James Shirley (1596-1666)

Quotations


Life
b. London; ed. Merchant Taylor’s School, and Oxford; prolific English playwright, before and after the Commonwealth. Shirley studied at Oxford and completed his BA at Catherine Hall, Cambridge. Took orders, and converted to Catholicism and worked as schoolmaster in Edward VI Grammar School; biog. in Theo. Cibber’s Lives; from 1635 or 6 to 1640, he was in Dublin writing prologues (published in Shirley’s Poems) and plays for Ogilby at Smock Alley;
 
plays written and produced in Ireland include St. Patrick for Ireland (1640), prob. based on Jocelin’s Life of Patrick (Paris 1624), rep. in Dublin by Chetwood (1751); also The Royal Master (1638), in which he wrote for the Drury Lane Preface, ‘our author did not calculate this play / For this meridian’ [i.e., London]; The Doubtful Heir first called Rosania, or Love’s Victory (1640); The Constant Maid (1640); The Gentlemen of Venice, romantic comedy, 1639, prob. written in Ireland;
 
he also wrote a lost play, The Politician (poss. The Politique Father, 1641); died with his wife Frances on the day of the fire of London, ‘being in a manner overcome with affrightments, disconsolations, and other miseries’ occasioned by the it’ (acc. to Anthony à Wood); bur. 27th Sept. [chk]. ODNB GBI ODQ OCEL FDA OCIL

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Works
Contemporary
  • St. Patrick for Ireland (1640), and Do. [rep.] as St. Patrick for Ireland, Written by James Shirley , Esq ; To which is prefix'd, An Account of the Author, and his Works, W. R. Chetwood’s Select Collection of Old Plays (Dublin 1751);
  • The Triumph of Peace ... Invented and written, by James Shirley, Gent. (1633).
  • The Royal Master (1638); another edn. (London: T. Wilkins 1793), 68pp.;
  • The Maid's Revenge: A Tragedy. Written by James Shirley, Gentleman (London: 1639), and Do. [rep.] (London: T. Wilkins 1793), 48pp., 8°. [irreg. pag.].
  • The Doubtful Heir first called Rosania, or Love’s Victory (Dublin 1640);
  • The Constant Maid (1640);
  • The Gentlemen of Venice [1639].
Collected Works
  • Works of James Shirley (Dublin, 1720);
  • Plays, with prefix’d account of author and his works [by] W. R. Chetwood (Dublin 1750);
  • A. Dyce, ed., Dramatic Works and Poems of J. S., with notes by W. Gifford, 4 vols. (London: John Murray 1833), front. port., 22cm.
Modern edns.
  • Edmund Gosse, intro. [Mermaid Best Plays of the Old Dramatists Series (London: Vizetelly 1888, 1903), xxx, 466pp., ill. [port.], and Do. [rep.] (London: T. Fisher; NY: Charles Scribner's Sons [1904]), xxx, 466pp., 8° [contains The Witty Fair One, The Traitor, Hyde Park, The Lady of Pleasure, The Cardinal, The Triumph of Peace].
  • Ray Livingstone Armstrong, ed., intro. & annot., The Poems of James Shirley (Morningside Heights, NY: King's Crown 1941), 108pp.
  • Charles R. Forker, ed., The Cardinal, by James Shirley [Indiana University Humanities Series, 56] (Indiana UP 1964), lxxi, 142pp., ill. [facsims., port.], 24 cm.
  • John P. Turner, ed., A Critical Edition of James Shirley’s ‘St Patrick for Ireland’ (NY: Garland Publ. 1979);
  • Kim P. Walker, ed., James Shirley, The Dukes Mistri : an old-spelling edition [Ph.D. thesis] (University of Edinburgh 1986).
  • St. Patrick for Ireland: A Tragi-Comedy .. Written by James Shirley (BiblioBazaar 2010), 78pp. [available at Google Books - online].
See also Wells & Bergquist Microcard editions [incls. St. Patrick for Ireland, 1640]..

