James Shirley

James Shirley

Overview

James Shirley (September 1596 – October 1666) was an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 dramatist.

He belonged to the great period of English dramatic literature, but, in Lamb's words, he "claims a place among the worthies of this period, not so much for any transcendent genius in himself, as that he was the last of a great race, all of whom spoke nearly the same language and had a set of moral feelings and notions in common." His career of play writing extended from 1625
1625 in literature
The year 1625 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*January 1 - The King's Men act Henry IV, Part 1 at Whitehall Palace....

 to the suppression of stage plays by Parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 in 1642
1642 in literature
The year 1642 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*May - John Milton marries Marie Powell.*September 2 - The theatres in London are closed by the Puritan government; the "lascivious mirth and levity" of stage plays are to "cease and be forborn" for the next eighteen years, during...

.

Shirley was born in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

.
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Quotations

Death calls ye to the crowd of common men.

Cupid and Death.

The honour is overpaid,When he that did the act is commentator.

sc. i.

The glories of our blood and stateAre shadows, not substantial things;There is no armour against fate;Death lays his icy hand on kings:Sceptre and CrownMust tumble down,And in the dust be equal madeWith the poor crooked scythe and spade.

sc. iii.

Only the actions of the justSmell sweet and blossom in the dust.

sc. iii. Compare: "The sweet remembrance of the just Shall flourish when he sleeps in dust", Tate and Brady, Psalm cxxii.
Encyclopedia

James Shirley (September 1596 – October 1666) was an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 dramatist.

He belonged to the great period of English dramatic literature, but, in Lamb's words, he "claims a place among the worthies of this period, not so much for any transcendent genius in himself, as that he was the last of a great race, all of whom spoke nearly the same language and had a set of moral feelings and notions in common." His career of play writing extended from 1625
1625 in literature
The year 1625 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*January 1 - The King's Men act Henry IV, Part 1 at Whitehall Palace....

 to the suppression of stage plays by Parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 in 1642
1642 in literature
The year 1642 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*May - John Milton marries Marie Powell.*September 2 - The theatres in London are closed by the Puritan government; the "lascivious mirth and levity" of stage plays are to "cease and be forborn" for the next eighteen years, during...

.

Life


Shirley was born in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, London
Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood
Merchant Taylors' School is a British independent day school for boys, originally located in the City of London. Since 1933 it has been located at Sandy Lodge in the Three Rivers district of Hertfordshire ....

, St John's College, Oxford
St John's College, Oxford
__FORCETOC__St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford, one of the larger Oxford colleges with approximately 390 undergraduates, 200 postgraduates and over 100 academic staff. It was founded by Sir Thomas White, a merchant, in 1555, whose heart is buried in the chapel of...

, and St Catharine's College, Cambridge
St Catharine's College, Cambridge
St. Catharine’s College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Founded in 1473, the college is often referred to informally by the nickname "Catz".-History:...

, where he took his B.A. degree in or before 1618.

His first poem, Echo, or the Unfortunate Lovers (of which no copy is known, but which is probably the same as Narcissus of 1646
1646 in literature
The year 1646 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*March 24 - The King's Men petition Parliament for three and a half years' back pay; this is despite the London theatres officially remaining closed through the middle 1640s...

), was published in 1618
1618 in literature
The year 1618 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*Sir Francis Bacon is appointed Lord Chancellor by King James I of England.*Ben Jonson sets out to walk to Scotland....

. After earning his M.A., he was, Wood says, "a minister of God's word in or near St Albans
St Albans
St Albans is a city in southern Hertfordshire, England, around north of central London, which forms the main urban area of the City and District of St Albans. It is a historic market town, and is now a sought-after dormitory town within the London commuter belt...

