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“ Fly, wantons, fly this pride and vain attire,
The coals to set your tender hearts on fire :
Else God will plague and punish at the last." The next scene shows, in the mirror of Nineveh, to London and England a reflection of corrupted law. Alcon and Thrasybulus, seeking aid of justice against the usurer, “ enter with the lawyer.” After they have given their instructions, each in characteristic manner, the judge enters with the usurer, and the corruption of justice is set forth in the ensuing scene, which is closed as usual by Oseas from his chair at the back of the stage with warning voice :
" Oseas. Fly, judges, fly corruption in your court;
He well may judge he is adjudged to pain." The next scene is with Adam and the crew of ruffians returning drunken from the ale. Wild in light quarrel, one ruffian slays another, and they pass on ; but Adam, in his drunkenness, falls over the body of the slain man, and the dead drunk lies upon the dead.
Rasni and Alvida, having made sport with the degradation of drunkenness, sink lower themselves; and in a draught of Greek wine, in which she asks for a love-pledge from her forgiving husband, Alvida slays him with swist poison. Upon Rasni's praise of the deed follows the stern comment of Oseas that closes the Second Act of the play.
The Third Act opens with another prophet, used in this place as type of the preacher who is unfaithful in delivering God's message to the world. After there has been shown to us in action the hesitation of Jonah to obey the command of God by warning Nineveh, with his fight to Tharsus and to Joppa, there is again the warning of Hosea from his chair
“Oseas. When prophets, new-inspired, presume to force
Then enters Thrasybulus with the poor old man Alcon, who is accompanied by his wife Samia and Clesiphon his younger son. The law having failed to right their wrong, they are looking now to Alcon's influence at Court, through his son Radagon, who by flattery has risen to vice-royal state.
Radagon, in his pride, disdains to acknowledge his father and mother. He brings on himself his mother's curse, and immediately, in presence of the Court, “a flame of fire appears from beneath and Radagon is swallowed." The wise men--the Magi-explain this to Rasni as a natural phenomenon, and Oseas in his warning includes the dangers of the time
“ When men by wit do labour to disprove
The plagues for sin sent down by God above."
The next scene opens between Adam and the smith's wife; the smith enters, the man beats his master, and the wife is without care for the husband. The prophet's comment upon this is followed by the last scene of this act, showing how the men of Joppa were led to repentance, upon which Oseas comments thus :
“ Oseas. If warned thus, the ethnics thus repent,
Here ends the Third Act, and when the Fourth opens,
“JONAS is cast out of the whale's belly upon the Stage.” Now Jonas obeys the Angel, who bids him arise, get him to Nineveh. Oseas bids the prophets--ministers—in like manner repent where they have been unfaithful to their charge.
The next scene shows first the fickle wantonness of Alvida, whose
fancy wanders to the King of Cilicia. She tempts him in vain with blandishment and song. She faints when Rasni enters, and awakes from her fainting to false protestation of her love for him. Then
“ Enter the Priests of the Sun, with mitres on their heads, carrying fire in their hands." Their worship is disturbed : “A hand from out a cloud threatens with a burning sword.” The Magi explain it away : “These are but clammy exhalations," etc. Then Rasni, satisfied, prepares a stately feast
“ Where Alvida and I, in pearl and gold,
Will quaff unto our nobles richest wine,
Then follows a clown scene opened by one masking in devil's attire, who lies in wait to terrisy Adam, the smith's man. When Adam enters with the smith's wife, she flies, but Adam remains for a comic dialogue, which ends with his beating the devil. He does this when he has offered, as a smith, to shoe him, and taking his foot in his hand found he was no devil, because he had not a hoof.
Then we see Thrasybulus and Alcon driven by want and injustice to live by theft. The usurer buys stolen goods of Alcon, and bids him be diligent in getting more. All is thus at the worst, when Jonas enters with his cry, “Repent, ye men of Nineveh ! Repent !” Oseas is taken away by the Angel. The act ends with a banquet in the palace of Rasni, upon which Adam the smith intrudes for a boon, and at which he is entertained as a causer of mirth.
Then follows the Fifth Act, one lesson of repentance, written with a profound religious earnestness, into the very midst of which a clown scene of broad farce is thrust.
The misdoers all repent in sackcloth and ashes. Fast has been ordained. Searchers are about to see that no manner of food is taken
during the appointed days ; they come upon Adam, the smith's man, who has beef and beer in his wide slops. As the fast is to last five days more, he agrees to be hanged rather than endure it ; but he will eat up all his meat before he goes.
Repentance brings forgiveness down to all the sinners. At the close of the play Jonas is left alone upon the stage, and thus he speaks his last word to England and to London :
“ You islanders, on whom the milder air
Doth sweetly breathe the balm of kind increase,
Whereupon there arose, it may be, an emphatic “ Amen ” from the playhouse benches; for although many precisians stayed away, a playhouse audience under Elizabeth represented more nearly than it has done at any later time the
« David and
whole people of England. And so we have had here the pulpit on the stage, with Hosea and Jonah for the preachers. The reference to “Romish Antichrist” does not imply necessarily that the play was written before Lodge had become Roman Catholic. If Greene wrote it, and the players wished for it, to please their public and themselves, the opinion of a recusant joint-author would have no weight.
Another example of direct association of the Bible with this teaching by dramatic shows of life, is George Peele's “David and Bethsabe," which Beth has come down to us with its text little impaired, and shows the grace of style that was in all Peele's earlier work.
“David and Bethsabe " was probably one of Peele's earlier works, although not printed until 1599. The grace of style shown in “The Arraignment of Paris ” here enters into the treatment of a theme that gives room for pathos and tenderness, for the alarms of battle dear to an Elizabethan audience, and for true utterances of human passion. Peele, at his best, writes English into music, and he is at his best in “David and Bethsabe," a tale of which the action is continued to the death of Absalom. The play is simply a dramatic poet's paraphrase of the eleventh and next following chapters of the Second Book of Samuel, as far as the eighth verse of the nineteenth chapter. Its temper is expressed in the closing lines of the Prologue
“Of this sweet poet, Jove's musician,
And of his beauteous son I press to sing.