Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 509 pages of information about Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama.

A certain number of plays, presumably of a more or less pastoral nature, have perished.  Thus no trace remains of the Lusus Pastorales licensed to Richard Jones in 1565, the nature of which can be only vaguely conjectured.  The early date of the entry renders it important, and it is much to be regretted that the work should have perished, since it might have thrown very interesting light upon the condition of pastoralism in England previous to the appearance of the Shepherd’s Calender.  Most probably, however, the piece, whatever it may have been, was composed in Latin.  We also have to lament the non-survival of a Phillida and Corin, which, we learn from the Revels’ accounts, was acted by the Queen’s men before the court, at Greenwich, on St. Stephen’s day, 1584.  This again would be an interesting piece to possess, since the title suggests a purely pastoral composition contemporary with Peele’s mythological play.  On February 28, 1592, Lord Strange’s men performed a piece at the Rose, the title of which is given by Henslowe as ‘clorys & orgasto,’ presumably Chloris and Ergasto.  It was an old play, probably dating from some years earlier.  Whether ’a pastorall plesant Commedie of Robin Hood and little John,’ entered to Edward White in the Stationers’ Register, on May 14, 1594, could have justified its title may be questioned, but it is curious as suggesting an anticipation of Jonson’s experiment.  Again, on July 17, 1599, George Chapman received of Philip Henslowe forty shillings, in earnest of a ‘Pastorall ending in a Tragydye,’ which, however, was apparently never finished.  Possibly our loss is not great, for Chapman’s talents hardly lay in this line; but a tragical ending to a play of the pure pastoral type would have been something of a novelty, and the early date would also have lent it some interest.  Yet another play known to us solely from Henslowe’s accounts is the Arcadian Virgin, on which Chettle and Haughton were at work for the Admiral’s men in December, 1599, and for which they received sums amounting in all to fifteen shillings.  The title suggests that the play may have been founded on the story of Atalanta, but it was probably not completed.  Ben Jonson’s May Lord, which we know only through the notes left by Drummond of his conversations, was almost certainly not dramatic, though critics have always accepted it as such; but the same authority records that Jonson at the time of his visit to Hawthornden was contemplating a fisher-play, the scene to be laid on the shores of Loch Lomond.  There is no evidence that the scheme ever reached a more mature stage.  Finally, I may mention a play entitled Alba, a Latin pastoral, which incurred the royal displeasure when performed before James and his consort in the hall of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1605.  The historian of the visit, quoted by Nichols, says that ’It was a pastoral, much like one which I have seen in King’s College, Cambridge, but acted far worse.’  The allusion is presumably to the Latin translation of the Pastor fido.  The cause of offence was the appearance of ’five or six men almost naked,’ who no doubt represented satyrs.

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