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a tract he had published in 1589, Pap with a Hatchet, which was written against Martin Mar-prelate, and is so lively a piece of satirical bantering as to afford some evidence, that this was the style to which Lyly's talents naturally tended.? Lyly was at one time a candidate for the office of Master of the Revels: when he died we have no information, but there is reason to think that he lived into the seventeenth century. His last, and unquestionably his worst, play was published as late as 1601.
Of all Lyly's dramas it is to be observed, that they seem to have been written for Court entertainments, although they were also performed at theatres, most usually by the Children of St. Paul's and the Revels. Including The Maid's Metamorphosis, of which there is no sufficient reason to deprive him (unless that it is better in some respects than his other plays), Lyly wrote nine dramatic pieces-seven in prose, one in rhyme, and one in blank-verse. We shall notice them in the order in which, judging from external and internal evidence (into which we need not enter), it may be presumed that they were produced.
Alexander and Campaspe (twice printed merely as Campaspe, in 1584 and 1591) has some claim to be considered in the light of an historical play. Although we learn from the prologue at the Blackfriars theatre (where it was acted after it had been represented at Court) that it had been written in haste for the particular occasion, it is certainly one of the best
1 It was published without date, and Reed erroneously states, in Dodsley's Old Plays, ii, 99, last edit., that it appeared in 1593. It must have been printed before 1590, as it is particularly mentioned by Nash in the first part of Pasquil's Apologie, 1590:- I warrant you the cunning Pap-maker knew what he did when he made choice of no other spoon than a hatchet for such a mouth, no other lace than a halter for such a necke.' Nash again highly praises the performance in his Almond for a Parrot, n. d.
of Lyly's productions, and the force and distinctness with
? Vol. ii, p. 243, edit. 1811.
Wilt thou reach stars, because they shine on thee ?' Sapho and Phao (printed in 1584 and 1591) is full of affected allusions and figures, derived from imaginary physiology: they occur in almost every scene, and the dialogue consists very much of jingle and conceit. The action lies in Syracuse, and the story relates to the love of Sapho, the Queen of that city, for Phao the waterman, whom Venus, for his courteous demeanour in ferrying her across the river, renders surpassingly beautiful. It was, like Lyly's other plays, acted before the Queen; yet it is remarkable for some severe satire upon women, for their loquacity, vanity, and fickleness. Men, however, come in for their full share also ; and the following ridicule of the manners of abashed lovers is not unhappy : 'It is good' (says Mileta, one of the female characters, of which there are no less than eleven, including a Sybil) 'to see them want matter, for then they fall to good manners, having nothing in their mouths but "sweet mistress", wearing our hands out with courtly kissings, when their wits fail in courtly discourses ; now ruffling their hairs, now setting their ruffs; then gazing with their eyes, then sighing, with a privy wring by the hand, thinking us like to be wooed by signs and ceremonies'. The best things said in the play are put into the mouth of this lively lady, who, in a different style, thus prettily describes the harmony of two accordant hearts : ‘Such is the tying of two in wedlock, as is the tuning of two lutes in one key; for, striking the strings of the one, straws will stir upon the strings of the other; and in two minds linked in love, one cannot be delighted but the other rejoiceth.' The style in which love is made may be judged from the following punning extract from a dialogue between Phao and Sapho, who is dying for him, in act iii, scene I.
Sapho. Why do you sigh so, Phao?
Sapho.-- It will do you harm and me too; for I never hear one sigh but I must sigh also.
Phao.—It were best then that your Ladiship give me leave to begone, for I can but sigh.
Sapho.-Nay, stay; for now I begin to sigh, I shall not leave though you be gone. But what do you think best for your sighing, to take it away?
Saphò.-Then I will love yew the better; and indeed I think it would make me sleep too : therefore, all other simples set aside, I will simply use only yew.
Phao.—Do, madam, for I think nothing in the world so good as yew.
The comic scenes between the roguish pages are absurd, but seldom laughable.
The author exerted his fancy to introduce as much variety as possible into Endymion (printed in 1591 only), which is a mythological subject, and of course treats of the loves of Cynthia and Endymion. Although he makes Cynthia desperately enamoured, Lyly contrives, without the exercise of much ingenuity, to represent Queen Elizabeth as his heroine: for this purpose, towards the close, he converts the ardent passion of the hero into awful reverence, and he breaks out in one place, 'There hath none pleased my eye but Cynthianone delighted mine ear but Cynthia-none possessed my heart but Cynthia. I have forsaken all other fortunes to follow Cynthia ; and here I stand, ready to die if it please Cynthia. Such a difference hath the gods set between our states, that all must be duty, loyalty, and reverence, nothing (without it vouchsafe your Highness) be termed love.' The poet is here, as it were, speaking in his own person, as well as when afterwards he tells Cynthia that the balance that
weighs time and fortune' is committed to her hands. Dumb shows, and the dances of fairies, are employed to give novelty to the scene; but here again the author has lamentably failed in the comic portion of the piece, and has introduced a foolish character, called Sir Thopas, who arms himself cap-a-pie against birds and fishes, and returns conqueror of a wren : this is weakly absurd.
The scene of Galathea (printed in 1592) is most preposterously laid in the north of Lincolnshire, but, nevertheless, it is certainly the best of Lyly's prose dramas. It opens with a narrative by Tityrus to his daughter Galathea, that Neptune had once overflowed the country, enraged because the Danes had destroyed one of his temples; but that he had afterwards consented to withdraw his waters, on condition that, at the end of every five years, the fairest and chastest virgin of the land should be bound to a particular tree and offered to Neptune, who sent from his waves the monster Agar, to bring her to him, or to devour her. Tityrus has, therefore, dressed up his beautiful daughter in male attire, that she may escape this horrible death, while Melibaeus (also a Lincolnshire peasant) has taken the same precaution to secure his daughter Phillida : these two girls, wandering into the woods, and not knowing each other, fall in love, each supposing the other to be a youth, and their courtship is conducted very prettily. In the mean time, Cupid flies among the Nymphs of Diana, and inspires some of them with ardent passions for the disguised Galathea and Phillida, while others seize and bind the little god. The sacrifice to Neptune then takes place, and, in default of a better, a virgin named Hebe is offered; but as she is not the fairest, she is rejected by the angry sea-god. This occasions delay while another is sought, and Venus complains to Neptune of the cruelty and imprisonment to which Cupid had been exposed; and in the end Neptune foregoes his