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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/293

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Burbage
Burbage
281

character, Bishop Corbet gives an instance in his ‘Iter Boreale,’ where he tells us that his host at Leicester-

when he would have said King Richard died,
And call'd a horse! a horse! he Burbadge cried.

We have the authority of the first folio of Ben Jonson's ‘Works’ (1616) for stating that Burbage played in ‘Every Man in his Humour (1598), ‘Every Man out of his Humour’ (1599), ‘Seianus’ (1603), ‘Fox’ (1605), ‘Alchemist (1610), and ‘Catiline' (1611). The lists of ‘dramatis personæ’ prefixed to the early editions of the play give Burbage the part of Ferdinand, duke of Calabria, in Webster's ‘Duchess of Malfi’ in 1616, and leading parts in the most popular of Beaumont and Fletcher’s plays produced between 1611 and 1618 are assigned to Burbage in the second folio of Beaumont and Fletcher's ‘Works’ (1679). Incontrovertible proof of the popularity he had gained in the early years of the seventeenth century is given by his occasional introduction into plays in his own person and in no assumed character. Thus, in the ‘Returne from Parnassus' (not printed till 1606, although first acted earlier), Burbage and Kempe, the comedian, speak a dialogue in act iv. sc. 5 in their own persons, and the former instructs students from Cambridge in the parts of Jeronimo and Richard III. Kempe asserts that he and Burbage gain more honour and money than any other person living, and 'there’s not a country wench that can dance Sellenger’s Round but can talks of Dick Burbadge and Will Kemp.’ Similarly in Webster’s ‘Induction’ to Marston’s ‘Malcontent’ (1604), Burbage, with Condell and Lowin, makes his entry on the stage again in his own person, and is pointed out to the audience by the other actors as the person who is about to play Malevole the Malcontent. There is no lack of other evidence to prove the high esteem in which Burbage was held by the playwrights and poets of his day, as well as by his audiences. As early as 1598 Marston seems to allude to him as the ideal Romeo in his ‘Scourge of Villanie’ (Sat. 10). John Davies, in his ‘Microcosmus,’ 1603, places Shakespeare’s and Burbage's initials side by side in the margin of the line ‘Players, I love yee and your qualitie,’ and pays the actor a similar compliment in his ‘Civile Warres of Death and Fortune’ (1609). Ben Jonson, in ‘Bartholomew Fair,’ v. 3, refers to Burbage as ‘your best actor,’ although he clearly associates him with Nathaniel Field, who was regarded by some as a formidable rival.

Although no detailed contemporary account of the characteristic features of Burbage’s acting has reached us, it is clear that he excelled in tragedy, if he did not wholly confine hipiself to it, and that he put his whole soul into his part. That Sir Thomas Overbury's ‘character’ of ‘an excellent actor’ (published in 1616) is drawn from Burbage is proved by the reference to the actor's skill in painting as well as in ‘playing.’ But Overbury merely praises the modulations of his voice, and his ‘full and significant action of body’ ({sc|Overbury}}, Works, ed. 1854, pt. xiv.) The best account of Burbage on the stage is that given by Richard Flecknoe in his ‘Short Discourse of the English Stage’ (c. 1660, appended to the second edition of ‘Love’s Kingdom’). After speaking of the ‘happiness’ of the Elizabethan and Jacobean poets ‘to have such docile and excellent actors to act their playes as Field and Burbidge,’ the author says of the latter ‘he was a delightful Proteus, so wholly transforming himself into his part and putting off himself with his cloathes, as he never (not so much as in the "Tyring House") assum’d himself again until the Play was done .... He had all the parts of an excellent actor (animating his words with speaking and speech with action), his auditors being never more delighted than when he spoke, nor more sorry than when he held his peace; yet even then he was an excellent actor still, never falling in his part when he had done speaking but with his looks and gesture maintaining it still unto the heighth, he Age quod agis verily spoke to him.’ Flecknoe put these ‘praises’ of Burbage into verse in his 'Euterpe restored,’ 1672.

In personal appearance Burbage is stated to have been short and stout. The elegy (noted below) speaks of his ‘stature small,’ and the frequent references of Jeronimo to his own ‘short body’ are believed by Mr. J. P. Collier to have been introduced with special application to the actor who first took the part. The queen’s remark in the last scene of ‘Hamlet’ about her son—that he is ‘fat and scant o’ breath’—is also explained as an allusion to Burbage. The proposed emendation of ‘faint’ for ‘fat’ in this line seems, however, well worthy of adoption.

Burhage's domestic history is briefly told. He apparently married about 1601, and his wife, Winifred, bore him a daughter, Julia, early in 1603, who was baptised at St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, 5 Jan. 1602-3, and was buried there 12 Sept. 1608. A son Richard was buried at the same place 16 Aug. 1607. A daughter Frances was baptised on 16 Sept. 1603, and died three days later, and a third daughter, Anne, on 8 Aug. 1607. In 1613 a fourth daughter, Winifred, was born, who died 14 Oct. 1616. On 26 Dec. 1614 a