An Author that liv'd in the Time of Queen Elizabeth, and the Reign of King James the First. Tho' he were but an Actor, as is manifest by Mr. Kirkman's Testimony, and apparent from a Piece writ by him,†call'd The Actors Vindication; yet his Plays were in those Days accounted of the Second-Rate. He was the most Voluminous Writer that ever handled Dramatick Poetry in our Language; and I know none but the Famous Spaniard, Lopez de Vega, that can vye with him; if at least we give Credit to his own Attestation, in the Preface to One of his Plays; "This Tragi-comedy (as he says) being One reserv'd amongst two Hundred and Twenty, in which I have had either an entire Hand, or at the least a main Finger." Of this Number we have, that I know of, but Five and Twenty entire Plays remaining: the Reason of which the Author gives us in the same Epistle. "True it is, that my Plays are not exposed unto the world in Volumes, to bear the Title of Works, (as others) one Reason is, That many of them by shifting and change of Companies, have been negligently lost, Others of them are still retained in the Hands of some Actors, who think it against their peculiar profit to have them come in Print; and a third, That it was never any great Ambition in me to be Voluminously read."
These seem to me, to be more plausible Reasons than what Mr. Winstanley gives for their Miscarriage; "'Tis said , that he not only acted himself almost every day, but also wrote each day a Sheet; and that he might loose no time, many of his Plays were compos'd in the Tavern, on the back-side of Tavern Bills; which may be the occasion that so many of them be lost." Certainly the Tavern Bills were very large, or Mr. Winstanley must think his Readers Credulity of the same extent with his own; who would subscribe to the belief of so ridiculous a Story. This Report Mr. Winstanley partly borrows from Mr. Kirkman's Advertisement at the End of his Catalogue, and as Stories lose nothing in the carriage, Mr. Winstanley had added the Contrivance of making use of Tavern Bills to save Paper. But tho' many of these Plays being written loosely in Taverns as Mr. Kirkman observes, might occasion their being so mean; yet it did not in probability much contribute to their loss, as Mr. Winstanley would have it.
To do our Author justice, I cannot allow that his Plays are so mean as Mr. Kirkman has represented them: for he was a general Scholar, and an indifferent Linguist, as his several Translations from Lucian, Erasmus, Textor, Beza, Buchanan, and other Latine and Italian Authors, sufficiently manifest. Nay, further in several of his Plays he has borrow'd many Ornaments from the Ancients; as more particularly in his Plays call'd The Ages, he has intersperst several Things, borrow'd from Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Seneca, Plautus, &c. which extreamly set them off. What Opinion the Wits of the last Age had of him may appear from the following Verses, extracted from a Copy of the Poets of those Times: viz.
The squibbing Middleton, and Heywood Sage,
Th' Apologetick Atlas of the Stage;
Well of the Golden Age, he could entreat,
But little of the Mettal, he could get;
Three score sweet Babes he fashion'd at a Lump,
For he was Christen'd in Parnassus Pump;
The Muses Gossip to Aurora's Bed,
And ever since that time his Face was Red.
I shall now give the Reader an Account of the Plays our Author has written; but crave his leave to begin first with those, which are usually stiled The Ages, because they are generally sold together, and depend upon each other: and on another score they deserve the Preference, as being accounted by most the Flower of all his Plays. I shall rank them in the same manner, as Ovid has describ'd them in his Divine Work, the Metamorphosis.
Golden Age, or The Lives of Jupiter and Saturn, with the Deifying of the Heathen Gods; a History sundry times acted at the Red-Bull, by the Queens Majesties Servants, and printed 4to Lond. 1611. This Play the Author stiles, "The Eldest Brother of three Ages, that have adventur'd the Stage, but the only yet, that hath been judg'd to the Press." The Author in this Play, and the Two following introduces Homer as the Expositor of each Dumb shew, in imitation, as I suppose, of Shakespear's practice in Pericles Prince of Tyre, where Gower is suppos'd to do the same piece of Service to the Audience. I shall leave it to the Learned Readers Judgment how far our Poet has follow'd the Writers of Poetical History: whilst I refer my English Readers to Ross's Mistagogus Poeticus; and to Galtruchius's Poetical History for satisfaction: or, if they please, to the Historical Dictionaries of Gouldman, Littleton, &c.
