John Fletcher's long-popular pastoral drama may owe something to the bucolic episodes in the Faerie Queene; it undoubtedly influenced much later pastoral poetry in the Spenserian tradition.
Samuel Johnson: "There is something in the poetical Arcadia so remote from known reality and speculative possibility, that we can never support its representation through a long work. A Pastoral of an hundred lines may be endured; but who will hear of sheep and goats, and myrtle bowers and purling rivulets, through five acts? Such scenes please barbarians in the dawn of literature, and children in the dawn of life; but will be for the most part thrown away as men grow wise, and nations grow learned" "John Gay" in Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 2:284-85.
Chandos Leigh: "If we must be imitators, let us rather imitate Ariosto and the Italians, than Boileau and the French. The Faithful Shepherdess of Fletcher is the finest model for versification in the English language; it is exquisitely varied in its metre; it is beautiful in its imagery. It is indeed 'a perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets where no crude surfeit reigns'" Preface, Juvenile Poems (1815, 1817) vii.
William Hazlitt: "The songs and lyrical descriptions throughout are luxurious and delicate in a high degree. He came near to Spenser in a certain tender and voluptuous sense of natural beauty; he came near to Shakespeare in the playful and fantastic expression of it. The whole composition is an exquisite union of dramatic and pastoral poetry; where the local descriptions receive a tincture from the sentiments and purposes of the speaker, and each character, cradled in the lap of nature, paints 'her virgin fancies wild' with romantic grace and classic elegance" Lectures chiefly on the dramatic literature of the age of Elizabeth (1820; 1845) 92.
Mary Russell Mitford to Sir William Elford: "I have just been reading Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess. What a terrible thief Milton was! All the very best and sweetest parts of Comus are stolen from this exquisite Pastoral, and in my mind nothing bettered by the exchange" 11 October 1827; in L'Estrange, Life of Mary Russell Mitford (1870) 1:274.
Newcastle Magazine: "Pope's pastorals, indeed, may allure some by their smooth and monotonous versification; yet even they, I fear, are seldom turned to with eagerness, and studied with intense delight. Milton's Lycidas, Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess, and Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar, are probably the only old poems of the pastoral kind that are worth reading. These possess the finest imagery, and most natural sentiments" "Poetry of Spenser" NS 9 (June 1830) 282.
Robert Aris Willmott: "The precise period when this exquisite pastoral tragi-comedy, as it is styled by the author, was composed, is not precisely known; but that it was produced and acted before 1611 is evident, from the circumstance of its being praised by Davies in his Scourge of Folly, published in that year. It was most likely printed soon after its first representation, which was very unfavourably received. Ben Jonson called it 'a murdered poem,' and insinuates that its ill success was attributable to its purity and support of virtue. Italian pastoral poetry had been for some time cultivated in this country. The Amyntas of Tasso, and the Pastor Fido of Guarini, appeared in 1592 and 1602; the first translated by Fraunce, and the second by Dymock" Lives of Sacred Poets (1834) 82.
Robert Southey: "In the Faithful Shepherdess, rhymes are occasionally (but rarely) introduced, — as by Daniel" Common-Place Book (1849-51) 4:307.
Sidney Colvin: "that tedious, absurd, exquisitely written pastoral of which the measures caught and charmed Keats's ear in youth as they had caught and charmed the ear of Milton before him" John Keats (1887; 1925) 168.
W. J. Courthope: "In England, where the drama had been carried by Shakespeare to the height of greatness, an attempt was made by John Fletcher, about the year 1610, to accommodate the principles of the Italian pastoral to the popular taste. Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess is a work of refined beauty. With the traditional Arcadian pastoralism of Guarini, it felicitously blended the allegorical morality of Spenser, the lyrical Euphuism of Barnfield, and the fanciful folk-lore, as well as the sweet versification, of Shakespeare in the Midsummer Night's Dream. To men of judgment and perception the harmonising of these contrary elements seemed delightful, but to the rude yet exacting audience, whose opinion has always been so powerful in the English theatre, the play was caviare, and when the poet printed it he thought it necessary to warn the 'Reader' as to its character. 'It is," says he, 'a pastoral tragi-comedy, which the people seeing when it was played, having ever had a singular gift in defining, concluded to be a play of country-hired shepherds in gray cloaks, with cur-tailed dogs in strings, sometimes laughing together, and sometimes killing one another; and missing Whitsun ales, cream, wassail, and morris-dance, began to be angry" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 3:390-91.
W. W. Greg: "indebtedness has, it is true, been found to Spenser, but some hint of the transformation of Amarillis, a few names and an occasional reminiscence, make up the sum total of specific obligations" Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama (1906) 282.
Herbert E. Cory: "John Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess, although it falls outside our field, the formal eclogue, is of such general importance in pastoral literature that it cannot go unmentioned. Fletcher's beautiful though decadent drama certainly owes some of its sweetness to Spenserian honey. An exquisite lyric at the end has a flower-passage which resembles that in the Song to Eliza in Aprile. At the concourse of happy shepherds the high-priest bids them 'Sing to the God of Sheep, that happy lay, | That honest Dorus taught ye, Dorus, he | That was the soul and god of melodie.' Dorus has not unreasonably been conjectured by Grosart to he Spenser" "Spenserian Pastoral" PMLA 25 (1910) 255.
E. Felix Schelling: "The Faithful Shepherdess is Clorin, who, her lover having died, has set up a bower near his grave wherein she lives the life of an anchoress and practices simple arts of healing. She is assisted in her work by a gentle Satyr on whose original nature devotion to this pure mistress has wrought a miracle.... Clorin is sought in love by Thenot, but she gently but firmly refuses him, and at last repulses him completely by a momentary pretense of yielding; for it was Clorin's constancy, not Clorin, that Thenot adored. Amoret, unkindly wounded by her lover, Perigot, who, practiced on, has thought her false, is brought by the Satyr to Clorin for cure; and so, too, is Alexis, justly wounded by a sullen shepherd on account of Cloe, a light-o'-love. All these and other shepherds and shepherdesses are cured or reclaimed in the end by the holy anchoress, who continues faithful to her dead love" Elizabethan Drama (1908) 2:159-60.
Emil Koeppel sees an allusion to the Faerie Queene in Fletcher's The Woman's Prize (ca. 1606): "Fly, fly, quoth then the fearfull dwarfe; | Here is no place for living man"; Spenser Allusions (1972) 101.
Haile holy earth, whose colde armes do embrace
The truest man that ever fed his flockes
By the fat plaines of fruitful Thessaly,
Thus I salute thy grave, thus do I pay
My early vowes and tribute of mine eies,
To thy still loved ashes: thus I free
My selfe from all ensuing heates and fires
Of love, all sports, delights and games,
That Shepheardes hold full deare thus put I off.
No no more shall these smooth browes be girt,
With youthfull coronals, and lead the dance,
No more the company of fresh faire Maids
And wanton shepheards be to me delightfull.
Nor the shrill pleasing sound of merry pipes,
Under some shady dell, when the coole winde
Plaies on the leaves, all be farre away:
Since thou art farre away: by whose deare side,
How often have I sat crownd with fresh flowers
For Summers queene, whilst every Shepheards boy
Puts on his lusty greene with gaudy hooke,
And hanging scrippe of finest cordevan:
But thou art gone, and these are gone with thee,
And all are dead but thy deare memorie:
That shall outlive thee, and shall ever spring,
Whilst there are pipes, or Jolly shepheards sing.