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[Died about 1638.]
Ar the close of the sixteenth century we find that the theatres, conducted by Henslowe and Alleyn, chiefly depended on Jonson, Heywood, Chettle, and this poet, for composing or retouching their pieces. Marston and Dekker had laboured frequently in conjunction with Jonson, when their well-known hostility with him commenced. What grounds of offence Marston and Dekker alleged, cannot now be told; but Jonson affirms, that after the appearance of his comedy, "Every Man in his Humour," they began to provoke him on every stage with their "petulant styles," as if they wished to single him out for their adversary. When Jonson's Cynthia's Revels appeared, they appropriated the two characters of Hedon and Anaides to themselves, and
FORTUNE GIVING FORTUNATUS HIS CHOICE OF GOODS.
For. Six gifts I spend upon mortality, Wisdom, strength, health, beauty, long life, and
Out of my bounty, one of these is thine, Choose then which likes thee best.
Fort. Oh, most divine!
Give me but leave to borrow wonder's eye,
For. Before thy soul (at this deep lottery)
Fort. Daughters of Jove and the unblemish'd Night,
Most righteous Parcæ, guide my genius right! Wisdom, strength, health, beauty, long life, and riches?
For. Stay,Fortunatus, once more hear me speak, If thou kiss wisdom's cheek and make her thine, She'll breathe into thy lips divinity, And thou (like Phoebus) shalt speak oracle; Thy heaven-inspired soul, on wisdom's wings, Shall fly up to the parliament of Jove, And read the statutes of eternity,
were brooding over their revenge when the Poetaster came forth, in which Dekker was recognized as Demetrius. Either that his wrath made him more willing, or that he was chosen the champion of the offended host, for his rapid powers and popularity, he furnished the Satiromastix; not indeed a despicable reply to Jonson, but more full of rage than of ridicule. The little that is known of Dekker's history, independent of his quarrel with Jonson, is unfortunate. His talents were prolific, and not contemptible; but he was goaded on by want to hasty productions -acquainted with spunging-houses, and an inmate of the King's Bench prison*. Oldys thinks that he was alive in 1638.
And see what's past, and learn what is to come :
Be ever merry, ever revelling:
Wish but for beauty, and within thine eyes
*He was there at one time for three years, according to Oldys. No wonder poor Dekker could rise a degree above the level of his ordinary genius in describing the blessings of Fortunatus's inexhaustible purse: he had probably felt but too keenly the force of what he expresses in the misanthropy of Ampedo.
I'm not enamour'd of this painted idol,
This strumpet world; for her most beauteous looks
Fort. Oh, whither am I rapt beyond myself? More violent conflicts fight in every thought, Than his whose fatal choiceTroy's downfall wrought. Shall I contract myself to wisdom's love? Then I lose riches; and a wise man poor, Is like a sacred book that's never read, To himself he lives, and to all else seems dead: This age thinks better of a gilded fool, Than of a thread-bare saint in wisdom's school. I will be strong: then I refuse long life; And though mine arm should conquer twentyworlds, There's a lean fellow beats all conquerors: The greatest strength expires with loss of breath; The mightiest (in one minute) stoop to death. Then take long life, or health: should I do so, I might grow ugly; and that tedious scroll Of months and years, much misery may inroll; Therefore I'll beg for beauty; yet I will not, The fairest cheek hath oftentimes a soul Lep'rous as sin itself, than hell more foul. The wisdom of this world is idiotism; Strength a weak reed; health sickness' enemy, (And it at length will have the victory ;) Beauty is but a painting; and long life Is a long journey in December gone, Tedious and full of tribulation. Therefore, dread sacred empress, make me rich ; [Kneels down. My choice is store of gold; the rich are wise: He that upon his back rich garments wears, Is wise, though on his head grow Midas' ears: Gold is the strength, the sinews of the world; The health, the soul, the beauty most divine; A mask of gold hides all deformities; Gold is heaven's physic, life's restorative; Oh, therefore, make me rich! not as the wretch That only serves lean banquets to his eye, Has gold, yet starves; is famish'd in his store: No, let me ever spend, be never poor.