Silver Age, a History including the Love of Jupiter to Alcmena; the Birth of Hercules; and the Rape of Proserpine: concluding with the Arraignment of the Moon; printed 4to Lond. 1613. The Author in this Epistles acquaints the Reader, "That tho' He began with Gold, follow with Silver, proceed with Brass, and purpose by God's Grace to end with Iron. He hopes the declining Titles shall no whit blemish the Reputation of the Works: but he rather trusts, that as those Mettals decrease in value, so e contrario, their Books shall increase in substance, weight, and estimation." Our Author in this Play has borrow'd several Passages from the Ancients: as the Intrigue of Jupiter and Alcmena, is translated from the Amphitruo of Plautus. The Rape of Proserpine is borrow'd from Ovid's Metamorphosis, lib. 3, with other places too many to repeat.
Brazen Age, a History; the First Act containing the Death of the Centaure Nessus; the Second, the Tragedy of Meleager; the Third, the Tragedy of Jason and Medea; the Fourth, Vulcan's Net; the Fifth, the Labours and Death of Hercules: printed 4to Lond. 1613. All these Stories are to be found in Ovid's Metamorphosis. For the Story of Nessus see Lib. 9. Fab. 2. Of Meleager, Lib. 8. Fab. 4. Of Jason, Lib. 7. Fab. 1. Of Vulcan's Net, Lib. 4. Fab. 5. Of Hercules, Lib. 9 Fab. 3.
Iron Age, the first part, an History containing the Rape of Hellen; the Siege of Troy; the Combat between Hector and Ajax; Hector and Troilus slain by Achilles; Achilles slain by Paris; Ajax and Ulysses contend for the Armour of Achilles; the Death of Ajax &c. printed 4to Lond. 1632. and dedicated to his Worthy and Much Respected Friend, Mr. Thomas Hammond of Gray's Inn Esquire. The Author in his Epistle acquaints the Reader, "That this Iron Age, beginneth where the other left, holding on in a plain and direct course from the second Rape of Hellen, not only to the utter ruine and devastation of Troy; but it, with the second part, stretcheth to the Deaths of Hellen, and all those Kings of Greece, who were the undertakers of that Ten years bloody and fatal Siege." Lastly, he desires the Reader to take notice, "That these were the Plays often (and not with the least applause,) publickly acted by two Companies, upon One Stage at once, and have at sundry times thronged three several Theatres, with numerous and mighty Auditories." The Author has borrow'd in many places of this Play, as the Reader may see by comparing the Contention between Ajax and Ulysses with Ovid's Metamorphosis, Lib. 13. and other the like, too numerous to particularise. For the main Plot consult Homer, Vigil, Dares Phrigius, &c. for the Episodes, Ovid's Epistles, Metamorphosis, Lucian's Dialogues, &c.
Iron Age, the second part, a History containing the Death of Penthesilea, Paris, Priam, and Hecuba: The burning of Troy: The Deaths of Agamemnon, Menelaus, Clitemnestra, Hellena, Orestes, Egistus, Pylades, King Diomed, Pyrbus, Cethus, Synon, Thersites, printed 4to. Lond. 1632. and dedicated to his Worthy and much Respected Friend, Mr. Thomas Manwaring Esquire. For the Plot consult the foremention'd Authors.
Mr. Heywood design'd a new Edition of all these Ages together, "And to illustrate (as he says) the whole Work, with an Explanation of the difficulties, and an Historical Comment upon every hard Name, which might appear obscure and intricate to such as were not frequent in Poetry:" but design of his, I know not for what reason was laid aside.
Having given the Reader a full, if not too tedious Account of these Plays, I hasten to speak of the rest in our accustom'd order as follows.
