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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

VIII. Ford and Shirley

§ 13. His Entertainments

Besides the masques introduced into nine or ten of his plays, Shirley has left three separate productions of this class: The Triumph of Peace (1633), The Triumph of Beauty (printed 1646) and Cupid and Death (1653). The first of these has already been referred to as the great entertainment presented by the inns of court to the king and queen. Except in scale and splendour, it does not differ notably from most other productions of its kind, and to-day it is memorable chiefly as a document in social, rather than in literary, history. The Triumph of Beauty deals with the judgment of Paris, and it is introduced by an extensive and obvious imitation of the rehearsals of “Pyramus and Thisbe” by Bottom and his friends in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Cupid and Death, on the familiar fable of the exchange of the weapons of the two deities and its disastrous results, was written for performance before the Portuguese ambassador.

The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses for the Armor of Achilles (printed 1659), though often described as a masque, is, in reality, nothing of the sort. It is a short dramatic piece, based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, intended for private production. It contains nothing spectacular and no dancing. Some of the speeches are eloquent, though both the main characters suffer from the obvious comparison with Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. The piece is now remembered for the great lyric already mentioned, with which it closes.