Page images
PDF
EPUB

life, Hobbes fell into a narrow and one-sided view of our motives which makes his theory only half true. He was a man whose reading, though not extensive, was singularly profound : and in the various branches of science and literature which he cultivated we see that clearness of view and vigor of comprehension which is found in men of few books. The most celebrated work of this great thinker was the Leviathan (published in 1651), an argument in favor of monarchical government: the reasonings, however, will apply with equal force to the justification of despotism. But though the Leviathan is the best known of his works, the Treatise on Human Nature, and the Letter on Liberty and Necessity, are incontestably those in which the closeness of his logic and the purity and clearness of his style are most visible, and the correctness of his deductions least mingled with error. Two purely political treatises, the Elementa Philosophica de Cive, and De Corpore Politico,* are remarkable for the cogency of the arguments, though many of the results at which the author struggles to arrive are now no longer considered deducible from the premises. In the latter portion of his life, Hobbes entered with great upon the study of pure mathematics, and engaged in very vehement controversies with Wallis and others respecting the quadrature of the circle and other questions in which novices in those sciences are apt to be led away by the enthusiasm of imaginary discoveries. Hobbes has often been erroneously confounded with the enemies of religion. This has arisen from a misconception of the nature of his doctrines, which, in apparently lowering the moral faculties of man, have seemed to exhibit a tendency to materialism, though in reality nothing can be more opposed to the character of Hobbes's philosophical views; for the selfish theory of human actions, when divested of those limitations which confine the motive of self to those low and short-sighted views of interest with which it is generally associated, no more necessitates a materialistic line of argument than any other system for clearing up the mysteries of our moral nature.f

* These two treatises were published before the Leviathan, and were incorporated in the latter work.

† It may also be mentioned that Hobbes wrote, in 1672, at the age of 84, a curious Latin poem on his own life; and he also published in 1675, at the age of 87, a translation in verse of the Iliad and Odyssey. His Behemoth, or a History of the Civil Wars from 1640 to 1660, appeared in 1679, a few months after his death.

NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS.

MINOR PROSE WRITERS IN THE REIGNS school at Sandwich in Kent, published in 1610 a OF ELIZABETH AND JAMES I.

History of the Turks. Johnson, in a paper in the

Rambler, gives Knolles the superiority over all WEBSTER PUTTENIAM, published in 1586 the Art of English Poesie; a writer whom Mr. Hallam English historians. “ He has displayed all the ex

cellencies that narrative can admit. His style, considers the first who wrote a well measured

though somewhat obscured by time and vitiated prose.

RICHARD GRAFTON, a printer in the reigns of by false wit, is pure, nervous, elevated, and clear. Henry VIII. and the three following sovereigns, is but the remoteness and barbarity of the people he

Nothing could have sunk this author into obscurity one of the early chroniclers. He wrote in prison, relates." Mr. Hallam thinks that Johnson has not into which he was thrown for printing the procla- too highly extolled Knolles's style and power of mation of the succession of Lady Jane Grey to the

narration. throne, An Abridgment of the Chronicles of Eng

SAMUEL DANIEL, the poet of whom we have alland, published in 1562.

ready spoken (p. 80), published in 1618 a History of WILLIAM CECIL, LORD BURLEIGH (d. 1598), England, from the Conquest to the Reign of Edthe celebrated statesman in the reign of Queen ward III. Mr. Hallam remarks that “this work is Elizabeth, wrote Precepts, or, Directions for the well Ordering and Carriage of a Man's Life, ad- deserving of some attention on account of its lan

guage. It is written with a freedom from all stiffdressed to his son Robert Cecil.

ness, and a purity of style, which hardly any other JOHN LYLY, the author of the prose romance of work of so early a date exhibits. These qualities are Euphues, and GREENE aud NASH, the authors of indeed so remarkable that it would require a good several pamphlets in prose, are mentioned under the deal of critical observation to distinguish it even dramatists (pp. 124, 125).

from writings of the reign of Anne; and where it GEORGE BUCHANAN (1506-1582), celebrated as an differs from them (I speak only of the secondary elegant Latin writer, was born at Killearn, in the class of works, which have not much individuality county of Stirling, and was educated at the Univer- of manner), it is by a more select idiom, and by an sities of St. Andrews and Paris. He was appointed absence of the Gallicism or vulgarity which is by the Earl of Murray tutor to the young King often found in that age. It is true that the merits James VI. His chief work is a History of Scot of Daniel are chiefly negative; he is never pedantic, land, which was published in 1582, under the title

or antithetical, or low, as his contemporaries were of Rerum Scoticarum Historia. His Latin version apt to be; but his periods are ill constructed; he has of the Psalms has been already mentioned (p. 87). little vigor or elegance; and it is only by observing He wrote in the Scottish dialect a work called how much pains he must have taken to reject Chamæleon, to satirize Secretary Maitland of Leth- phrases which were growing obsolete that we give ington.

