Edward II. presents in the assassination scene wonderful power and pathos, and is regarded by Hazlitt as his best play.
Marlowe is the author of the pleasant madrigal, called by Izaak Walton “that smooth song”:
Come live with me and be my love.
The playwright, who had led a wild life, came to his end in a tavern brawl: he had endeavored to use his dagger upon one of the waiters, who turned it upon him, and gave him a wound in the head of which he died, in 1593.
His talents were of a higher order than those of his contemporaries; he was next to Shakspeare in power, and was called by Phillips “a second Shakspeare.”
OTHER DRAMATIC WRITERS BEFORE SHAKSPEARE.
Thomas Lodge, 1556-1625: educated at Oxford. Wrote The Wounds of Civil-War, and other tragedies. Rosalynd, a novel, from which Shakspeare drew in his As You Like It. He translated Josephus and Seneca.
Thomas Kyd, died about 1600: The Spanish Tragedy, or, Hieronymo is Mad Again. This contains a few highly wrought scenes, which have been variously attributed to Ben Jonson and to Webster.
Robert Tailor: wrote The Hog hath Lost his Pearl, a comedy, published in 1614. This partakes of the character of the morality.
John Marston: wrote Antonio and Mellida, 1602; Antonio’s Revenge, 1602; Sophonisba, a Wonder of Women, 1606; The Insatiate Countess, 1603, and many other plays. Marston ranks high among the immediate predecessors of Shakspeare, for the number, variety, and vigorous handling of his plays.
George Peele, born about 1553: educated at Oxford. Many of his pieces are broadly comic. The principal plays are: The Arraignment of Paris, Edward I. and David and Bethsabe. The latter is overwrought and full of sickish sentiment.
Thomas Nash, 1558-1601: a satirist and polemic, who is best known for his controversy with Gabriel Harvey. Most of his plays were written in conjunction with others. He was imprisoned for writing The Isle of Dogs, which was played, but not published. He is very licentious in his language.
John Lyly, born about 1553: wrote numerous smaller plays, but is chiefly known as the author of Euphues, Anatomy of Wit, and Euphues and his England.
Robert Greene, died 1592: educated at Cambridge. Wrote Alphonsus, King of Arragon, James IV., George-a-Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, and other plays. After leading a profligate life, he left behind him a pamphlet entitled, “A Groat’s-worth of Wit, bought with a Million of Repentance:” this is full of contrition, and of advice to his fellow-actors and fellow-sinners. It is mainly remarkable for its abuse of Shakspeare, “an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers;” “Tygre’s heart wrapt in a player’s hide;” “an absolute Johannes factotum, in his own conceyt the onely shakescene in the country.”