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some spirit and comic effect; but, as the antagonists address each other in no very decent terms, we prefer quoting the following as a farther specimen of this play. .“ Tib. Se, Gammer, Gammer, Gib our cat, cham afraid what she
ayleth, She stands me gasping behind the door, as though her winde her
faileth; Now let ich doubt what Gib shuld mean, that now she doth so dote. Hodge. Hold hether, ichould twenty pound, your neele is in her
throte. Grope her, ich say, me thinks ich feele it; does not prick your hand?
Gammer. Ich can feele nothing.
Hodge. No? ich know that's not within this land
Tib. Faith, shase eaten some thing, that will not easely down,
Gammer. Alas! ich fear it be some crooked pin, And then farewel Gib, she is undone, and lost all save the skin. Hodge. 'Tis your neele, woman, I say: Gog's soul, geve me a
knife, And chil have it out of her maw: or else chal lose my life.”
The good old song, beginning “ I can eat but little meat," is in this comedy.
About the year 1561 was written—A lamentable Tragedy, full of pleasant mirth, conteyning the life of Cambises, King of Percia, from the beginning of his kingdome unto his death. His one good deed of execution, after that many wicked deeds and tirannous murders committed by and through" him, and last of all his odious death by God's justice appointed. Doon in such order as followeth, by Thomas Preston. We were in doubt for some time whether the writer had not a covert design in this comical tragedy, from an idea that absurdity could not seriously be carried to such a pitch by a master of arts of King's College, Cambridge; who, for his admirable performance in the Latin tragedy of Dido, and for his genteel and graceful disputation before Queen Elizabeth in 1564, was complimented with an annuity of twenty pounds-or we should have thought some malicious wag had written it in Preston's name, with a view to deprive him of the pension his munificent queen had bestowed upon him for his graceful demeanor, did it not appear to have been written before she did this act of royal bounty. But on second thoughts we were inclined to think that it was indited by Master Thomas
plant and Murder her equally delenich is not divided
Preston, in sad and sober earnest. In “the division of the partes” there are thirty-eight dramatis personæ which are to be played by eight men. We have Venus and Small-habilitieHuff and Murder-Ruff and Commons-cry-Execution, and Cupid; besides other equally delectable personages.
In the course of the piece, which is not divided into acts, Cambises orders a judge to be flayed alive; and to shew a faithful counsellor, who had warned him against the vice of drunkenness, that he could in that state act with judgement and discretion, he gets drunk, has his counsellor's son tied up, sends an arrow into his breast, and then has the body opened, to shew what an accurate aim he has taken at the heart. He subsequently murders his brother, and next his wife for reproving his cruelty, and lastly, runs his own sword into his side as he is getting on horseback. What a delightful bloody treat was this for an English audience, if it were ever presented to one—a Roman amphitheatre was nothing to it-it was a feast for a vampire. But it is charitable to suppose this Master Preston meant no great harm; for we find, from the stage directions, that the judge is only to be smitten on the neck with a sword, to signify his death, and afterwards is to be flayed with a false skin; and when the king's brother is to be slain, a little bladder of vinegar is to be spilled, instead of his heart's blood. It may farther be proper to inform the reader, that the greater part of this mischief is brought about by Ambidexter the Vice. The piece is written in long alexandrines. One quotation will be enough to shew the reader the style in which it is written, which was not uncommon at that time.
“King. My queen, parpend, what I pronounce
I wil not violate;
I minde to explicate:
A lyon very yung,
As yet not very strong;
And this yung lyon fight:
By strength of force and might;
The lion was to good,
The other whelp his blood,
His brother for to help :
A wunder great it was to see
That freendship in a whelp.
The lion did convince;
[At this tale tolde, let the Queene weep.'
The tragedy of Ferrex and Porrer, acted before Queen Elizabeth in 1561, a spurious copy of which originally appeared under the title of Gorboduc, is generally considered as the first tragedy which appeared in the English language. It was the joint production of Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, afterwards Lord Buckhurst; the three first acts being ascribed to the former, and the remainder to the latter. This play has been much lauded, and we think far, very far, beyond its intrinsic merit; but it nevertheless possesses the extrinsic value of being the first piece which, in plot, incident, and character, is entitled to the name of an English tragedy. Sir Philip Sidney says, it is “ full of stately speeches and well-sounding phrases, climbing to the height of Seneca his style, and as full of notable morality, which it doth most delightfully teach.” Rymer thinks it might have been a better direction to Shakspeare and Jonson, than any guide they had the luck to follow; and Pope praises it for the propriety of the sentiments and the perspicuity of the style. - It is written in blank verse, and divided into five acts, each of which is preceded by a dumbshow, typical of the ensuing act, and, except the last, concluded with a chorus. The incidents are described in the argument of
“ Gorboduc, King of Britain, divided his realm in his life-time to his sons, Ferrex and Porrex: the sons fell to dissention: the younger killed the elder: the mother, that more dearly loved the elder, for revenge killed the younger : the people, moved with the cruelty of the fact, rose in rebellion, and slew both father and mother : the nobility assembled, and most terribly destroyed the rebels: and afterwards, for want of issue of the prince whereby the succession of the crown became uncertain, they fell to civil war, in which both they and many of their issues were slain, and the land for a long time almost desolate and miserably wasted."
* This is supposed to be alluded to by Shakspeare when he introduces Falstaff, saying, “ Give me a cup of sack to make my eyes look red, that it may be thought I have wept; for I must speak in passion, and I will do it in King Cambises' vein.”--Hen. 4, 1st part.
Of the nature of the dumb show, our readers will judge from that prefixed to the third act, which, as the shortest, we shall extract.
“ First the musick of Autes began to play, during which came in upon the stage a company of mourners all clad in black, betokening death and sorrow to ensue upon the ill-advised misgovernment and dissention of brethren, as befell upon the murder of Ferrex by his Founger brother.
After the mourners had passed thrice about the stage, they departed, and then the musick ceased.”
This play is purely of a political character, and is filled with speeches on the advantages of union and the evils of civil dissention, of an immeasurable length, written undoubtedly with clearness and precision, but as dry and uninteresting as can well be conceived. There is no poetry that we can find, and but one burst of genuine passion in the whole play, and this is in the part attributed to Sackville.
“ Marcella. 0, where is ruth? or where is pity now?
Gorboduc. Madam, alas, 'what means your woful tale?
Marcella. O, silly woman I; why to this hour
Arostus. O, damned deed.
The noble prince, pierc'd with the sudden wound,
Arostus. Never did age bring forth so vile a fact!
Marcella. O hard and cruel hap, that thus assigned Unto so worthy wight so wretched end : But most hard cruel heart, that could consent To lend the hateful destinies that hand, By which, alas, so heinous crime was wrought 0, queen of adamant! O, marble breast! If not the favour of his comely face, If not his princely cheer and countenance, His valiant active arms, his manly breast, If not his fair and seemly personage, His noble limbs, in such proportion cast As would have warpt a silly woman's thought; If this mought not have mov'd thy bloody heart, And that most cruel hand, the wretched weapon Ev'n to let fall, and kiss him in the face, With tears for ruth to reave such one by death : Should nature yet consent to slay her son ? O mother, thou to murder thus thy child! Ev'n Jove with justice must with lightning flames From heaven, send down some strange revenge on thee, Ah, noble prince, how oft have I beheld