History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Caroline
- 1 John Ford
- 2 James Shirley
- 3 Ben Jonson
- 4 Philip Massinger
- 5 Richard Brome
During the Caroline period, referring to the reign of King Charles I (1625-1642), the main tragedian of note was John Ford (1586–1640), author of "'Tis pity she's a whore" (1633) and "The broken heart" (1633).
Although sounding like the name of a comedy, "'Tis pity she's a whore" is a fatal piece of brother-sister incest. The whore is no whore but a fatally comprised victim of circumstance. Gassner (1954) wrote that "the growth of the incestuous passion against which the characters struggle in vain and Annabella’s final change of heart are powerfully realized" (p 258) Downer (1950) summarized that “Annabella has three suitors: Soranzo, Grimaldi, and Bergetto. Soranzo has seduced the wife of Richardetto, Grimaldi is a dishonorable murderer, and Bergetto a fool. In their schemes and counterschemes to win Annabella, Giovanni's love is made to appear more honest. It is her beauty and her virtue that awaken his passion, not her social status or her dowry.” (p 176) For Boas (1946), "it is subtly suggested that the pair are driven into each other’s arms not by sensual desire but by an irresistible dynamic force...Annabella is to him white in her soul, and to save her fame, and to forestall her husband's cruelty, he kills her upon a kiss with his own hand. From the lovely pathos of their parting it is somewhat disconcerting to turn to the last scene, where Giovanni rushes in among the guests with Annabella's heart upon his dagger, lights with and kills Soranzo, and himself is slain by the husband's retainer...And we feel that his love for her, though outside "the laws of conscience and of civil use", is a worthier thing in the dramatist's eyes than that of the profligate Soranzo." (pp 343-345)
Of "The broken heart", Boas (1946) remarked that "it is the heart of Calantha that is broken, and Ford’s portrayal of her in the last act of the play ranks among his finest achievements. But her fate would touch us more had more been made of her living love for Ithocles and had not the sorrows of Orgilus and Penthea so long been in the foreground..." (p 347) Charles Lamb (1775-1834), cited in Matthews (1895), remarked: 'I do not know where to find, in any play, a catastrophe so grand, so solemn, and so surprising as in this. This is indeed, according to Milton, to describe high passions and high actions. The fortitude of the Spartan boy who let a beast gnaw out his bowels till he died, without expressing a groan, is a faint bodily image of this dilaceration of the spirit, and exenteration of the inmost mind, which Calantha, with a holy violence against her nature, keeps closely covered till the last duties of a wife and a queen are fulfilled...Ford was of the first order of poets. He sought for sublimity, not by parcels, in metaphors or visible images,but directly where she has her full residence in the heart of man, — in the actions and sufferings of the greatest minds. There is a grandeur of the soul above mountains, seas, and the elements.'" (pp 216-217)
"'Tis pity she's a whore"
Time: 1630s. Place: Parma, Italy.
Friar Bonaventura is horrified on learning that his pupil, Giovanni, intends to mate with his own sister. "These are no school points; nice philosophy/May tolerate unlikely arguments,/But heaven admits no jest," he remonstrates. Nevertheless, Giovanni declares he loves his sister, Annabella, at first abashed. "If this be true, 'twere fitter I were dead," she asserts. He attempts to persuade her of the legitimacy of his feelings. "Nearness in birth and blood doth but persuade/A nearer nearness in affection," he says. After some hesitation, she accepts him as a lover. "Live; thou hast won/The field and never fought: what thou hast urged/My captive heart had long ago resolved." They kiss and later join as one. "Come, Annabella, no more sister now,/But love, a name more gracious; do not blush,/Beauty's sweet wonder, but be proud to know/That yielding thou hast conquered, and inflamed/A heart, whose tribute is thy brother's life." Meanwhile, Hippolita seeks revenge of her former lover, Soranzo, who dismisses her after hearing of her husband's death, Richardetto, but, unknown to everyone, the latter is alive. He returns disguised as a doctor, also seeking vengeance on Soranzo, a suitor for Annabella's hand. Richardetto tells Grimaldi, another rival for Annabella's love: "I'll find a time when he and she do meet,/Of which I'll give you notice; and, to be sure/He shall not scape you, I'll provide a poison/To dip your rapier's point in." Richardetto discovers Annabella is pregnant, so that her father, Florio, feels it urgent that she marry at once his choice for her husband: Soranzo. After hearing of Soranzo's love and Bonaventura's pleadings and threats, and reflecting on her condition, Annabella feels cornered to accept Soranzo. At night, instead of his intended victim, Soranzo, Grimaldi by mistake stabs to death a suitor to Richardetto's niece, Philotis, the foolish Bergetto. Protected by a cardinal, Grimaldi is not to be arraigned by anyone in Parma. During the wedding ceremony, Hippolita poisons Soranzo's cup, but, his servant, Vasques, poisons hers instead. She dies cursing both. On his wedding night, a furious Soranzo discovers Annabella's pregnancy and drags her about by the hair: "Now I must be the dad/To all that gallimaufry that is stuffed/In thy corrupted bastard-bearing womb!" he exclaims. He insists to know the father, but, while he hales her about, she sings, until, begged to withhold by Vasques, he at last desists. To help his master, Vasques interrogates her guardian, Putana, who names Giovanni as the culprit. Aghast, Vasques commands his bandit cronies to put out Putana's eyes for having passively allowed in moral blindness such horrid incest. Meanwhile, Giovanni and Annabella continue their secret relations. "Let poring book-men dream of other worlds;/My world, and all of happiness, is here,/And I'd not change it for the best to come:/A life of pleasure is Elysium," he swears. But then he receives Annabella's letter stating that her husband has discovered their secret. Suspecting a trap, Giovanni nevertheless dares to present himself at Sorenzo's birthday-feast, where, invited by Soranzo to see his sister, he stabs her to death, then heads towards the feast with her heart on his dagger, the sight of which kills his father. Giovanni fights with Soranzo and also stabs him to death, then challenges Vasques, who, with the help of his bandits, surrounds Giovanni and stabs him to death in turn. The cardinal commands Putana to be burnt alive and banishes Vasques. He concludes thus on Annabella's case: "Of one so young, so rich in nature's store,/Who could not say 'tis pity she's a whore?"
