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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

§ 6. Halliwell’s Dido and Udall’s Ezechias

On the following evening, a tragedy called Dido. written by Edward Halliwell, fellow of King’s college, was performed. It was in hexameter verse, and drawn, for the most part, from the Aeneid. Like the earlier school drama on the same subject, acted before Wolsey in 1532, it is not extant; but the contemporary narrative of Nicholas Robinson describes it as novum opus sed venustum et elegans though considered too long by some carping spectators.

A still more regrettable loss is that of the next evening’s play, Ezechias, an English Biblical drama by Nicholas Udall. As Udall was an Oxford man, and had been dead for about seven years, the production of a play by him on this occasion is somewhat remarkable, and was probably due to his long connection with court entertainments. Though the work is not extant, the accounts of the performance by Hartwell and Robinson show that it dealt with Hezekiah’s destruction of the idols of the grove and the brazen serpent, the resentment of the populace, the mission of Rabshakeh at the head of the Assyrian host and the mysterious destruction of the invaders in a single night. As in the case of miracle-plays, lighter episodes were evidently mingled with Biblical incidents. Mirum vero quantum hic facetiarum, quantum leporis in re tam seria ac sancta, et veritatis tamen certa serie nunquam interrupta.

Great “preparations and charges” had been “employed and spent about” another play, Ajax Flagellifer, a Latin version of the Sophoclean tragedy, which was to be given on 9 August, the eve of the queen’s departure. But she was so much wearied by her exertions that the performance had to be abandoned Before her departure on the following morning, Elizabeth gave a present in money and other marks of her favour to Thomas Preston, fellow of King’s, afterwards author of Cambises, king of Persia, who had pleased her by his acting in Dido and his skill in disputation.

This visit of the queen to Cambridge had its counterpart two years later in one to Oxford, which began on Saturday, 31 August, 1566, and lasted till Friday, 6 September. She arrived from Woodstock, and had to undergo so formidable a succession of welcoming orations from the university and civic authorities on her way to Christ Church that she was unable to be present the following evening at the first play performed in her honour in the college hall. On a stage specially prepared at the queen’s own cost, with “stately lights of wax, variously wrought,” Marcus Germinus, a comedy in Latin prose, was performed. It was the joint composition of several Christ Church scholars, and was produced with the help of Richard Edwards. From the analysis of the plot given by Bereblock, it appears that it dealt with a conspiracy against Germinus, a native of Campania, in the reign of Alexander Severus, by jealous rivals who think that they have compassed his ruin, but whose designs are foiled by the evidence of honest freedmen.