History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Jacobean
Jacobean plays comprise the period from 1603 to 1625, during the reign of James I.
- 1 William Shakespeare
- 2 Ben Jonson
- 3 John Webster
- 4 Thomas Middleton
- 5 John Marston
- 6 Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher
- 7 Philip Massinger
- 8 Nathan Field
- 9 George-Chapman
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) continued writing in the Jacobean period, during the reign of King James I of England (1603-1625), with the bleak tragedies "Othello" (1603), "King Lear" (1605) and "Macbeth" (1606) along with the less bleak but nearly as powerful "Antony and Cleopatra" (1607) and "Coriolanus" (1608), as well as the dark comedies "All's well that ends well" (1603) based on Giovanni Boccaccio's "The decameron" (day 3, tale 9) and "Measure for measure" (1604), to end up with the tragicomedies, "The winter's tale" (1609) the "The tempest" (1611). Known for small or medium-sized roles and specializing in older characters, Shakespeare may have played Brabantio in "Othello", Rinaldo, the countess of Rossillion's steward, in "All's well that ends well", Friar Peter in "Measure for measure", the old shepherd in "The winter's tale", Adrian in "The tempest", Gloster's tenant in "King Lear", the old man in "Macbeth", the soothsayer in "Antony and Cleopatra", and Aufidius' lieutenant in "Coriolanus".
Bradley (1905) points out Othello’s main characteristics: openness, trusting, not observant or inclined to introspection. He exhibits great self-control except in the matter of jealousy. Othello and Desdemona misread each other’s emotions in part because of their different races. Iago enjoys the distresses of Othello and Cassio but not Desdemona’s.
In “King Lear” in defying her father, Cordelia implies that giving love to her husband will take away from the father (Bradley, 1905). Edmund’s delay at revealing his death-warrant on Lear and Cordelia reflects his sluggishness to do good (Bradley, 1905). Moreover, Lear dies from a false joy at thinking Cordelia is alive (Bradley, 1905).
In “Macbeth”, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have twin ambitions throughout (Bradley, 1905). According to Hauser (1986), in ages of tragedy the old combat the world-view of the young, whereas in non-tragic ages, the young combat the the world-view of the old. After the murder, goodness becomes a danger to Macbeth (Speight, 1966).
In “Measure for measure”, Knight (1949) underlines the correspondences between the play and the Gospels. The title of the play reflects the following sentences: “judge ye not so that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged and what measure ye meet, it shall be measured to you again (Matthew 7:1). The plot also reflects in part the parable of the two debtors (Luke 7:41-47). When a creditor forgets two men’s debts because they cannot pay, the one who had the most to pay is judged to love the creditor most. Likewise, when God pardons two men’s sins because of weakness, the one who sinned the most may love God most. The duke behaves with Juliet as Jesus did with the woman taken in adultery (John 8:11). When Escalus pleads for mercy for Claudio with Angelo based on whether he had not sinned in such a way, Angelo responds: “’Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,/Another thing to fall.” In contrast, Jesus said: “Whosoever looketh at woman to lust after her committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27). Knight (1949) considers the duke’s sentence on Lucio just on the basis of Jesus’ warning: “Every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). In contrast, Webster (1961) considers it “savagery”.
Tillyard (1965) points out the change in Isabella from exclaiming against Angelo on first hearing of what he intends to do with her: “O faithless coward, O dishonest wretch!/Wilt thou be made a man out of my vice?” to submission to the duke when he shows up as a friar. This is because the duke represents valid authority in the state, which no one can question, whereas by his overture in lustful feelings Angelo represents an invalid one. When Angelo refuses her brother’s pardon Isabella also acts submissively. The duke eventually combines the function of state and church.
In “All’s well that ends well”, in Tillyard (1965)’s view, Bertram’s physical courage but moral cowardice results in being seen as “mean and repellent but also pathetic and to be pitied.” Helena’s exchange on the subject of virginity with Parolles seen in Tillyard (1965)’s view as “weak and indecent” Helena’s treatment seen as a miracle (Tillyard, 1965).
Time: 1600s. Place: Venice (Italy) and Rhodes.
In love with Desdemona who has left her father's house to follow the fortunes of Othello, a general with a crucial role in defending the Venetian state, Roderigo depends on the advice of Iago on how to win her. Iago pretends to help him while desiring to avenge Othello's nomination of Cassio to a lieutenant's post in his place. To begin plaguing Othello, he and Roderigo loudly awake late at night Desdemona's father, Brabantio, to inform him of her flight, who, in turn, informs the duke and senators at the council chamber on how Othello likely used evil practices to suborn her, but when Desdemona denies this, Brabantio is forced to relent. The duke nominates Othello to head towards Cyprus and defend the state against an attack by the Turks. However, the Turkish ships are dispersed by a storm so that Cyprus is safe. Having failed to impede Othello's marriage, Iago has another plot in mind: make Cassio drunk and stir up a fight incited by Roderigo in a town prepared for war. The plan works. Othello dismisses Cassio of his lieutenantship. A humiliated Cassio desperately heeds Iago's advice of requesting Desdemona's help to return in Othello's favor. She agrees all the more willingly because he had helped her obtain Othello against her father's wishes. When requested to reinstate Cassio, Othello answers: "I will deny thee nothing." Iago seizes the opportunity of revenge by insinuating to his general that her request is guided by a desire to engage in adulterous relations with Cassio. "She did deceive her father, marrying you," he reminds Othello. "And when she seemed to shake and fear your looks,/She loved them most." "And so she did," Othello answers musingly. Yet when he next encounters her, he cannot believe his suspicions to be true. After mentioning he has a pain on his forehead, the cuckold's horn, she offers to soothe it by binding it with a handkerchief he once gave her, but when it falls from her hand, he asks her to follow him without picking it up. Iago's wife, Emilia, notices the handkershief lying on the pavement and tells her husband about it, who discovers yet another opportunity to cause trouble by pretending to Othello that she gave it as a gift to Cassio and adding that he had heard Cassio mumbling in his sleep about his love of her. Othello believes the lie and offers this villain the lieutenant's post. More troubled than ever and having forgotten he had seen her drop it, Othello asks Desdemona for the handkerchief, but she cannot produce it and Emilia says not a word. Seeing Othello's continued frenzy, Iago goes one step further by announcing Cassio's confession of having slept with her, at which Othello falls into convulsions. After awaking, he accepts Iago's suggestion to hide himself while overhearing in secret what Cassio may reveal further. Othello thinks he hears Cassio boast about his conquest while he is speaking about Bianca, a courtisan with whom he entertains superficial relations. Moreover, Othello beholds in Cassio's hand the handkerchief Iago left it in his chamber, which the former had asked Bianca to copy. The jealous Othello is then transformed into the murderous Othello while Iago promises to kill Cassio. The opportunity is given him with the arrival of the unhappy Roderigo, angry that he is no nearer obtaining Desdemona after giving her jewels as gifts, which, unknown to him, Iago never gave her. To rid himself of either or both, Iago convinces him to kill Cassio. He agrees. At night-time, he strikes Cassio in the street but fails to kill him. Cassio wounds Roderigo but is stabbed from behind in the leg by Iago, who escapes in the dark undetected. While Cassio cries out for help amid more confused cries, Iago returns, treacherously murders Roderigo when no one can see him, and before two of Brabantio's kinsmen accuses Bianca of being responsible for Cassio's stabbing. Meanwhile, Othello stealthily approaches his wife's bed and strangles her to death. Emilia arrives to announce the news of the attack on Cassio only to discover Desdemona's dead body. He at first denies knowing anything about it, but then readily admits he murdered an adulterous woman. Emilia does not believe her mistress was ever false and is stunned on his revealing that her husband knew all about Desdemona's supposed treachery, including the business of the handkerchief, because she herself gave it to her husband. When Iago arrives, she exposes his deceit. Unable to quiet his wife, he murders her, attempts to escape, but is easily captured. Having lost everything he ever valued, Othello stabs himself to death.
Time: Antiquity. Place: Britain and France.
King Lear wishes to divides his kingdom among his three daughters, offering the largest share to whoever loves him best. Both Goneril and Regan proclaim they love him best, but Cordelia loves him "according to her bond", the normal father-daughter attachment. As a result, Lear disinherits her. The earl of Kent advises him to "see better", and is thereby banished. Since Cordelia has lost her inheritance, the duke of Burgundy withdraws his suit, but not the king of France, who is accepted. Lear announces he will live alternately with Goneril and Regan and their husbands, the dukes of Albany and Cornwall, respectively. Kent returns disguised and is hired by Lear as a servant. Now that they hold power, Goneril and Regan no longer respect the king. They reduce his retinue of servants. Meanwhile, the earl of Gloucester's bastard son, Edmund, designs to supplant the legitimate older brother, Edgar. Edmund forges a letter seeming to indicate that Edgar intends to seize his father's estate. Gloucester believes him. He is also led to believe that Edmund was attacked by Edgar, and thus, like Lear, he disinherits the wrong person. Kent quarrels with Oswald, a courtier, and is put in the stocks for this insolence by Regan and Cornwall. Lear is astonished to see a servant of his treated in such a fashion, but Regan and her husband along with Goneril dismiss his objections, so that, in mighty anger and disgust, he leaves and is unable to return when a storm rages on the blasted heath. With only his fool to accompany him, he calls on the heavens "to drench the steeple, drown the cocks" and to "strike flat the thick rotundity of the world". Amid the blustering tempest, the fool's comments, his daughters' ingratitude and cruelties, and his measureless rage, the king's wits begin to waver. On his way, he meets Edgar disguised as a madman and takes pity on him. Remembering the bygone days of his prosperity, he comments: "Oh, I have taken too little care of this." Gloucester finds Lear and leads him to his house, but Edmund betrays his father to Cornwall, Regan, and Goneril by showing a favorable letter of his to the king of France, who is ready to invade England. Incensed against Gloucester, Cornwall gouges out one eye. When Gloucester's servant defends his master by killing Cornwall, he is in turn killed by Regan, who reveals to the now completely blinded Gloucester Edmund's betrayal and then sends him out to wander in the heath, where he meets the disguised Edgar, who seems to tempt him into suicide by feigning they are near a cliff. Gloucester jumps and, in his confusion, is told that his fall was miraculously impeded, so that Gloucester becomes partly reconciled to life. While Kent ushers the king towards the French army, Albany leads the British one against them. Meanwhile, Goneril shows dissatisfaction with her husband, Albany, disgusted by the sisters' treatment of Lear and Gloucester's blinding. She prefers instead the bold Edmund, but the widowed Regan also becomes attracted by him. Goneril sends Oswald with letters to Edmund with an order to kill Gloucester, but when the messenger attacks the earl, Edgar slays him, finds Goneril's letter proposing her husband's murder, and shows it to Albany. The British army defeats the French, Lear and Cordelia being captured and targets for Edmund's ambition, who in his desire to be king, sends out orders to kill them. Regan declares she will marry Edmund, but Albany exposes his intrigues. Regan suddenly collapses, a victim of Goneril's poison. When Edmund defies Albany, Edgar fights him in a duel and succeeds in stabbing him to death. Goneril is unable to respond to the contents of her letter and commits suicide. Edgar reports that Gloucester is dead, for when he revealed himself, his father's joy was so great that it killed him. Edmund's order of execution against Cordelia is not prevented in time, Lear killing her executioner and then collapsing. With Lear dead, Albany assumes the throne.
