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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.

XIII. Masque and Pastoral

§ 13. Pastoral drama of the University Wits

But the direct influence of this third kind of pastoral on English dramatic literature is not apparent till the beginning of the seventeenth century. The second kind reaches English writers earlier. It has a great influence through the prose romances of Sidney, Lodge and Greene, but, before this begins, Peeles Araynement of Paris and Lyly’s dramas—especially his Gallathea and Love’s Metamorphosis exhibit an English type of pastoral so original in its mixture of pastoral, mythology, allegory and satire, that some critics have denied that it is pastoral at all. And when Shakespeare, in As You Like It uses Lodge’s romance, Rosalynde, his play is closer to English traditions of Robin Hood and Sherwood forest than to anything Italian. Among the lesser dramatists of the end of Elizabeth’s reign, Munday, in his use of the Robin Hood stories, offers, on his own low level, an English kind of pastoral similar to Shakespeare’s. The feature of this dubious pastoral of Peele, of Lyly, of Shakespeare and of Munday is that it is joyful, fresh and irresponsible. It comes at the beginning of a literary epoch instead of at the end, and the exhausted passion and elaborate artificiality of the court of Ferrara are replaced by the heedless gaiety and robust life of Elizabethan England. The Shepheards Calender and The Fairie Queene, as well as The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, are examples of an appropriation of influences from Italy, France and Spain, which resulted in distinctive types of art. The new romance type was produced by the nobleminded idealism which characterised the genius of both Spenser and Sidney. In the plays, a parallel manifestation of the free and careless Elizabethan spirit produces again a new type of art.