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 Ford, born 1586:  author of The Lover’s Melancholy, Love’s Sacrifice, Perkin Warbeck, and The Broken Heart.  He was a pathetic delineator of love, especially of unhappy love.  Some of his plots are unnatural, and abhorrent to a refined taste.

Webster (dates unknown):  this author is remarkable for his handling of gloomy and terrible subjects.  His best plays are The Devil’s Law Case, Appius and Virginia, The Duchess of Malfy, and The White Devil.  Hazlitt says “his White Devil and Duchess of Malfy come the nearest to Shakspeare of anything we have upon record.”

Francis Beaumont, 1586-1615, and John Fletcher, 1576-1625:  joint authors of plays, numbering fifty-two.  A prolific union, in which it is difficult to determine the exact authorship of each.  Among the best plays are The Maid’s Tragedy, Philaster, and Cupid’s Revenge.  Many of the plots are licentious, but in monologues they frequently rise to eloquence, and in descriptions are picturesque and graphic.

Shirley, 1594-1666:  delineates fashionable life with success.  His best plays are The Maid’s Revenge, The Politician, and The Lady of Pleasure.  The last suggested to Van Brugh his character of Lady Townly, in The Provoked Husband.  Lamb says Shirley “was the last of a great race, all of whom spoke the same language, and had a set of moral feelings and notions in common.  A new language and quite a new turn of tragic and comic interest came in at the Restoration.”

Thomas Dekker, died about 1638:  wrote, besides numerous tracts, twenty-eight plays.  The principal are Old Fortunatus, The Honest Whore, and Satiro-Mastix, or, The Humorous Poet Untrussed.  In the last, he satirized Ben Jonson, with whom he had quarrelled, and who had ridiculed him in The Poetaster.  In the Honest Whore are found those beautiful lines so often quoted: 

                            ... the best of men
    That e’er wore earth about him was a sufferer;
    A soft, meek, patient, humble, tranquil spirit;
    The first true gentleman that ever breathed.

Extracts from the plays mentioned may be found in Charles Lamb’s “Specimens of English Dramatic Poets who lived about the time of Shakspeare.”

CHAPTER XVI.

BACON, AND THE RISE OF THE NEW PHILOSOPHY.

   Birth and Early Life.  Treatment of Essex.  His Appointments.  His Fall. 
   Writes Philosophy.  Magna Instauratio.  His Defects.  His Fame.  His
   Essays.

BIRTH AND EARLY LIFE OF BACON.

Contemporary with Shakspeare, and almost equal to him in English fame at least, is Francis Bacon, the founder of the system of experimental philosophy in the Elizabethan age.  The investigations of the one in the philosophy of human life, were emulated by those of the other in the realm of general nature, in order to find laws to govern further progress, and to evolve order and harmony out of chaos.

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English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.