dreams of old mythology.' • The Merry Devil' was undoubtedly a play of great popularity. We find from the account-books of the Revels at Court, that it was acted before the King in the same year, 1618, with “Twelfth Night' and · A Winter's Tale. In 1616, Ben Jonson, in his Prologue to · The Devil is an Ass,' thus addresses his audience:

“ If you 'll con
To see new plays, pray you afford us room,
And show this but the same face you have done
Your dear delight, “The Devil of Edmonton.'"



Its popularity seems to have lasted much longer; for it is mentioned by Edmund Gayton, in 1654, in his . Notes on Don Quixote.'t The belief that the play was Shakspere’s has never taken any root in England. Some of the recent German critics, however, adopt it as his without any hesitation. Tieck has translated it; and he says that it undoubtedly is by Shakspere, and must have been written about 1600. It has much of the tone, he thinks, of “The Merry Wives of Windsor,' and “mine host of the George” and “mine host of the Garter alike. It is surprising that Tieck does not see that the one character is, in a great degree, an imitation of the other. Shakspere, in the abundance of his riches, is not a poet who repeats himself. Horn declares that Shakspere's authorship of. The Merry Devil' is incontestable. Ulrici admits the bare possibility of its being a very youthful work of Shakspere's. The great merit, on the contrary, of the best scenes of this play consists in their perfect finish. There is nothing careless about them; nothing that betrays the very young adventurer; the writer is a master of his art to the extent of his


But that is not Shakspere's power. Fuller, in his . Worthies,' thus records the merits of Peter Fabel, the hero of this play: “ I shall probably offend the gravity of some to insert, and certainly curiosity of others to omit, him. Some make him a friar, others a lay gentleman, all a conceited person, who, with his merry devices, deceived the Devil, who by grace may be resisted, not deceived by wit. If a grave bishop in his sermon, speaking of Brute's coming into this land, said it was but a bruit, I hope I may say without offence that this Fabel was but a fable, supposed to live in the reign of King Henry the Sixth.” His fame is more confidingly recorded in the Prologue to · The Merry Devil:'

* Specimens of English Dramatic Poets.'
+ Collier's · Annals of the Stage,' vol. iii. p. 417.

“ 'T is Peter Fabel, a renowned scholar,

Whose fame hath still been hitherto forgot
By all the writers of this latter age.
In Middlesex his birth and his abode,
Not full-seven miles from this great famous city;
That, for his fame in sleights and magic won,
Was call'd the Merry Fiend of Edmonton.
If any here make doubt of such a name,
In Edmonton, yet fresh unto this day,
Fix'd in the wall of that old ancient church,
His monument remaineth to be seen:
His memory yet in the mouths of men,
That whilst he liv'd he could deceive the devil."

The Prologue goes on to suppose him at Cambridge at the hour when the term of his compact with the fiend is run out.

We are not here to look for the terrible solemnity of the similar scene in Marlowe's 'Faustus;' but, nevertheless, that before us is written with great poetical power. Coreb, the spirit, thus addresses the magician :

Coreb. Why, scholar, this is the hour my date expires;
I must depart, and come to claim my due.

Fubel. Hah! what is thy due?
Coreb. Fabel, thyself.

Fabel. O let not darkness bear thee speak that word,
Lest that with force it hurry hence amain,
And leave the world to look upon my woe:
Yet overwhelm me with this globe of earth,
And let a little sparrow with her bill
Take but so much as she can bear away,
That, every day thus losing of my load,

I may again, in time, yet hope to rise." While the fiend sits down in the necromantic chair Fabel thus soliloquises :

Fabel. O that this soul, that cost so dear a price
As the dear precious blood of her Redeemer,
Inspir'd with knowledge, should by that alone,
Which makes a man so mean unto the powers,
Ev'n lead him down into the depth of hell;
When men in their own praise strive to know more
Than man should know!
For this alone God cast the angels down.
The infinity of arts is like a sea,
Into which when man will take in hand to sail
Farther than reason (which should be his pilot)
Hath skill to guide him, losing once his compass,
He falleth to such deep and dangerous whirlpools,
As he doth lose the very sight of heaven :

The more he strives to come to quiet harbour,
The farther still he finds himself from land.
Man, striving still to find the depth of evil,
Seeking to be a God, becomes a devil."

But the magician has tricked the fiend; the chair holds him fast, and the condition of release is a respite for seven years. The supernatural part of the play may be said here to end; for although throughout the latter scenes there are some odd mistakes produced by the devices of Fabel, they are such as might have been accomplished by human agency, and in fact appear to have been so accomplished. Tieck observes, “ It is quite in Shakspere's manner that the magical part becomes nearly superfluous.” This, as it appears to us, is not in Shakspere's manner. In · Hamlet,' in Macbeth,' in The Midsummer Night's Dream,' in The Tempest,' the magical or supernatural part is so intimately allied with the whole action that it impels the entire movement of the piece. Shakspere knew too well the soundness of the Horatian maxim,

