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A Select Collection of Old English Plays

A SELECT COLLECTION

OF

OLD ENGLISH PLAYS.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY ROBERT DODSLEY IN THE YEAR 1744.

_FOURTH EDITION._

NOW FIRST CHRONOLOGICALLY ARRANGED, REVISED AND ENLARGED WITH THE NOTES OF ALL THE COMMENTATORS, AND NEW NOTES

BY

W. CAREW HAZLITT.

BENJAMIN BLOM, INC.

[Illustration]

New York

A WOMAN IS A WEATHERCOCK.

_EDITION._

_A Woman is a Weather-cocke. A New Comedy. As it was acted before the King in White-Hall. And diuers times Priuately at the White-Friers, by the Children of her Maiesties Reuels. Written by Nat: Field._ Si natura negat, faciat indagnatio [sic] versum. _Printed at London, for Iohn Budge, and are to be sold at the great South doore of Paules, and at Brittaines Bursse._ 1612. 4?.

The old copy is very carelessly printed, and nearly all the corruptions and mistakes were retained in the former edition (1828).

[MR COLLIER'S PREFACE.]

Considering the celebrity that Nathaniel Field has acquired in consequence of his connection with Massinger in writing "The Fatal Dowry," it is singular that the two plays in which he was unaided by any contemporary dramatist should not yet have been reprinted, if only to assist the formation of a judgment as to the probable degree of Massinger's obligation. "A Woman is a Weathercock" and its sequel, "Amends for Ladies," are the productions of no ordinary poet. In comic scenes Field excels Massinger, who was not remarkable for his success in this department of the drama; and in those of a serious character he may be frequently placed on a footing of equality.[1]

Reed was of opinion that Field the actor was not the same person who joined Massinger in "The Fatal Dowry," and who wrote the two plays above mentioned; but the discovery of Henslowe's MSS. shows that they were intimately connected in authorship and misfortune. The joint letter of Nathaniel Field, Rob. Daborne, and Philip Massinger to Henslowe, soliciting a small loan to relieve them from temporary imprisonment, has been so often republished (see Malone's Shakespeare, by Boswell, iii. 337) that it is unnecessary to repeat it here.[2] Field, who penned the whole body of the letter, speaks in it of himself, both as an author and as an actor. It is without date, and Malone conjectured that it was written between 1612 and 1615. But from the Dedication to "A Woman is a Weathercock," we should conclude that in 1612 Field was not distressed for money. He there tells "any woman that hath been no weathercock" that he "cared not for forty shillings," the sum then usually given by the person to whom the play was inscribed. This assertion, perhaps, was only a vain boast, while the fact might be, either that he could not get anybody to patronise "so fameless a pen," or that, although he might not just at that moment be in want of "forty shillings," he might stand in need of it very soon afterwards, according to the customary irregular mode of living of persons of his pursuits and profession.

It might be inferred from a passage in the address "to the Reader," that "A Woman is a Weathercock"[3] was written some time before it was printed; and from the dedication of the same play, we learn that Field's "Amends for Ladies," if not then also finished, was fully contemplated by the author under that title. An allusion to the Gunpowder Treason of 1605 is made in the first act of "A Woman is a Weathercock;" but it could not have been produced so early.


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