For. Thy latest words confine thy destiny; Thou shalt spend ever, and be never poor : For proof receive this purse; with it this virtue;
LANGBAINE only informs us of this writer, that he was clerk of St. Andrew's parish, Holborn*, and esteemed by his contemporaries. He wrote, in conjunction with Rowley Dekker, and Marston. Among the pieces, entirely his own, are The White Devil, or Vittoria Corombona, the tragedy
*[ Gildon, I believe, was the first who asserted that our author was clerk of St. Andrew's. I searched the registers of that church, but the name of Webster did not occur in them; and I examined the MSS. belonging to the Parish Clerks' Hall, in Wood Street, with as little success."--DYCE's Webster, vol. i. p 1.]
[Died about 1638.]
FROM "THE HONEST WHORE."
Hipolito's thoughts on his mistress's picture, from which he turns to look on a scull that lies before him on a table. My Infelice's face, her brow, her eye,
The dimple on her cheek and such sweet skill
No lip worth tasting. Here the worms will feed!
True love 's best pictured in a true-love's heart.
of Appius and Virginia, the Devil's Law Case, and the Duchess of Malfi. From the advertisement prefixed to Vittoria Corombona, the piece seems not to have been successful in the representation. The author says, "that it wanted that which is the only grace and setting out of a tragedy, a full and understanding auditory." The auditory, it may be suspected, were not quite so much struck with the beauty of Webster's horrors, as Mr. Lamb seems to have been in writing the notes to his Specimens of our old Dramatic Poetry.
In the same preface Webster deprives himself of the only apology that could be offered for his absurdities as a dramatist, by acknowledging that he wrote slowly; a circumstance in which he
VITTORIA, THE MISTRESS OF BRACHIANO, RELATING HER DREAM TO HIM.
FROM VITTORIA COROMBONA, THE VENETIAN COURTEZAN.
Persons.-VITTORIA COROMBONA; DUKE OF BRACHIANO; COROMBONA, the mother, and FLAMINEO, the brother of VITTORIA.
Vittoria. To pass away the time, I'll tell your A dream I had last night. [grace
Brachiano. Most wishedly.
Vit. A foolish idle dream: Methought I walk'd, about the mid of night, Into a churchyard, where a goodly yew tree Spread her large root in ground; under that yew, As I sat sadly leaning on a grave, Chequer'd with cross sticks, there came stealing in Your duchess and my husband; one of them A pick-axe bore, th' other a rusty spade, And in rough terms they 'gan to challenge me About this yew.
Bra. That tree?
Vit. This harmless yew.
They told me my intent was to root up
The earth, and scatter'd bones: Lord, how methought
I trembled, and yet for all this terror
I could not pray.
Fla. No, the devil was in your dream.
Vit. When to my rescue there arose methought A whirlwind, which let fall a massy From that strong plant,
And both were struck dead by that sacred yew, In that base shallow grave that was their due. Fla. Excellent devil! she hath taught him, in a dream,
To make away his duchess, and her husband.
Bra. Sweetly shall I interpret this your dream. You are lodged within his arms who shall protect
From all the fevers of a jealous husband,
Cor. Woe to light hearts, they still forerun our fall.
modestly compares himself to Euripides. In his tragedy of the Duchess of Malfi, the duchess is married and delivered of several children in the course of the five acts.
FROM THE DUCHESS OF MALFI.
The Duchess of Malfi having privately married Antonio, her own steward, is inhumanly persecuted by her brother Ferdinand, who confines her in a house of madmen, and in concert with his creature Bosola murders her and her attendant Cariola.
Persons-DUCHESS OF MALFI; CARIOLA, her faithful attendant; FERDINAND, her cruel brother; BOSOLA, his creature and instrument of cruelty; Madmen, Executioners, Servant.
Duch. WHAT hideous noise was that?
Of madmen, lady, which your tyrant brother
Can keep me in my right wits, whereas reason
Cari. Oh, 'twill increase your melancholy.
To hear of greater grief, would lessen mine. This is a prison ?
Cari. Yes, but you shall live
To shake this durance off.
Duch. Thou art a fool:
The robin-redbreast and the nightingale Never live long in cages.
Cari. Pray dry your eyes.
What think you of, madam?
When I muse thus, I sleep.
Cari. Like a madman, with your eyes open. Duch. Dost thou think we shall know one another In th' other world.
Cari. Yes; out of question.
Duch. O that it were possible we might
But hold some two days' conference with the dead!
The earth of flaming sulphur; yet I am not mad.
As the tann'd galley-slave is with his oar:
And custom makes it easy. Who do I look like now?
