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I have Authority for what I say :
This boast Brome never succeeded in making good, for an analysis of the verse of his three tragi-comedies, in which he evidently expected to take our judgments, shows no more metrical skill than is apparent in the comedies of manners. His verse always averages rather poor, and shows carelessness and lack of ear. Every scene presents difficulties of scansion that frequently make the reader prefer to read the so-called verse as prose rather than take the trouble to determine the author's intention, if indeed, he had any. Lines of no rhythm at all are occasionally introduced, like these two in the Queen and Concubine (1. 1.):
I was i' the way : but the Queen put me out on't.
A very irritating rhythm that is a marked mannerism with Brome, is produced by a huddling of unstressed syllables in the middle of an eleven-or twelve-syllable line. For instance, in the first scene of the Antipodes, he allows the following:
Might make a gentleman mad you'll say and him.
Another effect that may become very annoying is caused by the jolt at the end of a line with a hovering stress on the tenth and eleventh syllables. For example:
With an odd Lord in towne, that looks like no Lord.
Another annoying point in Brome's rhythm is the uncertainty as to whether some twelve-syllable lines are Alexandrines, or lines with extra mid-line syllables, or lines with double feminine endings. For instance :
In competition for the crown as any man.
Other examples of carelessness in versification are the two fourteeners 'in the first scene of the Lovesick Court, and the occurrence, four times in Brome's work, of a word divided at the end of a line.1
This accusation of general carelessness in technique is not a random generalization based on the verse-writer's early work. I can find no indication of development in skill, no progress of any sort. The examples quoted below, of the best verse I can find in Brome, are both from plays written probably in 1635, the middle period of his production. The late plays, the Antipodes, Court Begger, and Jovial Crew show no attempts at remedying the faults of the early work. The number of feminine endings and of run-on lines shows some slight variation, but no regular chronological progress. In the use of a certain definite type of verse to introduce variety, the four-stress heroic line, or' ten-syllable tetrameter,' as Professor Cobb 2 calls it, there is again no evidence of increase or decrease in frequency. While Shakespeare's use of this, varying
1 Antipodes 2. 3 ; New Academy 4. 1 ; Queen's Exchange 1. 1; Weeding Covent Garden, Prologue. Shirley is guilty of this in the Cardinal 1. 2, and Jonson used it in a few doggerel passages.
2 C. W. Cobb, ‘A Type of Four-Stress Verse in Shakespeare,' New Shakespeareana 10. 1-15. Examples of this type in the Queen's Exchange l. l are :
Betwixt smooth flat ry and honest judgements.
from sixteen to six per cent, makes an added chronological verse-test possible, no such check can be found for Brome, whose use does not vary much from an average of eight per cent.
The model of Brome in his versification I think was Fletcher. The evidence of personal friendship between the two men, and of some influences in details, as well as in the general style of tragi-comedy,' makes the theory a priori not untenable. Among the distinguishing characteristics of the use of Fletcher given by Fleay ? are the large number of feminine endings, and the 'abundance of trisyllabic feet, so that his lines have to be felt rather than scanned; it is almost impossible to tell when Alexandrines are intended. Both these points are markedly characteristic of Brome's prosody. Professor C. H. Herford 3 has pointed out another distinguishing trait of Fletcher-that 'the pause after two emphatic monosyllables, the first of which bears the verse stress, is common within the line, as well as at the end, and is very rare in Shakespeare.' The use of this in the middle of the line I have not noticed in Brome, but the jolting effect of it at the end, which is a serviceable BeaumontFletcher test, 4 is one of the traits which I have tabulated as distinctly a mark of Brome.
The following table summarizes all these metrical peculiarities. It is based on the first hundred lines of six plays of different periods of Brome's work.
1 See above, pp. 20; 68. 2 Shakespeare Manual, p. 153. 3 Eversley edition, Works of Shakspere (1904) 7. 154, note 1.
4 In an examination of a thousand lines of the work that is assigned to Beaumont alone, on external evidence. I have found practically no cases of hovering stress on the tenth and eleventh syllables.
After exhibiting Brome's faults as a versifier, it is only fair to quote a few passages of his best work. The following is from the Sparagus Garden (3. 5, P. 163):
You dare not sir blaspheme the virtuous use
Poets they are the life and death of things,
Brome's best verse is to be found in the Queen's Exchange. The Shakespearian influence shown in situations and characters may also be felt occasionally in the verse. I quote two of the most effective passages:
At the same place again ?
It is the Wood that rings with my complaint,
(2. 3, p. 496.)
(3. 1, p. 504.)
The ideas of decency in the seventeenth century were certainly very different from those of subsequent times. The numerous contributors to Jonsonus Virbius unite
1 A word seems to have dropped out here.