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are rolled up in rhyme." It is nearly certain that Greene's earliest plays were in rhyme, though none such of his writing have survived, and that they did not succeed. For in 1587 was published his Menaphon, prefixed to which were the following lines by Thomas Brabine in praise of the au. thor:
«Come forth, you wits that vaunt the pomp of speech,
Welcome, sweet shepherd, worth a scholar's sight." The words drumming descant, as will more fully appear hereafter, were most likely meant as a fling at blank-verse, which had lately been tried with great success on the public stage, but which the writer and his friends regarded as a naughty innovation.
In the same work of Greene's we have an edifying epistle by Thomas Nash, addressed “to the Gentlemen Students of both Universities." Nash was an intimate friend of Greene's, so far as two such rascals could be friends : he was entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1585, but had to leave in 1587 without his degree ; whereupon he joined his old companion in London, who had already become famous for his pamphleteering fertility. In the forementioned epistle we have the following: “Give me the man whose extemporal vein in any humour will excel our greatest arlmasters' deliberate thoughts; whose inventions, quicker than his eye, will challenge the proudest rhetorician to the contention of the like perfection with the like expedition." From which it is plain enough that Nash sided rather hotly with Greene in the question at issue, and affected to sneer at some who had got the start of him in the drama, that if he could not keep up with them on the stage, it was because he was too bright and quick for the place; and that they were stupid cocks to be crowing over him in that, since he altogether overcrowed them in something far better. As Nash's developments of genius had probably been such as to convince his teachers that the University could add nothing to him, it was but natural that he should think himself too smart to need their foolish degrees; and in his art-masters we may detect a fleer of envy at those who had been so slow-witted as to require the usual academic passports.
Be this as it may, the same epistle has another passage which leaves no doubt that there was a fiery feud, and that the marked success of somebody's blank-verse was the particular fuel of it. “I am not ignorant," says Nash, “how eloquent our gowned age has grown of late, so that every mechanical mate abhorreth the English he was born to, and plucks, with a solemn periphrasis, his ut vales from the inkhorn: which I impute not so much to the perfection of arts, as to the servile imitation of vainglorious tragedians, who contend not so seriously to excel in action, as to embowel the clouds in a speech of comparison ; thinking themselves more than initiated in poets' immortality, if they but once get Boreas by the beard, and the heavenly Bull by the dewlap. But herein I cannot so fully bequeath them to folly, as their idiot art-masters that intrude themselves to our ears as the alchymists of eloquence, who, mounted on the stage of arrogance, think to outbrave better pens with the swelling bombast of bragging blank-verse. Indeed, it may be, the engrafted overflow of some kill-cow conceit, that overcloyeth their imagination with a more-than-drunken resolution, being not extemporal in the invention of any other means to vent their manhood, commits the digestion of their choleric incumbrances to the spacious volubility of a drumming decasyllabon. Amongst this kind of men that repose eternity in the mouth of a player, I can but engross some deep-reaa school-men or grammarians, who, having no more learning in their skull than will serve to take up a commodity, nor art in their brain than was nourished in a serving-man's idle aess, will take upon them to be the ironical censors of all, when God and poetry doth know they are the simplest of all
The plain English of this muddy splenetic eruption probably is, that Greene had written some dramas in rhyme, which were not well liked by the players; therefore the players were to be sneered at by disappointed rivalry as “ rainglorious tragedians," who bethumped the stage with tempestuous verbiage: that some dramas from another hand, in blank-verse, had met with great success; therefore they were to be stigmatized as “swelling bombast” stilted on " a drumming decasyllabon," or rhymeless ten-syllable verse, that had no strength but what came from the lungs of those who mouthed it to the public: and that the author of these dramas, though a Master of Arts, showed no more of learning or art in his writing, than might be picked up in the odd hours of a common hand-workman.