"The broken heart"
Time: Antiquity. Place: Sparta, Greece.
Orgilus asks permission of his father, Crotolon, to go to Athens. He has lost his love, Penthea, to Bassanes, because her brother, Ithocles, a worthy soldier, forced her into the marriage. Before leaving, Orgilus extorts an oath from his sister, Euphranea, not to marry before his return. "It shall be my first care to see thee matched/As may become thy choice and our contents," he says. But, to spy on "Penthea's usage and Euphranea's faith", Orgilus returns disguised as a scholar under the guidance of Tecnicus, a philosopher, and, to his grief, sees Euphranea walking arm in arm and whispering with Prophilus, a friend to Ithocles. Not recognizing him, Prophilus requests Orgilus to act as a go-between between himself and her. The devious Orgilus readily accepts. He next turns his attention towards his lost love, Penthea. "No horror should deface that precious figure/Sealed with the lively stamp of equal souls," he says to her while throwing off his disguise, but she discourages him from ever approaching her again and, resigned, follows her husband. "In vain we labour in this course of life/To piece our journey out at length, or crave/Respite of breath; our home is in the grave," she affirms. She heads for Ithocles' sick-bed, a man who pines for Calantha, daughter to King Amyclas and promised to Nearchus, prince of Argos. The two are interrupted by a raging, jealous Bassanes with his dagger out, accusing them of incest. Penthea appeases him with the help of Prophilus. Ithocles will keep her for a time, telling the husband: "I dare not trust her to your fury." Because the king favors Euphranea's marriage to Prophilus, Orgilus is forced to accept his judgment. "Sister,/Thou pawnest to me an oath, of which engagement/I never will release thee, if thou aimst/At any other choice than this," he declares, to which she happily submits. Despite the planned marriage with Argos, Penthea speaks on Ithocles' behalf to Calantha, who answers: "Lady,/Your check lies in my silence." Nearchus asks for a ring of Calatha's, but she, considering it too cheap, throws it away, picked up by Ithocles, both angry at this gesture. Acting as a soothsayer, Tecnicus warns the affronter: "Ithocles,/When youth is ripe, and age from time doth part,/The lifeless trunk shall wed the broken heart." To Orgilus he warns: "Let craft with courtesy a while confer;/Revenge proves its own executioner." Pining for her lost Orgilus, Penthea's melancholy has made her distracted. "No falsehood/Equals a broken faith; there's not a hair/Sticks on my head but, like a leaden plummet,/It sinks me to the grave: I must creep thither;/The journey is not long," she avows. When Amyclas the king starts to feel ill, his daughter, Calantha, at last reveals her secret: she prefers Ithocles' love to Nearchus'. The king grants her wish and commands court revels for the marriage of Prophilus with Euphranea. Still melancholy, Penthea dies, with Orgilus and Ithocles in mourning vigil until the latter notices his chair starts to enclose him, thus ripe for Orgilus' revenge. Blaming him for his lost love, Orgilus stabs her brother to death. While courtiers dance, a series of awful news succeed one another to Calantha's grief: the king her father's death, Penthea's death, Ithocles' death, yet after each successive wave, Calantha commands that the dance continue. She asks by whose hand was Ithocles murdered. "By mine," Orgilus declares, who chooses to bleed to death. While he pierces one arm, Bassanes, blaming him for his wife's death, pierces the other. Orgilus sinks contentedly away. "Welcome, thou ice, that sitest about my heart,/No heat can ever thaw thee," he says. Calantha places a wedding ring on Ithocles's dead finger, proclaiming: "Oh, my lords,/I but deceived your eyes with antic gesture,/When one news straight came huddling on another,/Of death! and death! and death! still I danced forward;/But it struck home, and here, and in an instant./Be such mere women, who, with shrieks and outcries,/Can vow a present end to all their sorrows,/Yet live to court new pleasures, and outlive them:/They are the silent griefs which cut the heartstrings;/Let me die smiling." Tecnicus' prophecies are fulfilled: the lifeless trunk of Ithocles has wed Calantha's broken heart and Orgilus' revenge has become its own executioner. With Amyclas dead, Nearchus is declared the new king of Sparta.
Another major tragedy of this period is James Shirley (1596-1666)'s "The cardinal" (1641). Though less complex than the best Jacobean tragedies, it features powerful scenes rife with spilled blood. Shirley also wrote two masterly comedies: "The opportunity" (1634) and “The constant maid” (1640).