." Apparently in consequence of his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith, he left his living, and was master of St Albans School
St Albans School (Hertfordshire)
St Albans School is an independent school in the city of St Albans in Hertfordshire, in the East of England. Entry before Sixth Form is for boys only, and co-educational thereafter. Founded in 948 by Wulsin , St Albans School is not only the oldest school in Hertfordshire but also one of the oldest...

 from 1623–25. His first play, Love Tricks
Love Tricks
Love Tricks, or The School of Complement is a Caroline stage play by James Shirley, his earliest known work.-Performance:Love Tricks was licensed for performance by Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, on February 10, 1625; it was performed by the Lady Elizabeth's Men at the Cockpit Theatre...

,
seems to have been written while he was teaching at St Albans. He removed in 1625 to London, where he lived in Gray's Inn
Gray's Inn
The Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, commonly known as Gray's Inn, is one of the four Inns of Court in London. To be called to the Bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wales, an individual must belong to one of these Inns...

, and for eighteen years from that time he was a prolific writer for the stage, producing more than thirty regular plays, tragedies, comedies, and tragicomedies
Tragicomedy
Tragicomedy is fictional work that blends aspects of the genres of tragedy and comedy. In English literature, from Shakespeare's time to the nineteenth century, tragicomedy referred to a serious play with either a happy ending or enough jokes throughout the play to lighten the mood.-Classical...

, and showing no sign of exhaustion when a stop was put to his occupation by the Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 edict of 1642. Most of his plays were performed by Queen Henrietta's Men
Queen Henrietta's Men
Queen Henrietta's Men was an important playing company or troupe of actors in Caroline era London. At their peak of popularity, Queen Henrietta's Men were the second leading troupe of the day, after only the King's Men.-Beginnings:...

, the playing company
Playing company
In Renaissance London, playing company was the usual term for a company of actors. These companies were organized around a group of ten or so shareholders , who performed in the plays but were also responsible for management. The sharers employed "hired men" — that is, the minor actors and...

 for which Shirley served as house dramatist, much as Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, Fletcher
John Fletcher (playwright)
John Fletcher was a Jacobean playwright. Following William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men, he was among the most prolific and influential dramatists of his day; both during his lifetime and in the early Restoration, his fame rivalled Shakespeare's...

, and Massinger
Philip Massinger
Philip Massinger was an English dramatist. His finely plotted plays, including A New Way to Pay Old Debts, The City Madam and The Roman Actor, are noted for their satire and realism, and their political and social themes.-Early life:The son of Arthur Massinger or Messenger, he was baptized at St....

 had done for the King's Men
King's Men (playing company)
The King's Men was the company of actors to which William Shakespeare belonged through most of his career. Formerly known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it became The King's Men in 1603 when King James ascended the throne and became the company's patron.The...

.

Shirley's sympathies were with the King in his disputes with Parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

 and he received marks of special favor from the Queen. He made a bitter attack on William Prynne
William Prynne
William Prynne was an English lawyer, author, polemicist, and political figure. He was a prominent Puritan opponent of the church policy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. Although his views on church polity were presbyterian, he became known in the 1640s as an Erastian, arguing for...

, who had attacked the stage in Histriomastix, and, when in 1634
1634 in literature
The year 1634 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*January 1 - The King's Men perform Cymbeline at the court of King Charles I of England.*January 22 - The King's Men perform Davenant's The Wits at the Blackfriars Theatre....

 a special masque was presented at Whitehall
Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

 by the gentlemen of the Inns of Court as a practical reply to Prynne, Shirley supplied the text—The Triumph of Peace
The Triumph of Peace
The Triumph of Peace was a Caroline era masque, "invented and written" by James Shirley, performed on February 3, 1634 and published the same year. The production was designed by Inigo Jones.-Inspiration:...

.
Between 1636 and 1640 Shirley went to Ireland, under the patronage apparently of the Earl of Kildare. Three or four of his plays were produced by his friend John Ogilby
John Ogilby
John Ogilby was a Scottish translator, impresario and cartographer. Best known for publishing the first British road atlas, he was also a successful translator, noted for publishing his work in handsome illustrated editions.-Life:Ogilby was born in or near Killemeare in November 1600...

 in Dublin in the theatre in Werburgh Street, the first ever built in Ireland and at the time of Shirley's visit only one year old. During his Dublin stay, Shirley wrote The Doubtful Heir
The Doubtful Heir
The Doubtful Heir, also known as Rosania, or Love's Victory, is a Caroline era stage play, a tragicomedy written by James Shirley and first published in 1653...

