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from so promising a commencement, for it is the nature of youth to be sanguine upon very little occasion.
“I have it,” said Master Shakspeare, as he laid hold of the manuscript; and opening it, sat himself down in the chair, as if to give it a careful examination: then added, “but in all honesty, I must acknowledge that it hath a total unfitness for representation.” At this the youth's countenance became blanched with a sudden paleness. “It hath a lack of every thing which is most necessary for a drama to have: to wit, action-interest—and character ;the which if it have not, were it written by King Solomon himself, or the seven wise masters in conjunction, it would have no chance with our modern audiences. The time of mysteries and moralities hath gone by. People now will not listen to dialogues without an object, and plays without a plot. David hath ceased to abuse Goliath in a set speech an hour long, and Joseph lingereth no longer to preach a thrice tedious sermon to Potiphar's wife. If a play have not action it must needs have but little interest ; for although something may occasionally be done in a narrative form, if the ball be not kept up-that is to say, if the dramatis persona be doing of nothing—even if the sentences be proverbs of wisdom, then shall the play be a bad play. Again, if the characters who form the plot
have no individuality or distinct features, in accordance with nature or probability, though they look like Alexanders and argue like Aristotles, shall the play be a bad play. Your tragedy, Màster Francis, hath these particular defects, and I should be hugely deficient in candour, and in no way deserving the confidence you have been pleased to place in me, were I to refrain from telling you that it cannot be acted with any profit either to yourself or others. There is another objection to it—the subject hath already been done by Kit Marlowe.”
Master Shakspeare observing for the first time that the lips of his visitor had lost their accustomed ruddiness, and that he did look most despairing and woe-begone, with that sweet sympathy which maketh the generous so fearful of giving pain to another, instantly began to turn over the leaves of Master Francis his play, and resumed his dis
6 But let me not cause you to imagine that I think nought of your tragedy, Master Francis. Far be it from me to say so.
I do consider the blank verse very musical and eloquent, and full of right admirable conceits. Here is a passage in which a lover, expostulating with his mistress, who doth affect inconstancy in no small measure, sayeth this much as argument to prove the unity of love :
• Effect and cause- -(the lover and the loved)
Are consequence and origin of one
And again, in continuation of the subject :
“ The forest tops
“ If Nature then declare her law to be
We cannot set one gem in many rings.” “I do opine, Master Francis," continued our illustrious dramatist, with a look of kindness towards his young companion, who had been listening with delighted attention to Master Shakspeare's faultless delivery of his lines,—“ I do opine that there is much admirable matter in these words ; and the same opinion holds good towards other passages in your play, of similar excellence; which plainly prove to me that there is no lack of
promise in you. But be not too hasty; pluck not the
. fruit before it be ripe, else they who may chance to
taste it will make
If you would take the advice of one willing to do you all manner of good offices"
66 If I do not, I should be the most unworthy varlet that lives,” exclaimed Master Francis warmly. 6 You will wait awhile before
any position to the public eye,” said Master Shakspeare, affecting not to notice the interruption he had received, yet being much pleased thereat. “ You are young-your knowledge of the world, therefore, must be scanty; and although I do perceive in your writings a comprehensive acquaintance with books, he who writeth tragedies should possess an equal knowledge of men; therefore I do advise
you, for some years to come, to study mankind, if you entertain any desire of taking your stand among our English dramatists. Moreover, you have as yet acquired no information as to the business of the stage-a matter of vast moment towards the success of even the best play. This you can only inform yourself of by noting what others have done. The most effective
you to do this is to come to us at the play-house, where you shall have free ingress and egress upon every fitting occasion : and I will forward your interest in all that my poor skill or influence can effect.”