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FRED ERICK SHO BERL, JUNIOR, PRINTER TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS PRINCE ALBERT, 51, RUPERT street, HAYMARKET, LONDon.
The following comedy was first published in the year 1607. The present reprint is from that copy, collated with the edition of 1637, the only date given by Langbaine; who undervalues the piece, and adds: "I question, notwithstanding Mr. Kirkman has ascribed it to our Author, whether it be his, since his name is not prefixt, neither does the style or œconomy resemble the rest of his labours." The writer of an article in the Retrospective Review1 and the editor of Baldwyn's Old English Drama, echo this strain, for it is easier to join in a cry than to read for oneself; but the comedy appears to me and others, who are better judges than I, very entertaining, and very much in Heywood's style. The Cripple, (he has no name) whom Charles Lamb calls the hero of it, is a very original character, not unworthy of Ben Jonson. He is called a " drawer," meaning a pattern-drawer, and keeps a little shop or seat in the Exchange. He appears also to be a scrivener, a writer of letters and memorials, such as used to sit at desks in public places in London, and still do on the Continent. It appears from page 48, that such persons used to keep forms of letters ready written, and that they could be sent without signature, in those days when few could write, through messengers, who named their sender. The Exchange, I think, must mean the Royal Exchange, since the New Exchange in the Strand was not built till after the first publication of the play. The Royal Exchange was then full of shops, like a bazaar. The Fair Maid, Phillis Flower, though her parents are wealthy, is an apprentice to a sempstress in this Exchange; and, one night, in company with a female servant, taking home some work to a lady at Mile-End, they are assaulted by Scarlet and Bobbington, two men of broken fortune, from whom they are at first rescued by the Cripple with his crutch; and, the ruffians having returned, secondly by the assistance of Frank Goulding, the lover-hero of the comedy. Grateful for these services, the Fair Maid falls in love, not with Frank, but with the Cripple. Frank is the younger brother of Ferdinand and Anthony Goulding, who afterwards severally confide to him their passion for the same Fair Maid. Frank scoffs at love, but is subsequently himself caught in the very same snare. The two elder brothers, overhearing each other confess their love for the same object, set about mutual circumvention, and entrust their respective stratagems to Frank, who, by the help of his friend the Cripple, cheats them both, and, in the disguise of his " crooked habit," eventually gains the hand of the Fair Maid. Her father had favoured the suit of Ferdinand, and her mother that of Anthony; but they are all outwitted by Frank, and rejected by Phillis. “The Cripple" (says Mr. Lamb) " is an excellent fellow, and the hero of the comedy. He is described (albeit a tradesman, yet wealthy withal) with heroic qualities of mind and body; the latter of which he evinces by rescuing the Fair Maid from robbers by the main force of his crutch, and the former by his foregoing the advantage which this action gained him in her good opinion, and bestowing his wit and finesse in procuring for her a husband, in the person of his friend, more worthy of her beauty than he could conceive his own maimed and halting limbs to be. It would require" (he adds) “some boldness in a dramatist now-a-days to exhibit such a character, and some luck in finding a sufficient actor, who would be willing to personate the infirmities, together with the virtues, of the noble Cripple." Mr. Lamb himself, in his admirable " Essay on the tragedies of Shakespeare, considered with reference to their fitness for Stage-representation," has given the sufficing reason why these personal deformities, however consistent with heroism in the reading of works of fiction, cannot be embodied by an actor without ridicule. And he instances Othello. “Nothing" (he says) " can be more soothing, more flattering to the noble parts of our natures, than to read of a young Venetian lady of highest extraction, through the
i Vol. xi., p. 127.