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HIS appearance of a regular tragedy, with the division of
acts and scenes, and the accompaniment of the antient chorus, represented both at the Middle-temple and at Whitehall, and written by the most accomplished nobleman of the court of queen Elisabeth, seems to have directed the attention of our more learned poets to the study of the old classical drama, and in a short time to have produced vernacular versions of the Jocasta of Euripides, as it is called, and of the ten Tragedies of Seneca. I do not find that it was speedily followed by any original compositions on the same legitimate model.
The JOCASTA of Euripides was translated by George Gascoigne and Francis Kinwelmeríh, both students of Grays-inn, and acted in the refectory of that society, in the year 1566. Gascoigne translated the second, third, and fifth acts, and Kinwelmeríh the first, and fourth. It was printed in Gascoigne's poems, of which more will be said hereafter, in 1577, under the following title, “ JOCASTA, a Tragedie written in Greeke " by Euripides. Translated and digested into Acte, by George “ Gascoigne and Francis Kinwelmershe of Graies inn, and there
by them presented, An. 1566.” The Epilogue was written in quatraines by Christopher Yelverton, then one of their brother students. So strongly were our audiences still attached to spectacle, that the authors did not venture to present their play, without introducing a Dumb Shew at the beginning of every act. For this, however, they had the example and authority of GORDOBUC. Some of the earliest specimens of Inigo Jones's Grecian architecture are marred by Gothic ornaments.
It must, however, be observed, that this is by no means a just or exact translation of the JoCASTA, that is the PhoeniSSA, of Euripides. It is partly a paraphrase, and partly an abridgement, of the Greek tragedy. There are many omiffions, retrenchments, and transpositions. The chorus, the characters, and the substance of the story, are entirely retained, and the tenor of the dialogue is often preserved through whole scenes. Some of the beautiful odes of the Greek chorus are neglected, and others substituted in their places, newly written by the tranNators. In the favorite address to Mars', Gascoigne has totally deserted the rich imagery of Euripides, yet has found means to form an original ode, which is by no means destitute of pathos or imagination.
O fierce and furious Mars! whose harmefull hart
Father of warre and death, that dooft remoue,
And thou mayst proue some other way
ful wel The bloody prowess of thy mighty speare, • See Phoeniss. pag. 140. edit. Barnes. • So Tibullus, where he cautions Mars *12 monólogo os "Agns,
not to gaze on his mistress. Lib. iv. ii. 3. Ti 500'e malo
... At tu, violente, caveto, Kaj Jouvalo nilixn, &c.
Ne tibi miranti turpiter arma cadant.
Wherewith thou raisest from the depth of hel
And when thou haft our fields forsaken thus,
Yet thou returne, O loie, and pleasant Peace!
I am of opinion, that our translators thought the many mythological and historical allusions in the Greek chorus, too remote and unintelligible, perhaps too cumbersome, to be exhibited in English. In the ode to CONCORD, which finishes the fourth act, translated by Kinwelmershe, there is great elegance of expression and verfification. It is not in Euripides,
O bliffefull CONCORD, bred in facred brest
C Act ii. Sc. ult.
In thee alone the mightie power doth lie,
In thee, in thee, such noble vertue bydes,
Thou only, thou, through thy celestiall might,
When tract of time returnes the lusty vero,
of summers seede, For mans releefe, to ferue the winters neede.
Thou doft inspire the hearts of princely peers;
feeres ; With whom they liue in league of lasting loue, Till fearfull death doth fitting life remoue :
And looke howe fast to death man payes his due !
With gasping breath, and yet they cannot die, &c'. The constant practice of ending every act with a long ode sung by the chorus, seems to have been adopted from GORDOBUCS.
? Adt iv. Sc. ult.
• It may be proper to observe here, that the tragedy of TANCRED and GISMUND, acted also before the queen at the Innertemple, in 1568, has the chorus. The ti. tle of this play, not printed till 1592, Shews the quick gradations of taste. It is said to be “ Newlie revived and polished
according to the decorum of these daies, " by R. W Lond. printed by T. Scarlet,
" &c. 1592.” 4to. R. W. is Robert Wilmot, mentioned with applause as a poet in Webbe's DISCOURSE, Signat. C 4. The play was the joint-production of five ftudents of the society. Each seems to have taken an act. At the end of the fourth is Composuit Cbr. Hatton, or fir Christopher Hatton, undoubtedly the same that was af. terwards exalted by the queen to the office of lord Keeper for his agility in dancing.