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ALBERT S. COOK, EDITOR
THE BURNING PESTLE
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER
EDITED WITH INTRODUCTION, NOTES, AND GLOSSARY
HERBERT S. MURCH, PH.D.
A Thesis presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Yale
University in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
PREFACE The Knight of the Burning Pestle performs an exceptional office in the Jacobean drama. As the only considerable stage-burlesque of its day, it passes an unparalleled censure upon many of the theatrical vagaries of a decadent time. It is no less unique in that it affords a refreshing contrast to the tone of its authors' other work. Here, for once, Beaumont and Fletcher move in a pure and wholesome atmosphere. Through delightfully humorous agencies, the rare old comedy discloses the genuine humanity of a vanished age, its lineaments undisguised by the delusive artifice which is a besetting sin of these playwrights. If the modern reader is enabled to understand the antique subject-matter, he can easily see in this humanity, moreover, an authentic reflection of our own, and appreciate, in the dramatists' portrayal of some of the elemental absurdities of our nature, a masterpiece of comic creation.
But the subject-matter is remote and obsolete. The burlesque is immediately concerned with the Jacobean commoners' taste for the romances of chivalry, the eccentric plays which were the products of that taste, other forgotten stage-favorites of the Jacobeans, and the singular manners of Jacobean audiences. These peculiarities of a former civiliziation have long since passed out of the life of the race. It is the purpose of the present edition to make them intelligible, for the sake of completely revealing both the historic
significance of the play and its more vital and enduring literary excellencies. It has been the editor's aim to render possible a full appreciation of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, not only as the earliest, and perhaps finest, of our dramatic burlesques, but also as one of the brightest examples of pure comedy in the language.
The Introduction is mainly devoted to an exposition of the larger objects of the satire. Comment upon the details of Jacobean life to which the play bears reference is contained in the Notes. Peculiarities of the vocabulary are treated, for the most part, in the Glossary
I desire to acknowledge my obligations to the following members of Yale University: to Professor Albert S. Cook for inspiration and aid at every stage of my work; to Professor Henry A. Beers and Professor William L. Phelps for useful advice; to Dr. Rudolph Schevill for invaluable suggestions relative to the play's independence of Don Quixote, and its connections with the Spanish romances; to Dr. William S. Johnson for the benefit of frequent consultations; and to Mr. Andrew Keogh and Mr. Henry A. Gruener for assistance in bibliographical matters.
A portion of the expense of printing this thesis has been borne by the Modern Language Club of Yale University from funds placed at its disposal by the generosity of Mr. George E. Dimock, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, a graduate of Yale in the class of 1874.
April 20, 1907.