Fiction > Harvard Classics > Beaumont and Fletcher > Philaster
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Beaumont and Fletcher.  Philaster.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Introductory Note
 
 
THE MEN who laid the foundations of the Elizabethan drama were generally of obscure origin; and though some of them had been educated at the universities, they were all poor. Beaumont and Fletcher are the first recruits to the profession of play-writing who came of distinguished families and habitually moved in wealthy circles; and this social environment was early suggested as an explanation of their power of representing naturally the conversation of high-born ladies and gentlemen.  1
  Francis Beaumont, son of Sir Francis Beaumont, was born about 1585, and died in 1616. He was educated at Oxford and studied law at the Inner Temple; and though his career as a writer was short he won a high reputation as a poet and was buried in Westminster Abbey.  2
  John Fletcher, son of the Bishop of London, was born in 1579, and died in 1625. He was a graduate of Cambridge, and appears to have been much more a professional man of letters than Beaumont. He wrote many plays by himself, and, after Beaumont ceased to write, worked in collaboration with several other men, including Shakespeare.  3
  “Philaster” is an excellent typical example of their plays, which are thus admirably characterized by Thorndike:  4
  “Their plots, largely invented, are ingenious and complicated. They deal with royal or noble persons, with heroic actions, and are placed in foreign localities. The conquests, usurpations, and passions that ruin kingdoms are their themes, there are no battles or pageants, and the action is usually confined to the rooms of the palace or its immediate neighborhood. Usually contrasting a story of gross sensual passion with one of idyllic love, they introduce a great variety of incidents, and aim at constant but varied excitement…. The plays depend for interest not on their observation or revelation of human nature, or the development of character, but on the variety of situations, the clever construction that holds the interest through one suspense to another up to the unravelling at the very end, and on the naturalness, felicity, and vigor of the poetry.”  5
 

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