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Jane Shore: "Guilt is the source of sorrow, 'tis the fiend, Th' avenging fiend, that follows us behind, With whips and stings."

50 pages55 minutes


Nicholas Rowe was born in Little Barford, Bedfordshire, England, on June 20th, 1674. He was educated at Highgate School, and then at Westminster School under the tutelage of Dr. Busby. In 1688, Rowe became a King's Scholar, and then in 1691 gained entrance into Middle Temple. This was his father’s decision (he was a barrister) who felt that his son had made sufficient progress to study law. While at Middle Temple, he decided that studying law was easier if seen as a system of rational government and impartial justice and not as a series of precedents, or collection of positive precepts. On his father's death, when he was nineteen, he became the master of a large estate and an independent fortune. His future path now was to ignore law and write poetry with a view to eventually writing plays. The Ambitious Stepmother, Rowe's first play, produced in 1700 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields by Thomas Betterton and set in Persepolis, was well received. This was followed in 1701 by Tamerlane. In this play the conqueror Timur represented William III, and Louis XIV is denounced as Bajazet. It was for many years regularly acted on the anniversary of William's landing at Torbay. The Fair Penitent (1703), an adaptation of Massinger and Field's The Fatal Dowry, was pronounced by Dr Johnson as one of the most pleasing tragedies ever written in English. He noted that, "The story is domestic, and therefore easily received by the imagination, and assimilated to common life; the diction is exquisitely harmonious, and soft or spritely as occasion requires." In 1704, he tried his hand at comedy, with The Biter at Lincoln's Inn Fields. The play is said to have amused no one except the author, and Rowe returned to tragedy in Ulysses (1706). For Johnson, this play was to share the fate of many such plays based on mythological heroes, as, "We have been too early acquainted with the poetical heroes to expect any pleasure from their revival" The Royal Convert (1707) dealt with the persecutions endured by Aribert, son of Hengist and the Christian maiden Ethelinda. The story was set in England in an obscure and barbarous age. Rodogune was a tragic character, of high spirit and violent passions, yet with a wicked with a soul that would have been heroic if it had been virtuous. Rowe is however well known for his work on Shakespeare’s plays. He published the first 18th century edition of Shakespeare in six volumes in 1709. His practical knowledge of the stage helped him divide the plays into scenes and acts, with entrances and exits of the players noted. The spelling of names was normalized and each play prefaced with a dramatis personae. This 1709 edition was also the first to be illustrated with a frontispiece engraving being for each play. Unfortunately, Rowe based his text on the discredited Fourth Folio, a failing which many succeeding him also followed. Rowe also wrote a short biography of William Shakespeare, entitled, Some Account of the Life of Mr. William Shakespear. For two years (1709-11) he acted as under-secretary to the Duke of Queensberry when he was principal secretary of state for Scotland. In Dublin in 1712 a revival of his earlier play, Tamerlane, at a time when political passions were running high, the performance provoked a serious riot. The Tragedy of Jane Shore, played at Drury Lane with Mrs Oldfield in the title role in 1714. It ran for nineteen nights, and kept the stage longer than any other of Rowe's works. In the play, which consists chiefly of domestic scenes and private distress, the wife is forgiven because she repents, and the husband is honoured because he forgives. The Tragedy of Lady Jane Grey followed in 1715, and as this play was not successful, it was his last foray into the medium. Whilst his plays met with little success at the time his poems were received extremely well. Although he was not prolific nor his output large the quality was high. With the accession to the throne of George I he was made a surve

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