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sodic, the other three brought together into one in Act 5. The main plot is a very complicated intrigue of two lovers separated by the enmity of the father of one and the grandfather of the other. The first underplot deals with the gulling of a country clown. The second underplot concerns the tricking of Sir Arnold Cautious by his nephew and other gallants. The episodic elements are the quarrels of Brittleware, the jealous husband, with his loose wife, and the very realistic tavern-scenes at the doubtful resort known as the Sparagus Garden. The main plot is further complicated by the addition of the unnecessary Moneylacks, father of the heroine, who does much plotting on his own account. The first underplot has one Tom Hoyden, who plots against his brother Tim, the country gull. The second underplot is loosely made to help the main plot by adding motive. There are other minor interrelations all through the play. All those interests, however, are kept practically distinct from one another until the last act. Here they are brought together with some skill. The whole effect of witnessing the play must have been much like trying to watch a five-ring circus with side-shows added!
The other plays that I put in this class are the Damoiselle, with three separate interests ; the New Academy, with four ; the English Moor, with four ; Court Begger, with four ; and Covent Garden Weeded, with three. Many of these separate interests are extremely involved in themselves—for instance, the main plots of the last two-and have much that is purely episodic besides. The lastmentioned play might be put in a class by itself, because the main plot is wholly dependent upon the exaggerated humor of one of the characters. This makes it exactly of the type of the Silent Woman. Just as Morose's exaggerated hatred of noise is the motive at the basis of that play, so Crosswill's desire to act contrary to the wishes of everybody with whom he comes into contact causes all the plotting and counterplotting of his children and friends in Covent Garden Weeded. However, as this play has underplots of a long-lost girl turning up and marrying a reclaimed rake, a band of roarers' who gull two victims, and a justice who weeds Covent Garden after much experience with its noxious plants, I class it with the comedies of separate interests, like the Sparagus Garden. · The other type of intrigue which Brome has used, that in which the threads of which the plot is composed are inextricably involved in one another from the beginning to the end of the play, has two examples, the Northern Lass and the Mad Couple well Matched. For an instance of this type I will summarize the situation at the beginning of Act 4 of the Northern Lass. Sir Philip Luckless has married the Widow Fitchow, but the pair have quarreled before the consummation of the marriage. Tridewell is in love with Mistress Fitchow, and she with him. Sir Philip is in love with Constance, the Northern Lass, who has gone mad for the love of him. Mistress Fitchow wishes her marriage annulled, but will not allow Sir Philip to marry Constance if she can help it. Constance has two other suitors, Nonsense and Widgine, both strongly backed by different persons who are interested, the Widow Fitchow being the backer of her brother Widgine. Sir Paul Squelch, a justice, the guardian of Constance, wishes her to marry Nonsense. Squelch incidentally has an intrigue with Holdup, a harlot, whom, in order to conceal her, he has disguised as Constance. This is but a bare statement of the situation, without mentioning the episodic scenes and the nine additional characters to help confuse the progress of the plot. The difference between this sort of plot and that of the comedy of the type of the Sparagus Garden is at once evident. In the Mad Couple well Matched there is the same intricacy of plotting. Here we have six or seven intrigues, in which everybody attempts somebody else's virtue, though there is not very much virtue in the entire dramatis persona. But every thread is so involved in the others that to take one would necessitate a considerable change in the rest.
This variety of plot is exactly that which became most popular in the comedy of the Restoration. Even when we see it at its highest development in Congreve, it is difficult to follow, and impossible to remember long. It is interesting to note that both of Brome's comedies of this class were produced during the Restoration period with great success. 1
The striking characteristic of all Brome's comedies of manners, of whatever type, is the extreme complication of their plots. They are mazes which have to be traversed à second time in order that the reader may be sure of finding his way at any point. To see them on the stage would require such close attention on the part of the audience that witnessing a play would become a serious mental effort, rather than a relaxation. And this complexity is characteristic not only of Brome, but of most of his contemporaries in the field of comedy. Brome has merely outdone them slightly in this respect, and has handled his difficult problem a little better. In Brome, English drama reached an extreme of intricacy which has never been equaled, and never can be surpassed without a hopeless entanglement of the wits of the audience. Even one of the characters in the Sparagus Garden exclaims :
Well here's such a knot now to untie
As would turn Edipus his braine awry. Middleton summed up his own type of comedy in his introduction ‘To the Comic Play-Readers, Venery and Laughter,' of the Roaring Girl (1611). Here he compares playmaking to the 'alteration in apparel': 'Now in the time of spruceness, our plays follow the niceness of our garments, single plots, quaint conceits, lecherous jests, dressed up in hanging sleeves. The comedy of the next generation lost the singleness of plot, and developed the other elements. In comparison with this quotation, we may take one from Richard Flecknoe's Discourse of the English Stage (c. 1660) 1 : ‘The chief faults of ours are our huddling too much matter together, and making them too long and intricate ; we imagine we never have intrigue enough, till we lose ourselves and Auditors, who shu'd be led in a Maze, but not a Mist; and through turning and winding wayes, but so still, as they may find their way at last.' Any modern reader will feel that this fits Brome's plays much better than C. G.'s lines before the Sparagus Garden :
1 See above, p. 30.
Nor is thy Labyrinth confus'd, but wee
In that disorder, may proportion see. This last quotation and two more in the plays, may indicate that Brome was adversely criticized in this respect, even by some of his contemporaries. In Covent Garden Weeded? a character says: 'Nay, mark, I pray you, as I would entreat an Auditory, if now I were a Poet, to mark the Plot, and several points of my play, that they might not say when 'tis done, they understood not this or that, or how such a part came in or went out, because they did not observe the passages.' And again in the Damoiselle 3 occurs a similar remark:
Now Wat Observe me :
He lose the Plot. 1 Attached to Love's Kingdom, a Pastoral Tragicomedy, 1664. In Hazlitt's Treatises on the English Drama and Stage.
? 3. 2, p. 50. 3. 1, p. 417.
A thing which adds to the confusion of Brome's plots is his great fondness for introducing episodic scenes and characters. There is a natural temptation to do this, if one's chief aim is to show manners or humors. This is the reason for the introduction of the realistic scene of the shoemaker and tailor dunning the gallant in Covent Garden Weeded, and the tavern-scenes in the same play and in the Sparagus Garden, as well as of the scenes between the humors, Widgine and Anvile, in the Northern Lass, and the numerous episodic passages between Courtwit, Swaynwit, and Citwit in the Court Begger. Exact parallels to these are the scenes introducing Dawes and Lafoole in the Silent Woman. Of a less pardonable sort are the episodes which merely add confusion to the plot, without showing humors or manners. Such are those in which Anvile in the Northern Lass is sent to Constance's house, under the impression that it is a brothel, and is beaten; and Squelch, in the same play, is tried in his own house by another justice, and forced to marry Trainwell to extricate himself from his position.
But in spite of this overloading with episode in some of the plays, I consider Brome a very clever master of plotting. Of course such involved intrigue cannot be approved of by modern standards ; but if we accept the criteria of Caroline and Restoration taste, we must admit that none of the Sons of Ben,' and but few of the Restoration playwrights, equalled Brome in weaving four or five strands of interest into one play. Schelling? and Ward 3 agree in calling him a very skilful handler of plots ; and even Symonds, 4 who has little to say in his favor,
1 Dr. Allen is certainly mistaken in saying that Brome 'chooses his incidents and scenes with a view to 'plot advancement, and, ordinarily, to that alone,' and that 'nothing is shown merely to exhibit or explain characters' (op. cit., p. 49.)
2 Elizabethan Drama 2. 274.