For Boas (1946) commenting on "The cardinal", "there is nothing more effective in the whole play than the scene (III. ii) in which the Duchess’s servants get ready to act a comedy before her and the King on the wedding night, and make a fuss about the beards, heads, and doublets in which they are to play their parts. It calls back a similar making-up scene before the catastrophe in Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, and, like it, is a prelude to fatal doom. But the comedy is not acted, for Columbo and five accomplices enter as masquers, dance, beckon D.Alvarez to go out with them and return with his dead body. Columbo confesses the murder and makes a sophistical defence of it as an act of justice which does not prevail with the King who, however, afterwards at the Cardinal’s instigation pardons him." (pp 376)
Shirley also wrote "The maid’s revenge" (1625), "The bird in a cage" (1633), "The duke’s mistress" (1635), "The royal master" (1638).
In "The maid’s revenge", Catalina is mortally offended that Antonio, the man she loves and friend to her brother, Sebastiano, loves instead her younger sister, Berinthia. She informs Berinthia’s suitor, Velasco, of this and recommends him to elope with her, but their talk is overheard by Antonio’s servant, Diego. To bind herself more surely to Antonio, Catalina poisons her sister’s food so that the blame may fall on Velasco, but the poison is ineffective. Warned by Diego, Antonio precedes Velasco and carries away Berinthia. Incited by his father, Sebastiano pursues Antonio to retrieve his sister. Unwillingly, he crosses swords with him and, despite Berinthia’s pleadings to desist, kills him. In a melancholy state, Sebastiano is surprised by a visit from Castabella, Antonio’s sister disguised as a boy, who informs him that his friend’s dying wish was that she serve him. Convinced of Catalina’s enmity, Berinthia overhears a conversation between her suitor, Montenegro, and their servant, Ansilva, about to deliver a love potion. She substitutes the potion with a deadly poison, consumed by Catalina and Ansilva, then, catching Sebastiano asleep on a couch, stabs him to death and then herself.
In "The bird in a cage", the duke of Mantua has so little confidence that his daughter, Eugenia, can be kept in obedience until she marries the prince of Florence that he locks her up in a rich prison alone with attendant ladies. To rescue Eugenia, her banished lover, Philenzo, disguised as a madcap, wagers with the duke for his life that he can enter her room in exchange for money. He succeeds by entering in the form of a bird in the cage. When the duke learns that they are married, he orders his death till receiving word from the duke of Tuscany that, hearing of Philenzo’s cause of banishment, he disclaims their marriage contract.
In "The duke’s mistress", Ardelia and Bentivolio plighted troth many years ago but were separated as a result of his father’s disapproval. Now he sees her at court as the duke’s mistress, though without having yet slept with him. His love is discovered by a courtier, Valerio, who promises to help him kill the duke, because he wants Ardelia for himself. Valerio also promises to help Leontio, next in line for the dukedom, who loves the duke’s wronged duchess, Euphemia, and sends a captain, Pallante, out to kill him. In her chamber, Valerio proposes to sleep with Ardelia in exchange for his silence regarding Bentivolio, but their talk is interrupted by Bentivolio, so that Valerio, thinking he hears the duke’s knock at the door, hides behind a curtain. Wishing to make away with Valerio, Ardelia tells Bentivolio that the duke is hiding behind the curtain. He stabs Valerio to death while Pallante falsely states he did away the duke. Confused officers seize Ardelia and Bentivolio, who confesses he killed the duke without her help, yet Leontio arrests both. When he reaches Euphemia’s room to make her his duchess, she pulls away and the disguised duke steps forth, pretending to be a servant. When an angry Leontio, intending to force Euphemia to his will, gives him his sword to guard the door, he calls out and four men including Pallante stab the traitor to death. The duke thanks Pallante for believing in his repentance towards Euphemia and pardons Bentivolio for accidently murdering Valerio.
In "The royal master", the court favorite, Montalto, plans to marry the king of Naples’ sister, Theodosia, although his master intends to marry him to Domitilla, a lady newly arrived at court who thinks the king loves her. The king also intends to gives Theodosia’s hand to the duke of Florence, who love each other. To reach his ambitious ends, Montalto suggests to Philoberto in the duke’s hearing that Theodosia loves another and is no virgin and to Theodosia that the duke loves Domitilla. However, Montalto does not know that Philoberto is the disguised Riviero, a voluntary exile from Naples and once thought poisoned to death by Montalto, his arrival revealed to the king by Riviero’s son, Octavio. Moreover, when Theodosia threatens Domitilla with a dagger as her rival, she reveals she loves the king, not the duke. The suspicious king tells Montalto of his plan to pretend he has lost his favor at court, so that the favorite can witness who are his true friends and enemies, to which he reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile the duke courts Domitilla in Theodosia’s hearing, and when the former grows cool, the latter reveals her continued love of him, which he thankfully reciprocates. Accusations against Montalto accumulate so that the king banishes him. Unwilling to sadden Domitilla, he pretends to desire her as his mistress until Octavio defends her as a lover, whom she accepts.
