" with rudeness." The Muse of Tragedy, Melpomene, had previously described the "rueful spectacles" of "the stage." It was a stage which had no "true tragedy." But it had possessed

"Delight, and Laughter, deck'd in seemly sort."

Now "the trifling comedy flouteth the new ruffianism." The words of Gabriel Edinburgh Review, vol. lxxi., p. 469.

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