صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

One can readily understand why Kirke fought shy of the term tragi-comedy. It had not when he wrote precisely the broad, welldefined meaning it has now. Of Italian origin, and limited for long in its application to pastoral because of the mingling of the grave and the gay in that genre, the term on its transference to England preserved traces of its initial significance. Slow in coming into common usage, it was little known when Fletcher, in maintaining its association with pastoral, gave his definition of it in his Address to the Reader prefixed to The Faithful Shepherdess. Long before that Gascoigne, an exclusively academic dramatist, had denominated his Glass of Government a tragical-comedy because, as he explained, therein were handled "as well the rewards for virtues as the punishments for vices." But of Gascoigne's definition one might echo what Dr. W. W. Greg has so well said of Fletcher's, that it is "obviously borrowed from the academic criticism of the renaissance, and bears no relation to the living tradition of the English stage." "

Since The Seven Champions of Christendom had more of a legendary than a strictly historical basis, one is moved to speculate whether Kirke's stress on the term History signifies that originally the term, (as distinguished from Chronicle History), had precisely the import that tragi-comedy has now. A good deal might be advanced in support of that theory, but unfortunately the issue is confused by painful carelessness in the use of early dramatic nomenclature. Primarily one gains the impression that the term History once upon a time conveyed the meaning of the latter day tragicomedy after finding it applied to plays on all sorts of subjects, both ancient and contemporaneous, in the Revels Accounts of the middle of Queen Elizabeth's reign; and the impression is considerably strengthened by the apparently significant collocation in the record for 1579, "A Pastorell or historie of a Greeke Maide." " But one turns over a few leaves and a dash of disappointment ensues. In 1581 the Revels Clerk, after recording "A Comodie called delighte" enters the five remaining plays as "stories" (e. g., "A storie of Pompey "). Perhaps he intended this literally and was not indulging in contractions; plays in his day were rather

"Greg, Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama.

• Peter Cunningham, Revels Accounts, 1842, p. 125.

stories told by means of visible characters than plays in our sense of the term. Or it may be that "story" and "history" meant the same thing and that neither had any special dramatic significance. It is only by accepting this latter view one can read any sort of relevancy into the description on the titlepage of the quarto of the pre-Shakespearean Taming of a Shrew, "a pleasant conceited Historie." Thus we complete the vicious circle and end precisely as wise as we began.

The last definite trace of John Kirke before the closing of the theatres occurs in the following associated entries in Sir Henry Herbert's Office Book:

Received of Mr. Kirke for a new play which I burnte for the ribaldry and offense that was in it, 21. 0. 0.

Received of Mr. Kirke for another new play called The Irishe Rebellion the 8th June, 1642, 21. 0. 0.

It is commonly assumed that Kirke was himself the author of the two plays referred to but that is a non sequitur. To give colour to the assumption one has to postulate very special conditions. It was not customary for the author to pay the licensing fee or to wait upon the master of the Revels regarding his play. His responsibility ended with his delivery of the manuscript to the players. Taking the case of the King's Company by way of example, we find that the usual intermediary was Knight, their book-keeper and prompter, though occasionally when some special assurance had to be given, some responsible member of the organisation, Hemings, Taylor or another, waited upon Herbert. Accordingly, whether or not Kirke was the author of either of the plays mentioned, he could only have visited the Revels office on behalf of some company in which he was a principal, possibly his old associates the Prince's Men, who were then acting at the Fortune. On the face of it, it hardly seems likely that he could have written two plays within so brief a period as the association of the entries implies. It is plain to be seen that on receiving notification of the destruction of the manuscript of the first play, the unspecified company at once arranged for the writing of another to take its place. But there are virtually no grounds for assuming that Kirke wrote either.


J. Q. Adams, Dramatic Records of Sir Henry Herbert, p. 39.

he were the author of The Irish Rebellion, his was the last play licensed (and, presumably, acted) before the Rebellion."