Shirley often appears a master in presenting reversals of fortunes, for example in “The doubtful heir” (1640) when, after much ado, Ferdinand is crowned as the rightful king, thrown down by Leonario, prince of Aragon, a lover dismissed by the previous sovereign, Olivia, after she named Ferdinand as her consort king, then crowned again with Rosania after Alfonso, her father, heads an army from Valencia, not Aragon, as Leonario thought.
Time: 1640s. Place: Navarre and fields of war.
Rosaura, a widowed duchess, wishes to marry Alvarez, not Columbo, the king's choice and the cardinal's nephew. Before he has a chance to win her, Columbo must go fight as a general in their war against the kingdom of Aragon. Away from Navarre, Columbo receives a letter from the duchess: "She writes, and counsels/Under my hand, to send her back a free/Resign of all my interest to her person,/Promise, or love; that there's no other way,/With safety of my honour, to revisit her." He sends a letter back in apparent submission to her will, with which the duchess goes to the king and asks permission to take Alvarez as her husband, which he now condones. The cardinal is displeased, but unable to shake her resolution. Columbo becomes a successful general during the battles, but in the cardinal's mind: "He has not won so much upon the Aragon/As he has lost at home; and his neglect/Of what my studies had contrived, to add/More lustre to our family by the access/Of the great duchess' fortune, shoots his triumph/And makes me wild." During the wedding celebration, a disguised Columbo dances along with other masquers, then speaks to Alvarez apart. Alvarez returns with Columbo's dead body. The king calls his guards to seize the masquers, who have escaped. Columbo says he can justify the act: "I have but took his life,/And punished her with mercy, who had both /Conspired to kill the soul of all my fame." He shows the king the duchess' letter and says his submission was feigned, only meant to test her. Despite these explanations, the king is affronted by such a bloody act and commands Columbo's arrest, a decision which makes the duchess conclude: "This shows like justice." However, the courtiers soon discover: "This is the age of wonders," for, influenced by the cardinal, the murder becomes forgotten and only the general's deeds remembered. But Columbo's revenges have not ended. He warns the duchess thus: "Live, but never presume again to marry;/I'll kill the next at the altar, and quench all/The smiling tapers with his blood-" Another rival steps forth in the shape of Hernando, seeking vengeance on Columbo for an insult and pitying the dead Alvarez . Hernando offers to the duchess to kill Columbo, whereby she promises him her hand in marriage. She also considers herself safer by pretending madness. Hernando challenges Columbo and kills his second during the duel, while Columbo kills his. Hernando then kills Columbo and escapes. Since the duchess appears mad, the king names the cardinal as her guardian. Angered at being impeded of his will, the cardinal "spreads his nets" to capture the missing Hernando. The duchess' servant, Antonio, pities her case, stating: "Some pleasure would do well: the truth is, I/Am weary of my life, and I would have/One fit of mirth before I leave the world." Hernando returns in a disguise to deliver a letter to the duchess. He is recognized by the approving Antonio, and thankfully received by the duchess. Later, the cardinal invites the duchess to supper and entertains her, but not with church music. While Hernando hides nearby, the cardinal attempts to seduce her. Angered at this affront, Hernando stabs him and then thinking he cannot escape, stabs himself to death. Believing himself near death, the cardinal confesses he gave her poison to drink, but offers her the antidote, tasting it first. The duchess gladly drinks what she thinks is the antidote but is actually the poison and dies from it. When told his wounds were not so mortal as he thought and that he poisoned himself for nothing, the cardinal concludes: "I have caught myself with my own engine."
Time: 1630s. Place: Italy.
Aurelio is surprised by cheerful greetings from three Urbino citizens who think they recognize him as Borgia, son of Mercutio, also fooled into believing him to be his son and presenting him to the duchess. Although the true Borgia killed his brother many years ago and was banished to Milan for it, Ursini is content that the widowed duchess pardon him. But while the duchess has eyes only on the false Borgia, the latter has eyes only for Cornelia, Borgia’s sister, so that, distraught when Ursini asks the supposed brother for her hand in marriage, Aurelio declares she is already promised to Aurelio of Milan, but will seek to disengage her in gratitude for his service. Ursini embraces him. The enamored duchess awards to the false Borgia the post of secretary. Meanwhile, Aurelio’s servant, Pimponio, laden with money from his master at the inn, pretends to be a prince of Spain arrived as a suitor to the duchess. When Aurelio’s friend, Pisauro, beholds the trick, he subscribes to it in fear that the servant will reveal Aurelio’s identity at court. Disguised as his own ambassador to spy on her moors before marrying the duchess for himself, the duke of Ferrara is affronted by her neglect in favor of Aurelio. He is nevertheless encouraged by his cousin, Ursini, to stay longer at court. Aurelio informs Pisauro that both the duchess and Cornelia show signs of loving him. At night outside the ducal palace, the duke spies on Aurelio. At her window and seeing Aurelio, Cornelia pretends she is the duchess and requests that he look no higher than the post of secretary as well as announcing her intention to marry Ferrara. At this false piece of news, the overjoyed Ferrara leaves the scene intent on abandoning his disguise. Cornelia hears a noise, discovers the duchess, and quickly leaves. Recognizing that Cornelia pretended to be the duchess’ person and frightened Aurelio from ever courting her own person, the duchess pretends in turn to be Cornelia intent on marrying Ursini, so that Aurelio is left with nothing and discloses his identity. Believing that Aurelio will marry the duchess, Pisauro courts Cornelia. “You dote upon your brother,” he declares. “Come, ‘tis impious./Purge, purge betimes, your blood is foul- I’m plain-/There’s some