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FAIR E M.
In the · Theatrum Poetarum’of Edward Phillips we have the following notice of the authorship of this play :-“ Robert Green, one of the Pastoral Sonnet-makers of Qu. Elizabeth's time, contemporary with Dr. Lodge, with whom he was associated in the writing of several comedies, namely, The Laws of Nature,' Lady Alimony,' Liberality and Prodigality,' and a masque called Luminalia ;' besides which he wrote alone the comedies of Friar Bacon' and · Fair Emme.'” Langbaine contradicts this statement, as far as regards Greene's association with Lodge; but he admits the assertion regarding · Friar Bacon,' and says nothing of · Fair Em.' Mr. Dyce thinks that it is possible that Greene might have written • Fair Em.' "A Pleasante Comedie of Faire Em, the Miller's Daughter of Manchester, with the Love of William the Conqueror. As it was sundry times publiquely acted in the Honourable Citie of London, by the right Honourable the Lord Strange his seruants,' was published in 1631. Possibly this may not have been the first edition, and the play may be as early as the time of Greene ; but of this we are greatly inclined to doubt. The versification does not often exhibit that antiquated structure which we occasionally meet with in Greene and his contemporaries. The dramatic movement is more lively and skilful than we find in the conduct of Greene's pieces. The plot, which is a double one, has much of the complexity of Beaumont and Fletcher. We have little doubt that the play belongs to a period subsequent to the death of Shakspere. Upon what principle the German critics have assigned it to Shakspere we are at a loss to say. Tieck, who has translated the · Fair Em,' calls it a youthful production of our poet, and Horn agrees with him. Ulrici dissents from this opinion. The play is lively enough, with a good deal of talent. Although a legend of lovestories, it has the remarkable merit, for that period, of being conducted without offence to propriety. What comedy there is in it
is altogether vapid and ridiculous. Let us hastily run through the plot, giving a few extracts.
The story carries us back to the days of William the Conqueror. There is a tilting-match, in which the king is victor; but he has on a sudden “ cast away his staff,” and left the field. Lubeck, a Danish knight, has borne upon his shield the picture of a beautiful woman; and the king has fallen in love with the picture, which is a portrait of Blanche, a daughter of the King of Denmark. The amorous monarch immediately delegates his authority to certain lords, and sets out for the Danish court, to behold and obtain the object of his passion. The miller and his daughter, fair Em, now present themselves. He is no real miller, but Sir Thomas Goddard. Weighty circumstances compelled him to this course of life; and his daughter submits to her change of fortune with a becoming resignation. The father thus counsels the maiden :
“ Miller. Thanks, my dear daughter; these thy pleasant words
Of proof to keep out all enchanting vows,
Our readers will scarcely think that the commonplaces of this very long speech savour of Shakspere. The miller's man now presents himself as a suitor to fair Em; and having learnt the necessity for concealment, she rather evades than repulses his advances. But she is not long destined to equivocate with the clown. Manvile, Valingford, and Mountney, all lords of William's court, come separately, disguised, to woo the maiden. Manvile's suit, as we have learnt by her father's speech, was somewhat favoured. He overhears the other two lords communicating their love for the same object, and agreeing to unite their efforts to obtain her, leaving the rest to chance. Manvile, of course, becomes jealous; and he thus reproaches his mistress :
“ Two gentlemen attending on duke William,
The lover departs in a rage, and Mountney comes to prefer his suit. The fair Em resolves to vindicate her constancy; and to this admirer, therefore, she feigns deafness. In à subsequent scene Valingford approaches her; and to him, upon the same principle of stratagem, she affects to be blind, “ by mishap on a sudden.” Mountney and Valingford meet and quarrel ; but their mutual accusations bring about the conviction that the lady has deceived them both. The action advances, by Manvile complaining to the miller of his daughter's conduct; and Mountney and Valingford
appear on the scene to demand of the miller how it is that Em has become blind and deaf. The miller replies,
Marry, God forbid! I have sent for her. Indeed, she hath kept her chamber this three days. It were no little grief to me if it should be so.
Man. This is God's judgment for her treachery."
Em is led on by the miller's man, whom she has persuaded to assist her in maintaining the pretences she has assumed. Her stratagem is successfully supported, to the grief of her father, and the conviction of the rest. Manvile exclaims
“ Both blind and deaf! then is she no wife for me;
And glad I am so good occasion is happen'd."
Mountney also gives her up with considerable indifference; but Valing ford resolves to stay and prosecute his love, still suspecting there may be a “ feigned invention.” Manvile seeks another love-Elner, the daughter of a wealthy merchant; but Valingford declares that no misfortune can alter the constancy of his affection ; and Em, learning the faithlessness of her former lover, discloses the conduct she has pursued.
During the progress of this, the main portion of the plot, we have a succession of scenes alternating with those in which the miller's daughter is concerned, exhibiting the history of the love adventures of the disguised king at the Danish court. William is disappointed in the reality of the lady, with whose picture he became enamoured. But he as readily falls in love with Mariana, a Swedish captive, the chosen fair of the Marquis of Lubeck. Blanche, however, the Danish king's daughter, falls in love with William; and we have then a pretty succession of jealousies and quarrels, which terminate in William carrying off the princess to England, masked, and disguised as Mariana. Upon their arrival in England the king and his fair companion fall into the hands of some barons who are in arms. The mistakes are of course cleared up; and the King of Denmark offers his daughter to the King of England, who has resumed his state. He has to decide upon the claims of the fair Em, and of Elner, to the hand of Manvile. The scene on this occasion is perhaps the best passage in the play :
“ Em. I loved this Manvile so much, that still methought,
And never could I see a man, methought,
Man. And did my Em, to keep her faith with me,
Em. Lay off thy hands, disloyal as thou art !
Man. Forgive me, sweet Em.
Em. I do forgive thee with my heart,
Man. Then farewell frost :
Elner. Mine, Manvile ? thou never shalt be mine;
That whilst I live I will abhor thy company." This issue of the contest produces a singular effect upon the King of England. He determines that “ women are not general evils ;"> and so he accepts the hand of Blanche. Valingford is united to the fair Em, and Sir Thomas Goddard is restored to his rank and fortune.
It is exceedingly difficult for us to understand how a man of great ability, like Tieck, perfectly conversant with the dramatic art and style of Shakspere—sometimes going far beyond Shakspere's own countrymen in sound as well as elevated criticism-should fancy that a play like this could have been written by our great