LATER COMEDY OF MANNERS
IN a previous chapter, that on London life and the comedy of manners, two varieties of realistic comedy were distinguished : that which was content to picture life directly, if sometimes crudely, as it appeared to the contemporary observer, who was less concerned to reprehend vice and laud virtue than to represent things pleasingly and frankly; and secondly, that kind of comedy which studied the world about it, but which insisted on representing it more or less with reference to the ancients and their usages, and with the ever-conscious attitude of a moral censor. Such was, in brief, the striking contrast between Middletonian and Jonsonian comedy, a contrast not to be blurred by the fact that Jonson was, for the most part, far too good an artist to carry his theories to the excesses in practice which critics who have not studied him are wont to declare. The bulk of Middleton's comedies of manners range, as we have seen, between 1604 and 1613. Bartholomew Fair, 1614, is Jonson latest play unmistakably of the type; although the later dramas of Jonson, shortly to claim our attention, despite their return to the harder lines and underlying allegory of the dramatic satires, are none the less full of telling contemporary strokes and in essence still of the comedy of manners. The later comedy of manners, when at its best, combines the freedom and unconsciousness of Middleton with the constructive
Jonson and Middleton's influence on later comedy.