The History of English Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shakespeare, Vol. 3: And Annals of the Stage to the Restoration (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from The History of English Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shakespeare, Vol. 3: And Annals of the Stage to the Restoration

Sap/20 and Pliao (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 iingle 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 de meanour 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, how ever, 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 ruffiing 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 1.

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