Challenge for Beauty, a Tragi-comedy, sundry times acted by the Kings Majesties Servants at the Black fryars, and at the Globe on the Bank-side; printed 4to. Lond. 1636.
Dutchess of Suffolk her Life; a History divers and sundry times acted with good Applause; printed 4to. Lond. 1631. The PLot is built on History, see the Story at large in Fox's Martyrology in the Reign of Queen Mary, An. Dom. 1558. in the Story of Lady Katherine, Dutchess of Suffolk. See besides Clark's Martyrology, Chap. 11. pag. 521.
Edward the Fourth, a History in Two Parts, printed 4to. Lond. 16—. The Foundation of this Play is built upon Chronicle. See the Story of this King writ by Polydore Virgil, Du Chesue, Speed, &c.
English Traveller, a Tragi-comedy publickly acted at the Cock-pit in Drury-lane, by her Majesties Servants; printed 4to. Lond. 1633. and dedicated to the Right Worshipful Sir Henry Appleton, Knight Baronet. The Plot and Language of young Lyonel and Reginald, is stoln from Plautus's Mostellaria. The Story of old Wincote and his Wife, Geraldine, and Dalavil, the Author affirms to be true in his History of Women; where 'tis related at large lib. 4. pag. 269. 8vo. Edition.
Fair Maid of the Exchange, a Comedy, together with the merry Humours, and pleasant Passages of the Cripple of Fanchurch, furnisht with variety of delectable Mirth: printed 4to. Lond. 1637. The Parts are so cast by the Author, that tho' there are Twenty Actors, Eleven may easily act this Comedy: tho' in my opinion it is not worth reviving. Nay further, I question notwithstanding Mr. Kirkman has ascrib'd it to our Author, whether it be his, since his Name is not prefixt, neither does the Stile, or Oeconomy resemble the rest of his Labours.
Fair Maid of the West, or A Girlworth Gold, a Tragi-comedy the First Part: lately acted before the King and Queen, with approved liking, by the Queens Majesties Comedians; printed 4to. Lond. 1631. and dedicated to his much Worthy, and his most Respected John Othow Esquire, Counsellor at Law, in the Noble Society of Gray's-Inn.
Our Author in the Epistle both to this Play, and The English Traveller, pleads Modesty, in not exposing his Plays to the publick view of the World, in numerous Sheets and a large Volume, under the Title of Works, as others: By which he would seem tacitly to arraign some of his Contemporaries for Ostentation, and want of Modesty. I am apt to believe, that our Author levell'd his Accusation at Ben Johnson: since no other Poet that I know of, in those day, gave his Plays, the pompous Title of Works; of which Sir John Suckling has taken notice in his Sessions of the Poets.
The first that broke silence was good Old Ben,
Prepar'd before with Canary Wine;
And he told them plainly that he deserv'd the Bays,
For his were call'd Works, where others were but Plays.
This puts me in mind of a Distick directed by some Poet of that Age, to Ben Johnson;
Pray, tell me Ben, where does the myst'ry lurk?
What others call a Play, you call a Work.
Which was thus answer'd by a Friend of his;
The Author's Friend thus for the Author say's,
Ben's Plays are Works, when others Works are Plays.
Fair Maid of the West, or A Girl worth Gold, the second Part; acted before the King and Queen, with approved Liking, by the Queens Majesties Comedians: printed 4to. Lond. 1631. and dedicated to the true Favourer of the Muses, and all good Arts, Thomas Hammond, Esq of Grays-Inn. These Plays (as our Author acquaints his Patron) "Not only past the Censure of the Plebe, and Gentry, but of the Patricians and Pretextatae; as also of our Royal-Augustus, and Livia." I know not where our Poet met with this Story, but as Poets usually take the Foundation of a Play, from a History, or a Romance; so these two Plays have serv'd for the Subject of a Romance, which on this Model was writ by John Dancer, above-mentioned, to whom I refer you.
