English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History eBook

Henry Coppée
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 540 pages of information about English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History.

John Donne, 1573-1631:  a famous preacher, Dean of St. Paul’s:  considered at the head of the metaphysical school of poets:  author of Pseudo-Martyr, Polydoron, and numerous sermons.  He wrote seven satires, which are valuable, but his style is harsh, and his ideas far-fetched.

Joseph Hall, 1574-1656:  an eminent divine, author of six books of satires, of which he called the first three toothless, and the others biting satires.  These are valuable as presenting truthful pictures of the manners and morals of the age and of the defects in contemporary literature.

Sir Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, 1554-1628:  he wrote the Life of Sidney, and requested to have placed upon his tomb, “The friend of Sir Philip Sidney.”  He was also the author of numerous treatises:  “Monarchy,” “Humane Learning,” “Wars,” etc., and of two tragedies.

George Chapman, 1557-1634:  author of a translation of Homer, in verses of fourteen syllables.  It retains much of the spirit of the original, and is still considered one of the best among the numerous versions of the ancient poet.  He also wrote Caesar and Pompey, Byron’s Tragedy, and other plays.

CHAPTER XIII.

THE ENGLISH DRAMA.

   Origin of the Drama.  Miracle Plays.  Moralities.  First Comedy.  Early
   Tragedies.  Christopher Marlowe.  Other Dramatists.  Playwrights and
   Morals.

ORIGIN OF THE ENGLISH DRAMA.

To the Elizabethan period also belongs the glory of having produced and fostered the English drama, itself so marked a teacher of history, not only in plays professedly historical, but also in the delineations of national character, the indications of national taste, and the satirical scourgings of the follies of the day.  A few observations are necessary as to its feeble beginnings.  The old Greek drama indeed existed as a model, especially in the tragedies of Euripides and the comedies of Aristophanes; but until the fall of Constantinople, these were a dead letter to Western Europe, and when the study of Greek was begun in England, they were only open to men of the highest education and culture; whereas the drama designed for the people was to cater in its earlier forms to the rude tastes and love of the marvellous which are characteristic of an unlettered people.  And, besides, the Roman drama of Plautus and of Terence was not suited to the comprehension of the multitude, in its form and its preservation of the unities.  To gratify the taste for shows and excitement, the people already had the high ritual of the Church, but they demanded something more:  the Church itself acceded to this demand, and dramatized Scripture at once for their amusement and instruction.  Thus the mysteria or miracle play originated, and served a double purpose.

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