on’t in your face now, that would blush.” Though in love with Aurelio, the shaken Cornelia denies the imputation. Having no reason to stay, Aurelio tells the duchess that he intends to leave the court. Distraught and suspecting he might love another woman, the duchess insists on knowing who she is. Cornelia interrupts their talk by announcing the arrival of the duke of Ferrara. The irritated duchess roughly sends her away, so that Aurelio, by these signs, recognizes she is jealous of Cornelia. However, his confidence decreases when Ursini reveals that the duke has arrived to marry the duchess, reminding him he is still waiting for his promise to marry his sister. Anxious about his supposed son’s courting the duchess, Mercutio intends to choose a wife for him. He is aghast at hearing Aurelio’s response: “I will marry/None but my sister, take my word.” The panicky Mercutio requests him to take ten bags of gold from his coffers and let Cornelia marry Ursini. When Ferrara reveals his true self, he is dismayed at the duchess’s coolness towards him. He turns to Aurelio as a witness of her promise at her window to marry him, but Aurelio denies that. Cornelia then reveals herself as the impersonator of the duchess’ voice. Encouraged by a servant at the inn, Pimponio enters as a Spanish prince. For further amusement, Pisauro advises him to announce himself as the duke of Ferrara. When he does so, the real duke is affronted and told by Ursini that Aurelio is responsible. “We are displeased,” remarks the duchess. “Hence with that fellow and whip him.” Officers arrive to remove Pimponio’s shirt. Then she will have him hanged. He trembles almost naked until an officer tells another to kick him out of the court. Still willing to please Aurelio, the duchess names Mercutio as the controller of her household. When asked by Aurelio whether she loves him, she pretends at first to be angry but then requests him to write a letter, revealing her love for a man she does not name, so that Aurelio recognizes it as meant for him. But yet when Ferrara confronts him, he gives him the letter as if meant for him to meet the duchess in the garden, where the duchess requests Mercutio to guard the entrance and to let no one enter except Aurelio. But no longer opposed against his being made a duke, he lets in Ferrara wrapped in a cloak, mistaking him for his supposed son. Mercutio is dumbfounded at seeing Aurelio request entrance into the garden. With the duchess’ letter in Ferrara’s pocket, all hope is gone. “I am an undone, this minute I am blasted,” he groans. “It was the duke, upon my life.” Meanwhile, Pisauro renews his courtship of Cornelia, again advising her to abandon hopes on her own brother and specifying how he may even deny he is her brother. When Aurelio discloses his true identity with Ursini hiding behind a curtain, she laughs, believes Pisauro’s lie, and yields her hand to Ursini. Recognizing Aurelio’s lack of confidence in himself, the duchess announces that Ferrara is hers.
"The constant maid"
Time: 1640s. Place: London, England.
Hartwell and Frances love each other, but he is too poor for her widowed mother, Bellamy, to consider a marriage between the two. For her part, Bellamy is courted by Hornet, but has no interest in marrying the old usurer. Instead, she wants Hartwell as a husband, who recoils aghast but is advised by his friend, Playfair, to pretend he loves the mother and thereby have access to the daughter. This conversation is overheard by the household nurse, who favors the mother’ choice of a rich country clod, Startup, as Frances’ husband. Playfair wishes to marry Hornet’s niece under the tutelage of this usurer, who will lose a great deal of money if she marries. To distract Hornet from his charge, Playfair’s cousin impersonates a doctor who certifies that she is mad, while a servant impersonates a pursuivant who announces that the king requires his presence at court. Hornet worries about a possible loss of money. “I see my chattels seized,” he moans, “This chest is ransacked, and that bag deflowered,/My door sealed up, and with this hungry messenger/I am already marching to the fleet.” Meanwhile, the nurse warns Startup about his rival, Hartwell. To expose his supposed treachery, Startup and Frances hide while overhearing Hartwell convincingly play her mother’s suitor. Instead of thanking Startup, the unhappy Frances dismisses him. “Die and be forgotten,” she cries while hurrying away. At the house of Sir Clement, Playfair’s uncle and a justice of the peace, Playfair’s cousin impersonates the king and servants various lords. The supposed king confers a knighthood on a Hornet led to believe he has become great and in favor with his royal majesty. Meanwhile, Hartwell’s servant, Close, learns from the nurse that she intends to let in Startup for her mistress, so that Hartwell enters Frances’ room in the country gentleman’s clothes. Recognizing her lover’s voice and meaning to test him, Frances pretends to accept Startup’s marriage proposal. Hartwell is all the more distressed. “Oh, who shall lead me to a world where are/No women?” he wonders. Close frightens Startup into escaping from the house into the night by suggesting that Hartwell intends to cut his rival’s throat. While hiding inside a ditch, he is arrested by a constable and his watchmen for suspicious activity. At her house, Bellamy receives the visit of a countryman who, to her dismay, informs her that Startup previously agreed to a marriage contract with his daughter and he intends to make him keep his word. This event prompts Bellamy to reveal her love of Hartwell to her even unhappier daughter. But when Bellamy beholds her daughter still constant, she backs off. “I loved him but for thee,” she suggests. “Dispose thyself to be his bride.” Yet Hartwell in his rival’s clothes is arrested by officers as a possible murderer. In his depressed state, he does not deny it. When Hornet returns home, he discovers that his niece has fled. Playfair’s cousin promises to help him find him, provided he forgets a debt he owes plus additional cash. Hornet is forced to agree. Playfield and his love marry and reach Sir Clement’s house, where officers bring the dejected Hartwell ready to be tried until other officers bring in Startup. Nothing further prevents Hartwell from marrying Frances and Startup from marrying the countryman’s daughter.
