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persuades the_learned ecclesiastic to creep upon the silent hour of night into Dame Chat's house, when he will see her at work with the aforesaid needle. Meanwhile, Diccon gives Dame Chat notice that Hodge will that night pay an evil-intentioned visitation to her poultry. The dame accordingly prepares for his reception, and, instead of the needle, the Doctor meets with a door-bar, wielded by the masculine hand of the dame, (who conceives it to be Hodge,) to the almost total demolition of his skull. To the Baily, Gammer Gurton has now recourse; when, after a long argument, the author of the mischief is discovered, and enjoined a certain ceremony by way of expiation; and, as a preliminary, gives Hodge a smart thump on a part of his person, that, to the recipient's great discomfiture, leads to the detection of the invaluable needle, which it seems had been securely lodged in the necessary article of clothing on which the Gammer had been at work.
The legitimate end of comedy could not be contemplated in such a plan as this: there is, however, a very obvious and striking advance in the comic drama;-considering the state of which, at that period, the production we are now discussing manifests no small observation and discrimination of character. Hodge's preparation for the pursuit of the fugitive needle, and his attempt to elicit a friendly spark from Gib's eyes to light his candle, is described with great humour. The Gammer's boy
"Gog's cross, Gammer, if ye will laugh, look in but at the door, And see how Hodge lieth tumblinge and tossing amids the floure, Raking there, some fyre to find among the ashes dead, Where there is not one sparke so big as a pin's head:
At last in a dark corner two sparkes he thought he sees,
Which were indeede nought else, but Gib our cat's two eyes.
The pugilistic scene between the two dames is given with
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
She stands me gasping behind the door, as though her winde her
Now let ich doubt what Gib should mean, that now she doth so dote. Hodge. Hold hether, ichould twenty pound, your neele is in her
Grope her, ich say, me thinks ich feels it; does not prick your hand? Gammer. Ich can feel nothing.
Hodge. No? ich know that's not within this land
A muriner cat then Gib is, betwixt Tems and Tine,
Shase as much wit in her head almost as chave in mine.
Tib. Faith, shase eaten some thing, that will not easely down, Whether she gat it at home, or abrode in the town,
Ich cannot tell.
Gammer. Alas! ich fear it be a crooked pin,
And then farewel Gib, she is undone, and lost save all the skin. Hodge. "Tis your neele, woman, I say; Gog's soul, give 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 nota 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 twentypounds 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
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 show 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 show 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 show 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;
But one thing which my hart makes glad,
I minde to explicate:
You knowe, in court up trained is
A lyon very yung,
Of one litter two whelps beside,
By strength of force and might;
And he by force was like to see
The other whelp his blood,
With force to lion he did run
His brother for to help:
A wunder great it was to see
So then the whelps between them both
Which thing to see before mine eyes
Did glad the hart of prince.
[At this tale tolde, let the Queene weep."
The tragedy of Ferrer 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 the tragedy.
"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 flutes 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 younger brother. After the mourners had passed thrice about the stage, they departed, and 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. O, where is ruth? or where is pity now?
If ruth be banish'd thence; if pity there
May have no place; if there no gentle heart
Gorboduc. Madam, alas, what means your woful tale!
Have kind and fortune thus deferr'd my breath,
And with her hand, a woful thing to tell,
Arostus. O, damned deed.
Marcella. But hear his ruthful end: