Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
597
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER

form and feature of tragic verse. In Shirley, the last and least of those in whom the lineal blood of the old masters was yet discernible, we find side by side with the fine ancestral indications of legitimate descent exactly such marks of decadence rather than degeneracy as we might have anticipated in the latest heir of a long line which began with the rise of Marlowe, “sun of the morning,” in the highest heaven of our song, to prepare a pathway for the sun. After Shakespeare there was yet room for Beaumont and Fletcher; but after these and the other constellations had set, whose lights filled up the measure of that diviner zodiac through which he moved, there was but room in heaven for the pallid moonrise of Shirley; and before this last reflex from a sunken sun was itself eclipsed, the glory had passed away from English drama, to alight upon that summit of epic song, whence Milton held communion with darkness and the stars.  (A. C. S.) 


Bibliographical Appendix

The chief collected editions of the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher are: Comedies and Tragedies written by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher Gentlemen, printed by Humphrey Moseley in folio in 1647 as containing plays “never printed before”; Fifty Comedies and Tragedies written, &c. (fol. 1679); Works ... (11 vols. 1843-1846), edited by Alexander Dyce, which superseded earlier editions by L. Theobald, G. Colman and H. Weber, and presented a modernized text; a second two-volume edition by Dyce in 1852; The Works of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher (15 vols. 1905, &c.) edited by Arnold Glover and A. R. Waller in the “Cambridge English Classics” from the text of the 2nd folio, and giving variant readings from all separate issues of the plays previous to that edition; and Works ... (12 vols. 1904, &c.), under the general editorship of A. H. Bullen, the text of which is founded on Dyce but with many variant readings, the last volume containing memoirs and excursuses by the editor.

The foundation of all critical work on Beaumont and Fletcher is to be found in Dyce. Discrimination between the work of the two dramatists and their collaborators has been the object of a series of studies for the establishment of metrical and other tests. Fletcher’s verse is recognizable by the frequency of an extra syllable, often an accented one, at the end of a line, the use of stopped lines, and the frequency of trisyllabic feet. He thus obtained an adaptable instrument enabling him to dispense with prose even in comic scenes. The pioneer work in these matters was done by F. G. Fleay in a paper read before the New Shakspere Society in 1874 on “Metrical Tests as applied to Fletcher, Beaumont and Massinger.” His theories were further developed in the article “Fletcher” in his Biog. Chron. of the Eng. Drama. Further investigations were published by R. Boyle in Englische Studien (vols. v.-x., Heilbronn, 1882-1887), and in the New Shakspere Society Transactions (1880-1886), by Benno Leonhardt in Anglia (Halle, vols. xix. seq.), and by E. H. Oliphant in Englische Studien (vols. xiv. seq.). Mr Oliphant restores to Beaumont much which other critics had been inclined to deny him. On the sources of the plays see E. Köppel in Münchener Beiträge zur roman. u. eng. Phil. (Erlangen and Leipzig, 1895). Consult further articles by A. H. Bullen and R. Boyle respectively on Fletcher and Massinger in the Dict. of Nat. Biog.; G. C. Macaulay, Francis Beaumont, a Critical Study (1883); and Dr A. W. Ward’s chapter on “Beaumont and Fletcher” in vol. ii. of his Hist. of Eng. Dram. Lit. (new ed. 1899).

A list of the plays attributed to Beaumont and Fletcher, with some details, is added, with the premiss that beyond the main lines of criticism laid down in Mr Swinburne’s article above it is often difficult to dogmatize on authorship. Even in cases where the play was produced long after Beaumont had ceased to write for the stage there can be no certainty that we are not dealing with a piece which is an adaptation of an earlier play by a later hand.

The Joint Works of Beaumont and Fletcher.—The Scornful Lady (acted c. 1609, pr. 1616) is a farcical comedy of domestic life, in which Oliphant finds traces of alteration by a third and perhaps a fourth hand. Philaster or Love Lies a-Bleeding is assigned by Macaulay to Beaumont practically in its entirety, while Fleay attributes only three scenes to Fletcher. It was probably acted c. 1609, and was printed 1620; it was revised (1695) by Elkanah Settle and (1763) by the younger Colman, probably owing its long popularity to the touching character of Bellario. Beaumont’s share also predominated in The Maid’s Tragedy (acted c. 1609, pr. 1619), in A King and No King (acted at court December 26, 1611, and perhaps earlier, pr. 1619), while The Knight of the Burning Pestle (c. 1610, pr. 1613), burlesquing the heroic and romantic play of which Heywood’s Four Prentices is an example, might perhaps be transferred entire to Beaumont’s account. In Cupid’s Revenge (acted at court January 1612, and perhaps at Whitefriars in 1610, pr. 1615), founded on Sidney’s Arcadia, the two dramatists appear to have had a third collaborator in Massinger and perhaps a fourth in Nathaniel Field.