Ben Jonson (1572-1637) continued his mastery of satire from the previous reign with "A tale of a tub" (1633).
"A tale of a tub"
Time: late 16th century. Place: London, England.
Canon Hugh informs Squire Tub that Constable Turf has agreed to marry his daughter, Audrey, with John Clay, a tilemaker. The canon receives money from Tub for this information, but, instead of helping, he informs Justice Preamble of Tub's desire to marry her himself and receives money from him, too. Hugh arranges that Tub's servant, Hilts, interrupt the wedding march towards church by pretending that Clay is guilty of robbing Captain Thums and enjoins Turf to arrest Clay. As Tub takes Audrey away, Preamble shows up with his clerk, Metaphor, presented as a poursuivant, to arrest him in the name of the queen's council. Preamble takes Audrey away before Hilts has a chance of frightening Metaphor into confessing he is no poursuivant and therefore has no authority to arrest Tub, who runs off to find Turf and prevent his rival's marriage. Frightened that he may be arrested at any moment, Clay runs away to hide while Tub informs Turf of Preamble's plot to marry his daughter. Alarmed at these news, Turf runs off and prevents the marriage. Nonplussed, Hugh disguises himself as Captain Thums and insists on receiving money from Turf to compensate for his slackness at finding the supposed robber, Clay. Afraid of the legal consequences, Turf is forced to agree. He sends Metaphor off to his wife to hand over the money. Keen for more knavery, Hugh enjoins Metaphor tell Audrey that Clay is found and altogether ready to marry her to him. However, Metaphor, confronted wth Hilts' threats with a drawn sword, reveals Hugh's splot to Tub, who requests him to bring the girl to him instead and share the money with Hilts. Metaphor agrees and achieves his ends, but before Tub can carry her away, his mother, Lady Tub, who does not desire the love-match, insists on his following her and so the girl is left with her servant, Pol. Walking with his mother along with Turf's wife, Tub finds Clay hiding in a barn and thereby Turf's wife discovers Metaphor cheated her of her money while absconding with her daughter. Preamble and Hugh worry that Metaphor escaped with the money and even more so when told that Clay has been found. But worse than all this, thinking them to be strangers, Hugh married Audrey to Pol, and so Clay and Tub are left without a wife.
Another main comedy of the period is "A new way to pay old debts" (c. 1625) by Philip Massinger (1583-1640). In Downer’s (1950) view, “Philip Massinger's “A new way to pay old debts” which combines the Jonsonian humours with the intrigue of realistic city comedy. A villainous extortioner, Sir Giles Overreach, is cheated out of his ill-gotten gains by a clever deceit practised by Frank Wellborn, his nephew. Wellborn, one of his uncle's victims, pretends to be the prospective husband of a wealthy widow, Lady Allworth, and Sir Giles, blinded with joy at the prospect of robbing the same victim twice, returns his nephew's property and is bilked of his own. It is not an original plot; if Sir Giles had spent more time in the theater and less in his counting-room, he would have realized that he was being cheated as Pecunius Lucre was cheated by his nephew in “A Trick to Catch the Old One” (1605)…Middleton in his opening scene presents Witgood and his mistress discussing their whole plan; Massinger begins his intrigue with a whispered confidence between Wellborn and Lady Allworth, and keeps the audience in the dark as long as possible. A similar device of a secret confidence is employed in the secondary plot as Lord Lovell pretends to woo Margaret while actually assuring her of his assistance in thwarting Overreach…The most conventional situation of the revenge play is employed for denouement as the tool villain turns upon his employer and publicly exposes him… The difference, the originality of Massinger, lies in the changed tone of the play. Watching the machinations of Volpone or Subtle, the audience can take a certain pleasure in the way their (admittedly evil) devices get the best of a series of fools before leading to their own downfall. For Sir Giles there is only loathing; he is not a fox, but a wolf, a vulture, a terrifying figure.” (pp 179-180)
Of Giles Overreach, Knight (1893) wrote that "in the conception of this character Massinger seems to have caught a breath of inspiration from Marlowe. Sir Giles Overreach is as implacable as Barabas and as daring as Faustus. He pursues his way to his end with a calm serenity of villainy perfectly diabolic. It is a mistake from the highest standpoint that the end is insignificant. The lust of Faustus for knowledge is in itself noble, though the means he takes to gratify it are unblest, and the crimes of Barabas, like the revenge of Shylock, find a certain element of mitigation in the fact that each in his feelings represents the result of centuries of wrong and oppression. Overreach, however, is bad from a species of innate love of tyrannising over his fellows." (p 180) In the view of Symons (1919), “in the character of Sir Giles Overreach he has made his single contribution to the gallery of permanent illustrations of human nature: a portrait to be spoken of with Grandet and with Harpagon.” (p 193) Despite his repulsive side, “his vigorous personality arouses in us an unwilling respect, as for a force of nature”, his downfall resembling ”a Libyan lion in the toil” (Knight, 1962 p 120).