Time: 11th century. Place: Scotland.
After defeating a rebel army on behalf of Duncan, king of Scotland, two generals, Macbeth and Banquo, meet three witches, who prophesy to the first that, though without knowing it, he is the thane of Cawdor and will be king. Astonished, Macbeth ponders on what he hears, while Banquo, intrigued, asks what the future may hold in store for him. He is answered that he will beget a line of kings. The witches suddenly disappear. Soon after, Macbeth learns that he is indeed the new thane of Cawdor. While King Duncan is a guest at Macbeth's castle, Lady Macbeth encourages her husband to murder him for his crown. Though hesitant, Lady Macbeth's thoughts accord with his own. He stabs Duncan to death and Lady Macbeth places bloody daggers next to two sleeping servants she has drugged. A warning bell is heard, Macbeth crying out that something terrible has occurred. Alarmed, Macduff, the thane of Fife, discovers that the king has been murdered. Macbeth re-enters Duncan's room and in feigned anger kills the two servants. Macduff and Duncan's two sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, are immediately suspicious of Macbeth's words and deeds and flee to England and Ireland, respectively, which in the minds of most makes them the culprits, so that Macbeth is pronounced king. The witches' prophecies have been fulfilled, except for one Macbeth would not like to see fulfilled: Banquo as the begetter of a line of kings, so that he sends three men to murder him and his son. Banquo is killed but the son escapes. At a royal banquet, Macbeth receives apart the good and bad news, but on the way back sees Banquo's shape among the guests. Raging, to the guests he seems to speak to an empty chair. Anxious of what her husband may reveal further, Lady Macbeth ushers them away. Macbeth visits the witches to obtain more prophecies. They have three more: "beware Macduff", "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth" and that he will never be never vanquished "until great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him". But what "destroys my sight," says Macbeth, is to behold the supernatural procession of Banquo as the begetter of a line of kings. Macbeth is unable to reach Macduff, but orders the death of his wife and children. Having left them at his castle, Macduff is wracked with guilt on learning of his loved one's deaths. Malcolm attempts to raise his spirits and to stimulate feelings of manly pride: "Have a full man about you," he cries. Macduff joins Malcolm's English army, helped by defections of Scottish nobles away from the tyrant. Attempting to assail Macbeth's castle on Dunsinane hill, Malcolm's soldiers cut down greenery and march with it, so that, to Macbeth's horror, Birnam wood seems to come to Dunsinane hill. Lady Macbeth, tormented by guilt and unable to sleep, commits suicide as Macbeth prepares to fight. In the field of war, Macbeth faces Macduff. Being born by Caesarean section, Macduff is not born of a woman and kills Macbeth, so that Malcolm becomes the new king of Scotland.
"Antony and Cleopatra"
Time: 30s BC. Place: Rome, Italy and Alexandria, Egypt.
Roman soldiers worry as Marc Antony remains idle in Cleopatra's arms. At first, he is indifferent: "Let Rome In Tiber melt and the wide arch/Of the ranged empire fall! Here is my space." But then his wife, Fulvia, dies and Sextus Pompeus has dared to battle his fellow of the triumvirate, Octavius Caesar. To reconcile their differences, Agrippa, a soldier-friend of Caesar's, proposes that Antony marry Octavia, Caesar's sister. Antony accepts. When Cleopatra receives the news that her lover has married a second time she is so incensed that she unreasonably hales the messenger up and down for bringing such bad news: "Hence/Horrible villain, or I'll spurn thine eyes/Like balls before me. I'll unhair thy head." Nevertheless, after sealing a pact with Sextus Pompeus, Antony soon wearies of Octavia and returns to Egypt. Octavius is unhappy at this decision. He also thinks Antony's stay in Egypt compromises Rome, as Antony has given her out of lovesickeness Egypt as well as Syria, Cyprus, and Lydia. The result is war between Octavius and Antony. Against the advice of Enobarbus, a worthy soldier who fears she will distract his general during the battle and who points out that her ships are badly manned, Cleopatra joins her lover with sixty ships near Actium. The result is catastrophic, since Antony, against his better judgment, follows Cleopatra, fearfully backing off as Caesar's ships advance. When Octavius' messenger, Thidias, negotiates with Cleopatra while flirting with her, Antony becomes incensed and has the fellow whipped even to whining. But then he regains his senses, promising to offer battle against Octavius. "The next time I do fight/I'll make death love me, for I will contend/Even with his pestilent scythe." Enobarbus loses confidence in his leader and crosses over to Octavius' camp, but soon grows remorseful and passively sinks to the earth in death. Though at first victorious, Antony's fleet yields to the foe. Fearing for her life in view of Antony's rage against the one who started his downfall, Cleopatra flees to her monument. To soothe her lover, Cleopatra spreads a false rumor whereby she is said to have died, but the plan backfires. In despair at losing her, Antony stabs himself with his sword, but botches the work. In a dying swoon, he is carried to the monument and lifted to Cleopatra, since she dares not go down in fear of being taken captive by Octavius. When he dies, Cleopatra has only thoughts of her own demise. As Octavius intends to bring her to Rome as a spectacle to the populace, she commands an aspic to be brought to her. "Give me my robe; put on my crown. I have/Immortal longings in me," she says to her sorrowful attendants. She poisons herself with its sting. A frustrated Caesar orders their funeral. "No grave upon the earth shall clip in it/A pair so famous," he declares admiringly.
Time: 5th century BC. Place: Rome and Volscian territories.
As a result of increasing famine, the common people of Rome rebel against their rulers. To appease the dangerous uprising, Menenius Agrippa, a patrician, confronts the rebels with soothing words and the patricians grant them tribunes of the people, Brutus and Sicinius, to defend their interests. At the same time, the Volscian people declare war against Rome. The latter emerges victorious in the confict due in large part through the efforts of a great general, Caius Marcus, surnamed Coriolanus for quelling the ambitious Volscians and their chief city of Corioli. As a reward, Coriolanus is proposed for the position of consul to the state. To support his candidacy, Comminius, his fellow general, lauds his military skill against the Volscians: "From face to foot/He was a thing of blood, whose every motion/Was timed with drying cries." The senate names him consul, but he must first present himself before the common people in a garb of humility. Though unwilling to humble himself in this way and despite thinly disguised sarcasms, he passes the test. Hating Coriolanus for his pride and indifference to the people's sufferings, Brutus and Sicinius scold the people for accepting Coriolanus so easily. "Did you perceive/He did solicit you in free contempt/When he did need your loves, and do you think/That his contempt shall not be bruising to you/When he hath power to crush?" Brutus insinuates rhetorically. Together the tribunes persuade the people to change their minds, to the dismay of the patrician party and Coriolanus' disgust. Knowing Coriolanus' uncompromising attitude and contempt of the rabble, the tribunes continue to stir trouble until the patrician party abandons any further attempt at protecting Coriolanus, who is banished from Rome. "You common cry of curs, whose breath I hate/As reek o'the common fens, whose loves I prize/As the dead carcasses of unburied men/That do corrupt the air, I banish you," cries Coriolanus to the crowd in great pride and wrath. Out of feelings of revenge, he joins his previously declared worse enemy, Tullus Aufidius, ruler of the Volscians and together they raise an army to attack Rome. In fear of this powerful army, Cominius is unable to convince him to lay down his arms. Likewise, Coriolanus dismisses Menenius. As a final resort, the patricians send his mother, Volumnia, to plead their cause and avoid the sack of Rome. In the presence of his wife and son, she successfully appeases him. Secretly enraged by this piece of treachery and in jealous hate of his long-term enemy, Aufidius hires conspirators to attack and kill Coriolanus before he has a chance of defending himself.
"All's well that ends well"
Time: 14th century. Place: France and Italy.
Bertram, count of Rossillion, is off to serve the king of France at court. Bertram's mother wishes him well. Helena, taken up in her household as an orphan, weeps, not because of her father's death but at Bertram's departure. Eventually, the countess of Rossillion discovers that Helena loves her son. Helena acknowledges her rank is far below her son's. "Thus, Indian-like,/Religious in mine error, I adore/The sun, that looks upon his worshiper/But knows of him no more," she admits. Yet as daughter to a physician, she conceives a plot whereby she might stay near Bertram, namely attempting to cure the king of a fistula in his foot. When Helena is presented before the king, he at first doubts her ability but is then impressed by her confidence. Should she fail, she dies; should she succeed, she requests the following: "Then thou shalt give me with thy kingly hand/What husband in thy power I will command." He accepts and is soon able to dance into a room with her. When asked to select her prize, she chooses Bertram for a husband. Bertram is stunned and resists, the king is offended. "Thou knows't she has raised me from my sickly bed," the king reminds him. "But follows it, my lord, to bring me down/Must answer for your raising?" he counters. Though the king's anger forces Bertram to wed her, he steals away as a officer in the army of the duke of Florence against Siena, refusing even to kiss his wife despite her humble looks and leaving her this note: "When thou canst get the ring upon my finger, which never shall come off, and show me a child begotten of thy body that I am father to, then call me husband." Upset that because of her he is risking limb or life, she leaves her step-mother's house disguised as a pilgrim and heads for the shrine of St James of Compostella, where she befriends a poor widow and her daughter, Diana, who has been courted by Bertram. Helen proposes to pay the widow if her daughter pretends to accede to Bertram's lust while she takes her place in bed. Diana also is to ask Bertram for his ring and give him Helena's. The ruse works. Before returning to the countess' palace, she spreads a false rumor of her death. Though much regretting Diana's supposed death, the king forgives Bertram and proposes he marry the daughter of his main counselor, Lafew, which this time he agrees to enthusiastically. However, Lafew, the king, and the countess notice Helena's ring on his finger and suspect he murdered her. Continuing to follow Helena's instructions, Diana writes the king a letter to inform him of Bertram's betrayal her and beg his help. When the widow and mother present themselves to the king, they show him Bertram's ring as proof he seduced her, but when Diana admits she gave him hers, the deeply suspicious king is fearful that both women are somehow involved in Helena's death. Everything is resolved when Diana shows up alive. "I'll love her dearly, ever, ever dearly," promises a contrite Bertram.
"Measure for measure"
Time: 1600s. Place: Vienna, Austria.
Vincentio leaves his dukedom temporarily to the charge of Angelo, known for his probity. Under the duke's government, laws against fornication had been feebly enforced. That is changed by Angelo to a much harsher course when it is found that Claudio, a nobleman betrothed but not yet married to Juliet, fornicated with her and is therefore condemned to die. Claudio's friend, Lucio, pleads with Claudio's sister, Isabella, a novice nun, to intercede with Angelo on Claudio's behalf. Though disgusted by the crime, Isabella pleads for her brother's life, which Angelo accepts, provided he and she sleep together, an offer she declines, preferring death of her brother's body to death of her soul. In prison, Isabella advises her brother, to his despair, to "be absolute for death". At this time, Vincentio returns to Vienna disguised as a friar to spy into what is going on inside his dukedom. He discovers Angelo's misdeed. To thwart Angelo, he counsels Isabella to change her mind about his offer, except that she will be secretly replaced in bed by Mariana, whom Angelo once betrothed but refused to marry when her dowry was no longer available. After sleeping with the woman he thinks is Isabella but is actually her substitute, Angelo nevertheless orders Claudio's execution, yet another abuse of power countered by the duke, when Angelo is shown a bearded prisoner's head resembling Claudio's. Thinking that her brother is dead, Isabella joins Mariana to raise a public outcry against Angelo as a hypocrite and tyrant. Angelo denies the charges and sends both women to prison. The disguised friar is revealed at last as the duke and Angelo, though contrite, is sentenced to death. Nevertheless, both women plead for his life. Vincentio yields, but compels Angelo to marry Mariana and compels Lucio to marry a whore, for slanders pronounced against his person when he was disguised.
