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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.

XII. University Plays

§ 23. Barten Holiday’s Technogamia; Allegorical and satirical character of the later Plays

James was so delighted with Ignoramus that he revisited Cambridge in May to see it a second time. Its triumph marks the close of the most vital period of the university drama. Henceforward, no new type was evolved, and the distinctively academic element dwindles. Allegorical plays became increasingly popular with college dramatists, though Lingua remained unrivalled for wit and verve. Thus, in February, 1618, Technogamia or The Marriage of the Arts, by Barten Holiday, was acted at Christ Church “with no great applause”; but it was repeated before the king at Woodstock in August, 1621. Though James seems to have found the piece very dull, it is not without merit. The action shows how some of the arts and sciences endeavour to enter into unnatural unions. Thus, Poeta seeks to win the hand of Astronomia, but is finally allied to Historia and promises that his love shall follow her “more inseparably than the Hexameter the Pentameter.” Closely related to Lingua, to which it contains direct references, is Pathomachia or The Battell of Affections, published by “a Friend of the deceassed Author,” in 1630, and “written some years since.” It deals with the revolt of the Affections against Love and Hatred, “whom heretofore they counted their King and Queene.” Love and Hatred are aided by the Virtues, headed by Justice, while the rebels have the support of the Vices disguised as Affections or Virtues, and commanded by Pride. Justice, however, unmasks them, and sends them to confinement, whereupon the Affections tender their submission and are pardoned. The work is in prose throughout, and contains interesting passages and many allusions to recent events, but lacks dramatic movement and vivacity.

Religious satire is another predominant element in the later university plays—a foretaste of the dread conflict that was fast approaching. Loiola, by John Hacket, acted at Trinity before the university on 28 February and before James on a third visit to Cambridge on 12 March, 1623, is an entertaining Latin comedy, which attacks impartially Roman Catholics and Calvinists, the former in the person of Loiola, “an unscrupulous Jesuit,” the latter in that of Martinus, a canting elder of Amsterdam, where the scene is laid. To the same year belongs the semi-allegorical Fucus Histriomastix, wherein the title rôle, that of a hypocritical puritan minister, was played by Robert Ward of Queens’ college, who was probably the author of the piece. Fucus, who hates all plays and amusements, seeks to prevent the marriage of Philomathes and Comoedia, otherwise, the production of an academic comedy. The arguments he uses are the same as those of Rainolds in his controversy with Gager, and seem derived from his book. But his intrigues are foiled, and he also comes off badly in a feud with the merry-making countryman, Villanus, who is in love with Ballada, an illegitimate sister of Comoedia.

Another actor in Fucus was Peter Hausted, afterwards fellow of Queens’, who, when Charles and Henrietta Maria visited Cambridge in March, 1632, wrote in their honour the singular play The Rival Friends. This is linked to the comedies satirising religious hypocrisy by its caustic portraiture of the wooers of the deformed and foolish Mistress Ursely, whose hand carries with it an “impropriate parsonage.” More realistically humorous personages are Stipes, the shepherd of the simoniacal patron, and his wife and daughter, all genuinely rustic figures without the customary pastoral veneer. From Hausted’s preface to the play when it was published, it is evident that his low-life portraiture had been adversely criticised as unbefitting the royal presence. But to modern taste this appeals much more strongly than does the pseudo-romantic main plot. The two friends, Lucius and Neander, rivals for the love of Pandora, vie in their readiness to abdicate in each other’s favour, and carry their altruism so far that the lady gives her affections, at first in pretence, afterwards in reality, to a third wooer. The popularity, however, of such fantastic themes was evidenced by the successful producation at Trinity, during the same royal visit, of Thomas Randolph’s The Jealous Lovers. Randolph, a distinguished alumnus of Westminster and Trinity had already written two short academic “shows,” Aristippus or The Joviall Philosopher and The Conceited Pedler. The Jealous Lovers was his first complete play, and the rapturous welcome accorded to it does little credit to either the university or the court. Randolph’s inventiveness and rhetorical fluency cannot redeem the essential falsity of the main plot. Tyndarus is insanely suspicious of the faithfulness of his beloved Evadne, and Techmessa similarly mistrusts her devoted Pamphilus. The two “jealous lovers” go through a mock funeral (which gives occasion for an imitation of the gravedigger’s scene in Hamlet) as a final test of the constancy of the seemingly bereft pair. But, after this ordeal has proved their loyalty unswerving, Hymen forbids the proposed unions, and it transpires that Tyndarus is the brother of Evadne, and Techmessa the sister of Pamphilus. Interwoven with these pseudo-romantic episodes is an underplot of gross humour.

The royal pair, accompanied by their nephews, the palatine princes, paid a second visit to Oxford in August, 1636, when the last important series of academic plays was produced in their honour. William Strode, public orator, welcomed the king to Christ Church with a speech, and with an allegorical drama, The Floating Island, which was staged with great elaboration, and furnished with music by Henry Lawes. The title and general conception of the work in which the island represents the human mind afloat on the sea of the passions, was, doubtless, suggested by Phineas Fletcher’s The Purple Island or The Isle of Man, published at Cambridge in 1633. But Strode develops the theme on lines of his own, and with the added spice of political and religious satire. A conspiracy is formed by Audax, Irato and others against the rule of king Prudentius and his counsellor, Intellectus Agens. Prudentius resigns his crown, and Fancy is proclaimed queen, her only law being “that each man use his proper humour, be it vice or virtue.” Discord and tumult are the crown, after each of the plotters has declined it in turn. The implied lesson on the evil results of rebellion, and the castigation of Prynne, in the person of Melancholico, a play-hating puritan, helped to recommend the play to the royal favour. Equally successful were the two dramas produced on the following day. One of these, Love’s Hospitall, by George Wilde, fellow of St. John’s, was performed in the afternoon at that college at the expense of Laud, who, as chancellor of the university, was present to welcome the king and queen. The piece is an entertaining comedy of humours, in almost farcical vein, and is in no way characteristically academic. This is also true of William Cartwright’s The Royall Slave, acted in the evening at Christ Church. An Ephesian captive, Cratander, in accordance with an old custom among the Persians is granted for three days before his execution the full insignia and privileges of kingship. During this period, he displays such nobility of soul that heaven intervenes in his favour, and he is spared to become the wearer of a real crown. This theme is handled by Cartwright with genuine rhetorical effectiveness, and his drama was furnished with special scenic effects by Inigo Jones and incidental music by Lawes. So delighted was the queen with the performance that she afterwards borrowed the costumes and scenery for a repetition of the play by her own company at Hampton court.