Further light is thrown on the subject by an address "to the Gentlemen Readers” prefixed to Greene's Perimedes the Blacksmith, which came out in 1588; where the writer, after referring to the usual motto of his tracts, omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci, adds the following: “Late ly two gentlemen poets had it (the motto) in derision, for that I could not make my verses jet upon the stage in tragical buskins, every word filling the mouth like the fa-burden of Bow-Bell, daring God out of heaven with that alheist Tamburlaine, or blaspheming with the mad priest of the sun. But let me rather openly pocket up the ass at Dioge nes' hand, than wantonly set out such impious instances of intolerable poetry, such mad and scoffing poets, that have prophetical spirits, as bred of Merlin's race. If there be any in England that set the end of scholarism in an English blank-verse, I think either it is the humour of a novice, that tickles them with self-love, or too much frequenting the hothouse hath sweat out all the greatest part of their wits."
It would seem from this that Greene and Nash, in return for their attack on blank-verse, had been twitted of not be ing able to write it. The “ atheist Tamburlaine" of course refers to Marlowe's tragedy with that title. “ The mad
priest of the sun" was probably a leading character in some drama that has not survived : Mr. Collier conjectures it to have been by Marlowe also. Be that as it may, it is pretty certain that Greene secretly admired Marlowe's dramatic blank-verse, while he publicly fouted it; for his earliest dramas that are known to us were evidently written in imitation of it.
The History of Orlando Furioso, though not printed till 1594, was acted by Lord Strange's men as early as 1591, and was probably not then a new play. The plot of the piece was partly founded on Ariosto's romance, partly invented by Greene himself. The action, if such it may be called, is conducted with the wildest licence, and shows no sense or idea of dramatic truth, but only a prodigious tugging and straining after stage effect; the writer merely, trying, apparently, how many men of different nations, European, African, and Asiatic, he could huddle in together, and how much love, rivalry, and fighting he could put them through in the compass of five Acts. As for the fury of Orlando, it is as far from the method of madness, as from the logic of reason; being indeed none other than the incoherent jargon of one endeavouring to talk and act stark nonsense. An analysis of the plot would not pay for the space given to it.
The Comical History of Alphonsus, King of Arragon, belongs, by internal marks, to about the same time as the preceding, though it was not printed, that we know of, till 1597. An outline of the story is soon told. The piece begins with a scene betwixt Carinus, King of Arragon, and his son Alphonsus, in exile; they having been driven from their rightful possessions by the usurper Flaminius. Belinus, King of Naples, being engaged in defending his territory against Flaminius, the Prince enters his army as a common soldier, under a pledge that he shall have whatsoever his sword conquers. In his first battle, he kills the usurper and thereupon claims and receives the kingdom of Arragor as his conqu :st. He then demands the submission of Belinus as his vassal: this being refused, Belinus and his ally, the Duke of Milan, are forthwith warred upon, subdued, and their possessions given to two of the victor followers. Be linus having fled to Amurack, the Sultan of Turkey, Alphonsus bestows his kingdom of Arragon upon another of his followers, and knocks up a war against Amurack, determined to seat himself on the throne of the Turkish empire. He succeeds in this, and finally marries Iphigena, the Sultan's daughter, though not till he has first had a personal fight with her for refusing his hand. Even Amurack, the citadel of his heart being stormed by a long tornado of fierce verbiage, at length yields the throne to his Christian son-in-law.
From first to last, the play is crammed brimful of tumult and battle; the scene changing to and fro between Italy and Turkey with most admirable lawlessness ; Christians of divers nations, Turks, and a band of Amazonian warriors, bestriding the stage with their monstrous din. Each Act is opened by Mrs. Venus in the quality of Chorus. Medea, also, is employed, to work enchantments : Fausta, the Sultaness, makes her raise Homer's Calchas, who comes forth clad “in a white surplice and a cardinal's mitre," and foretells the issue of the contest between Alphonsus and Amurack.
Both these pieces are mainly in blank-verse, with a frequent interspersing of couplets. In the latter, allusion is made to “the mighty Tamburlaine,” thus indicating the height which Greene was striving to reach, if not surpass. In fact, both have plenty of Marlowe's thunder, but none of nis lightning. Even the blank-verse reads like that of one who was accustomed to rhyme, so that he could not extricate his current of expression out of its wonted rut. And the versification runs, throughout, in a stilted monotony, the style being bloated big with gas, and made turgid and thick with high-sounding epithets ; while, at all times, we have a