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Criticism
  • John Eglinton, ‘St Patrick on the Stage’ in Anglo-Irish Essays (Dublin: Talbot Press; London: Unwin 1917), [q.pp.];
  • Stephen John Radtke, “James Shirley: His Catholic Philosophy of Life” (Washington: Catholic University of America 1929), ix, 113pp. [Ph.D. thesis]
  • Hugh Macmullan, ‘The Source of Shirley’s St Patrick of Ireland’, in PMLA (Sept. 1933), pp.808-14;
  • [w. auth], ‘James Shirley and the Actors of the First Irish Theater’, in Modern Philology, XL (1941);
  • Allan H. Stevenson, ‘Shirley’s Years in Ireland’, in Review of English Studies, XX (1944);
  • Russell Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 (Pennsylvania UP 1959), pp.35-36;
  • J. P[ayne] Collier, Poetical Decameron, 2 vols. (1820);
  • Arthur Huntington Nason, James Shirley Dramatist: A Biographical and Critical Study (NY: A. H. Nason 1915) [Columbia PhD diss.], and Do. [rep. edn.] (NY: Nabu Press 2010), xv, 469pp. [see extract];
  • Ruth K. Zimmer, James Shirley: A Reference Guide (Boston: G. K. Hall 1980), xxiv, 132pp.
  • Ben Lucow, James Shirley [Twayne's English authors series] (Boston: Twayne Publs. 1981), 176pp.
  • Sandra Burner, James Shirley: A Study of Literary Coteries and Patronage in Seventeenth-Century England (NY 1988).
  • Christopher Morash, A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000 (Cambridge UP 2002) [see extract].
  • Justine Isabella Williams, “The Irish Plays of James Shirley, 1636-1640’ [Ph.D. thesis] (University of Warwick 2010) vi, 370pp.
For bibliography see Michael Arnott, English Theatrical Literature (1970).

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Commentary
Sir John Gilbert, in History of Dublin, says that the Shirley Prologues are still extant [in published Works], and quotes extensively from one for Middleton’s comedy, No Wit, No Help Like a Woman’s, which was not published till 1657: ‘We are sorry, gentlemen, that with all pains / To invite you hither, the wide house contains / No more. [Between 1636 and 1639, there was an interval of Parliaments in Dublin.] I tell you what a poet says; two year / He has lived in Dublin, yet he knows not where / To find the city, he observ’d each gate; / It could not run through them, they are too straight. / When he did live in England, he heard say / That here were men lov’d wit and a good play; / There here were gentlemen, and lords; a few / We’re bold to say, there were some ladies too. / This he believed; and though they are not found / Above, who knows what may be under ground.’ [Also quoted in Ó hAodha, Theatre in Ireland.] Gilbert adds, ‘Shirley’s coming to Ireland has never been accounted for; it is not improbable however that he had relations’, and cites Sir George Shirley, Chief Justice 1620-49, and Sir John Tracy, married to Shirleys of Sussex. (Hist. of Dublin I, 40.)

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Arthur H. Nason, James Shirley: Dramatist (NY [the author] 1915) - [Chap. 1:] “The Predramatic Period”: ‘As a lover of Shakespere, as a student of Lope de Vega, as a reviser of the plays by Chapman and by Fletcher, as an avowed disciple of Ben Jonson, Shirley brought to his profession a taste genuinely catholic and a technique highly developed. What part he played in the dramatic activities of his time we may learn by reading his record for a single twelvemonth. In the spring of 1633, when William Prynne, the Puritan fanatic, virulently assailed the queen and her ladies for participating in a play at court, Shirley, as "Servant to her Majesty", offered a retort discourteous in his ironical dedication to The Bird in a Cage. In the autumn of that year, Shirley was the author of the play presented in honor of the king's birthday - the romantic tragicomedy, The Young Admiral. In the same year, when Charles desired the dramatisation of a favourite story, he, through his Master of the Revels, gave the plot to Shirley [who] wrote The Gamester, which was acted on Feb. 6, 1633/4. "The King," wrote Sir Henry Herbert, "said it was the best play he had seen for seven years." In that same February 1633/4, seven months before the youthful Milton produced his masque of Comus for the Earl of Bridgewater, Shirley provided another masque, the Triumph of [4] Peace, for the Inns of Court to present to the king. For Milton's masque, Lawes composed the music, and Inigo Jones designed the scenery. For Shirley's masque, the same composer and artist were engaged; and upon its presentation, the Inns of Court expended twenty thousand pounds." (pp.4-5; available at Google Books - online; accessed 06.01.2012.)

