1837 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Peele

Henry Hallam, in Introduction to the Literature of Europe of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries (1837-39; 1882) 2:266-67.



Mr. Campbell has bestowed high praises upon Peele: "His David and Bethsabe is the earliest fountain of pathos and harmony that can be traced in our dramatic poetry. His fancy is rich, and his feeling tender; and his conceptions of dramatic character have no inconsiderable mixture of solid veracity and ideal beauty. There is no such sweetness of versification and imagery to be found in our blank verse anterior to Shakspeare." I must concur with Mr. Collier in thinking these compliments excessive. Peele has some command of imagery, but in every other quality it seems to me that he has scarce any claim to honor; and I doubt if there are three lines together in any of his plays that could be mistaken for Shakspeare's. His Edward I. is a gross tissue of absurdity, with some facility of language, but nothing truly good. It has also the fault of grossly violating historic truth, in a hideous misrepresentation of the virtuous Eleanor of Castile; probably from the base motive of rendering the Spanish nation odious to the vulgar. This play, which is founded on a ballad equally false, is referred to the year 1593. The versification of Peele is much inferior to that of Marlowe; and, though sometimes poetical, he seems rarely dramatic.