The Coxcomb (acted c. 1610, and by the Children of the Queen’s Revels in 1612, pr. 1647) seems to have undergone later revision by Massinger. Fletcher’s collaboration with other dramatists had begun during his connexion with Beaumont, who apparently ceased to write for the stage two or three years before his death.

Works Assigned to Beaumont’s Sole Authorship.—The Woman Hater (pr. 1607, as “lately acted by the children of Paul’s”) was assigned formerly to Fletcher. The Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn was presented at Whitehall on the 26th of February 1612, on the marriage of the Prince and Princess Palatine. Of Four Plays, or Moral Representations, in One (acted 1608, pr. 1647), the Induction, with The Triumph of Honour and The Triumph of Love, both founded on tales from the Decameron, are by Beaumont.

Works Assigned to Fletcher’s Sole Authorship.—The Faithful Shepherdess (pr. c. 1609) was ill received on its original production, but was revived in 1634. That Fletcher was the sole author is practically unquestioned, though Ben Jonson in Drummond’s Conversations is made to assert that “Beaumont and Fletcher ten years since hath written The Faithful Shepherdess.” It was translated into Latin verse by Sir R. Fanshawe in 1658, and Milton’s Comus owes not a little to it. In Four Plays in One, the two last, The Triumph of Death and The Triumph of Time, are Fletcher’s. In the indifferent comedy of The Captain (acted 1612-1613, revived 1626, pr. 1647) there is no definite evidence of any other hand than Fletcher’s, though the collaboration of Beaumont, Massinger and Rowley has been advanced. Other Fletcher plays are: Wit Without Money (acted 1614, pr. 1639); the two romantic tragedies of Bonduca (in which Caradach or Caractacus is the chief figure rather than Bonduca or Boadicea) and Valentinian, both dating from c. 1616 and printed in the first folio; The Loyal Subject (acted 1618, revived at court 1633, pr. 1647); The Mad Lover (acted before March 1619, pr. 1647), which borrows something from the story of Mundus and Paulina in Josephus (bk. xviii.); The Humorous Lieutenant (1619, pr. 1647); Woman Pleased (c. 1620, pr. 1647); The Woman’s Prize or The Tamer Tam’d (produced probably between 1610 and 1613, acted 1633 at Blackfriars and at court, pr. 1647), a kind of sequel to The Taming of the Shrew; The Chances (uncertain date, pr. 1647), taken from La Sennora Cornelia of Cervantes, and repeatedly revived after the Restoration and in the 18th century; Monsieur Thomas (acted perhaps as early as 1609, pr. 1639); The Island Princess (c. 1621, pr. 1647); The Pilgrim and The Wild Goose-Chase (pr. 1652), the second of which was adapted in prose by Farquhar, both acted at court in 1621, and possibly then not new pieces; A Wife for a Month (acted 1624, pr. 1647); Rule a Wife and Have a Wife (lic. 1624, pr. 1640). The Pilgrim received additions from Dryden, and was adapted by Vanbrugh.

Fletcher in Collaboration with other Dramatists.—External evidence of Fletcher’s connexion with Massinger is given by Sir Aston Cokaine, who in an epitaph on Fletcher and Massinger wrote: “Playes they did write together, were great friends,” and elsewhere claimed for Massinger a share in the plays printed in the 1647 folio. James Shirley and William Rowley have their part in the works that used to be included in the Beaumont and Fletcher canon; and to a letter from Field, Daborne and Massinger, asking for £5 for their joint necessities from Henslowe about the end of 1615, there is a postscript suggesting the deduction of the sum from the “mony remaynes for the play of Mr Fletcher and ours.” The problem is complicated when the existing versions of the play are posterior to Fletcher’s lifetime, that is, revisions by Massinger or another of pieces which were even originally of double authorship. In this way Beaumont’s work may be concealed under successive revisions, and it would be rash to assert that none of the late plays contains anything of his. Mr R. Boyle joins the name of Cyril Tourneur to those of Fletcher and Massinger in connexion with The Honest Man’s Fortune (acted 1613, pr. 1647), which Fleay identifies with “the play of Mr Fletcher’s and ours.” The Knight of Malta (acted 1618-1619, pr. 1647) is in its existing form a revision by Fletcher, Massinger, and possibly Field, of an earlier play which Oliphant thinks was probably written by Beaumont about 1608. The same remarks (with the exclusion of Field’s name) apply to Thierry and Theodoret (acted c. 1617, pr. 1621), perhaps a satire on contemporary manners at the French court, though Beaumont’s share in either must be regarded as problematical. Fletcher and Massinger’s great tragedy of Sir John van Olden Barnaveldt (acted 1619) was first printed in Bullen’s Old Plays (vol. ii., 1883). They followed it up with The Custom of