1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Peele

Nathan Drake, in Shakespeare and his Times (1817; 1838) 459-60.



His dramatic talents, like those which he exhibited in miscellaneous poetry, have been rated too high; the latter, notwithstanding Nash terms him "the chief supporter of pleasance, the atlas of poetrie, and primus verborum artifex," with the exception of two or three pastoral pieces, seldom obtain mediocrity; and the former, though Wood has told us that "his plays were not only often acted with great applause in his life-time, but did also endure reading, with due commendation, many years after his death," are now, and perhaps not undeservedly, held in little estimation.... His contemporary Robert Green classes him with Marlowe and Lodge, "no less deserving," he remarks, "in some things rarer, in nothing inferior." From the specimens which we possess of his dramatic genius, the opinion of Greene will not readily meet with a modern assent: the pastoral and descriptive parts of his plays are the best, which are often clothed in sweet and flowing verse; but, as dramas, they are nerveless, passionless, and therefore ineffective in point of character.