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GEORGE CHAPMAN

The following biography is reprinted from A Dictionary of the Drama. W. Davenport Adams. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1904.

Dramatist and poet George Chapman was born (Wood says) in 1557 (but more probably in 1558-9), near Hitchin, in Hertfordshire, and died May, 1634. He was a student at Trinity College, Oxford (1574-6), and thought to have afterwards passed some years in Germany. Unless, as F.G. Fleay suggests, he was the author of The Disguises (1595), the first of his plays to be performed was apparently The Blind Beggar of Alexandria (1596). Certain passages in Eastward Hoe, written by him in conjunction with Marston and Jonson, having given displeasure to the Scotch party at Court, he and his collaborators were imprisoned (1604), but speedily released. Chapman and Marston were again imprisoned in the following year, with reference to a play of theirs whose name has not been chronicled. Chapman's famous translation of Homer was published between 1598 and 1616. Among his patrons were the Prince (Henry) of Wales and the Earl of Somerset. "His life," says Fleay, "is best read in his dedications."

The following is a list of the dramatic works usually ascribed to him, with the dates of their publication:-- The Blind Beggar of Alexandria (1598), An Humorous Day's Mirth (1599), All Fools (1605), The Gentleman Usher (1606), Monsieur d'Olive (1606), Bussy d'Ambois (1607), Caesar and Pompey (1607), The Conspiracy and The Tragedy of Byron (1608), May Day (1611), The Widow's Tears (1612), The Masque of the Middle Temple and Lincoln's Inn (1613), The Revenge of Bussy d'Ambois (1613), Alphonsus, Emperor of Germany (1654) and Revenge for Honour (1654). Chapman was part-author of Eastward Hoe (1605), The Ball (1639), and Chabot, Admiral of France (1639). All the above plays are included in Shepherd's edition (1874). Chapman is also supposed to have had a hand in the production of Fatal Love, The Fountain of New Fashions, Sir Giles Goosecap, The Second Maiden's Tragedy, Two Wise Men and All the Rest Fools, and A Yorkshire Gentlewoman and her son.

Swinburne says of Chapman: "As a dramatic poet he has assuredly never yet received his due meed of discerning praise; but assuredly no man of genius ever did so much, as though by perverse and prepense design, to insure a continuance of neglect and injustice.... With a fair share of comic spirit and invention, remarkable at least in a poet of such a grave and ambitious turn of genius, he has spiced and larded his very comedies with the thick insipid sauce of pedantic declamation.... The tragedy of Chabot, a noble and dignified poem in the main, and the otherwise lively and interesting comedy of Monsieur d'Olive, are seriously impaired by a worse than Jonsonian excess in the analysis and anatomy of "humours." ... Another point of resemblance to Jonson on the wrong side is the absence or insignificance of feminine interest throughout his works. No poet ever showed less love or regard for women, less care to study or less power to paint them.... The two leading heroines of his tragic drama, Tamyra and Caropia, are but a slippery couple of sententious harlots who deliver themselves in eloquent and sometimes exalted verse to such amorous or vindictive purpose as the action of the play may suggest."

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