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John Eglinton, remarks of James Shirley’s attitude in begging not to offend with his treatment of Irish material in his play St. Patrick for Ireland that it shows ‘how completely even then the Anglo-Irish nationality have identified itself with the country.’ (Anglo-Irish Essays, 1917, p.62.) Further, ‘it enables us, far better than a good many of the acknowledged sources of the period, to realise how the Anglo-Irish felt towards their country on the eve of the rebellion [of 1641].’ (Quoted in Peter Kavanagh, The Irish Theatre, Tralee 1946.)

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C. G. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (1937), [on St. Patrick for Ireland (1640)], 'It is easy to understand how one who had been in Holy Orders took this semi-religious subject for a dramatic theme. His sources were Bede’s Ecclesiastical History and the apocalyptic . Life of St Patrick my Maccumacthenius.' Futher, Hyde Park (1632), written to celebrate to opening of the park to the public, stages a race between an English and an Irish footman (Lacy).

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F. R. Boase, Introduction to 18th-century Drama (1946) gives account of the dram. pers. of St Patrick for Ireland: Leogarius, Conallus (his son), Dichu, St. Patrick, Archimagus, the ‘great priest of Saturn and Jove’, and the ladies Emeria and Ethna. Quotes Prologue [as given infra]; Loegarius’s dream of ‘the pale man’; Rodomant is a low-life apprentice of Archimagus, is jostled by his own devil, and loves the Queen; the statue of Jove moves and demands the blood of Patrick; Dichu’s sons are condemned to die, but saved by Archimagus who disguises them as statues. Meanwhile, Loegarius’s eldest son Corybreus, disguises as the head-god Ceanerarchius, and rapes Emeria ( beloved of Conallus), who stabs him to death. Milcho leaps into the flames of his own burning house, which has been ignited to trap St. Patrick who is attending the Queen, a convert, imprisoned there; finally, in the scene before the cave of Dichu, now a hermit, St. Patrick banishes the snakes conjured up to poison him by Archmagius. Conallus accepts Emeria, and St. Patrick proclaims ‘This nation [... &c.; as given infra].

Boas comments:‘Such a prophesy must have sounded strangely ill-suited to the distracted Ireland of 1640, and Shirley was evidently not encouraged to write the second part of the play to which he had looled forward in the prologue and the epilogue. The works as it stands, including also a farcical element of a servant in love with the queen, and a Bard whose songs form a semi-operatic feature, is a curious pastiche, but has the special interest of the last excursion of the English theatre into the supernatural before the Civil War. ... includes tragic episodes ...’ (p.371.)

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J. S. Clarke, Early Irish Stage (Oxford 1956), notes that St. Patrick is the “earliest formal drama with elements of Irish tradition and feeling.” [E.g. “(sundry kingdoms) shall be proud to owe what they possess / In learning to this great all-nursing island.’ NOTE, family of Shirleys, Earls of Ferrer, settled in Ireland in Elizabethan times.

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition, IAP 1976; 1984), remarks that Shirley's St Patrick for Ireland (1640) rather ludicrously by modern standards, presents the Druids as worshipping Jupiter and Mars, whose statues in the classical style appeared on the scene. (p.90-91.)

