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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XIII. Lesser Elizabethan Dramatists

§ 13. English imitation of French Senecan Drama

The Elizabethan drama was essentially popular. The lesser Elizabethan drama was popular in a double sense, as being that large part of the total output which appealed to the tastesof those who were not capable of rising to the imaginative and intellectual standards of Shakespeare and Jonson. But, if there was a lesser drama which was too popular to be artistic in the high sense, there was, also, a lesser drama which failed of the first rank because it was not popular enough; because it was pedantic and learned, and tied to classical methods and traditions. In France, this drama, which imitated Seneca, dominated the stage, and, through the French poet Robert Garnier, it exercised a fruitful influence upon a coterie of distinguished literary people in England. In 1590, lady Pembroke translated Garnier’s Marc-Antoine into scholarly English blank verse, using lyrical measures for the choruses and reaching, in this part of her work, a high level of excellence. Daniel’s Cleopatra, printed in 1594, was a sequel to lady Pembroke’s play, and his Philotas was a second study in the same style. Both plays are meritorious and may be read with pleasure. Thomas Kyd, also, at a date which is uncertain, but under lady Pembroke’s influence, translated Garnier’s Cornélie. The extant play is dated 1594.