페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

Influence of Seneca

Attempts to Naturalize Classic Tragedy

was necessary to prepare the English drama for the great masters who were so soon to mold it into its final form. Up to this point there had been no attempt at artistic development; there had been no appreciation of " dramatic form.' Even in the early comedies, which had been produced confessedly under the influence of Plautus and Terence, “the action," in the words of Ulrici, " is still devoid of anything like an organic center; it consists merely of a series of comic scenes, which turn upon the unraveling of a simple and in itself an unimportant plot.” This sense of artistic form is first found in the tragedies which sprang up shortly after the appearance of the early comedy. During the middle of the century the later Latin writers, especially Seneca, became exceedingly popular with English scholars. In the decade following the year 1559 no less than five English authors busied themselves with translations from Seneca, and in 1581 a complete edition of his works was issued. It was but natural that in such an active era there should spring up an English drama modeled upon Seneca and his school.

To naturalize in England the classic tragedy, however, was by no means an easy task. The comedy had proved easily adaptable; it had found in the early English plays many elements which it could appropriate. The Interludes of Heywood had paved the way for the entrance of real comedy, but tragedy, especially after the model of Seneca, was an exotic form. It was highly artificial; it required but little action; it depended upon sonorous lines,—upon ringing forensic dialogue; it held rigidly to the unities of time, place, and action; and, permeated with the Greek artistic sense, it kept in the background

The Tragedy Gorboduc

Other Early Tragedies

all realistic details of suffering or death. The new school turned away completely from the rude native drama: they would throw it away utterly and substitute the purely classic type. Roger Ascham in The Scholemaster lamented that not one of the English plays " is able to abyde the trew touch of Aristotle's preceptes and Euripides' examples," and even Sidney, at the very dawn of the new era, complained bitterly of the wholesale violations of the classic requirements.

The earliest of these tragedies, Gorboduc or Ferrex and Porrex, the joint work of Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, was first acted in 1562. It is a significant production, for, though it falls far short of the Senecan models, and though it is dreary and monotonous, a mere running series, to use Sidney's description,

“ of stately speeches and well sounding phrases, climbing to the height of Seneca his style,” each announcing deaths and murders by the wholesale, “ its theme is serious and of tragic significance; the treatment is dignified, and, from the special point of view, adequate. The play is also significant since it used for the first time blank verse for dramatic purposes, and since it drew its plot from the national history. Following its lead there came a long series of tragedies whose subjects came more and more from the national chronicles: Tancred and Gismunda, The Misfortunes of Arthur, The Troublesome Raign of King John, and numerous others. Compared with the later drama they are still rude and inartistic: their tragedy consists merely of recitals of slaughter; their art lies wholly in their careful imitation of classic models; they possess no trace of the spontaneousness and naturalness of the early comedies,—and yet despite all this their

A Master Needed to

Give the Drama its Final Form

advent was a long step in the direction of the regular drama.

It must not be gathered that the English drama was a perfect evolution, that with each advance the old type disappeared and the new took its place. As a matter of fact, the Miracle plays persisted until well into the century; the Chester Cycle was still acted in 1577; and as late as 1601, while Shakespeare and his group were in the full tide of production, Queen Elizabeth took pleasure in witnessing a Morality play of the most primitive type. It has been our purpose to note only the tendency of the drama, and to show that despite the seeming confusion, despite the persistence of early types, it was steadily moving forward toward more perfect form and methods. Notwithstanding the fact that in 1579, the year that we have taken as the close of our period, all varieties of dramatic work were simultaneously before the people; notwithstanding that the field seemed to be a chaos and that no one type of dramatic art had reached perfection or had in any way shown itself strong enough to lead the others, it must nevertheless be remembered that all of the elements which finally produced the Elizabethan drama had been evolved, and that it needed but the hand of a master to mold them into their ultimate form and to breathe into them the breath of life.

[graphic]

TABLE VIII.—THE EVOLUTION OF THE DRAMA

I.

Religious. Scriptural figures. Impersonal, like The Chester Cycle, 1268–1577. MIRACLES OR The epic element

the primal poetry. The Coventry Cycle.
MYSTERIES. predominant.

The York Cycle.
II.

Moral. Abstractions; per- Border-line. A few The Castle of Perseverence.
MORALITIES.

Didactic; allegory sonified human signed pieces, Magnificence.
predominant. qualities.

like Skelton's. Everyman.

Hyke Scorner.
III.

Secular. Familiar types; Heywood and The Pardoner and the Friar, 1532.
INTERLUDES. Short, extravagant,

rudely charac other profes-Husband and Wife, 1532.
loaded with wit.
terized.

sional entertain- The Four P's, 1540. More largely human.

THE New LEARNING SUDDENLY CHANGES THE NATURE OF THE DRAMA.

IV.

Comic character- Studies from na-Admirers of Plau- Ralph Roister Doister, c. 1536. EARLY COMEDY. ization predomi ture,

tus: Udall, Still, Gammer Gurtons Nedle, c. 1575.
nant.

etc.
V. Dramatic form Historic person- Admirers of Sen- Gorboduc or Ferrex and Porrex, c.
EARLY TRAGEDY. predominant. ages.

eca: Norton, 1562.
Sackville, etc. Tancred and Gismunda, 1568.

The Misfortunes of Arthur.
VI. Perfect lifelikeness; Studies from na- Shakespeare and The plays of Shakespeare.
THE REGULAR

submissive only ture, history,and his school.
DRAMA.

to the demands romance, of actual life.

CHAPTER XVI

THE AGE OF ELIZABETH

1579–1649

FROM SPENSER'S “ SHEPHEARDES CALENDER” TO THE ESTAB

LISHMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH

Authorities. Froude, History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth, is the supreme authority; the best short history is Creighton, Age of Elizabeth. Bright, History of England, Vol. ii. ; Creighton, The Tudors and the Reformation; Macaulay, Essay on Lord Burleigh, and Corbett, Drake and the Tudor Navy, may be consulted with profit. Lingard, History of England, tells the story from the Catholic point of view. To gain a vivid conception of the era one should also consult Harrison, Elizabethan England (Camelot Series); Thornbury, Shakespeare's England ; Goadby, Shakespeare's England; Drake, Shakespeare and his Times, and Warner, The People for whom Shakespeare Wrote. For literary conditions, see Hazlitt, Elizabethan Literature; Whipple, The Literature of the Age of Elizabeth; Saintsbury, Elizabethan Literature; Crofts, English Literature, 1509– 1625, and Hannay, The Later Renaissance.

The great intellectual awakening of the fifteenth century commonly known as the Renaissance produced more immediate effects upon the Latin nations of Europe than upon the Teutonic. Under its influence, Italy, France, and Spain burst all in a moment into a new intellectual life, but the northern nations, especially England, developed more slowly. We have already noted how

« 이전계속 »