, The Royal Master
The Royal Master
The Royal Master is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy written by James Shirley, and first published in 1638. The play is "ranked by many critics as Shirley's ablest work in romantic comedy...It is a play notable for well-knit plot, effective scenes, pleasing characterization, clever dialogue, and...

, The Constant Maid
The Constant Maid
The Constant Maid, or Love Will Find Out the Way is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy written by James Shirley and first published in 1640....

, and St. Patrick for Ireland. In his absence from London, Queen Henrietta's Men sold off a dozen of his plays to the stationers, who published them in the late 1630s. Shirley, when he returned to London in 1640, would no longer work for the Queen Henrietta's company as a result; his final plays of his London career were acted by the King's Men.

On the outbreak of the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 he seems to have served with the Earl of Newcastle, but when the King's fortunes began to decline he returned to London. He owed something to the kindness of Thomas Stanley
Thomas Stanley (author)
Sir Thomas Stanley was an English author and translator.-Life:He was born in Cumberlow, Hertfordshire, the son of Sir Thomas Stanley of Cumberlow, Hertfordshire and his wife, Mary Hammond. Mary was the cousin of Richard Lovelace, and Stanley was educated in company with the son of Edward Fairfax,...

, but supported himself chiefly by teaching, publishing some educational works under the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of England
The Commonwealth of England was the republic which ruled first England, and then Ireland and Scotland from 1649 to 1660. Between 1653–1659 it was known as the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland...

. Besides these he published during the period of dramatic eclipse four small volumes of poems and plays, in 1646, 1653, 1655, and 1659. He "was a drudge" for John Ogilby
John Ogilby
John Ogilby was a Scottish translator, impresario and cartographer. Best known for publishing the first British road atlas, he was also a successful translator, noted for publishing his work in handsome illustrated editions.-Life:Ogilby was born in or near Killemeare in November 1600...

 in his translations of the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

and the Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

, and survived into the reign of Charles II
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

, but, though some of his comedies were revived, he did not again attempt to write for the stage. Wood says that he and his second wife died of fright and exposure after the Great Fire of London
Great Fire of London
The Great Fire of London was a major conflagration that swept through the central parts of the English city of London, from Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman City Wall...

, and were buried at St Giles in the Fields
St Giles in the Fields
St Giles in the Fields, Holborn, is a church in the London Borough of Camden, in the West End. It is close to the Centre Point office tower and the Tottenham Court Road tube station. The church is part of the Diocese of London within the Church of England...

 on 29 October 1666.

Shirley was born to great dramatic wealth, and he handled it freely. He constructed his own plots out of the abundance of materials that had been accumulated during thirty years of unexampled dramatic activity. He did not strain after novelty of situation or character, but worked with confident ease and buoyant copiousness on the familiar lines, contriving situations and exhibiting characters after types whose effectiveness on the stage had been proved by ample experience. He spoke the same language with the great dramatists, it is true, but this grand style is sometimes employed for the artificial elevation of commonplace thought. "Clear as day" becomes in this manner "day is not more conspicuous than this cunning"; while the proverb "Still waters run deep" is ennobled into — "The shallow rivers glide away with noise — The deep are silent." The violence and exaggeration of many of his contemporaries left him untouched. His scenes are ingeniously conceived, his characters boldly and clearly drawn; and he never falls beneath a high level of stage effect.

Works


The following list includes years of first publication, and of performance if known, and dates of licensing by the Master of the Revels
Master of the Revels
The Master of the Revels was a position within the English, and later the British, royal household heading the "Revels Office" or "Office of the Revels" that originally had responsibilities for overseeing royal festivities, known as revels, and later also became responsible for stage censorship,...

 where available.

