An Elizabethan Story-Book: Famous Tales from the Palace of Pleasure

An Elizabethan Story-Book: Famous Tales from the Palace of Pleasure

An Elizabethan Story-Book: Famous Tales from the Palace of Pleasure

An Elizabethan Story-Book: Famous Tales from the Palace of Pleasure

Excerpt

A part from its general interest as an Elizabethan magazine of fiction, the present collection of tales from William Painter Palace of Pleasure will, it is hoped, enable the student of English literature to recognise what is most original in some of the most famous Elizabethan plays. It is a vulgar error to attach much importance to the particular pattern of a play formed by change of situation and the march of events. For the lover of literature the outline of the story is the least important aspect of a play or a novel. That, I take it, is the point of Dr. Johnson's remark to Erskine, comparing the novels of Richardson and Fielding. "Sir, there is more knowledge of the heart in one letter of Richardson's, than in all Tom Jones." Erskine objected that he found Richardson very tedious, doubtless because he tried to read him for the story. "Why, sir," said Dr. Johnson, "if you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself. But you must read him for the sentiment, and consider the story as only giving occasion to the sentiment."

The plots of Elizabethan playwrights rarely display originality. The greatest of them, Shakespeare and Marlowe and Webster, appear to have troubled themselves very little about probability, provided that the action was sufficiently striking. Shakespeare is as extravagant as any contemporary in . . .

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