All Fools

All Fools

All Fools

All Fools

Excerpt

When All Fools first appeared in print in 1605, the author was in jail, in danger of having his nose and ears slit for insulting the king. Ben Jonson, who was with him, writes in a letter to the Earl of Salisbury complaining of his "vile prison" and extolling the company of "a gentleman . . . one Mr. George Chapman, a learned and honest man." By that time Chapman was well into middle age, a fairly well-known poet and playwright. Born near Hitchin in Hertfordshire in 1559 or 1560, his early life is obscure. According to Anthony à Wood, he "spent some time in Oxon. where he was observed to be most excellent in the Lat. and Greek tongues, but not in logic or philosophy, and therefore I presume that that was the reason he took no degree here." Like Ben Jonson he may have soldiered for a time in the Low Countries. But whatever he did with his youth, in 1594, shortly after the death of Marlowe and the demise of the University Wits, he set up as a poet in London, publishing his obscure Shadow of Night. His first work in the theater was as a member of Henslowe's factory, and his first plays were comedies -- The Blind Beggar of Alexandria (1596), An Humorous Day's Mirth (1597) -- culminating in his comic masterpiece, All Fools (1599). Around 1600 he became chief playwright for the Children of the Chapel, gradually shifting from comedy to tragedy. He quit writing actively for the theater around 1612 and turned to his translations of Homer, installments of which had appeared as early as 1598. From 1616 until his death eighteen years later Chapman seems to have ceased writing, and we consequently know little about these last years of his life. He was by that time fifty-six years old. He complains of poverty in the few letters that survive and at one time borrowed money from a brother in order to marry a rich widow, a campaign that was not successful. According to Anthony A Wood, "He was a person of most reverend aspect, religious and temperate, qualities rarely meeting in a poet" (col.

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