Tragedies

  • The Maid's Revenge
    The Maid's Revenge
    The Maid's Revenge is an early Caroline era stage the play, the earliest extant tragedy by James Shirley. It was first published in 1639.The Maid's Revenge was licensed for performance by Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, on February 9, 1626. It was the second of Shirley's plays to be...

    (licensed Feb. 9, 1626; printed, 1639)
  • The Traitor
    The Traitor
    The Traitor is a Caroline era stage play, a tragedy written by James Shirley. Along with The Cardinal, The Traitor is widely considered to represent the finest of Shirley's efforts in the genre, and to be among the best tragedies of its period...

    (licensed 4 May 1631; printed, 1635)
  • Love's Cruelty
    Love's Cruelty
    Love's Cruelty is a Caroline-era stage play, a tragedy written by James Shirley, and first published in 1640.The play was licensed for performance by Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, on November 14, 1631. Like the majority of Shirley's dramas, it was acted by Queen Henrietta's Men at...

    (licensed Nov. 14, 1631; printed, 1640)
  • The Politician
    The Politician
    The Politician is a Caroline era stage play, a tragedy by written James Shirley, and first published in 1655.-Publication:The Politician, along with another Shirley play, The Gentleman of Venice, was published by the bookseller Humphrey Moseley in 1655 in alternative quarto and octavo formats...

    (acted, 1639; printed, 1655)
  • The Cardinal
    The Cardinal (play)
    The Cardinal is a Caroline era stage play, a tragedy by James Shirley. It was licensed for performance by Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, on November 25, 1641, and first published in 1653. Nineteenth-century critics like Edmund Gosse, and twentieth-century critics like Fredson Bowers,...

    (licensed 25 May 1641; printed, 1652).

Tragicomedies

  • The Grateful Servant
    The Grateful Servant
    The Grateful Servant is a Caroline era stage play, a tragicomedy written by James Shirley, and first published in 1630. Its publication marked a significant development in Shirley's evolving literary career....

    (licensed Nov. 3, 1629 as The Faithful Servant; printed 1630)
  • The Young Admiral
    The Young Admiral
    The Young Admiral is a Caroline era tragicomedy written by James Shirley, and first published in 1637. It has often been considered Shirley's best tragicomedy, and one of his best plays....

    (licensed 3 July 1633; printed 1637)
  • The Coronation
    The Coronation (play)
    The Coronation is a Caroline era stage play, a tragicomedy written by James Shirley, and notable for the tug-of-war of authorship claims in which it was involved in the middle seventeenth century....

    (licensed Feb. 6, 1635, as Shirley's, but printed in 1640 as a work of John Fletcher
    John Fletcher (playwright)
    John Fletcher was a Jacobean playwright. Following William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men, he was among the most prolific and influential dramatists of his day; both during his lifetime and in the early Restoration, his fame rivalled Shakespeare's...

    )
  • The Duke's Mistress
    The Duke's Mistress
    The Duke's Mistress is a Caroline era stage play, a tragicomedy written by James Shirley and first published in 1638. It was the last of Shirley's plays produced before the major break in his career: with the closing of the London theatres due to bubonic plague in May 1636, Shirley left England for...

    (licensed Jan. 18, 1636; printed 1638)
  • The Gentleman of Venice
    The Gentleman of Venice
    The Gentleman of Venice is a Caroline era stage play, a tragicomedy written by James Shirley, and first published in 1655.The play was licensed for performance in London by Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, on October 30, 1639. It was acted by Queen Henrietta's Men at the Cockpit Theatre...

    (licensed Oct. 30, 1639; printed 1655)
  • The Doubtful Heir
    The Doubtful Heir
    The Doubtful Heir, also known as Rosania, or Love's Victory, is a Caroline era stage play, a tragicomedy written by James Shirley and first published in 1653...

    (printed 1652), licensed as Rosania, or Love's Victory in 1640
  • The Imposture
    The Imposture
    The Imposture is a Caroline era stage play, a tragicomedy written by James Shirley and first published in 1653. Shirley himself considered The Imposture the best of his romantic comedies....