"The winter's tale"
Time: Antiquity. Place: Sicilia, Italy.
Leontes, king of Sicilia, has enjoyed entertaining his boyhood friend, Polixenes, king of Bohemia, and asks him to stay longer, but is unable to. When his wife, Hermione, unexpectantly succeeds in doing so, he immediately becomes suspicious and asks his consellor, Camillo, to murder him. Certain that his master has no cause of jealousy, Camillo informs Polyxenes of the plot against him and both run away to Bohemia. On discovering their escape, Leontes becomes all the more convinced of Hermione's treason and orders her arrest. To make all sure, he orders two servants to consult Apollo's oracle at Delphos. While in prison, Hermione is delivered of a baby girl, but when Paulina shows her to the king, his first thought is to burn the presumed bastard. He charges Paulina's husband, Antigonus, to depose the thing "to some place where chance/May nurse or end it". Hermione is put on trial and found guilty. When the two messengers arrive from Delphos, Leontes is taken aback but undeterred of his purpose when the message states she is innocent. Immediately afterwards, news arrive that their son, which he ackowledges his, dies, followed by his wife. He concludes that the heavens have struck his foolish jealousy with a double calamity. "Once a day, I'll visit/The chapel where thy lie, and tears shed there/Shall be my recreation," the humbled king promises. Meanwhile, Antigonus leaves the baby on a wild shore. As soon as he does so, he is pursued by a bear and eaten alive. However, the baby survives, picked up by chance by a shepherd and his son. Sixteen years later, Perdita, the baby left to the hazard of fate, is courted by Florizel, son of Polyxenes. The couple intend to marry but are thwarted by Polyxenes, who does not wish for a daughter-in-law of such a low estate. Once more, Camillo takes the matter at hand by shielding innocence from the king's wrath. The shepherd and his son are extremely worried about a possible punishment for their rash presumption, all the more so when a strolling peddler, Autolycus, cons them into believing he is an important courtier. Pretending he does not know to whom he is speaking, he says: "He has a son who shall be flayed alive; then, 'nointed over with honey, set on the head of a wasps' nest, then stand till he be three quarters and a dram dead; then recovered again and with aqua vitae or some other hot infusion; then, raw as he is, and in the hottest day prognostication proclaims, shall be set against a brick wall, the sun looking with a southward eye upon him, where he is to behold him with flies blown to death." However, both are rewarded instead when Florizel and Perdita beg Leontes' protection, the two kings becomes reconciled, and the couple free to marry. Paulina, judging that Leontes is now free of jealousy, shows him a statue of Hermione. Unexpectantly, the statue moves and the living Hermione is revealed to the king's joy.
Time: 1610s. Place: A desert island.
Prospero, duke of Milan, has been stranded on an island with his daughter, Miranda, for twelve years, after his brother, Antonio, and Alonso, king of Naples, revolted against his reign. Prospero is served by Ariel, whom he rescued from a witch, the airy spirit being promised eventual freedom for his services, and also by Caliban, a primitive monster in human shape, promised nothing, who first taught Prospero how to survive on the island. After attempting to rape his daughter, Caliban is compelled by Prospero to work as a slave and often punished. Prospero raises a tempest to cause a shipwreck, yet, with Ariel's help, allows his enemies to survive: Alonso with his brother and their advisers, Sebastian and Gonzalo, respectively, as well as Antonio, all these separated from Alonso's son, Ferdinand, along with the noblemen's followers, Stephano and Trinculo. When Stephano and Trinculo encounter Caliban, all three plot to assassinate Prospero and live as virtual kings. When Ferdinand meets Miranda, both love at first sight. But to test Ferdinand's loyalty and willingness to live chastely, Prospero compels him to work like Caliban on menial tasks such as carrying logs for fire. When Antonio speaks to Sebastian apart from the other two, he conspires for a second time to overthrow the rightful ruler, this time by killing Alonso and Gonzalo and make his friend king of Naples. The plots of Stephano and Trinculo, on one hand, and those of Antonio and Sebastian, on the other, are defeated by Prospero and Ariel. Ferdinand is proven to be true. Before a masque prepared to entertain the lovers, Ferdinand and Miranda are revealed playing chess, signifying an intellectual as well as a loving bond between the two. Prospero holds power over all. When her father's enemies and Gonzalo are presented before her, Miranda expresses great wonder at seeing so many men at once, exclaiming: "O brave new world/That has such people in't!" As his final command, Ariel prepares the vessel taking Alonso, Antonio, and the followers back to Naples, with Ferdinand and Miranda to be married there. Ariel is set free as Prospero promised. As for himself, Prospero says: "I'll drown my book of magic," expecting that "every third thought will be my grave."
In addition to Shakespeare, main dramatists include Ben Jonson (1572-1637), John Webster (1580ca-1634ca), Thomas Middleton (1580-1637, John Marston (1576-1634), Francis Beaumont (1584-1616), John Fletcher (1579–1625), and Philip Massinger (1583-1640), and George Chapman (c1559-1634), who wrote both tragedies and comedies, more critical of society and darker in outlook than dramatists of the Elizabethan period. Famous Jonson comedies in the Jacobean period include "Volpone" (1605), "The alchemist" (1610), and "Bartholomew Fair" (1614).
Time: 1600s. Place: Venice, Italy.
Volpone wakes in an enthusiastic mood: "Good morning to the day, and next, my gold!" When Mosca, his servant, draws the curtain, he continues rapturously: "Hail the world's soul, and mine!" He lies in bed, pretending to be dying. In hope of eventually becoming his heir, Voltore, a lawyer, gives him plate, Corbaccio, an old gentleman, a bag of chequins, and Corvino, a merchant, a pearl and a diamond. To eliminate the other two from the competition, Corbaccio disinherits his son, Bonario, while Corvino offers to Volpone his own wife, Celia. Volpone is near raping her but she is saved by Bonario, who stabs Mosca while taking her away. The incident leads to an investigation before the senate, Voltore as the lawyer defending himself and Corvino against Bonario, described as a "lascivious youth", and Celia, "a close adulteress". Voltore wins the case. Meanwhile, Peregrine, wearied of Sir Politic Would-be's pretentious knowledge of state policies, tricks him into believing the authorities are after him for treason. Hiding beneath a tortoise shell to avoid detection, he is found out by some merchants, who laugh at his disgrace. Volpone and Mosca continue to stuff their pockets with their victims' credulity. Then Mosca has the idea of declaring himself as Volpone's heir, walking about in rich robes after robbing him. Thinking Volpone dead, the three victims complain to the senate about Mosca's cheats. Seeing himself robbed and threatened with a whipping for falsely accusing Mosca, Volpone reveals he is still alive. At last, the senate members discover the true culprits and punish them all: Mosca is to be whipped and sent to the galleys for the remainder of his life, Volpone's properties to be confiscated and he sent to prison, Voltore barred from practicing as a lawyer, Corbaccio to lose his properties to Bonario and he sent to a monastery, because he is told: "since thou knew'st not how to live well here,/Thou shalt be learned to die well", Corvino rowed about Venice "wearing a cap with fair long ass' ears" and then placed inside stocks.
Time: 1600s. Place: London, England.
Face, servant to Lovewit, and his confederate, Subtle, cheat Dapper, a clerk, by promising supernatural help to win at gambling, so that he may become "the darling of the dice". A second victim enters next, Abel Drugger, a seller of tobacco, who also seeks supernatural help by necromancy to know how to dispose of his new shop and make it thrive. He is followed by Sir Epicure Mammon, seeking the philosopher's stone to turn every object to gold, enough for him to own a seraglio. He is accompanied by Surly, suspicious of Subtle and Face's promises. Mammon sees Dol Common, the duo's confederate, at a window, and lusts after her. Tribulation and Ananias, exiles from Holland, also seek supernatural help to gain money for the Puritan cause. All these are cheated by Subtle, Face, and Dol appearing in various guises. They are followed by Kastril, seeking help in learning how to manage quarrels, together with his sister, Dame Pliant, looking for a husband. Kastril is tempted to marry her to a Spanish don, actually the disguised Surly, returned to investigate the suspicious doings inside Lovewit's house. Surly speaks Spanish, seemingly to court Dame Pliant. As Mammon advances to take Dol to bed, an explosion is heard, and Face enters very distressed, saying that "All the works/Are flown in fumo, every glass is burst!" In the house garden, Surly reveals himself to Dame Pliant, warning her about where she has fallen, among "a nest of villains". Surly then confronts Subtle and Face, who begin to feel the game is up, all the more so when the master of the house arrives, astonished from his neighbors' accounts of the many persons seen to enter and leave his house when he had left Face alone, who is eventually forced to ask his master's pardon, while Subtle and Dol escape by jumping over a wall. All the victims return, only to find out they have been cheated in various ways.
Time: 1610s. Place: London, England.
Winwife and Zeal-of-the-Land-Busy, a Puritan, court the same rich widow, Dame Purecraft, mother of Win Littlewit. John Littlewit, her husband, makes much of her and acts as a proctor in preparing the marriage licence between Bartholomew Cokes, a simpleton, ward to the irascible Wasp, and Grace Wellborn, a prepared marriage much to her displeasure. Win Littlewit is pregnant and longs to feed on pig at Bartholomew Fair. She fools her Puritan mother into thinking her health is in danger without it. Busy also agrees to go to the fair and eat pig: "To express our hate and loathing of Judaism," says he. Adam Overdo is a justice of the peace who enters Bartholomew Fair disguised as a fool, to discover suspected crimes committed there. Tents of the fair are being put up by various tenants, such as Ursula, the pig-woman, who enters sweating from roasting pig, so that she seems to "melt away to the first woman, a rib again". While Cokes is listening to a ballad on the dangers of tobacco chanted by a thief, Nightingale, his purse is stolen by his confederate, Edgworth. Nonplussed by his loss, Cokes boasts while waiving about an even richer purse that he is not likely to be robbed again, much to the disgust of Wasp. But yet while Nightingale sings of the dangers of a life of thievery, Cokes is robbed a second time by the same perpetrators, viewed by Winwife and his friend, Quarlous. Having marriage designs on Grace, Quarlous asks Edgworth to steal Cokes' marriage license kept by Wasp. Winwife and Quarlous flirt with Grace, who, in despair over the follies of Cokes, encourages both rivals by asking them to write a word-name on a piece of paper, whereby the next person she meets with that name becomes her husband. In his usual irritated mood, Wasp quarrels with the disguised Overdo while Busy pulls down Joan Trash's gingerbread figures as an "idolatrous grove of images". All three are arrested and punished in the stocks. Wasp escapes by putting his hand inside instead of his shoe and the other two escape when law-officers are distracted by Trouble-all, who went mad some time ago after being fired by Overdo. While a puppet-show of the "Hero and Leander" legend is prepared, Overdo enters disguised as a porter. He intends going beyond the call of duty to help humanity, as a Christ-like figure: "Wherein, cloud-like," he says, "I will break out in rain and hail, lightning and thunder, upon the head of enormity." Trouble-all is the first person Grace meets, whereby she reveals that Winwife has won the contest. Meanwhile, having only pretended to be a religious woman all this while, Dame Purecraft reveals her love to Trouble-all, but he is actually Quarlous disguised as the madman, who wishes to marry her for her money. At the puppet-show, Win Littlewit meets Edgeworth, who asks her: "Is this not a finer life, lady, than to be clogged with a husband?" "Yes, a great deal," she admits. The puppet-show is interrupted by Busy, who cries out: "Down with Dagon, down with Dagon," in his hate of all play-shows. At last, Overdo reveals himself in his true shape as magistrate. Ready to expose the many enormities he was witness to, he is cut short by the presence of his wife in a nauseous state and in ambiguous company. Instead, he invites everybody to his house for supper.