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Nicholas Robins, ‘Thou flattering world, farewell!: A Caroline connoisseur: the sly properties of James Shirley, metropolitan play-maker’, in Times Literary Supplement (11 Oct. 1996), pp.20-21, writes that Shirley was patronised by William Laud; entered Anglican ministry at St. Albans, and then turned Catholic; Triumph of Peace, 1634;, commissioned by Inns of Court and presented to the King and Queen with costumes by Inigo Jones; served Queen Henrietta’s Men under Beeson, and became chief rival to King’s men; stayed in Ireland four years [&c.]; assisted Ogilby with plodding translation of Homer; never returned to the stage; ‘The niceties of revenge in Shirley’s plays are not substantially different from those of Webster, and Shirley’s debts to him have been well accounted. Morbid filial loyalties; the flesh looking forward to transcendence in alabaster; suspect Mediterranean courts; they are familiar themes of Jacobean tragedy, but, if anything, Shirley has formalised them. The skulls float playfully and perhaps too readily before his eyes. Death does not tigthen the sensuous apprehensions of his characters; it is a situation which accelerates villainous ingenuity, or offers an opportunity for moral expatiation: ‘Oh I faint! / Thou flattering world, farewell. let princes gather / My dust into a glass and learn to spend / Their hour of state, that’s all they have: for when / That’s out, Time ne’er turns the glass again’; cites plays including The Young Admiral (1933); Hyde Park; The Traitor; The Cardinal (‘perhaps the last great play produced by the giants of the Elizabethan stage’, acc. Edmund Gosse); The Ball; quotes from one or other of the latter: ‘I have some land in the country, dirty acres and mansion house, where I will be the miracle of a courtier, and keep good hospitality, love my neighbours, and their wives, and consequently get their children; be admired among the justices, sleep upon every bench, keep a chaplain in my own house to be my idolater, and furnish me with jests ...’; comments on the playwrights ‘well-tilled metropolitan contempt for the “country” familiar from Restoration work, if less destructive’; of St Patrick: ‘However mediated, the anxieties of influence are either ludicrously evident in Shirley’s obscure and peculiar St. Patrick for Ireland, which shows the professional man of letters bored and distracted. The first act is an exalted melodrama, the second a love comedy, the third introduces buffoonery and a ghost, and the fourth is a hotch-potch of farce, tragedy, masque and comedy.’ (TLS, p.20.) Ftn. tells that staged play-readings of The Lady of Pleasure, The Witty Fair One, and The Humorous Courtier take place at the Shakespeare Globe Education Centre, Bankside, on Oct. 12, 20, and 17 [1996].

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Christopher Morash, A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000 (Cambridge UP 2002), writes: ‘Although Shirley was no wide-eyed innocent when it came to court intrigue, he would not have been in Dublin for long before he realised that he had become a player in a dangerous game. Back in London, he had gained admittance to Charles’s court in 1634 after writing an admired masque, The Triumph of Peace, which uses theatrical spectacle to create a flattering image of harmony emanating from the monarch. In Dublin, he found himself writing for a court in which the cultivation of suspicion and discord - not harmony - was a basic strategy for survival, and he soon recognised that a few allegorical cherubs were not going to change the situation. As early as his first Dublin play, The Royal Master, a character dismisses a masque as a collection of “pretty impossibilities ... Some of the gods, that are good fellows, dancing, / Or goddesses; and now and then a song, / To fill a gap.” From that point on, Shirley’s plays for the Dublin theatre register an anxious awareness that he was going to find an image of reconciliation for his divided audience, and this anxiety would eventually dominate his last Irish plays, St. Patrick for Ireland, staged in the autumn of 1639.’ (p.7.)

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Quotations
“Death the Leveller”

The glories of our blood and state
 Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armor against Fate;
 Death lays his icy hand on kings:
   Sceptre and Crown
   Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field,
 And plant fresh laurels where they kill:
But their strong nerves at last must yield;
 They tame but one another still:
   Early or late
   They stoop to fate,
And must give up their murmuriong breath
When they, pale captives, creep to death.