    (licensed Nov. 10, 1640; printed 1652)
  • The Court Secret
    The Court Secret
    The Court Secret is a Caroline era stage play, a tragicomedy written by James Shirley, and first published in 1653. It is generally regarded as the final play Shirley wrote as a professional dramatist....

    (printed 1653).

Comedies

  • Love Tricks
    Love Tricks
    Love Tricks, or The School of Complement is a Caroline stage play by James Shirley, his earliest known work.-Performance:Love Tricks was licensed for performance by Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, on February 10, 1625; it was performed by the Lady Elizabeth's Men at the Cockpit Theatre...

    , or the School of Complement
    (licensed Feb. 10, 1625; printed under its subtitle, 1631)
  • The Wedding
    The Wedding (1629 play)
    The Wedding is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy written by James Shirley. Published in 1629, it was the first of Shirley's plays to appear in print. An early comedy of manners, it is set in the fashionable world of genteel London society in Shirley's day....

    (ca. 1626; printed 1629)
  • The Brothers
    The Brothers (James Shirley)
    The Brothers is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy written by James Shirley. First published in 1653, The Brothers has sometimes been hailed as one of Shirley's best plays, though it has also been a focus of significant confusion and scholarly debate....

    (licensed Nov. 4, 1626; printed 1652)
  • The Witty Fair One
    The Witty Fair One
    The Witty Fair One is a Caroline era stage play, an early comedy by James Shirley. Critics have cited the play as indicative of the evolution of English comic drama from the humors comedy of Ben Jonson to the Restoration comedy of Wycherley and Congreve, and the comedy of manners that...

    (licensed Oct. 3, 1628; printed 1633)
  • The Humorous Courtier
    The Humorous Courtier
    The Humorous Courtier, also called The Duke, is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy written by James Shirley, first published in 1640....

    (licensed 17 May 1631; printed 1640).
  • The Changes, or Love in a Maze
    Love in a Maze
    The Changes, or Love in a Maze is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy of manners written by James Shirley, first published in 1639. It was one of Shirley's most popular comedies, especially in the Restoration era...

    (licensed Jan. 10, 1632; printed 1639)
  • Hyde Park
    Hyde Park (play)
    Hyde Park is a Caroline era comedy of manners written by James Shirley, and first published in 1637.Hyde Park was licensed for performance by Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, on April 20, 1632, and acted at the Cockpit Theatre by Queen Henrietta's Men...

     (licensed 20 April 1632; printed 1637)
  • The Ball
    The Ball
    The Ball is a Caroline comedy by James Shirley, first performed in 1632 and first published in 1639.The Ball was licensed for performance by Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, on November 16, 1632...

    (licensed Nov. 16, 1632; printed 1639)
  • The Bird in a Cage
    The Bird in a Cage
    The Bird in a Cage, or The Beauties is a Caroline era comedy written by James Shirley, first published in 1633. The play is notable, even among Shirley's plays, for its lushness — what one critic has called "gay romanticism run mad."-History:...

    ,
    or The Beauties (licensed Jan. 21, 1633; printed 1633)
  • The Gamester
    The Gamester
    The Gamester is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy of manners written by James Shirley, premiered in 1633 and first published in 1637. The play is noteworthy for its realistic and detailed picture of gambling in its era....

    (licensed Nov. 11, 1633; printed 1637)
  • The Example
    The Example
    The Example is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy written by James Shirley, first published in 1637. The play has repeatedly been acclaimed both as one of Shirley's best comedies and one of the best works of its generation...

    (licensed 24 June 1634; printed 1637)
  • The Opportunity
    The Opportunity
    The Opportunity is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy written by James Shirley, published in 1640. The play has been called "a capital little comedy, fairly bubbling over with clever situations and charming character."...

    (licensed Nov. 29, 1634; printed 1640)
  • The Lady of Pleasure
    The Lady of Pleasure
    The Lady of Pleasure is a Caroline era comedy of manners written by James Shirley, first published in 1637. It has often been cited as among the best, and sometimes as the single best, the "most brilliant," of the dramatist's comic works....

