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times by Edward Alleyn and his company," and that it contained "Kempe's applauded merriments of the men of Gotham."*
The play is made up partly of allegorical personages, partly of historical; the chief of the latter being King Edgar, St. Dunstan, Ethenwald, Osrick, and his daughter Alfrida. From reports of Alfrida's beauty, Edgar gets so enamoured of her, that he sends Ethenwald, Earl of Cornwall, to court her for him. The Earl, being already in love with the lady, wants to court her for himself. Introduced by her father, his passion gets the better of his commission; he woos and wins her, and has her father's consent. On his return, he tells Edgar she will do very well for an eari, but not for a king: Edgar distrusts his report, and goes to see for himself, when Ethenwald tries to pass off the kitchenmaid as Alfrida: the trick is detected, Dunstan counsels forgiveness, and Edgar generously renounces his claim. There is but one scene of " Kempe's applauded merriments," and this consists merely of a blundering dispute, whether a mock petition touching the consumption of ale shall be presented to the King by a cobbler or a smith.
As to the allegorical persons, it is worth noting that several of these have individual designations, as if the author had some vague ideas of representative character, — that is, persons standing for classes, yet clothed with individuality, —but lacked the skill to work them out. Such is the Bailiff of Hexham, who represents the iniquities of local magistrates. He has four sons, — Walter, representing the frauds of farmers; Priest, the sins of the clergy; Coneycatcher, the tricks of cheats; and Perin, the vices of courtiers. Besides these, we have Honesty, whose business it is to expose crimes and vices. The Devil makes his appearance several times, and, when the old Bailiff dies, carries
* Alleyn, the founder of Dulwich College, was the leading actor of the Lord Admiral's company; and, after the death of Tarlton in 1588, Kempe, who at a later period was of the same company with Shakespeare, bore the palm as an actor of comic parts.
him off. At last, Honesty exposes the crimes of all classes to the King, who has justice done on their representatives. — The piece is in blank-verse, and in respect of versification shows considerable improvement on the specimens hitherto noticed.
TOUCHING the general state of the Drama a few years before Shakespeare took hold of it, our information is full and clear, not only in the specimens that have survived, but in the criticisms of contemporary writers. A good deal of the criticism, however, is so mixed up with personal and polemical invective, as to be unworthy of much credit. George Whetstone, in the dedication of his Promos and Cassandra, published in 1578, tells us: "The Englishman in this quality is most vain, indiscreet, and out of order. He first grounds his work on impossibilities; then in three hours he runs through the world, marries, makes children men, men to conquer kingdoms, murder monsters, and bringeth gods from Heaven, and fetcheth devils from Hell. And, that which is worst, many times, to make mirth, they make a clown companion with a king; in their grave counsels they allow the advice of Fools; yea, they use one order of speech for all persons, — a gross indecorum." — In 1581, Stephen Gosson published a tract in which he says: "Sometimes you shall see nothing but the adventures of an amorous knight, passing from country to country for the love of his lady, encountering many a terrible monster made of brown paper; and at his return so wonderfully changed, that he cannot be known but by some posy in his tablet, or by a broken ring, or a handkerchief, or a piece of cockle-shell." And in another part of the same tract he tells us that " The Palace of Pleasure, The Ethiopian History, Amadis of France, and The Round Table, comedies in Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish, have been thoroughly ransacked, to furnish the play-houses in London." Which shows very clearly what direction the public taste was then taking. The matter and method of the old dramas, and all "such musty fopperies of antiquity," would no longer do: there was an eager though ignorant demand for something wherein the people might find or fancy themselves touched by the real currents of nature. And, as prescription was thus set aside, and art still ungrown, the materials of history and romance, foreign tales and plays, any thing that could furnish incidents and a plot, were blindly pressed into the service.
Whatever discredit may attach to the foregoing extracts on the score of prejudice or passion, nothing of the sort can hold in the case of Sir Philip Sidney, whose Defence of Poesy, though not printed till 1595, must have been written before 1586, in which year the author died. "Our tragedies and comedies," says he, "are not without cause cried out against, observing rules neither of honest civility nor skilful poetry. You shall have Asia of the one side, and Afric of the other, and so many other under-kingdoms, that the player, when he comes in, must ever begin with telling where he is, or else the tale will not be conceived. Now you shall have three ladies walk to gather flowers, and then we must believe the stage to be a garden: by-and-by we hear news of a shipwreck in the same place; then we are to blame if we accept it not for a rock. Upon the back of that, comes out a hideous monster with fire and smoke, and then the miserable beholders are bound to take it for a cave; while in the mean time two armies fly in, represented with four swords and bucklers, and then what hard heart will not receive it for a pitched field? Now, of time they are much more liberal; for ordinary it is, that two young princes iall in love; after many traverses she is delivered of a fair boy; he is lost, groweth a man, falleth in love, and all this in two hours' space: which how absurd it is in sense, even sense may imagine, and art hath taught, and all ancient examples justified. But, besides these gross ab