Fortune by Land and Sea, a Tragi-comedy, acted with great applause, by the Queen's Servants; written by our Author, and the Well-Esteem'd William Rowly; but not printed till after their Decease, 4to. Lond. 1655.
Four Prentices of London, with the Conquest of Jerusalem; a History divers times acted at the Red-Bull, by the Queens Majesties Servants with good applause; printed 4to. Lond. 1635. and dedicated to the Honest High-Spirited Prentices, the Readers. This Play was written (as the Author says) in his Infancy of Judgement, in this kind of Poetry, and his first Practice; and that as Plays were then, some sixteen Years before its Publication, it was in the Fashion. This Play is founded on the Exploits of the Famous Godfrey of Bulloign, who took Jerusalem from the Infidels the 15. of July A.D. 1099. For the Story, see Tasso's Il Gofredo, Dr. Fuller's Holy War. The late History of the CroÔsades, &c.
If you know not me, you know no Body; or The Troubles of Queen Elizabeth: a History in two Parts, printed 4to. Lond. 1623. This Play was printed without the Author's Knowledge or Consent, and that so corruptly, (it not being divided into Acts) that at the Reviving of it at the Cock-pit, after having been acted for the space of one and twenty Years, he writ a Prologue, which particularly inveigh'd against this Imperfect Copy, as will appear by the following Lines.
—'Twas ill nurst,
And yet receiv'd as well perform'd at first,
Grac'd, and frequented for the Cradle-Age
Did throng the Seats, the Boxes, and the Stage,
So much; that some by Stenography drew
The Plot, put it in print; (scarce one word true:)
And in that lameness it has limpt so long;
The Author now to vindicate that wrong,
Hath took the pains, upright upon it's feet
To teach it walk; so please you sit, and see't.
For the Plot, see the Writers of the Life of Q. Elizabeth; as Cambden, Speed, Du Chesne, &c. And our Author had so great a Veneration for that Heroick Pricess, that he writ a little Historical Piece, call'd England's Elizabeth, printed 8vo. Lond. 1631.
Lancashire Witches, a well receiv'd Comedy, acted at the Globe on the Bank-side by the Kings Majesties Actors; written by our Author, and the Ingenious Rich. Brome, and printed 4to. Lond. 16—. I have read in my younger Days (if I mistake not) the Foundation of this Play, in an old English Quarto; but as to that part of the Plot, where Whetstone revenges himself by his Aunt's means, on Arthur, Shakstone, and Bantam, for calling him Bastard, Act 4. Sc. the last; 'tis founded on the Story of John Teutonicus of Holberstad, a place in High-Germany, who was a known Bastard, and a Magician. Our Author has related this Story in Verse, in his Hierarchy of Angels, Lib. 8. pag. 512, &c.
Loves Mistris, or The Queen's Masque; three times acted before their Majesties, within the space of eight Days; in the presence of sundry Forreign Embassadours. Publickly acted by the Queen's Comedians, at the Phoenix in Drury-Lane. The Second Impression corrected by the Author, printed 4to. Lond. 1640. and dedicated to the Right Honourable Edward Earl of Dorset. The Play is founded on Apuleius's Golden Ass: a kind of Romance in Latin; and English'd by W. Addington, 4to. Lond. 1634.
Maidenhead well lost, a pleasant Comedy, publickly acted in Drury-Lane, with much applause by her Majesties Servants, printed 4to. Lond. 1634.
Rape of Lucrece, a true Roman Tragedy, with the several Songs in their appointed places, by Valerius the merry Lord among the Roman Peers. The Copy revis'd, and sundry Songs before omitted, now inserted in their right places; acted by the Majesties Servants at the Red-Bull, printed 4to. Lond. 1638. For the Plot, see Livy Dec. 1. C. 58. Florus Lib. 1. C. 7. Val. Max. Lib. 6. C. 11. Ex. 1.
Robert Earl of Huntington's Downfall, afterwards call'd Robin Hood, of Merry Sherwoode; with his Love to Chaste Matilda, the Lord Fitz-water's Daughter, afterwards his Fair Maid Marian: acted by the Right Honourable the Earl of Nottingham, the Lord High Admiral of England his Servants, and printed 4to. Lond. 1601.
