This article was originally published in A Short History of the Theatre. Martha Fletcher Bellinger. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1927. pp. 201-2.

THERE is naturally no sharp dividing line between the romantic comedy and the pastoral. In both species the conflict is likely to be of slight interest. The important elements are the happy adventures, the atmosphere of gaiety and romance, the play of wit and humor. In them Youth is glorified and celebrated. Romantic comedy is well illustrated in the woodland scenes of Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, in As You Like It and Twelfth Night by Shakespeare. Greene also wrote The Pleasant Comedie of Fair Em, the Miller's Daughter of Manchester; with the love of William the Conqueror, produced in 1589 and 1591. According to Professor Brooke, this play is "an inartistic medley of two plots in the two most popular current styles." Anthony Munday also composed a piece somewhat in imitation of the Greene comedy called John a Kent and John a Cumber. Munday was able to construct good plots, but was quite lacking in the ability to envelop his plays with the atmosphere of charm and romance which is so marked in the work of Greene and Shakespeare. The best romantic comedy, outside of Shakespeare, is an anonymous piece called The Merry Devil of Edmonton, published in 1607.

Green supplied the early models both for romantic and pastoral comedy. The Aminta of Tasso and Pastor Fido of Guarini had appeared in book form in Italy as early as 1590 and had been promptly brought to England, where they had attracted the attention of the courtly and aristocratic clans. The most gifted writer of this group was Samuel Daniel, author of the two court pastorals produced in the early years of the seventeenth century. The pastoral play, however, never flourished in England as it had in Italy. The Faithful Shepherdess, by Fletcher, and the unfinished Sad Shepherd, by Ben Jonson, are the most notable pieces of their kind. The influence of the species is apparent, however, not only in the minor comedies, but especially in the pleasant garden and rural scenes which enliven the comedies of the greatest of the Elizabethans.

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