    (licensed Oct. 15, 1635; printed 1637)
  • The Royal Master
    The Royal Master
    The Royal Master is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy written by James Shirley, and first published in 1638. The play is "ranked by many critics as Shirley's ablest work in romantic comedy...It is a play notable for well-knit plot, effective scenes, pleasing characterization, clever dialogue, and...

    (acted and printed 1638)
  • The Constant Maid, or Love Will Find Out the Way
    The Constant Maid
    The Constant Maid, or Love Will Find Out the Way is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy written by James Shirley and first published in 1640....

    (printed 1640)
  • The Sisters
    The Sisters (play)
    The Sisters is a Caroline stage play, a comedy written by James Shirley. It was the last of Shirley's plays performed in London prior to the closing of the theatres in September 1642, at the start of the English Civil War...

     (licensed 26 April 1642; printed 1653).

Dramas

  • A Contention for Honor and Riches
    A Contention for Honor and Riches
    A Contention for Honor and Riches is a Caroline era stage play, a short drama or interlude written by James Shirley and first published in 1633...

    (printed 1633), morality play
  • The Triumph of Peace
    The Triumph of Peace
    The Triumph of Peace was a Caroline era masque, "invented and written" by James Shirley, performed on February 3, 1634 and published the same year. The production was designed by Inigo Jones.-Inspiration:...

    (licensed Feb. 3, 1634; printed 1634), masque
  • The Arcadia
    The Arcadia (play)
    The Arcadia is James Shirley's dramatization of the prose romance, The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney — one expression of the enormous influence that Sidney's work exercised during the 17th century. Shirley's stage version was first published in 1640.The 1640 quarto was...

    (printed 1640), pastoral tragicomedy
  • St. Patrick for Ireland (printed 1640), neo-miracle play
  • The Triumph of Beauty
    The Triumph of Beauty
    The Triumph of Beauty is a Caroline era masque, written by James Shirley and first published in 1646. The masque shows a strong influence of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream....

    (ca. 1640; printed 1646), masque
  • The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses
    The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses
    The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses for the Armour of Achilles is a Caroline era stage play, an interlude written by James Shirley and first published in 1659...

    (printed 1659), entertainment
  • Cupid and Death
    Cupid and Death
    Cupid and Death is a mid-seventeenth-century masque, written by the Caroline era dramatist James Shirley, and performed on 26 March 1653 before the Portuguese ambassador to Great Britain...

    (performed 26 March 1653; printed 1659), masque
  • Honoria and Mammon
    Honoria and Mammon
    Honoria and Mammon is a Caroline era stage play, written by James Shirley and published in 1659. It is a revision and expansion of Shirley's earlier morality play A Contention for Honor and Riches Honoria and Mammon is a Caroline era stage play, written by James Shirley and published in 1659. It is...

    (unperformed; printed 1659), morality.


In 1633 Shirley revised a play by John Fletcher
John Fletcher (playwright)
John Fletcher was a Jacobean playwright. Following William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men, he was among the most prolific and influential dramatists of his day; both during his lifetime and in the early Restoration, his fame rivalled Shakespeare's...

, possibly called The Little Thief, into The Night Walker
The Night Walker
The Night Walker, or The Little Thief is an early seventeenth-century stage play, a comedy written by John Fletcher and later revised by his younger contemporary James Shirley. It was first published in 1640.-Authorship:...

, which was acted in 1634 and printed in 1640. In 1634-5, Shirley revised The Tragedy of Chabot, Admiral of France
The Tragedy of Chabot, Admiral of France
The Tragedy of Chabot, Admiral of France is an early seventeenth-century play, generally judged to be a work of George Chapman, later revised by James Shirley...