him credit for having done more than follow the GEORGE SANDYS (1577-1643), known as a travel common stream of easy writing. A slight tinge ler and as a poet, was the youngest son of the of archaism, and a certain majesty of expression, Archbishop of York. His Travels in the East were relatively to colloquial usage, were thought by very popular, and were repeatedly republished in Bacon and Raleigh congenial to an elevated style; the seventeenth century. His chief poetical pro- but Daniel, a gentleman of the king's household, duction was a translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses. wrote as the court spoke, and his facility would be

WILLIAM LITHGOW (d. 1640), a native of Scot- pleasing if his sentences had a less negligent strucland, also celebrated as a traveller. He travelled ture. As an historian he has recourse only to comnineteen years on foot in Europe, Asia, and Africa. mon authorities; but his narration is fluent and The first edition of his Travels was published in perspicuous, with a regular vein of good sense, more 1614.

the characteristic of his mind, both in verse and SIB JOHN HAYWARD (d. 1627), an historian, pub-prose, than very commanding vigor." lished in 1599 The First Part of the Life and Reign WILLIAM CAMDEN (1551-1623), the antiquary of Henry IV., dedicated to the Earl of Essex; a and historian, was head master of Westminster work which gave such offence to the queen that the School, and endowed at Oxford the chair of history, author was thrown into prison. Hayward was which bears his name. His most celebrated work subsequently patronized and knighted by James I. is in Latin, entitled Britannia, first published in In 1613 he published The Lives of the three Norman 1586, giving a topographical description of Great Kings of England, William I., William II., and Britain from the earliest times. He also wrote in Henry I., dedicated to Charles, Prince of Wales. Latin an account of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. He likewise wrote The Life and Reign of King SIR HENRY SPELMAN (1562-1641), also an emiEdward VI., with the Beginning of the Reign of nent antiquary, published in Latin various works Queen Elizabeth, which was published in 1630, after upon legal and ecclesiastical antiquities, of which his death.

one of the principal is a History of the English RICHARD KNOLLES (d. 1610), master of the free Councils.

CHAPTER VI.

THE DAWN OF THE DRAMA.

§ 1. Origin of the Drama. Earliest religious spectacles, called Mysteries or

Miracles. 2. Plays, called Moralities : BISHOP BALE. § 3. Interludes : JOHN HEYWOOD. § 4. Pageants. Latin Plays. § 5. Chronicle Plays. Bale's King John. First English tragedies. The tragedy of Gorboduc. Other early tragedies. § 6. First English comedies. Ralph Royster Doyster. Gammer Gurton's Needle. $ 7. Actors. Theatres. Scenery and properties of the stage. § 8. Dramatic authors usually actors. $ 9. Early English playwrights. LYLY. PEELE. KYD. Nash. GREENE. LODGE. § 10. CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE. § 11. Anonymous plays.

1. As the Drama is one of the most splendid and perhaps the most intensely national department of our literature, so its origin and development were peculiar, and totally different from anything to be found in the history of other European countries. It is only Spain and England among all the modern civilized nations, that possess a theatrical literature independent in its origin, characteristic in its form, and reflecting faithfully the features, moral, social, and intellectual, of the people among which it arose: and the nationality of Spain being strongly distinguished from that of England, it is natural that the Spanish drama should possess a character which, though, like that of Britain, strongly romantic, should be very dissimilar in its type. It is possible to trace the first dim dawning of our national stage to a very remote period, to a period indeed not very far removed from the era of the Norman Conquest: for the custom of representing, in a rude dramatic form, legends of the lives of the Saints and striking episodes of Bible History seems to have been introduced from France, and to have been employed by the clergy as a means of communicating religious instruction to the rude population of the twelfth century. There exists the record of one of these religious spectacles, which received the name of Mysteries or Miracles, from the sacred nature of their subject and personages, having been represented in the Convent of Dunstable in 1119. It was called the Play of St. Catherine, and in all probability consisted of a rude dramatized picture of the miracles and martyrdom of that saint, performed on the festival which commemorated her death. In an age when the great mass of the laity, from the highest to the lowest, were in a state of extreme ignorance, and when the little learning that then existed was exclusively in the hands of ecclesiastics, it was quite natural that the latter, which was then the governing class, should employ so obvious an expedient for communicating some elementary religious instruction to the people, and by gratifying the curiosity of their rude hearers, extend and strengthen the influence of the Church. It is known that this play of St. Catherine was performed in French,