John Webster is best known for two tragedies: "The white devil" (1612) and "The duchess of Malfi" (1612-13). In both plays, Webster has been criticized (Jack, 1949). Tillyard (Elizabethan world picture) says “all the violence of Elizabethan drama has nothing to do with a dissolution of moral standards; on the contrary, it can afford to indulge itself just because those standards were powerful.” But according to Jack (1949), this does not apply with Webster’s plays. He says that the moral sentences evoked have nothing to do with the action of the plays, constituting his “fundamental flaw”. “Degree and order were not real enough to Webster to stir his imagination.” He accuses him of “artistic insincerity” in Vittoria’s “innocence-seeming boldness”. Also “An irruption of real humor of the Shakespearian sort would knock Webster’s waxworks into a cocked hat.” Jack does not take into account the redeeming quality of black humor. In contrast, Mulryne (1972) points to the aesthetic effects as a result of uneasiness in the reader. However, according to him, the plays also display “moral and emotional anarchy”.
"The white devil"
Time: 16th century. Place: Italy.
Flaminio, brother to Vittoria Corombona, pretends to intercede on behalf of Camillo, her neglected husband, when in reality he panders for the duke of Brachiano. Flaminio's mother, Cornelia, grieves at this sight and, to his irritation, interrupts their discourse. Francisco de Medici, duke of Florence and brother to Brachiano's wife, Isabella, as well as the cardinal of Monticelso complain of Brachiano's treatment of his wife, accusing him of adultery with Vittoria. More softly than these, Isabella appeals to her husband in this way: "You have oft, for these two lips,/Neglected cassia, or the natural sweets/Of the spring-violet: they are not yet much wither'd." But he accuses her of complaining to the "corpulent duke" and only agrees to kiss her hand, vowing never to sleep with her again. To avoid further animosities between husband and brother, Isabella pretends to be impatient at her husband and vows never to lie with him, so that the blame may fall on her. Impatient at being accused, Brachiano commands Camillo's death by Flamineo and Flamineo's brother, Marcello, and Isabella's death by a doctor. Though she only suggested the matter to her lover in the form of a dream, Vittoria is accused of her husband's murder, along with with Camillo and Marcello. Francisco and Monticelso sit as judges at Vittoria's trial. Unable to find evidence of it, they nevertheless confine her to a house of penitent whores. Flamineo pretends to be mad to escape from being interrogated more closely. He meets Lodovico, recently recalled from banishment, and proposes that they become more "sociably unsociable". As a cynical answer to this proposal, Lodovico calls his sister a whore, whereby Flaminio strikes his face. They are separated just before they murder each other. As a first step to exact revenge for his sister's murder, Francisco writes to Vittoria as if he were her suitor, a message deliberately made known to Brachiano. He is immediately incensed: "I'll cut her into atomies,/And let th' irregular north wind sweep her up,/And blow her in his nostrils: where's this whore?" He shows her the letter, exclaiming: "How long have I beheld the devil in crystal!" Grieving and angry, she retorts: "I had a limb corrupted to an ulcer,/But I have cut it off; and now I'll go/Weeping to heaven on crutches," until he regains his senses and they reconcile with the help of Flamineo, who opines: "Oh, sir, your little chimneys/Do ever cast most smoke," and proposes that she dress like a page and escape with her lover to Padua. Monticelso, now elected Pope Paul IV, meets Lodovico and seems at first to scold him on moral grounds: "Dost thou imagine, thou canst slide on blood/And not be tainted with a shameful fall?/Or, like the black and melancholic yew-tree,/Dost think to root thyself in dead men's graves,/And yet to prosper?" but yet sends him payment to pursue Camillo's murderer. Brachiano marries Vittoria and in their revels welcome a soldier, Mulinassar, but actually the vengefully minded Francisco in disguise, accompanied by Lodovico and others. Marcello quarrels with Flamineo about his keeping Zanche as a mistress, because of which the latter stabs his own brother to death before their mother's face. As Brachiano is donning his helmet to fight at a tournament, he begs his servants to take it off, the beaver being poisoned by Lodovico, but they do so too late. He warns Vittoria not to kiss the poison. While lying on his death-bed, Brachiano is visited by Lodovico and another man, both dressed like Capuchins, carrying crucifix and candle. Finding his death-throes too long, Lodovico strangles him to death. Meanwhile, Zanche foolishly admits her hand in Isabella's death to Mulinassar and as penitence plans to rob Vittoria's money and jewels and escape with him. The new duke following Brachiano's death, Giovanni, orders Flamineo out of court. Flamineo goes to his sister to understand what she intends to do with him. She turns him away. He leaves the room but then comes back with pistols to kill both her and Zanche. The women manage to convince him he should die first, but the pistols go off without bullets. All three are surprised by the sudden entry of Lodovico and a comrade. Flamineo begs to let him kill Vittoria, but Lodovico and the comrade stab all three. In turn, both are surprised, shot at, and captured by Giovanni's followers, then led out to torture, of which Lodovico has this to say: "For my part,/The rack, the gallows, and the torturing wheel/Shall be but sound sleeps to me: here's my rest;/I limn'd this night-piece, and it was my best."
"The duchess of Malfi"
Time: 16th century. Place: Italy.
"The duchess of Malfi" text at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2232 http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Duchess_of_Malfi
For an inexplicable reason, Ferdinand, duke of Calabria, and his brother, a cardinal, will not permit their young widowed sister, the duchess of Malfi, to re-marry. They plant a malcontent, Bosola, to spy on her activities under the guise of the provisorship of her horses. She promises both brothers she will abide by this, but yet is secretly married to Antonio, her steward, an act Cariola, her servant, considers "fearful madness". Bosola suspects the truth but is unable to prove it. To distract the household from discovering her imminent delivery, Antonio pretends that jewels and plate have been stolen and must be found. To his friend, Delio, Antonio is in a frenzy of worry for himself but mostly for the duchess: "She's exposed/Unto the worst of torture, pain and fear," until she is delivered, which Bosola discovers when Antonio involuntarily drops a paper on the boy's nativity. Delio proposes to Julia, mistress to the cardinal, to be his mistress as well whenever away from her husband, Castruccio. She answers: "Sir, I'll go ask my husband if I shall,/And straight return your answer." When the brothers find out the truth about the duchess, Ferdinand is incensed, but the cardinal succeeds in calming him down. Several years later, the duchess is generally known to have three children. Ferdinand proposes a husband for her, Count Malateste, but she disapproves of this match. In response, Ferdinand gives her a knife and swears she will never see him again. To free herself from the anguish of being suspected and to send him away so that she may join him later, the duchess accuses Antonio if robbing her. Bosola discovers the lie and also that Antonio is her husband and the father of three children. Antonio is sent to Ancona where she promises to join him, but by the cardinal's order he is banished from that city. While Antonio leaves with his oldest son, Bosola seizes the duchess with her two youngest, kept in house imprisonment. Because of his vow, Ferdinand comes to her in the dark of night, offering not a friendly but a dead man's hand. Bosola next visits her to show her what seem to be the dead bodies of her husband and children, but actually wax-figures of them. While she despairs and raves, Bosola remarks: "Look you, the stars shine still." Her nights become disturbed by the "hideous noise" of madmen placed near her house. She asks them to come in. Bosola enters with them, disguised as an old man, a fatal bellman, to tell her: "I am come to make thy tomb." Horrible antics are presented for her entertainment, but she does not sink under: "I am duchess of Malfi still," she announces. Next, executioners enter with coffin, cords, and bell. Bosola remarks : "This cord should terrify you," to which she responds: "Not a whit:/What would it pleasure me to have my throat cut/With diamonds? or to be smothered/With cassia? or to be shot to death with pearls?/I know death hath ten thousand several doors/For men to take their exits; and 'tis found/They go on such strange geometrical hinges,/You may open them both ways: any way, for heaven-sake,/So I were out of your whispering." They strangle her to death, as well as Cariola and two of her children. Though he himself had ordered his sister's death, Ferdinand turns to Bosola to ask: "Why didst thou not pity her?" As a reward, to Bosola's despair, he merely pardons him the murder, then begins to lose his senses, displaying symptoms of lycanthropia, the belief he is being transformed into a wolf. Meanwhile, the cardinal, beginning to weary of Julia, confesses his part of the duchess' murder and then kills her with a poisoned Bible. Bosola kills Antonio by mistake and, suspecting the cardinal intends to kill him, stabs him in the melee. Wandering in madness and suspecting everyone as his enemy, Ferdinand stabs both the cardinal and Bosola. Though wounded to death, Bosola manages to stab Ferdinand. All three die. Antonio's elder son is the new duke of Malfi. Delio enjoins the nobles by declaring: "Let us make noble use/Of this great ruin; and join all our force/To establish this young hopeful gentleman/In's mother's right. These wretched eminent things/Leave no more fame behind 'em, than should one/Fall in a frost, and leave his print in snow;/As soon as the sun shines, it ever melts,/Both form and matter."
Middleton comedies include "A trick to catch the old one" (1605), "No wit, no help like a woman's" (1611), and "A chaste maid in Cheapside" (1613), Middleton for the tragedies "The revenger's tragedy" (1606) and "The changeling" (1622), the latter written with William Rowley (1585ca-1626), specializing in madman scenes. One senses in Middleton a conservative and strongly Protestant bent, especially critical of young gallants and old fools, similar to the later Restoration stage, but more poetical, and, unlike the Restoration period, the disastrous consequences of women's unchaste behaviors are shown in several plays.
"A trick to catch the old one"
Time: 1600s. Place: London, England.