, a play that George Chapman
George Chapman
George Chapman was an English dramatist, translator, and poet. He was a classical scholar, and his work shows the influence of Stoicism. Chapman has been identified as the Rival Poet of Shakespeare's Sonnets by William Minto, and as an anticipator of the Metaphysical Poets...

 had written sometime between 1611 and 1622. The revised version was printed in 1639. Shirley has sometimes been credited as a collaborator with William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle
William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle
William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne KG KB PC was an English polymath and aristocrat, having been a poet, equestrian, playwright, swordsman, politician, architect, diplomat and soldier...

 on Cavendish's play The Country Captain
The Country Captain
The Country Captain, alternatively known as Captain Underwit, is a Caroline era stage play written by William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle, and first published in 1649...

(printed 1649).

Shirley's Poems (1646) contained "Narcissus," and the masque The Triumph of Beauty. A Contention for Honour and Riches (1633) appeared in an altered and enlarged form in 1659 as Honoria and Mammon. His Contention of Ajax and Ulysses closes with the well-known lyric, "The Glories of our Blood and State." In the final pedagogic stage of his career, Shirley published an English grammar written in poetry, titled Rudiments of Grammar: The Rules Composed in English Verse for the Greater Benefit and Delight of Young Beginners (1656).

Eight of Shirley's plays were reprinted in a single quarto volume in 1640; these were The Young Admiral, The Duke's Mistress, Hyde Park, Love's Cruelty, The Wedding, The Constant Maid, The Opportunity, and The Grateful Servant. In 1653 another collection was published by Humphrey Moseley
Humphrey Moseley
Humphrey Moseley was a prominent London publisher and bookseller in the middle seventeenth century.Possibly a son of publisher Samuel Moseley, Humphrey Moseley became a "freeman" of the Stationers Company, the guild of London booksellers, on 7 May 1627; he was selected a Warden of the Company on...

 and Humphrey Robinson
Humphrey Robinson
Humphrey Robinson was a prominent London publisher and bookseller of the middle seventeenth century.Robinson was the son of a Bernard Robinson, a clerk from Carlisle; other members of his family were important clergymen and church office-holders. Humphrey Robinson became a "freeman" of the ...

; titled Six New Plays, the volume included The Brothers, The Sisters, The Doubtful Heir, The Imposture, The Cardinal, and The Court Secret.

Shirley's canon presents fewer problems and lost works than the canons of earlier dramatists; yet William Cooke
Andrew Crooke and William Cooke
Andrew Crooke and William Cooke were London publishers of the mid-17th-century. In partnership and individually, they issued significant texts of English Renaissance drama, most notably of the plays of James Shirley....

 registered a Shirley tragedy titled Saint Albans on 14 February 1639 — a play that has not survived. The anonymous tragedy Andromana
Andromana
Andromana, or The Merchant's Wife is a mid-seventeenth-century stage play, a tragedy first published in 1660. It has attracted scholarly attention for the questions of its auhorship and the influence of its sources....

was assigned to Shirley when it was first published in 1660, though scholars have treated the attribution with skepticism.

The standard edition of Shirley's works is The Dramatic Works and Poems of James Shirley, with Notes by William Gifford
William Gifford
William Gifford was an English critic, editor and poet, famous as a satirist and controversialist.-Life:Gifford was born in Ashburton, Devonshire to Edward Gifford and Elizabeth Cain. His father, a glazier and house painter, had run away as a youth with vagabond Bampfylde Moore Carew, and he...

, and Additional Notes, and some Account of Shirley and his Writings,
by Alexander Dyce
Alexander Dyce
Alexander Dyce was a Scottish dramatic editor and literary historian.He was born in Edinburgh and received his early education at the high school there, before becoming a student at Exeter College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1819...

 (6 vols., 1833). A selection of his plays was edited (1888) for the "Mermaid" series, with an introduction by Edmund Gosse
Edmund Gosse
Sir Edmund William Gosse CB was an English poet, author and critic; the son of Philip Henry Gosse and Emily Bowes.-Early life:...

.

A new 10 volume edition of James Shirley's work is currently being edited for Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

, (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/ren/oupjamesshirley/).

External links



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