Robert Earl of Huntington's Death, otherwise call'd Robin Hood of Merry Sherwoode; with the Lamentable Tragedy of Chaste Matilda, his Fair Maid Marian, poyson'd at Dunmow by the King; and printed 4to. Lond. 1601. Both these Plays are printed in Black-Letter, but neither of them are divided into Acts. The first part is introduc'd by John Shelton, Poet Laureat to King Henry the Eighth; and the the second, by Fryar Tuck. For the Plot, see our English Chronicles in the Reign of King Richard the First, as Du Chesne, Speed, Baker, &c. See besides Fullers Worthies in the Account of Nottinghamshire, p.315. Drayton's Polyolbion, Song 26.
Royal King, and Loyal Subject; a Tragi-comedy, acted with great applause by the Queens Majesties Servants, and printed 4to. Lond. 1637. The Plot of this Play, extreamly resembles that of Fletcher's Loyal Subject.
Wise-Woman of Hogsden, a Comedy sundry times acted with good applause, printed quarto Lond. 1638. This Play is commended by a Copy of Verses, printed at the End, writ by his Friend Mr. Samuel King.
Woman kill'd with Kindness, a Comedy oftentimes acted by the Queens Majesties Servants; and printed quarto Lond. 1617.
These are all the Plays that our Author has extant, except we will reckon his Dialogues, under the Species of Dramatick Poetry; such as Jupiter and Io; Apollo and Daphne; Amphrise, or The Forsaken Shepherdess; &c. all which with several Translations above-mention'd the Reader may peruse in a Book intituled, Pleasant Dialogues and Drammas, collected out of Lucian, Erasmus, Textor, Ovid, &c. printed octavo Lond. 1637.
There may be another Reason added to those already mention'd, why no more of our Author's Plays have been published, which he himself gives us in his Epistle to The Rape of Lucrece; "That he used to sell his Copy to the Players, and therefore suppos'd he had no further right to print them, without their Consent; which is the Reason that so few are in print; and that some of these Plays that are so, have been copy'd by the Ear, and printed uncorrect without his Knowledge."
As to his other Pieces, he has publisht several in Verse and Prose. In the former he has written a Poem, called The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels, with Notes, printed fol. Lond. 1635. In reading over this Book, I find our Author informing the World, "That he intended to commit to the publick View, the Lives of the Poets, Forreign and Modern, from the first before Homer, to the Novissimi and last, of what Nation or Language soever; so far as any History, or Chronology would give him warrant." But this Work, notwithstanding our Author's Intention, I presume was never compleated, or at least publisht.
His chief Pieces in Prose are, An Apology for Actors, printed 4to. Lond. 1612. which was highly commended by several Copies of Verses, written in Greek, Latin, and English. This piece was answer'd, or rather rail'd against by One J. G. in a Pamphlet call'd, A Refutation of the Apology for Actors; printed 4o. Lond. 1615. Whether Mr. Prynn's Piece call'd Histriomastix, printed 4to. Lond. 1633. were particularly levell'd against this Book, I cannot positively determine: but I think Sir Richard Baker, who answer'd it, (in a little Piece call'd The Theatre vindicated, printed 8vo. Lond.) has sufficiently made out the Character he gives of it, That all his Book is but a Bundle of Scolding Invectives, and Railing, instead of Reasoning. He has writ besides, The Life and Troubles of Queen Elizabeth, from her Cradle to her Crown, printed 8vo. Lond. 1631. The Examplary Lives and Acts of Nine Women Worthies; three Jews, three Gentiles, and three Christians; printed 4to. 1640. The General History of Women of the most Holy, and Profane, the most Famous, and Infamous in all Ages; printed 8vo. Lond. 1657.
The usual Motto which he prefix'd to most of his Works, and which shew'd the chief design of his Writing, was this of Horace,
Aut prodesse solent, aut delectare.—