Massinger also wrote with Fletcher “The lovers' progress” (1634).
"A new way to pay old debts"
Time: 1620s. Place: London, England.
"A new way to pay old debts" text at http://www.archive.org/details/newwaytopayoldde00massuoft https://archive.org/details/philipmassinger01massgoog https://archive.org/details/britishdramaaco03unkngoog https://archive.org/details/plays00massgoog
Wellborn, a gentleman, is scolded for leading a riotous life by Tapwell, an alehouse keeper. He had been supported awhile by Sir Giles Overreach, an extortioner, but then abandoned. In frustration, Wellborn beats the keeper. In desperate straits, he visits Lady Allworth, but, before seeing her, is mistreated by her servants. He reminds the rich widow how he once helped her husband. She acknowledges the good deed by promising to help him regain his good fortune. Overreach tells Marrall, his term-driver, about the extent of his ambition. "I must have all men sellers,/And I the only purchaser," he declares. Hearing of a recalcitrant neighbor, he threatens his very livelihood. "I'll make my men break ope his fences,/Ride o'er his standing corn, and in the night/Set fire on his barns, or break his cattle's legs," he suggests. Marrall visits Lady Allworth's house and is astounded on seeing Wellborn so well treated there. Willing to get on the good side of one who may marry her, Marrall tells Overreach he gave Wellborn money and a horse. In disgust, Overreach knocks him down. Overreach next fixes his attention on Margaret, his daughter, for the purpose of ensnaring Lovell, a lord, in marriage, advising her against all modesty. "If his blood go hot, suppose he offer/Beyond this, do not stay till it cool/But meet his ardor; if a couch be near/Sit down on't, and invite him," he suggests. But when Lovell arrives as a suitor, she points out the unevenness of their social positions. Overreach's plot regarding Margaret is failing: "She neglects my lord/And all her complements applied to Wellborn!" But yet, confident to be able to extort money from his son-in-law to be, he pays to get rich clothes out of pawn. Thanks to Overreach, Wellborn summons his creditors by drum-roll and pays them all at once, a new way to pay old debts. Lovell tells Lady Allworth that Margaret is right: he should indeed keep to his own social sphere, which she is glad to hear. Unlike what her father thinks, Margaret loves not Wellborn but his friend, Lady Allworth's son and page to Lovell. Overreach is led to believe a marriage with Lovell is still possible, but Allworth tricks him into signing a paper whereby he himself becomes the groom, while Lovell marries Lady Allworth. Although his debts are paid, Wellborn still needs money to live. When Overreach demands securities in exchange for lending him money, Wellborn accuses him of having extorted his father's lands. As Overreach looks for the deeds, he finds all the writings blotted out, the result of Marrall's revenge against his cruelties. Another unhappy surprise awaits him: Margaret kneels for her father's blessing regarding her marriage with Allworth. He is incensed to the point of attempting to kill her, but is prevented by Lovell. Overreach spits on him and promises to turn his house into "a heap of ashes", or else, he adds, may "hell add to my afflictions". He then thrashes about with his sword in acts of wildness. "How he foams!" remarks Lovell. "And bites the earth!" adds Wellborn. A parson commands his servants to carry Overreach as a madman inside a dark room.
“The lovers' progress”
Time: Antiquity. Place: Paris, France.
Lisander loves Calista, though she is married to his friend, Cleander. Lidian, brother to Calista, and Clarange are rivals for the love of Olinda, but she, unable to decide between the two, declares this injunction: “Go from me both contentedly, and he/That last makes his return, and comes to visit,/Comes to my bed.” Calista receives the visit of her father, Dorilaus, who emerged from the woods with his servants wounded by robbers but saved by an unknown man. Cleander and Calista learn from a servant that the unknown man is Lisander. Lidian challenges Clarange to a duel and Lisander participates as the second to Clarange against Alcidon. Lisander’s servant, Lancelot, comes disguised as a fortune-teller at Calista’s house with money so that Clarinda, her servant, may keep silent as to his master’s visit. Clarange wounds Lidian but is encouraged by Lisander, who won his fight, to forbear killing him. Both agreeing to this, Clarange and Lidian separate. At night, Lisander enters Calista’s room but cannot tempt her to bed, so that, in despair, he gives her a pistol to shoot him with, but then quickly leaves before Cleander’s arrival. The next morning, Calista suspects that Clarinda slept with a man and harasses her for the name until the servant threatens her mistress with exposure concerning Lisander. Affronted, Calista orders her out of the house, but Beronte, Cleander’s brother, mediates her return. Clarinda nevertheless persists in loving her cousin, Leon, who, interrupted by Cleander looking for an intruder in his house at night, stabs him to death. To divert the blame away from her lover, Clorinda places his sword in the hands of his coward rival, Malfort, who fainted after witnessing the murder. However, warned by Clarinda on the suspicions concerning her mistress, Beronte blames Calista for his brother’s murder, all the more plausible since the sword once belonged to Lisander. By means of a friar, Clarange, intending to lead a religious life, misleads Lidian into thinking he is dead, so that he can win Olinda. Dorilaus finds Leon in a wood and before the king confesses to Cleander’s murder. Acceding to Calista’s request for a boon, the king pardons Lisander’s duel with two of Cleander’s kinsmen and accord him leave to marry Calista after one year’s grieving.