Witgood is a rioter who has consumed much money on a courtesan, but it is by her means he seeks to help redress his fortunes. Having mortgaged his lands to his Uncle Lucre, Witgood spreads a rumor about that he has a chance to marry a rich widow, in reality the courtesan in disguise. Impressed and willing to help his nephew obtain her, Lucre offers him a house with rich furnishings. Expecting their money back, a band of three creditors are also impressed and eagerly await this marriage. They help him by giving him even more money. Hoard, Lucre's mortal enemy, cannot believe his ears that such good fortune could fall on "the spume of a brothel-house" and decides to marry the widow himself. In cahoots with Witgood, the courtesan pretends to love Hoard and goes off with him. On learning that his enemy has carried her off, Lucre is incensed and chases after her. So do Witgood's creditors. They catch up to her, Lucre offering to give his nephew back his mortgage, the creditors more money. She answers: "When I hear this done/I shall soon yield to reasonable terms." Yet she remains with Hoard, and the creditors' patience ends, so that Witgood is arrested for debts. When he seeks to attract pity on his situation by asking them: "What good will my carcass do you?" one of them responds: "We that are used to keep birds in cages, have the heart to keep men in prison, I warrant you." In view of Witgood's arrest, the courtesan opts to marry Hoard. Lucre goes to law to pursue her for breach of marriage contract. To rid themselves of this attack, she asks her husband to pay Witgood's debts, which he does. Free at last, Witgood reveals to his uncle that his enemy has married a whore, news conveyed eventually to the despondent Hoard. Witgood promises Hoard: "I have banished myself forever from her" and so the new husband must rest content.
"A chaste maid in Cheapside"
Time: 1610s. Place: London, England.
Yellowhammer, a goldsmith, seeks to marry his daughter advantageously to the son of Sir Walter Whorehound. Moll, Yellowhammer's daughter, wants instead to marry Touchwood. Walter arrives to renew adulterous relations with Mistress Allwit, to the complete and absolute approval of Master Allwit, a lazy wittol (complaisant cuckold), whose main revenue is Walter himself, father of his seven children. Walter also wishes to bind in marriage his supposed niece, actually his whore, to Yellowhammer's son, Tim, a university student with a penchant for quoting Latin. Moll and Touchwood try to elope together, but she is captured by her parents and sent back home. Walter, angry at Touchwood for attempting to foil the planned marriage, crosses swords with him, with the result that both are wounded. Touchwood is reported to have died in the duel. The same applies to Moll, out of grief of her thwarted love. Afraid to die, more especially anguished over his moral state in the after-life as a result of his immoral relations with the Allwits, Walter cries out in despair: "Her pleasing pleasures now hath poisoned me/Which I exchanged my soul for." He curses both. As a result, they dismiss him from their lives. During the funeral ceremonies in memory of Touchwood and Moll, the news of their death are revealed to be false and the couple may joyfully marry. Tim marries Walter's companion, but the rumors about her wealth are then discovered to be false.
Time: 1620s. Place: Alicant, Spain.
Alsemero and Beatrice-Joanna wish to marry, but her father, Vermandero, prefers Alonzo, and intends to force his choice on her. Alonzo's brother, Tomazo, notices that she appears not to love him in any way, but Alonzo considers her attitude maidenly modesty. Desperate to avoid the clog of an unloving marriage, Beatrice-Joanna turns to her father's ugly servant, De Flores, hoping to convince him to murder Alonzo in return for money. In love with Beatrice-Joanna but with no hope of marrying her because of his low social position, De Flores accepts, but does not speak of payment. While taking Alonzo for a tour of Vermandero's castle, De Flores suggests they remove their swords in a narrow pass, after which he treacherously murders him and steals a precious ring by cutting off his finger. When De Flores assures her he has killed the unwanted husband and shows her the cut finger, Beatrice-Joanna hands him the money she thought was agreed on, but she is frightened on seeing him affronted. He does not want money; he wants her. When she pleads him to consider the social distance between them, De Flores shrugs it off. "Push, fly not to your birth," says he, "but settle you/In what the act has made you." Afraid to be found out, she unwillingly submits to his embraces. With Alonzo dead but not discovered, Vermandero befriends Alsemero and intends him as his daughter's husband. Though joyful at this turn of events, Beatrice-Joanna is worried about her husband's attitude should he discover her loss of virginity. She discovers a magic potion in his room, capable of revealing whether a woman is a virgin or not. She tests the potion on her servant, Diaphanta, and, finding she is one, proposes she take her place on the bridal night. Diaphanta joyfully accepts, to obtain both bodily pleasure and enough money for a sizeable dowry. Meanwhile, Tomazo accuses Vermandero of ridding himself of his brother, which the latter denies. Still seething, Tomazo goes on for the same reason to challenge Alsemero to a duel on his wedding day. Alsemero's friend, Jasperino, becomes suspicious of Beatrice-Joanna on hearing her in secret talk with De Flores, a man she has always professed to hate. When Alsemero tests her virginity with the potion, she, knowing the symptoms in advance, succeeds in convincing him she is one. That night, Diaphanta, enjoying her role, delays in returning to Beatrice-Joanna as promised. De Flores proposes to help his mistress a second time: start a fire in the servant's room, then kill her while pretending to clean the chimney. Very quickly the servants yell "fire". Diaphanta hurries out from the master's room, scolded by her mistress for her tardiness, then is burnt to death in her room when De Flores triggers an explosion from the chimney. The next morning, Vermandero reveals to Tomaza he thinks to have discovered the murderers of his brother: two men escaped from his service and hiding in a hospital for fools and madmen, actually two men pretending to be mad in order to seduce the master of the hospital. Meanwhile, Jasperino continues to assure Alsemero that his wife and De Flores still suspiciously meet together. An angry Alsemero calls her "whore", so that she divulges her guilt in Alonzo's murder, performed for his sake. "Oh, thou shouldst have gone/A thousand leagues about to have avoided/This dangerous bridge of blood," he cries out in anguish. He pushes her inside a room and locks it, then reveals to De Flores his wife has confessed to Alonzo's murder. He lets him inside so that he can kill her. He then reveals to her father the true culprit as De Flores comes out with the wounded Beatrice-Joanna, admitting he has stabbed "that broken rib of mankind". To prevent Tomazo's wrath, he stabs himself as Beatrice-Joanna dies of her wounds after asking for forgiveness to all.
"The revenger's tragedy"
Time: 1600s. Place: Italy.
Vindici has been waiting seven years to avenge the death of his love by a corrupt ducal court. Hippolito, his brother and a courtier, proposes to disguise himself as a malcontent and serve Lussurioso, eldest son of the duke. At court, Junior, youngest son of the duchess by a previous marriage, is accused of raping the wife of a prominent lord, Antonio. The duchess begs her husband for Junior's life, but he leaves the matter undecided, sending him back to prison. This angers her: "Indeed, 'tis true an old man's twice a child./Mine cannot speak; one of his single words/Would quite have freed my youngest, dearest son/From death or durance, and have made him walk/With a bold foot upon the thorny law,/Whose prickles should bow under him: but 'tis not,/And therefore wedlock, faith, shall be forgot." To avenge herself on him, she seduces Spurio, his bastard son from a previous marriage. Meanwhile, unconscious of his true identity, Lussurioso gives Vindici gold to act as a pander to Vindici's sister, Castiza. He accepts, to test both her and their mother, Gratiana. Not recognizing her disguised brother, she strikes his face after hearing Lussurioso's offer. Thankful for that, he says: "It is the sweetest box/That e'er my nose came nigh,/The finest drawn-work cuff that e'er was worn." But, to his grief, Gratiana is far more pliant, agreeing to convince her daughter of the financial necessity of serving the duke, but Castiza cannot believe her ears and flatly rejects the idea. Vindici conveys these news to Lussurioso, then tells him of Spurio's relation with his stepmother. Incensed, Lussurioso draws his sword in the duke's bedchamber, thinking to catch Spurio in the act, but instead he finds the duke in bed with his wife and is arrested for attempted murder and treason. Ambitioso and Supervacuo, two more sons of the duchess' previous marriage, pretend to defend Lussurioso, but the duke pierces through their shallow words. To serve their ambition of being the duke's only remaining sons, Ambitioso and Supervacuo send a false message to law-officers pronouncing a death-sentence on the part of the duke against their own brother. Meanwhile, Lussurioso is released on his father's order. The law-officers mistakenly believe the warrant concerns Junior, who is executed. Meanwhile, Vindici puts poison on the mouth of his love's skeleton, disguised to make her appear as a courtesan for the duke's pleasure. The duke tells his gentlemen he is about to ride out of the court privately, but instead advances towards the skeleton and kisses it. He immediately feels the effects of the strong poison, Vindice and Hippolito on either side tormenting him, revealing their identities, and letting him overhear before stabbing him to death the sight of the adulterous and incestuous Spurio and his duchess wishing for his death. Believing Lussurioso to be dead, Ambitioso and Supervacuo are stunned on seeing him enter the room and abashed on learning of Junior's death. Lussurioso is angry at the disguised Vindici for the mistake in his father's bedroom, wishing his ruin. To counter this threat, Hippolito proposes to Vindice that he return to his original form and so be hired to murder himself on Lussurioso's order. Vindici wraps the duke's corpse in the clothes of his previous disguise, so that Lussurioso is led to believe he is witnessing his murder, but then corpse of his father is discovered. Consoled by the thought that he is now the new duke, Lussurioso orders courtly revels after banishing his mother. In the banqueting hall, Vindici, Hippolito, and two other revengers dance as masquers before the duke and three noblemen and then kill all four at table, Vindici crying out: "When thunder claps, heaven likes the tragedy." Seeing Lussurioso dead, Ambitioso and Supervacuo quarrel on who is to be the new duke and stab each other to death. Amid the massacre, Antonio is now head of state, towards whom, thinking to obtain his approval, Vindici foolishly reveals himself as the old duke's murderer. He is promptly sentenced to death along with his brother: "'Tis time to die when we are ourselves our foes," concludes the rueful Vindice.
Marston's most famous play is "The malcontent" (1603) about a snarling courtier, but actually a disguised nobleman, entertaining an Italian court with his biting satires. There is also an additional satire entitled "The Dutch courtesan" (1605).
Time: 1600s. Place: Italy.
Malevole, apparent fool and malcontent at the court of Genoa but actually the banished legitimate duke, Altofront, announces to Pietro, the usurping duke, he is a "cornuto", because his wife, Aurelia, is conducting an adulterous relation with Mendoza, though this man once favored his marriage with the duke of Florence's daughter, permitting Altofront's banishment and the imprisonment of his wife, Maria, in the citadel. Pietro cries out: "Affliction to my blood's root!" Meanwhile, Aurelia feels slighted by Mendoza and dismisses him in favor of Ferneze. Pietro does not know this and approaches Mendoza with his sword drawn. To ward off the danger, Mendoza tells him Ferneze is the traitor, advising him to force his way without warning in her bed-chamber to learn the truth. At night, as Ferneze flies from the duchess' bed-chamber to escape the duke, Mendoza stabs him. To protect herself, Aurelia returns to Mendoza, using these words as an excuse of her behavior: "Ferneze swore thou lov'dst Emilia;/Which to advance, with most reproachful breath/Thou both didst blemish and denounce my love." He denies ever having said so. Feeling she has forever lost her husband's favor, she suggests they should murder him. Malevole discovers that Ferneze is still alive and carries him away. Being the duke's heir, Mendoza proposes to Malevole that he kill him, to which he responds enthusiastically: "My heart's wish, my soul's desire, my fantasy's dream, my blood's longing, the only height of my hopes!" That done, he will marry Maria. As Pietro and followers hunt deer, Malevole is able to discover the duke alone and informs him of Mendoza's treachery. To Mendoza and Aurelia, Malevole, accompanied by Pietro disguised as a hermit, announce the false news of the duke's death. Mendoza is pronounced the new duke. He instantly banishes Aurelia and commands Malevole to speak to Maria: "Tell her we love her;/Omit no circumstance to grace our person : do't." As Malevole goes, Mendoza requests the hermit to poison him: "It shall be laid/Upon Maria, who yields love or dies-" Next, he requests Malevole to kill the hermit. They divulge their mission against each other on the way towards the citadel. The hermit intercepts Aurelia's march towards banishment and wishes to convey her to his cell, but Mendoza changes his mind and orders her to stay at court. Malevole sarcastically consoles Mendoza: "Do not weep, kind cuckold: take comfort, man; thy betters have been beccos: Agamemnon, emperor of all the merry Greeks, that tickled all the true Trojans, was a cornuto; Prince Arthur, that cut off twelve kings' beards, was a cornuto-" The old duke then sees Ferneze alive and repents his follies. To Malevole's relief, Maria will not be tempted to marry Mendoza. He assures Mendoza that the hermit is dead. As a reward, Mendoza attempts to poison him, but he only pretends to die. Mendoza presses his suit, but Maria rejects him. To avenge himself, he orders her death for murdering the hermit. Malevole, Pietro, and Ferneze enter masked for festivities, surprise Mendoza, and remove him from power.