The garlands wither on your brow;
 Then boast no more your mighty deeds!
Upon Death's purple altar now
 See where the victor-victim bleeds.
   Your heads must come
   To the cold tomb:
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.

—See The Other Pages - online [accessed 24.09.2010]

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References
Stephen Brown, A Guide To Books On Ireland (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1912), cites St. Patrick, taken from Bede’s Life [information from Chetwood’s ed. of Shirley, Dublin 1750]; and also, Hyde Park (Drury Lane 1637), which includes a char. called ‘Teague.’

Arthur Quiller Couch, ed., Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1918 (new ed. 1929), contains anthology selection.

Peter Kavanagh, Irish Theatre (1946), lists St. Patrick for Ireland [with commentary], The Constant Maid; The Gentlemen of Venice; The Politician; St Alban’s, and Look to the Ladies, all played at Werburgh St. Details as in Works and Life, supra.

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Seamus Deane, gen ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1: selects Saint Patrick for Ireland, pp.500-01.

British Library holds True and Impartial History of the Wars of the Kingdom of Ireland (1692) - but note that Leerssen (Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael, 1986), bibl. appendix and text, p.64) establishes the correct authorship as John Shirley; Dramatic Works and Poems of J. S., with notes by W. Gifford, ed. A. Dyce, 6 vols. (1833); James Shirley (plays), intro. Edmund Gosse; Works (Dublin, 1720) Plays, with prefix’d account of author and his works [by] W. R. Chetwood (Dublin 1750); St. Patrick for Ireland, ed. W. R. Chetwood (1751), also in Selection of Old Plays, ed., W. R. Chetwood.

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Quotations
St. Patrick for Ireland, Prologue: [seems unsure of the audience’s tastes], ‘We know not what will take, your pallets are various / ... And not considering cost or pains to please / We should be very happy if at last / We could find out the humour of your taste [so that] You were constant to yourself and kept that true / ... St Patrick, whose large story cannot be / Bound in the limits of a single play, if ye / First welcome this, you grace our poets art / And give him courage for a second part.’ Leogarius, Conallus (son), Dichu, St. Patrick, Archimagus, ‘great priest of Saturn and Jove’, Emeria, Ethna. Arch., ‘Frighted with a shadow / A tame, a naked Churchman and his tribe / Of austere starved faces?’ (Prologue; quoted in Boase, supra.)

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Irish tastes: ‘We know not what will take, your pallets are various / ... And not considering cost or pains to please / We should be very happy if at last / We could find out the humour of your taste [so that] You were constant to yourself and kept that true / ... St Patrick, whose large story cannot be / Bound in the limits of a single play, if ye / First welcome this, you grace our poets art / And give him courage for a second part.’ ‘Frighted with a shadow / A tame, a naked Churchman and his tribe / Of austere starved faces?’ Further, ‘This nation shall in fair succession thrive, and grow / Up the world’s academy, and disperse / As the rich spring of human and divine / Knowledge, clear streams to water foreign kingdoms / Which shall be proud to owe what they possess / In learning to this great all-mothering island.’ (V. iii; quoted in Boase, op. cit., infra.).

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Notes
Obiit?: The Great Fire of London occurred on Sunday, 2 Sept 1666 and burnt for five days, resulting in the destruction of medieval London incorporating 373 acres within and 93 acres without the city walls and 87 churches, with loss of life recorded at at 6 in a population of c.93,000, while finally cleansing the city of the Plague which had devastated the city in the previous year. (See Anglia campus website: “The Great Fire of London” [link.])

Kith & Kin: The Earls of Ferrer were Shirleys, with castle and estates in Co. Fermanagh. However, the Ogilby-Shirley theatrical connection stems from Ogilby’s period in Oxford as indicated in the ODNB. Note also that Shirley was the name of the malefactor in the Mary Ware rape case in Smock Alley [see Clarke, and Gilbert.]

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