Duch. Very proper ;
And fortune seems only to have her eye-sight
To behold my tragedy. How now, What noise is that?
Serv. I am come to tell you
Your brother hath intended you some sport:
[The Mad-men enter, and whilst they dance to suitable music, the DUCHESS, perceiving BOSOLA among them, says,
Duch. Is he mad too?
Serv. Pray question him. I'll leave you. Bos. I am come to make thy tomb.
Duch. Ha! my tomb?
Thou speak'st as if I lay upon my death-bed Gasping for breath. Dost thou perceive me sick? Bos. Yes, and the more dangerously, since thy sickness is insensible.
Duch. Thou art not mad sure! Dost know me? Bos. Yes.
Duch. Who am I?
Bos. Thou art a box of worm-seed.
Duch. I am Duchess of Malfi still.
Bos. That makes thy sleeps so broken : Glories, like glow-worms, afar off shine bright, But look'd to near, have neither heat nor light. Duch. Thou art very plain.
Bos. My trade is to flatter the dead, not the I am a tomb-maker. [living:
Duch. And thou comest to make my tomb?
Duch. Let me be a little merry
Of what stuff wilt thou make it!
Bos. Nay, resolve me first of what fashion? Duch. Why, do we grow fantastical on our death-bed?
Do we affect fashion in the grave?
Bos. Most ambitiously: princes' images on their tombs
Do not lie, as they were wont, seeming to pray, Up to heaven; but with their hands under their cheeks
(As if they died of the tooth-ache); they are not carved
With their eyes fix'd upon the stars: but as
Bos. Now I shall.
Here is a present from your princely brothers,
[4 coffin, cords, and a bell. And may it arrive welcome, for it brings Last benefit, last sorrow.
Duch. Let me see it :
I have so much obedience in my blood,
I wish it in their veins to do them good.
Bos. This is your last presence chamber.
Cari. O my sweet lady!
Duch. Peace, it affrights not me.
The night before they suffer.
Duch. Even now thou said'st Thou wast a tomb-maker?
Bos. 'Twas to bring you
By degrees to mortification. Listen:
The screech-owl and the whistler shrill,
And bid her quickly don her shroud.
Of what is't fools make such vain keeping?
Cari. Hence villains, tyrants, murderers! Alas! What will you do with my lady? call for help. Duch. To whom, to our next neighbours they Bos. Remove that noise. [are mad folks. Duch. Farewell, Cariola ;
In my last will I have not much to give
A many hungry guests have fed upon me
Thine will be a poor reversion.
Cari. I will die with her.
Duch. I pray thee look thou givest my little boy Some syrup for his cold, and let the girl
Say her prayers ere she sleep. Now what you please. What death?
Bos. Strangling: here are your executioners. Duch. I forgive them :
The apoplexy, catarrh, or cough o' th' lungs, Would do as much as they do.
Bos. Doth not death fright you? Duch. Who would be afraid on't, Knowing to meet such excellent company In th' other world?
Bos. Yet, methinks,
The manner of your death should much afflict you? This cord should terrify you.
Duch. Not a whit :
What would it pleasure me to have my throat cut With diamonds or to be smother'd
With cassia? or to be shot to death with pearls?
So I were out of your whispering. Tell my brothers
That I perceive death (now I am well awake),
Best gift is they can give, or I can take.
Exec. We are ready.
Duch. Dispose my breath how please you; but Bestow upon my women, will you? [my body
Duch. Pull, and pull strongly; for your able Must pull down heaven upon me :- [strength Yet stay, heaven's gates are not so highly arch'd As princes' palaces; they that enter there Must go upon their knees. Come, violent death, Serve for mandragora to make me sleep. Go tell my brothers, when I am laid out, They then may feed in quiet. [They strangle her. Bos. Where's the waiting-woman? Fetch her some other strangle the children. Look you, there sleeps your mistress.
Cari. Oh, you are damn'd Perpetually for this. My turn is next, Is't not so order'd?
What I'll give thee.
Ferd. I'll give thee a pardon
For this murder.
Ferd. Yes; and 'tis
The largest bounty I can study to do thee.
This bloody sentence ?
Ferd. Mine was I her judge?
Doom her to not-being? did a complete jury
Bos. The office of justice is perverted quite, When one thief hangs another: who shall dare To reveal this?