"The Dutch courtesan"
Time: 1600s. Place: Lodon, England.
Malheureux tries to prevent his friend, Freevill, from associating with a Dutch-born prostitute, Franceschina, but is unable to, and still worse: he himself becomes smitten by her charms. After seeing Franceschina, Freevill has no qualm about visiting his love, Beatrice, to whom he promises eternal love. "I am sworn all yours," he affirms. "No beauty shall untwine our arms, no face/I my eyes can or shall seem fair." "I give you faith," she answers. For his part, Malheureux is unsure whether Freevill will be offended if he accosts Franceschina. "I resign her freely," Freevill answers. They encounter Cocledemoy, who has just robbed Mulligrub, a vintner, of several goblets and is now preparing other tricks. He asks a barber, Holifernes, Mulligrub's godson, whether he can borrow some of his instruments, to which the latter agrees. Disguised as a barber, Cocledemoy accosts Mulligrub and shaves him. While his face is covered with suds, the false barber steals from him a bag of money and escapes. "He has polled and shaved me," Mulligrub moans. "He has trimmed me." Meanwhile, Franceschina discovers Freevill has received a ring from Beatrice and wants to obtain it. "I care not for thy jealousy," he retorts." "God's sacrament, ick could scratch out her eyes and suck the holes," the angry courtesan declares. Malheureux seizes the opportunity of courting her in his friend's place. She agrees to be his love provided he murder his friend and show her the ring as proof of the deed. Malheureux immediately reveals the courtesan's proposal to Freevill, who has a plan of his own to counter it: the two will pretend to quarrel in a masque during a banquet to celebrate his marriage to Beatrice. "Protest me surely dead/Show her this ring, enjoy her, and, blood cold,/We'll laugh at folly," he proposes. Eager for more thievery, Cocledemoy next accosts Mulligrub's wife. Pretending to be the servant of a man who sold her husband a cup, he delivers salmon to her and says her husband wants the cup back to engrave it. The unsuspecting wife hands it over to Cocledemoy, who loses not time in vanishing. When her husband shows up, he discovers the theft. "I will never more say my prayers," he says grieving on his way out. To her surprise, Cocledemoy immediately returns to say that her husband was joking and wansts her to deliver him the salmon. Yet again the unsuspecting wife hands it over to Cocledemoy, augmenting her husband's sorrow. During the banquet, Freevill and Malheureux pretend to quarrel and challenge each other to a duel. They then deliver the ring to Franceschina, who promptly denounces Malheureux' deed to the family members of Freevill and Beatrice. The courtesan tries to stir up hate in Beatrice's heart against Freevill, but is unable to. Freevill, disguised as as pander, is a witness to his lover's patience and begins to regret his behaviors. Emerging from the brothel late at night, Cocledemoy meets Mulligrub and flees while leaving his cloak behind. When he crosses the watch, he informs them that Mulligrub just stole his cloak. The constables nab Mulligrub and haul him to the stocks, towards whom Cocledemoy, disguised as a bellman, offers encouragement and receives money from him to plead his case with the constables. Instead, the trickster denounces Mulligrub as a thief, so that they drag him shouting towards prison. With the the lovers' family hiding behind a curtain, Malheureux reveals to the courtesan how he murdered his friend. They immediately pounce on him and haul him off to prison in front of the disguised Freevill, who accepts the ring back from the courtesan and promises her to torment Beatrice. Instead, he lifts off his disguise to his love to show himself alive, but hurry off on hearing that Malheureux is condemned to die with Mulligrub. On his way to the gallows, Cocledemoy, disguised as a sergeant, picks Malheureux' purse, but at least his life is spared when Freevill reveals to all he is alive, at which the courtesan is sent to prison. Now Milligrub is on the same way Malheureux was. Having joined with Milligrub's wife i adultery, Cocledemoy nos asks whether he can count on her in the future. "I have a piece of mutton and a featherbed for you at all times," she answers. But when Cocledemoy hears Milligrub forgive him for his tricks and is assured he will not prosecute him, he reveals his true identity and that all was done for "emphasis of wit".
Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher
Beaumont and Fletcher's main contributions lie with "Philaster" (1609), "The maid's tragedy" (1609), and "A king and no king" (1611). Beaumont, Fletcher, and Massinger wrote “Love's cure” (1612). Fletcher and Massinger wrote “The lovers' progress” (1634). In “The lovers' progress”, 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.
Beaumont and Fletcher also wrote «Cupid’s revenge» (1615) and «Love’s pilgrimage » (1615). In «Cupid’s revenge», the god of love swears vengeance on the people of Licia after her duke, Leontius, accorded a birthday wish to his daughter, Hidaspes, who ordered the destruction of all his statues. Under the effects of Cupid’s spell, she wishes to marry a dwarf. When the duke learns of this, he condemns the dwarf to death. In grief, she pines and dies. Undeterrred by his daughter’s death, Leontius learns that his son, Leucippus, loves a common woman, Bacha, and prevents that, too. But when Leucippus lies in telling him he never slept with her, the charmed duke marries her for himself. Still loving Leucippus, Bacha tempts Leucippus to kill his father, but he declines in horror. To avenge this insult, Bacha sends her servant, Timantus, to kill him. When Timantus lunges to stab Leucippus, Bacha’s daughter, Urania, steps in the way and dies for her love. After Leontius’ death, the nobles rebel to topple Bacha. In despair, she stabs Leucippus and herself to death. With his dying breath, Leucippus requests the noblemen to restore Cupid’s images and elect his friend, Ismenus, as the new duke.
In «Love’s pilgrimage», Mark-Antonio promises marriage to Theodasia, but instead goes off to the wars. Dressed as a man, she pursues him and inadvertently meets her brother, Philippo, at an inn. They pursue the promise-breaker together and meet Leocadia, also dressed as a man, also in pursuit of Mark-Antonio, who promised marriage to her as well. Mark-Antonio is finally cornered after being hurt in a skirmish in an attempt to court Eugenia, wife to the governor of Barcelona. He agrees to marry Theodasia while Philippo marries Leocadia.
Fletcher also wrote «Valentinian» (1610). In «Valentinian», Lucina, though married to Maximus, is solicited by the emperor, Valentinian, to his bed. She resists. But when Valentinian wins Maximus’ ring at dice, he uses it as a token that her husband wishes her to appear at his palace. Instead of her husband, she meets Valentinian, who rapes her. When Maximus learns of it, he agrees with her that she must die. Maximus’ friend, Aecius, convinces him to forego murderous vengeance against the emperor. To remove his friend, now an obstacle, Maximus writes a false letter to himself, involving Aecius in a plot to kill the emperor and deliberately lets Valentinian see it. In fear of what Aecius may do, Valentinian sends murderers to him, who cringe in fear on seeing him armed. When a man Aecius dismissed from the army, Pontius, prefers to kill himself than kill him, he follows his example. Avenging Aecius’ death, his friends, Aretus and Phidias, poison to death the emperor and many in the court, then die themselves while the army rises in revolt and elects Maximus as emperor, who, for more security, takes to wife Valentinian’s widow, Eudoxia. But to avenge the murder of her previous husband, she poisons Maximus and convinces the senators that their elected emperor was no more than a traitor deserving death.
Gayley (1914) objects to the lack of moral judgment in Beaumont and Fletcher plays, ascribed mostly to the latter. “The coxcomb” (1612) “A comedy in which the wittol-hero successfully conducts the cuckolding of himself is nauseating” In “A wife for a month” (1624) Gayley (1914) objects to the ugly premise of the king’s command and also Evanthe’s advances on her wedding night: “She makes them not only without dignity but with an unmaidenly persistence and persuaviness of which any abandoned baggage or Russian actress of today would be ashamed.”
Time: Antiquity. Place: Sicily.
Philaster's father was unlawfully deposed by the present king of Sicily, who, because he enjoys the people's favor, allows him to walk freely about. Arethusa, daughter to the king, is to be married to Pharamond, prince of Spain. At these news, Philaster warns Pharamond of evil days to come: "When thou art king, look I be dead and rotten/And my name ashes-" But Arethusa loves Philaster, saying she wishes "thy love: without which, all the land/Discovered yet, will serve me for no use,/But to be buried in." When Pharamond suggests to her premarital delights, Arethusa refuses. "The constitution of my body will never hold out till the wedding; I must seek elsewhere," reflects Pharamond alone. He woos Galatea without success, but another waiting woman, Megra, is all to keen to meet him at his lodging. Galatea tells Arethusa of the proposed meeting, who in turn tells the king. He and his guard discover Megra in the prince's lodging. Avenging her shame, Megra slanders Arethusa by saying she plays with Bellario, Philaster's servant, doing service with his mistress, because "I will not fall alone," says she. Philaster's friends believe Megra's invention and reveal the news to him. At first, Philaster does not believe such news of her or of him. One of these friends, Dion, argues with him on that point: "Oh, noble sir, your virtues/Cannot look into the subtle thoughts of woman." He goes further to prove his point. He lies to him by saying he saw the pair in bed together. Philaster is incensed, exclaiming: "The winds that are let loose/From the four several corners of the earth/And spread themselves all over sea and land/Kiss not a chaste one. What friend bears a sword/To run me through?" Philaster notes that Arethusa has bought Bellario fancy clothes. To test him, he pretends having said to Arethusa that he expected her to enjoy his favors. Bellario assures him that he is abused. Deeply suspicious, the king meets Arethusa and commands her to put Bellario away. Arethusa tells Philaster this. She grieves to such an extent at losing Bellario that Philaster is more suspicious of her than ever, saying of all women: "How you are, being taken all together/A mere confusion, and so dead a chaos/That love cannot distinguish." Philaster dismisses Bellario from his service. In the woods during the king's hunting, Philaster by chance finds Arethusa with him. He threatens her then wounds her in the breast, but a country-fellow saves her, wounds Philaster, succeeds in moving him away, then asks her for a kiss as a reward. Pharamond discovers that his intended has a breast-wound, but she does not denounce Philaster. Later, Philaster finds Bellario sleeping and wounds him, by which token Pharamond believes Arethusa was attacked by Bellario, until Philaster reveals he is now convinced of Bellario's probity. For wounding his daughter, the king sends Philaster to prison, to be judged by his daughter. But instead of sentencing him to death as he hoped, to his astonishment she chooses to marry him. The king is incensed: "Blood shall put out your torches-" he threatens. But the people, loving Philaster and fearing for his safety, take Pharamond prisoner and revolt. Since the king is unable to subdue the rebellion, he begs Philaster's help to save him. Pharamond is threatened to be mutilated and tortured by the people till saved by Philaster, who would like to send him on his way to Spain with Megra in his arms. As a second attempt at revenge, Megra accuses Arethusa of dishonesty. Unsure of Arethusa, the king commands Bellario to be tortured, which Philaster in despair cannot prevent. To counter the charge, Bellario at last reveals herself as Dion's daughter, in love with Philaster, though, as she says to him, "past hope/Of having you," wishing only to be near him. Thankful for her service, Arethusa accepts her as a servant.