which is a sufficient proof that the custom of these representations was imported from abroad; but the great and rapid extension of these performances soon showed how well this mode of religious amusement accorded with the tastes and requirements of the times. Mysteries and Miracle-plays abound in the early literature of all the Catholic countries of Europe; Spain, Germany, France, Italy possess examples so abundant that a considerable library might be formed of these barbarous pieces; and the habit of seeing them represented in public has certainly left very perceptible traces in mediæval literature and art. For example, the title, the subject, and the arrangement of Dante's immortal poem are closely connected with dramatic representations of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, which formed a common feature among the festivities of Florence. The Divine Comedy, the very name of which shows its relation to some theatrical performance, is nothing but a Miracle in a narrative form. These plays were composed and acted by monks, the cathedral was transformed for the nonce into a theatre, the stage was a species of graduated platform in three divisions rising one over the other, and placed near or over the altar, and the costumes were furnished by the splendid contents of the vestry of the church. It will appear natural enough, that on any of the high religious festivals, on the anniversary of any important religious personage or event, that personage or event should be represented in a visible form, with such details as either Scripture, legend, or the imagination of the author could supply. The childish and straightforward art of these old monkish dramatists felt no repugnance in following with strict literal accuracy every circumstance of the original narrative which they dramatized; and the simple faith of their audience saw no impropriety in the introduction of the most supernatural beings, the persons of the Trinity, angels, devils, nts, and martyrs. The three platforms into which the stage was divided represented Heaven, Earth, and Hell; and the dramatis personæ made their appearance on that part of the stage which corresponded with their nature. It was absolutely necessary that some comic element should be introduced to enliven the graver scenes, particularly as some of these representations were of inordinate length, there being one, for example, on the subject of the Creation and the Fall of Man, which occupied six days in the performance. Besides, the rude audience would have absolutely required some farcical or amusing episode. This comic element was easily found by representing the wicked personages, whether human or spiritual, of the drama as placed in ludicrous situations, or surrounded by ludicrous accompaniments : thus the Devil generally played the part of the clown or jester, and was exhibited in a light half terrific and half farcical. Nor were they contented with such drolleries as could be extracted from the grotesque gambols and often baffled machinations of Satan and his imps, or with the mixture of merriment and horror inspired by horns, and tails, and hairy howling mouths: the authors of these pieces introduced human buffoons; and the modern puppet-play of Punch, with his struggles with the Devil, is unquestionably a direct tradition handed down from

these ancient miracles in which the Evil One was alternately the conqueror and the victim of the Buffoon, Jester, or Vice, as he was called.

Some idea may be formed of these ancient religious dramas from the titles of some of them which have been preserved; for the general reader is scarce likely to consult such of them as have been printed, though curious monuments of the faith and art of long-vanished ages. The Creation of the World, the Fall of Man, the story of Cain and Abel, the Crucifixion of Our Lord, the Massacre of the Innocents, the Deluge, besides an infinite multitude of subjects taken from the lives and miracles of the saints; such were the materials of these simple dramas. They are generally written in mixed prose and verse, and though abounding in anachronisms and absurdities both of character and dialogue, they sometimes contain passages of simple and natural pathos, and sometimes scenes which must have affected the spectators with intense awe and reverence. In an English mystery on the subject of the Deluge, a comic scene is produced by the refusal of Noah's wife to enter the Ark, and by the beating which justly terminates her resistance and scolding. But, on the other hand, a mystery on the subject of the Sacrifice of Isaac contains a dialogue of much pathos and beauty between Abraham and his son; and the whole action of the Mystery of the Holy Sacrament was capable of producing a strong impression in an age of childlike, ardent faith. These representations were got up with all the magnificence attainable, and every expedient was employed to heighten the illusion of the scene. Thus there is a tradition of a condemned criminal having been really crucified on the stage, in a representation of the Passion of Our Lord, in the character of the Impenitent Thief. Very evident traces of the universality of these religious dramas may be found in the early works of sculpture and painting throughout Catholic Europe. Thus the practice of representing the Deity in the costume and ornaments of a Pope or a Bishop, which appears to us an absurdity or an irreverence, arose from such a personage being generally represented, on the rude stage of the miracle-play, in a dress which was then associated with ideas of the highest reverence: and the innumerable anecdotes and apologues representing evil spirits as baffled and defeated by a very moderate amount of cunning and dexterity may easily have been generated by that peculiarity of Mediæval Christianity which pictures the wicked spirits, not as terrible and awful beings, but as mischievous goblins whose power was annihilated at the foundation of our faith.

§ 2. To trace the gradual changes which establish the affiliation from the early Mysteries of the twelfth century to the regular drama of modern times, is nothing else but to point out the steps by which the dramatic art, from an exclusively religious character acquired more and more of a lay or worldly spirit in its subjects and its personages. The Mysteries, once the only form of dramatic representation, continued to be popular from the eleventh to the end of the fourteenth century; nay, in some pastoral and remote corners of Europe, where the primitive faith glows in all its ancient ardor, and where the manners of the people have been little modified by contact with foreign civilization,

« PreviousContinue »