“ Nec Deus intersit nisi dignus vindice nodus," —

to produce a ghost, a witch, or a fairy, without necessity. However, the magical part here finishes; and we are introduced to the society of no equivocal mortal, the host of the George at Waltham. Sir Arthur Clare, his wife Dorcas, his daughter Millisent, and his son Harry, arrive at the inn, where the host says, “ Knights and lords have been drunk in my house, I thank the destinies." This company have arrived at the George to meet Sir Richard Mounchensey, and his son Raymond, to whom Millisent is betrothed; but old Clare informs his wife that he is resolved to break off the match, to send his daughter for a year to a nunnery, and then to bestow her upon the son of Sir Ralph Jerningham. Old Mounchensey, it seems, has fallen upon evil days :

Clare. For look you, wife, the riotous old knight
Hath overrun his annual revenue,
In keeping jolly Christmas all the year :
The nostrils of his chimneys are still stuff d
With smoke more chargeable than cane-tobacco;
His hawks devour his fattest dogs, whilst simple,
His leanest curs eat his hounds' carrion.
Besides, I heard of late his younger brother,
A Turkey-merchant, bath sure suck'd the knight,
By means of some great losses on the sea;
That (you conceive me) before God, all 's nought,
His seat is weak; thus, each thing rightly scanu'd,
You 'll see a flight, wife, shortly of his land."

Fabel, the kind magician, who has been the tutor to Raymond, arrives at the same time with the Mounchensey party. He knows the plots against his young friend, and he is determined to circumvent them :

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Raymond Mounchensey, boy, have thou and I
Thus long at Cambridge read the liberal arts,
Tbe metaphysics, magic, and those parts
Of the most secret deep philosophy ?
Have I so many melancholy nights
Watch'd on the top of Peter-house highest tower,
And come we back unto our native home,
For want of skill to loose the wench thou lov'st?
We'll first hang Envil* in such rings of mist
As never rose from any dampish fen;
I'll make the brined sea to rise at Ware,
And drown the marshes unto Stratford-bridge:
I'll drive the deer from Waltham in their walks,
And scatter them, like sheep, in every field.
We may perbaps be cross'd; but if we be,
He shall cross the devil that but crosses me.'

Harry Clare, Frank Jerningham, and Raymond Mounchensey are strict friends; and there is something exceedingly delightful in the manner in which Raymond throws away all suspicion, and the others resolve to stand by their friend, whatever be the intrigues of their parents :

Jern. Raymond Mounchensey, now I touch thy grief
With the true feeling of a zealous friend.
And as for fair and beauteous Millisent,
With my vain breath I will not seek to slubber
Her angel-like perfections : but thou know'st
That Essex hath the saint that I adore :
Where'er didst meet me, that we two were jovial,
But like a wag thou hast not laugh'd at me,
And with regardless jesting mock d my love?
How many a sad and weary summer's night
My sighs have drunk the dew from off the earth,
And I have taught the nightingale to wake,
And from the meatlows sprung the early lark
An hour before she should have list to sing :
I have loaded the poor minutes with my moans,
That I have made the heavy slow-pac'd hours
To hang like heavy clogs upon the day.
But, dear Mounchensey, bad not my affection
Seiz'd on the beauty of another dame,
Before I'd wrong the chase, and leave the love
Of one so worthy, and so true a friend,

* Envil-Enfield.



I will abjure both beauty and her sight,
And will in love become a counterfeit.

Moun. Dear Jerningham, thou hast begot my life,
And from the mouth of hell, where now I sate,
I feel my spirit rebound against the stars ;
Thou bast conquer'd me, dear friend, in my free soul,
There time, nor death, can by their power control.

Fabel. Frank Jerningham, thou art a gallant boy;
And were he not my pupil, I would say,
He were as fine a metalld gentleman,
Of as free spirit, and of as fine a temper,
As is in England; and he is a man
That very richly may deserve thy love.
But, noble Clare, this while of our discourse,
What may Mounchensey's honour to thyself

upon the measure of thy grace?
Young Clare. Raymond Mounchensey, I would have thee k now,
He does not breathe this air, whose love I cherish,
And whose soul I love, more than Mounchensey's :
Nor ever in my life did see the man
Whom, for his wit and many virtuous parts,
I think more worthy of my sister's love.
But since the matter grows unto this pass,
I must not seem to cross my father's will;
But when thou list to visit ber by night,
My horse is saddled, and the stable door
Stands ready for thee; use them thy pleasure.
In honest marriage wed her frankly, boy,
And if thou gett'st her, lad, God give thee joy.

Moun. Then, care away! let fate my fall pretend,

Back'd with the favours of so true a friend." Charles Lamb, who gives the whole of this scene in his 'Specimens, speaks of it rapturously :-" This scene has much of Shakspeare's manner in the sweetness and goodnaturedness of it. It seems written to make the reader happy. Few of our dramatists or novelists have attended enough to this. They torture and wound us abundantly. They are economists only in delight. Nothing can be finer, more gentlemanlike, and noble, than the conversation and compliments of these young men.

How delicious is Raymond Mounchensey's forgetting, in his fears, that Jerningham has a saint in Essex;' and how sweetly his friend reminds him!”

The ancient plotters, Clare and Jerningham, are drawn as very politic but not overwise fathers. There is, however, very little that is harsh or revolting in their natures. They put out their feelers of worldly cunning timidly, and they draw them in with considerable apprehension when they see danger and difficulty before them. All this is in harmony with the thorough good humour of the whole drama. The only person who is angry is Old Mounchensey :

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