With the closing of the theatres all definite trace of Kirke is lost. One possible clue, however, to his afterdoings needs to be mentioned. There was an actor-dramatist of his day, one Thomas Jordan, with whom he doubtless was acquainted, who, shortly after the Restoration published two little undated books of miscellaneous verse, Piety and Poesy and A Nursery of Novelties, in both of which he included an "Epitaph on my worthy Friend; Mr. John Kirk," appending to this in the latter book the description, " Merchant." The lines run:

Reader, within this Dormitory lies

The wet memento of a Widdow's Eys;

A Kirk, though not of Scotland, one in whom
Loyalty liv'd and Faction found no room:

No Conventincle Christian, but he died

A Kirk of England by the Mother's side.

In brief, to let you know what you have lost,
Kirk was a Temple of the Holy Ghost.

In pursuit of traces of John Kirke, the actor-dramatist, one need not be greatly perturbed by the ultra holiness so crudely plastered here upon the memory of the lamented one. It is only too obvious that Jordan was bent at all costs on chasing a conceit to death and troubled himself but litttle about mere truth of characterisation. A godly merchant of this type who was never otherwise than godly merchant would hardly be on intimate terms with a player. Identity of name, of course, proves nothing when the name is not uncommon, but it is conceivable that John Kirke, the actor-dramatist, on being deprived of his regular way of living, betook himself to commerce. Swanston of the King's Men, when confronted by the same problem, turned jeweller, and Lowin, his old associate, similarly became innkeeper. Even in the days before the Civil War old Heminges, on his retirement from the stage, went into the grocery business; and earlier still, Martin Slater diversified his work as an actor by conducting an ironmongery. It is noteworthy that in an earlier book of his, Love's Dialect, or Poeticall Varieties,


My acknowledgements are due to Dr. R. B. McKerrow upon whose private criticism of the first draft of this study the line of argument here followed is based.

published in 1646, Jordan printed elegies on two of his old playerfriends, Richard Gunnell and John Honiman, styling both "gentleman" and sedulously avoiding all reference to their connection with the stage. Fortified by this knowledge, I am inclined to believe that the John Kirk whose decease Jordan lamented so lamentably was the author of The Seven Champions of Christendom. Monkstown, Irish Free State.



Consideration of the source of the couplet form of Mother Hubberd's Tale, of Colin Clout's Come Home Again, and of the eclogues for February, May and September leads to an interesting problem of Elizabethan knowledge. The accepted view is well systematized by Professor Legouis, who states that the manner of these verses is derived from the heroic couplet as used by Chaucer, misread by the Elizabethan poet. This theory demands, as its basis, ignorance on the part of Spenser and his contemporaries of the fact that in Chaucer's day the final " e," now silent, was valued in poetry (much as at present in France). This ignorance Legouis claims did exist, and most others so assume. The purpose of the present paper is twofold: first, to show that, proof of Elizabethan knowledge or ignorance being equally impossible, it is more reasonable to suppose Spenser was cognizant of the Chaucerian value of final "e"; and secondly, to point out that the form of the poems in question differs from that of Chaucer in such a way that even had Spenser been misreading the earlier poet-his verses are not in mistaken imitation of the Chaucerian.

It is unnecessary to point out the evidences of the extreme popularity which Chaucer enjoyed through the years after his death up to the time of Elizabeth. Praise and imitation attest the extent to which his work was in the minds of the poets of the period. From Occleve and Lydgate through Henryson and Hawes his modes were copied even to excess; we hear of the " fine courtier that will speak nothing but Chaucer "; as late as 1597 Beaumont calls attention to the high regard in which he was held at the University. For two centuries after his death Chaucer was admittedly the model and guide of the poets.

The history of the English language informs us that the valued final 'e' had not been so long out of actual pronunciation; Sweet assigns its disappearance to the period 1400-1550. In poetry it would naturally linger for the longest time. Hawes, in the Pastime of Pleasure (1505), shows the changing attitude, often not sounding the finale,' as when mette and great rime, but very often giving it its value. E. A. Burkart, in his dissertation on Hawes

« السابقةمتابعة »