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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.

V. Early English Comedy

§ 24. Strength of the native dramatic instinct

With few exceptions, these plays have perished; but, doubtless, they were typical of the theatrical productions of the first twenty years of Elizabeth’s reign. Together with other popular pieces no longer known even by name, they came under the lash of purist critics, such as Whetstone in his preface to Promos and Cassandra (1578) and Sidney in his Apologie for Poetrie (printed in 1595), who ridiculed their extravagances of plot and style, and their defiance of the unities. Sidney deplored the mingling in the same piece of grave and humorous elements, “hornpipes and funerals,” and proclaimed that the salvation of the English drama could only be found in strict adherence to classical rules. But it was in vain for him to strive against the stream. Even in the plays adapted from Roman, neo-Latin, or Italian models, Roister Doister, Misogonus and The Bugbears, the native dramatic instinct for breadth of design, vigour of characterisation and a realism that often becomes coarseness, had largely transmuted, as has been shown, the borrowed alien materials.