We have already seen how, in the first blush and budding of the Elizabethan spring, George Peele treated the tale of the judgement of Paris; on the same legend Heywood based one of his semi-dramatic dialogues; it remains to be seen how, in the late autumn of the great age of our dramatic literature, Shirley returned to the same theme in his Triumph of Beauty, privately produced about 1640. It is a regular masque, for which the familiar story serves as a thread; the goddesses and their symbolical attendants, or else the Graces and the Hours with Hymen and Delight, performing the dances, while a company of rustic swains of Ida, who come to relieve the melancholy of the princely shepherd, form a comic antimasque. It has, however, grown to the proportions of a small play. The comic characters also study a piece on the subject of the golden fleece, reminiscent, like Narcissus, of the Midsummer Night’s Dream. This, as Mr. Fleay supposes, may well be satirical of some of the city pageants, though it is best to be cautious in discovering definite allusions. But the success of such a piece as the present, in so far as it was dependent on the libretto, demanded a power of light and graceful lyric versification which was not conspicuous among the many gifts of the author. The comic business is frankly amusing, but the long speeches of the goddesses can hardly have appeared less tedious to a contemporary audience than they do to the reader to-day.
I may also notice here a regular short pastoral in three acts, inserted by Robert Baron in his romance [Greek: E)rotopai/gnion], or the Cyprian Academy, printed in 1647. It is entitled Gripus and Hegio, or the Passionate Lovers, and relates the loves of these characters for Mira and Daris; while we also find the familiar roguish boy, less amusing and of stricter propriety than usual; a chorus of fairies who discourse classical myth; Venus, Cupid, Hymen, and Echo; and the habitual concomitants of pastoral commonplace. The romance also contains a masque entitled Deorum Dona, in which figure allegorical abstractions such as Fame, Fortune, and the like. It is in no wise pastoral.
Another pastoral show of some elaboration, and of a higher order of poetry than most of those we have been considering, is Sir William Denny’s Shepherds’ Holiday, printed from manuscript in the Inedited Poetical Miscellany of 1870. The piece appears to date from 1653, and is only slightly dramatic so far as plot is concerned. It is of an allegorical cast, the various characters typifying certain virtues, or rather temperaments—virginity, love and so forth—as is elaborately expounded in the preface.