"The maid's tragedy"
Time: Antiquity. Place: Rhodes.
Though not his initial choice, in obedience to the king's command, Amintor is to marry Evadne, sister to his friend, Melantius, dismissing from his thoughts Aspatia, his troth-plight wife, grieving for her loss. On her wedding night, Evadne refuses to enter Amintor's bed, saying: "I sooner will find out the beds of snakes,/And with my youthful blood warm their cold flesh,/Letting them curl themselves about my limbs/Than sleep one night with thee." Not from a virgin's fears but because "I do enjoy the best, and in that height/Have sworn to stand or die: you guess the man." He does not. She tells him: it is the king! Knowing that, he does not wish to lie with her any more, but recommends for her honor's sake to sin secretly. The next morning, the king greets him thus: "Amintor, joy on joy fall thick upon thee!" He takes Evadne apart, wishing to hear from her mouth she did not yield to her own husband. She says she did not, but he does not believe her. Worried, Evadne asks Amintor to admit he did not touch her. Profoundly humiliated, Amintor turns to the king and calls him tyrant. And yet continues Amintor: "As you are my king,/I fall before you, and present my sword/To cut mine own flesh, if it be your will." The king is satisfied and expects things to go his way: "Thou may’st live, Amintor,/Free as thy king, if thou wilt wink at this,/And be a means that we may meet in secret." Amintor meets Melantius, who wishes to know why his friend appears so sad. Very hesitantly Amintor delivers the news that his sister "Is much to blame,/And to the king has given her honour up,/And lives in whoredom with him." Amazed and in disbelief, Melantius first challenges Amintor to draw his sword, then seeks to inquire further. When Melantius swears revenge against the king, it is Amintor's turn to challenge him to draw, which his friend refuses to do, advising him instead to "Be merry, then". With this piece of knowledge in hand, Melantius grimly goes to visit his sister. He locks the door and seizes her, threatening her thus: "Speak, you whore, speak truth!/Or, by the dear soul of thy sleeping father,/This sword shall be thy lover!" At last she admits being the king's mistress. He recommends her to kill the king, which she finds too fearful a deed, to which he counters: "You are valiant in his bed, and bold enough/To be a stale whore, and have your madam’s name/Discourse for grooms and pages; and, hereafter,/When his cool majesty hath laid you by,/To be at pension with some needy sir/For meat and coarser clothes; thus far you know/No fear. Come, you shall kill him." Fearfully, she swears to do it and to say nothing to anyone about their plan. Aspatia's father, Calianax, seeking vengeance on Melantius for her daughter's unhappiness, he being held responsible for Amintor's defection, says to the king that Melantius intends to kill him. Challenging Melantius, the king is unable to shake him. From the defeated Calianax Melantius obtains entry to the fort. Amintor, hearing the king calling for his wife, tells Melantius that they should kill him at once, which he refuses, for "Let your reason/Plot your revenge, and not your passion." Evadne advances towards the king's bed, telling herself: "I must not/Thus tamely do it, as he sleeps; that were/To rock him to another world: My vengeance/Shall take him waking, and then lay before him/The number of his wrongs and punishments." She ties his arms and says he must bleed, then, with his soul prepared, stabs him several times to death. The king's brother, Lysippus, discovers the murder and proclaims himself as the new king, while Melantius takes possession of the fort, declaring to Lysippus that he acknowledges him as the king, seeking only his pardon. Deeming her "fatal hour" come, Aspatia dons a man's attire and presents herself before Amintor as her brother. She strikes him, then kicks him. Incensed, Amintor draws his sword, and stabs one who never sought to defend herself. Evadne enters with a knife, her hands bloody. When learning that she killed the king, Amintor exclaims: "Those have most power to hurt us, that we love;/We lay our sleeping lives within their arms." Amintor is horrified, and, turning away from her, beholds her stabbing herself to death. While Aspatia groans her life away, despairing Amintor says: "My soul grows weary of her house, and I/All over am a trouble to myself." He discovers Aspatia's brother is in reality Aspatia. At first she thinks she'll live, as "A kind of healthful joy wanders within me." Then at the moment where she may have him again, she dies. He rubs and bends her body to revive her, and, when all is lost, stabs himself to death, discovered by Melantius, who cries out: "I never did/Repent the greatness of my heart till now;/It will not burst at need." He offers to kill himself, but is prevented. Calianax is also struck with grief on finding his dead daughter. Melantius will not so easily be prevented, saying to Amintor's spirit: "His spirit is but poor that can be kept/From death for want of weapons./Is not my hand a weapon sharp enough/To stop my breath? or, if you tie down those,/I vow, Amintor, I will never eat,/Or drink, or sleep, or have to do with that/That may preserve life! This I swear to keep."
"A king and no king"
Time: Antiquity. Place: Iberia and Armenia.
Arbaces, king of Iberia, has captured Tigranes, king of Armenia. To help conciliate the two kingdoms, Arbaces proposes to him his sister, Panthea, in marriage. Though without ever having seen her, Arbaces admits: "she can do as much in peace as I in war". Yet Tigranes is troubled, being already attached in amorous bonds to Spaconia, a lady of his own country. Arbaces then learns that an attempt on his life has been perpetrated by his mother, Arane, prevented by Gobrius, protector of the realm. When Arbaces presents Panthea to Tigranes, both kings immediately fall in love with her, to Spaconia's despair. Tigranes takes her aside, promising that "nations will own you for their queen". Arbaces is tormented and deadly jealous as he notices Tigranes taken by Panthea's charms. When Arbaces asks the worthy soldier, Mardonius, to act as go-between with his sister, he refuses. When Arbaces asks the unworthy soldier, Bessus, the same thing, he answers: "Oh, you would have a bout with her. I'll do't, I'll do'it, i' faith." So casual is the response that Arbaces dismisses him. Gobrius arrives to ask for Panthea's release, "cloistered up" as a result of the king's indecisions. At last Arbaces meets Panthea alone, revealing his love to her, as she does hers to him, though both are tormented by the nature of their relation. When Arbaces asks: "What should we do?" she answers: "Fly, sir, for God's sake." To which he counters: "So we must; away. Sin grows upon us more by this delay." Meanwhile, Spaconia's father, Ligones, arrives with a letter aimed at liberating Tigranes from imprisonment and to find out about his daughter's situation. He assumes the worst, namely that she is Bessus' whore. Ligones confronts Bessus and beats him. Next he assumes that she is Tigranes' whore, and confronts him as well, but is relieved on hearing that he promises to make her his queen. Arbaces enters with his sword drawn in a desperate sate of mind: "I must begin/With murder of my friend, and so go on/To an incestuous ravishing, and end/My life and sins with a forbidden blow/Upon myself." He threatens Gobrius with death for facilitating his feelings towards his sister, until the man reveals he is his father. Bewildered, Arbaces asks how can this be. Arane enters to confirm the story: living with an old king, she despaired of having any child and so pretended to be pregnant, accepting Gobrius' baby son as her own. But before the king died, she had a legitimate one: Panthea. Knowing that Arbaces is not her son, she attempted to kill him, but he was protected by his natural father, whose main wish was to see him united with Panthea. The euphoric Arbaces, a king but now no king, is free to marry her.
Time: 1610s. Place: Seville, Spain.
At the siege of Ostend (1601-1604), Lucio’s military skill was such that the infanta of Spain asked the king to pardon his father, Alvarez, banished twenty years ago for killing Vitelli’s brother. Lucio is actually Alvarez’ daughter, Clara, disguised since an infant to prevent Vitelli’s revenge on his family, while the real Lucio has been living disguised as Clara in the house of his mother, Eugenia. But there is no further need of subterfuge. “Now our mutual care must be/Employed to help wronged nature to recover/Her right in either of them, lost by custom,” says Alvarez returning home to his wife. “To you I give my Clara, and receive/My Lucio to my charge; and we'll contend,/With loving industry, who soonest can/Turn this man woman, or this woman man.” However, Bobadilla, the steward, is unable even to make them don their proper attire much less turn Lucio into man, Clara into woman. In anger at his criticism, she beats him with a truncheon, helped by Lucio’s kicks. Alvarez arrives to avenge, but, once informed of Clara’s feats, is smitten with her and requests a favor to be worn by him. Impressed by his eloquence, she hands over her sword. Bobadilla has recourse to Piorato to cure Lucio and mentions in passing that he serves as messenger for Clara’s letters to Vitelli, whose mistress, Malroda, Piorato shares. Piorato asks Bobadilla to keep the letters and instead deliver one of his to Clara. At Malroda’s house, Piorato informs her that Vitelli intends to marry Clara. He luckily steals away while she distracts Vitelli’s attention on a painting made of her. She then abuses him because of Clara, but he calms her with the gift of a jewel. Bobadilla returns Clara’s letters and reveals that Vitelli keeps a whore. Eugenia ushers in a suitor for her, Syavedra, who courts her while she stitches, an aggravating activity for her, the suitor being more aggravating still. Meanwhile, Alvarez is aggravated at looking on Lucio’s poor fencing with his master, Piorato. Under the father’s orders, Piorato aggressively charges Lucio, but is defended by Clara who thrusts him hard. Shaken but willing to serve, Piorato conveys Clara at night to Vitelli and his mistress and yields to her his sword while she watches the lovers’ quarrel, reconciled with a bag of gold and jewels. Before they go to bed, a greedy constable and members of the nightwatch, including Piorato, hoping for loot, rush in to seize them, but Clara scares them away. A repenting Vitelli promotes love’s cure of her deviency. “Love, true love,/Hath made a search within me, and expelled/All but my natural softness, and made perfect/That which my parents' care could not begin,” she says. “I will shew strength in nothing but my duty/And glad desire to please you, and in that/Grow every day more able.” Walking in the dark of the streets, Alvarez is so disgusted by his son’s fears that he challenges him to hit the first man they meet or rape the first woman. When Lucio crosses one of Vitelli’s men, Lamoral, he announces he will hit him and asks to see Genevora, Vitelli’s sister, for an hour. Lamoral strikes him and another strikes Alvarez while four of the watchmen steal what they can. Seeing his father down, Lucio’s courage rises at last, successfully defending him and following Genevora. The constable and other officers enter to break up the fight. The constable pretends to take his henchmen prisoners, but his knavery is discovered by the governor, whose officers lay hold on them. Farther along, Genevora and Lucio like each other so well that she gives him her glove as a token, but when Lamoral shows up, to her disgust, he yields it to him. She challenges him to recover it for her love. They fight and Lucio disarms him, taking from him glove, hat, and sword. Yet Lamoral receives a second chance when Vitelli announces that the king allows a duel between the two and Alvarez’ side. But the duel is broken up by Clara, Genevora, and Eugenia, who convince them to lay down their arms. The feud is ended by promised marriages between Lucio and Genevora, Vitelli and Clara.