Another main comedy includes "A mad couple well matched" (c. 1639) by Richard Brome (c. 1590-1653).
"A mad couple well matched"
Time: 1630s. Place: London, England.
Careless is at his wit's end because he can no longer count on his uncle, Lord Thrivewell, to defray his debaucheries. His servant, Wat, suggests he may open a male-brothel, but this is dismissed as being too low an occupation for a gentleman. His uncle's friend, Saveall, arrives to say that all may yet be saved, since the uncle has yet to engender an heir. Careless' mistress, Phoebe, complains to Wat of Careless' conduct, a man who first promised marriage and then ignores her. Her cousin, Saleware, defends her point of view. Meanwhile, Thrivewell has something bothersome on his mind and his wife must know it. He confesses having lain with Mistress Saleware, a shopkeeper, for the price of 100 pounds. His wife laughs away this information. Thrivewell and his nephew become reconciled, the former exclaiming: "George, here’s a lodging for you in this house, and my table has a place for you." Lady Thrivewell goes over to Mistress Saleware's shop and buys from her over 100 pounds-worth of cloth, pretending that the 100 pounds her husband gave her was merely a loan and adding this warning: "Take heed you do not by your sullenness make me suspect another kind of good turn, or that you did my husband any to my injury, nor deny the receipt of his money, lest I take up a violence that will not become me, nor you be able to bear." After Lady Thrivewell leaves, Bellamy enters the shop, a pander to Lord Lovely but hopeful to land Mistress Saleware for his own bed. She agrees to this, provided he lies first in Lady Thrivewell's arms. As Master Saleware enters, she complains of her shopkeeping duties, but calms herself after being promised money to buy fancier clothes. She tells him she sold material for over 100 pounds, but already bought clothes with the money. Meanwhile, Careless is getting comfortable at his uncle's house. Willing to convince his uncle he intends to lead a settled life with marriage, he conveys via Saveall's hands a letter to a rich widow, Crostill, but it is a letter of abuse, not love. When Saveall confronts him for having misled him, Careless explains that he gave him the wrong letter, meant for a whore named Phoebe. When Lady Thrivewell arrives, Careless tries to seduce her, to which she recoils, he being her husband's nephew. He shrugs off any thought of impropriety in this case: "No man living, madam, can do it for him more naturally and less sinfully. I am of the same flesh and blood, and bring his youth to your pleasure." To convince her further, he says that Saveall has pimped for her husband more often than she ever slept with him. She does not believe him, crying out: "Was this the best construction you could make of my love to you, or a fit requital, to make me an incestuous whore?" After sending him off on an errand, Lady Thrivewell finds Saveall with the weeping Phoebe, who received Careless' letter but then sent it back, as if meant for another. Lady Thrivewell promises to help her. Mistress Saleware hears a rumor whereby Bellamy is supposed to have been successful in regard to Lady Thrivewell. That lady appears to be thankful to Mistress Saleware for sending Bellamy to her, promising to send her back the 100 pounds. Meanwhile, Lord Lovely recommends that Bellamy marry widow Crostill. To her, the lord boasts of Bellamy's sexual prowess: "He has no less than five old gentlemen’s/Young wives with child this moon, but got all in/One week." Saveall then enters with Careless, the latter still a viable suitor for the widow. Careless adopts a bold attitude towards her, Bellamy a bashful one. The widow appears to prefer the latter. Meanwhile, Lady Thrivewell renews her intention to help Phoebe regain Careless by placing her deceitfully in her own bed while being wooed by him. In another part of the city, Saleware has heard a rumor that his wife is inside one of Lovely's houses, but cannot believe this of her. He is led by Bellamy to her bed, where, despite obvious signs of her amorous feelings for Bellamy, he refuses to credit his own ears, considering all this a trick to make him jealous. Thinking to have lain with Lady Thrivewell, but actually with Phoebe, Careless wishes for one more bout with her. When Phoebe refuses, he threatens to expose her. Suddenly, Thrivewell appears, but is eventually appeased after discovering his wife was not in her bed. To keep both Lord Lovely and Bellamy as her own, Mistress Saleware challenges her husband to prove to the lord she has been attempted by Bellamy, but to her surprise, the husband has found the letter she thought lost, warning him of his wife's adultery, written in Bellamy's hand. Meanwhile, Careless, angry at being bed-tricked, reveals to Thrivewell his wife's adulterous relation with Bellamy. Moreover, he admits that the reason he first entered in his uncle's good graces, namely preventing a robbery, was a trick plotted by himself and Wat. Lastly, he admits having injured Phoebe, and is prepared to make amends by marrying her, but this plan is thwarted by Crostill, who agrees to accept him as a husband and to give Phoebe 100 pounds, which she refuses until Wat reveals he has lain with her as often as his master. Having been accused by Careless and Mistress Saleware of adultery with Bellamy, Lady Thrivewell is shown to be innocent when Bellamy is revealed to be a woman, in love with Lord Lovely to such an extent as to be willing to serve as his pander just to be with him, which the lord rewards with 200 pounds per year for her entire life.