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See, what a rent the envious Casca made !
POLONIUS'S ADVICE TO HIS Son.
“There,-my blessing with you!
Thorough bush, thorough briar,
Midsummer Night's Dream.
BEN JONSON (6. 1574, d. 1637).—This poet was born at Westminster shortly after his father's death. Through the kindness of a friend, he received a good education, and was for a short time at Cambridge. He was removed from the university by his step-father—a bricklayer, who wished Ben to become a workman like himself. But Ben hated bricklaying, and soon flung down the hod, and fled to the Netherlands, where he became a soldier. In this
new occupation he distinguished himself by killing a man in single combat in the presence of two opposing armies. On his return to England he became an actor and arranger of plays, just like Shakespeare. But his quarrelsome disposition brought about a duel with a fellow-actor, whom he slew, and the poet narrowly escaped the gallows. In 1596 he brought out his first play, which became very popular, and, until the death of James I., all went well with him, except on one occasion, when he was imprisoned for a short time, and nearly lost his ears for writing part of a play making fun of the Scotch. He was one of Shakespeare's companions, and many a merry night they spent together at the “Mermaid” or the “ Falcon.” The close of his life was sad. Friends forsook him; those he had treated kindly turned their backs upon him; evil-minded scribblers made sorry jests about his writings; and, worn out in mind, body, and estate, he breathed his last in 1637, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. On his tombstone some kindly hand has graven the words, “O rare Ben Jonson.'
Jonson's first and greatest work was the comedy of Every Man in his Humour—a play in which Shakespeare himself performed a part when it was publicly performed. The most prominent character is Bobadil—a person calling himself a gentleman, who lives in a wretched lodging, and lives on whatever he can get from those who may be foolish enough to believe in him. He is a great braggart; swears, with strange oaths, that he is a miracle of bravery, and that no one could possibly stand before the fierceness of his wrath or the nimbleness of his sword. At heart he is the veriest coward, and by and bye submits to be thrashed like a baby. There are other excellently drawn characters in Jonson's great comedy, and they give a very good idea of the kind of life they are intended to illustrate.
Besides this comedy, Jonson wrote severalothers, and two tragedies, Sejanus and Cataline. These last are very wonderful representations of old Roman life; indeed, so accurate are they that Jonson has been called “a Roman author who composed in English.” The heroes of both plays, however, are hateful characters, and the plays altogether are wanting in tenderness and passion. He was also a writer of masques—fanciful plays performed by ladies and gentlemen-sometimes even by the royal family. The conversation, interspersed with songs, was written by the best poet of the time. Music and dancing, gorgeous dresses and splendid scenery, were the usual accompaniments.
Jonson's plays are remarkable as displaying more learning, and as being more in keeping with the time, than Shakespeare's; but his characters are not so true to nature. His masques, pastorals, and lyrics are very beautiful.
BOBADIL'S PLAN FOR SAVING THE EXPENSE OF AN ARMY.
“ Bobadil. I will tell you, sir, by the way of private, and under seal, I am a gentleman, and live here obscure, and to myself; but were I known to her majesty and the lords (observe me), I would undertake, upon this poor head and life, for the public benefit of the State, not only to spare the entire lives of her subjects in general, but to save the one half, nay, three parts of her yearly charge in holding war, and against what enemy soever. And how would I do it, think you ?
“Why, thus, sir. I would select nineteen more, to myself, throughout the land; gentlemen they should be of good spirit, strong and able constitution; I would choose them by an instinct, a character that I have; and I would teach these nineteen the special rules, as your punto, your reverso, your stoccata, your imbroccato, your passado, your montanto, till they could all play very near, or altogether, as well as myself. This done, say the enemy were forty thousand strong, we twenty would come into the field the tenth of March, or thereabouts; and we would challenge twenty of the enemy; they could not in their honour refuse us; well, we would kill them: challenge twenty more, kill them; twenty more, kill them; twenty inore, kill them too; and thus would we kill every man his twenty a day, that's twenty score; twenty score, that's two hundred; two hundred a day, five days a thousand; forty thousand; forty times five, five times forty, two hundred days kills them all up by computation. And this will I venture my poor gentleman-like carcass to perform, provided there be no treason practised upon us, by fair and discreet manhood—that is, çivilly by the sword,”--Every Man in his Humour,
And I will pledge with mine;
And I'll not look for wine.
Doth ask a drink divine;
I would not change for thine.
Not so much honouring thee,
It could not withered be.
And sent'st it back to me;
Not of itself, but thee.”—The Forest.
GOOD LIFE: LONG LIFE.
In bulk, doth make man better be,
And in short measures life may perfect be.” FRANCIS BEAUMONT (6. 1586, d. 1615), and John FLETCHER (6. 1576, d. 1625). These were two clever gentlemen, who were such close friends that they lived and wrote together; and their writings are so intermingled that it is often difficult to tell what belongs to the one and what to the other. They wrote fifty-two plays, mostly comedies, and, at the time these were written, they were even more popular than either Shakespeare's or Jonson's. One of Fletcher's finest plays is a pastoral drama called The Faithful Shepherdess; and this is the story of it:-Amoret and Perigot are two lovers. After they have plighted their troth to each other, Perigot becomes suspicious that Amoret does not love him so fondly