situation such as one finds in Philaster, in his interest in more rounded characterisation, was an Elizabethan living in the early days of James I. Through Beaumont, then, the collaborative work looked back to the older drama. Resting on sympathetic appreciation of the best that had been, Beaumont developed with Fletcher a new form of romantic drama. Much that was essential in this newer romantic tragi-comedy and tragedy Fletcher carried on triumphantly from 1612 to 1625. At the same time, with an equal or greater success, he developed his own peculiar vein of comedy. To speak broadly, it was through Beaumont that the peculiar characteristics of Fletcher’s independent tragedy and comedy won the suffrages of a public accustomed to the romanticism of Shakespeare, and the realism of Ben Jonson and Thomas Middleton.

It looks as if the first performances of Philaster (1608) and The Maid’s Tragedy (circa 1609) really deserve the abused epithet “epoch-making.” Since 1600 the chronicle-play had given way to the tragedy of Shakespeare—Hamlet, Othello, Lear, and Antony and Cleopatra. With this development of tragedy in the highest sense of the word had come the realistic plays of Ben Jonson and Thomas Middleton, portraying life in the shops, streets, brothels, and taverns of London. Repetition of the same types in these realistic plays was growing wearisome. The subtle psychology, the increasingly involved phrasing, the rich thoughtfulness of the Shakespearean work, even if carried to success by the vivid and dramatic incident of a well-wrought story, made demands on the attention of the public sure to react in a craving for simpler entertainment. The public was ready for romanticism, and a romanticism in which the incident, if presented by characters convincing within the scene, would suffice. The public was ready for dramatic story-telling once again. This is exactly what these collaborative plays of Beaumont and Fletcher gave them. It is certainly striking that about 1608, when these plays of Beaumont and Fletcher appear, Shakespeare turned from his tragedies to something quite similar, in Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest, and that Thomas Middleton shifted from realism to romanticism. It cannot be proved that Beaumont and Fletcher are the inventors of this new romanticism, but they work in it so consistently when collaborating, and show such an amount of it, that one is almost forced to accept the opinion of Professor Thorndike2

and grant them leadership in the matter.

“One of the striking qualities of the heroic romance is its lofty improbability. The typical characters are an insanely arrogant king, a hero of blameless character but of incapacity to stand up against the tyrant, and maidens betrayed, deserted, or forced to woo for themselves. The interest, while it is often in the characters, is felt to be in them as they move on the stage rather than in their representative humanity. Their loves and hates and repentances are not from within, but are imposed by a domineering fate. Unplausible tension of feeling, and equally unplausible change of feeling, are constantly to be expected.”3

“Their plots, largely invented, are ingenious and complicated. They deal with royal or noble persons, with heroic actions, and are placed in foreign localities. The conquests, usurpations, and passions that ruin kingdoms are their themes, there are no battles or pageants, and the action is usually confined to the rooms of the palace or its immediate neighbourhood. Usually contrasting a story of gross sensual passion with one of idyllic love, they introduce a great variety of incidents and aim at constant but varied excitement. Some of the situations that they use more than once, indicate their general character—a girl, disguised as a boy, is stabbed by the man whom she loves; a woman convicted of adultery brazenly defies her accusers; the hero is saved from the tyrant by a timely insurrection of the turbulent populace. The tragic, idyllic, and sensational material is skilfully constructed into a number of theatrically telling situations, which lead by a series of surprises to very effective climaxes or catastrophes. All signs of the epic methods of construction found in the early drama have disappeared; there is usually a chance until the last moment for either a happy or an unhappy ending, and in every case the dénouement or catastrophe is elaborately prepared for and complicated. The dramatis personœ belong to impossible and romantic situations rather than to life, and are usually of certain types—the sentimental or violent hero; his faithful friend, a blunt, outspoken soldier; the sentimental heroine, often a love-lorn maiden disguised as a page that she may serve the hero; the evil woman defiant in her crimes; and the poltroon, usually a comic personage. With the addition of a king, some gentlemen and ladies of the court, and a few persons from the lower ranks, the cast is complete. The plays depend for interest, not on their observation or revelation of human nature, or the development of character, but on the variety of situations, the clever

  By PanEris using Melati.

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