Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 648 pages of information about Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama.

    Fond love, no more
    Will I adore
      Thy feigned Deity;
    Go throw thy darts
    At simple hearts
      And prove thy victory.

    Whilst I do keep
    My harmless sheep
      Love hath no power on me;
    ’Tis idle soules
    Which he controules,
      The busy man is free.

    (II. i.)

Readers of Suckling will recognize the inspiration of the following lines: 

    Why so nice and coy, fair Lady,
      Prithee why so coy? 
    If you deny your hand and lip
      Can I your heart enjoy? 
      Prithee why so coy?

    (IV. iii.)

There is one obvious omission from the above list of plays founded on pastoral romances, but it has been made intentionally.  The interest which from our present point of view attaches to As You Like It lies less in the relation of that play to its source in Lodge’s romance than to the fact that in it Shakespeare summed up to a great extent, and by implication passed judgement upon, pastoral tradition as a whole.  It will therefore be more convenient and more appropriate to postpone consideration of the piece until we have followed out the influence of that tradition, and watched its effect in the wide field of the romantic drama, and come at the end ourselves to face the question of the meaning and the merits of pastoralism as a literary creed.

Looking back for a moment over the plays just passed in review, it is impossible not to be struck by the fact that they present in themselves but the slightest traces of pastoral.  It is evident that it was not there that lay the dramatists’ interest in the romances.  This observation is important, for the tendency is not confined to those plays which are directly founded on works of the sort.  The idea of pastoral current among the playwrights, and no doubt among the audience too, was largely derived from novels such as the Arcadia, and, as we have seen, the tradition of these works was one rather of polite chivalry and courtly adventure than of pastoralism proper.  Had no other forces been at work the tradition of the stage influenced by the romances would have probably shown no trace of pastoral at all.  As it was, something of a genuinely pastoral tradition arose out of the mythological plays and the attempts at imitating the Italian drama, and this combined with the more popular but less genuine pastoralism of the romances to produce the peculiar hybrid which we commonly find passing under the name of pastoral in this country.


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Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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