"The duke of Milan"
Time: 16th century. Place: Milan, Italy.
Ludovico Sforza, duke of Milan, has an ardent desire of celebrating the birthday of his wife, Marcelia, in grand style. Jealous of her many honors, the duke's mother, Isabella, and sister, Mariana, refuse to appear, but the court-favorite and Mariana's husband, Francisco, convinces them to attend the ceremonies for the sake of the duke if not for hers. During the celebrations, Sforza is worried over his decision of supporting the French king, Francis I, in his war against the Spanish emperor, Charles V. He receives the horrible news that Charles has won. Deeply fearing an invasion, he summons Francisco and offers him a choice between killing Marcelia or dying himself. The stunned courtier agrees to the murder provided his master signs a written statement of the command. Courtiers are next shocked to learn that the duke has abruptly left the palace without a retinue. In the absence of her lord, Marcelia orders the end of all festivities, but, to taunt her, Isabella and Mariana order their favorite, Graccho, to accompany fiddlers playing happy tunes beneath her window. An incensed Marcelia warns them to stop, supported by the duke's representative, Francisco, who commands Isabella and Mariana to be sent to prison and Graccho to be whipped with the fiddlers. However, Marcelia interposes herself on behalf of her two enemies and leaves them at liberty. Alone with her, Francisco seeks revenge of the duke who, before marrying Marcelia, slept with his sister, Eugenia, and promised marriage only to deceive her. Francisco attempts to seduce the duke's wife and embraces her, but she rejects him. Smarting from the rejection, he shows her the duke's warrant for her death. Marcelia swoons in horror, but nevertheless rejects him a second time, daring him to kill her. Sforza presents himself to the emperor without much hope of retaining his ducal crown. But his promise to serve him is accepted. He retains his crown and rewards Charles' soldiers. Humiliated from his punishment, Graccho witnesses Francisco trying to gain access to Marcelia and reports it to Mariana. Alone again with Marcelia, Francisco shows signs of repenting his rash attempts at seduction. He reveals that the duke only meant to take her life should he himself die at the hands of the emperor. When Francisco offers to stab himself, she prevents him. The report affects her deeply. When the duke's unexpected return is announced, she receives him coolly. Sforza is stunned and abashed at her demeanor. "We will have sports of all kinds," he promises his courtiers. "And propound/Rewards to such as can propose us new,/Unsatisfied though we surfeit in their store/And never think of cursed Marcelia more." However, he cannot make merry and only thinks of her. Graccho hopes to curry favor with Francisco by disclosing that his wife knows about his courtship of Marcelia. However, Francisco surprises him by threatening him with tortures unless he foments belief in the rumor. Francisco continues to see Marcelia, but this time to announce the duke suspects her loyalty. She is affronted. Courtiers spread the use that Marcelia's coldness derives from her love of Francisco. Isabella and Mariana scold the duke for his patience. But his patience ends when Francisco reveals that Marcelia has attempted to seduce him, a lie still prompted by his desire of revenge for his sister's shame. Marcelia enters angrily and is confronted with a husband at his wit's end. To test her loyalty, he pretends to have killed her supposed lover. "The bloodier villain thou," she answers. "But 'tis not to be wondered at: thy love/Dost know no other object." Incensed at what he believes is a confession, he stabs her. However, when a courtier announces that Francisco has hurriedly left the palace, they realize too late that this is his doing. She discloses Francisco's attempt at seducing her before dying. Francisco rejoins Eugenia, who considers Marcelia's death a poor revenge for her wrongs, because she wants more, no less than Sforza's death. Knowing that he is closely pursued, Francisco heeds Graccho's advice of returning inside the palace but rewards him by having servants bind him. He and his sister appear disguised as physicians pretending to offer help to the grieving and self-incriminating Sforza. Alone with Marcelia's corpse, he smears poisoned cosmetics on her face and hands to incite false hopes in the duke's heart and kill him. The deceived and frenzied Sforza kisses the corpse. Set free after bribing the servants, Graccho appears too late except to behold Francisco arrested and sent to tortures while, before dying, Sforza orders that Eugenia be sent to a convent.
"The knight of Malta"
Time: 16th century. Place: Malta.
Despite his vow of chastity as a member of the knights of Malta, Mountferrat pursues Oriana, sister to Valetta, grand master of the order, but she refuses him. Two candidates to become knights of Malta are presented: Miranda and Gomera, but both decline the honor, the former because of his youth and feelings of unworthiness, the latter because of his love of Oriana, a match approved by Valetta. Smarting with jealousy, Mountferrat engages Oriana's black servant, Zanthia, to forge a letter stating that her mistress accepts a marriage proposal from the basha of Tripoli, an act of treason to the Maltese state at war with the Ottoman Empire. Gomera considers this a slander and offers to defend Oriana in a trial by combat against her accuser. While engaged in warfare with the Turks, Miranda captures a prisoner, Lucinda. He seems to desire her, but she rejects his advances, which he secretly approves of. After learning of the combat at arms in preparation, he visits Mountferrat and pretends to believe his story of Oriana's treachery. After learning Gomera insulted him, he offers to replace him. Unwilling to risk death for such a cause, Mountferrat accepts. Gomera defeats the disguised Miranda, but when the latter's visor is lifted, he claims to have won as well as Gomera for having deliberately lost the fight to expose Mountferrat's cowardice and likely forgery. Valetta is convinced and orders Mountferrat's arrest. He pronounces Miranda fit to become a knight of the order and accepts Gomera as brother-in-law. Still willing to further Mountferrat's cause, Zanthia encourages Gomera's fits of jealousy concerning his wife and Miranda, whom she admires but does not love. He violently accuses her of betraying him: "For thy sake, vile creature,/For all I have done well in my life,/I have digged a grave, all buried in a wife;/For thee I have defied my constant mistress/That never failed her servant, glorious war,/For thee refused the fellowship of an order/Which princes, through all dangers, have been proud/To fetch as far as from Jerusalem:/And am I thus rewarded?" In consternation over this violently unjust diatribe, she faints. Zanthia pretends to help revive her mistress, but instead administers such a potent sedative that she is believed to be dead and exposed in a crypt inside a church prior to burial. At night, Mountferrat and Zanthia head towards the crypt to abduct her. However, Miranda arrives first, along with his friend, Norandine. They discover Oriana as she wakens and take her away. Finding the crypt empty, Mountferrat and Zanthia hurry out to find her. When Gomera also finds the supposed corpse removed, he hurries to find Mountferrat. When he does, he attacks him. While they fight with swords, the treacherous Zanthia takes out a pistol and shoots Gomera in the arm. However, the shot warns Norandine and the accompanying officers of the law, who arrest her along with Mountferrat. Oriana gives birth to a son and is reunited with her husband. So is Lucinda with the lover she knew prior to her capture by Miranda. Mountferrat is stripped of his membership as a knight of Malta, the title given instead to Miranda.
Time: 16th century. Place: France.
Monsieur, King Henry III's brother, attracts Bussy d'Ambois, a soldier, in his sphere of influence. Another courtier, Maffe, comes in to fool Bussy by giving him on behalf of Monsieur 100 crowns instead of 1,000, but Bussy guesses at the deception and strikes him. Monsieur introduces him at court, where he quickly courts the wife of the duke of Guise, who threatens to cut his throat, which Bussy dismisses. When found among a group of courtiers, he chafes on suspecting he is their object of derision. One of these, Barrisor, asks him sarcastically: "Do you think yourself such a singular subject for laughter that none can fall into the matter of our merriment but you?," to which Bussy replies: "We shall meet where your buffoonly laughters will cost ye the best blood in your bodies." The result is a duel with rapiers between 3 of Bussy's friends and 3 of Bussy's enemies, Barrisor, L'Anou, and Pyrhot, in the latter group, Melynell and Brisac in the former. All six die, but not Bussy. Despite the law against dueling, the king pardons him. Meanwhile, Monsieur attempts to seduce Tamyra, wife to count Montsurry. She tells Monsieur she will be loyal to her husband, to which he replies: "archers ever/Have two strings to a bow; and shall great Cupid/(Archer of archers both in men and women)/Be worse provided than a common archer?" To tempt her even more, he gives her a rope of pearl as a present, but she refuses it. Bussy arrives with a friar to dispel the rumor that Barrisor was killed because of Tamyra's love towards him. She thanks Bussy and accepts his version as they go out together, to bond together. Back at court, Bussy quarrels a second time with the duke of Guise, but they are reconciled by the king, who especially loves Bussy. A jealous Monsieur now has second thoughts about Bussy, wondering: "What had my bounty drunk when it rais'd him ?" He and the Guise decide to trap him, with Tamyra used as bait. Pero, Tamyra's treacherous female servant, reveals to Monsieur she saw Bussy and Tamyra together late at night. To provoke Montsurry, Monsieur makes horns at him as a sign he is a cuckold. Montsurry suspects the worst and confronts his wife, who swoons at his accusation. He asks her pardon, admitting that his only proof is Monsieur making horns at him, which Tamyra is glad of, the information surely springing from an evil source. Tamyra then warns Bussy of Monsieur's discovery, a danger he as usual makes light of: "What cold dull Northern brain, what fool but he/Durst take into his Epimethean breast/A box of such plagues as the danger yields/Incurr'd in this discovery?" To find out what Monsieur knows, the friar conjures Behemoth and other spirits, by which means Bussy discovers that Monsieur advises Montsurry to trap Bussy. Presuming his wife guilty, in a fit of anger Montsurry stabs Pero, but Monsieur saves her life by sending for his surgeon. In a further fit, Montsurry drags Tamyra about by her hair, and tries to force her into writing down the names of the adulterer and pandar. Tamyra is unwilling, proposing him instead: "Hide in some gloomy dungeon my loath'd face/And let condemned murderers let me down/(Stopping their noses) my abhorred food./Hang me in chains, and let me eat these arms/That have offended: bind me face to face/To some dead woman, taken from the cart/Of execution, till death and time/In grains of dust dissolve me-." He stabs her and presses her further: "Till thou writ'st/I'll write in wounds (my wrong's fit characters)/Thy right of sufferance." Since she still resists despite this threat, he commands his servants to place her on the rack. The friar, alarmed by her cries, bursts in the room to prevent her tragedy, but without warning falls and dies. Tamyra admits the friar was her pander and writes down her lover's name in her blood. Montsurry takes up the friar's garment and dons it as a disguise to fool Bussy. However, Bussy sees the friar's ghost, and thereby knows he is dead. He raises Behemoth, who warns him not to obey his mistress' next summons. The disguised Montsurry enters with the summons, to which Bussy obeys despite the devil's warning, considering him the prince of lies. Tamyra, forewarned by the friar's ghost, warns Bussy to stay away, but he comes nevertheless. A band of hired men enter to kill Bussy, but all of them except one are scared off by the ghost. The boldest one is pierced to death by Bussy. Encouraged by Montsurry, the other men re-enter. Bussy beats Montsurry down, yet spares his life, but he is shot to death by one of Montsurry's servants. As a result of these distressing events, Montsurry and his wife decide to live separately.