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Crèdit de la imatge: Image from The complete works of George Gascoigne (1907) edited by John W. Cunliffe

Obres de George Gascoigne

The Complete Works Of George Gascoigne, Volume 2 (2012) 5 exemplars, 1 ressenya
Supposes and jocasta (2008) 4 exemplars
The Steel Glass (1973) 2 exemplars

Obres associades

English Poetry, Volume I: From Chaucer to Gray (1910) — Col·laborador — 550 exemplars
The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse: 1509-1659 (1992) — Col·laborador — 287 exemplars, 1 ressenya
An Anthology of Elizabethan Prose Fiction (1987) — Col·laborador — 218 exemplars
Elizabethan Fiction (1953) — Col·laborador — 64 exemplars
Five Pre-Shakespearean Comedies (Early Tudor Period) (1934) — Col·laborador — 38 exemplars
The Renaissance in England (1966) — Col·laborador — 16 exemplars
Early English classical tragedies (1971) — Col·laborador — 8 exemplars
Supposes (1999) — Traductor, algunes edicions6 exemplars, 1 ressenya
A Larum for London (1985) — source, not author — 6 exemplars
Four Old Plays — Col·laborador — 3 exemplars
Early Plays from the Italian — Autor — 1 exemplars


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[The complete works of George Gascoigne, volume 2]
The Glasse of Government
This is Gascoigne’s only original play and is a highly moralistic drama based on the prodigal son theme. The early part of the play is almost a lecture on good schooling as Gnomaticus is hired to instruct the four sons of two families. The instruction is based on Roger Ascham’s treatise on education and elicits the same warning about quick witted learners as opposed to slower more considered pupils. The elder two sons are the quick witted ones who only have eyes for the girls. They are soon lured away from their studies by Lamia a young women of the town spreading her wings for the first time. The fathers pack their sons off to college, but it is too late for the elder two as they have been corrupted. While the play works to a certain extent it does not have the same flow as his previous two translations and I did not enjoy this play as much.

The Princely Pleasures at Kenilworth
Gascoigne had really arrived as a literary figure when he was hired to provide some of the entertainments for the progress of Queen Elizabeth in 1776 for her visit to Kenilworth. This was the home of the Quenn’s great friend Robert Dudley and so one imagines that the entertainments had to be top notch. What has come down to us is a welcoming pageant a short scenario to accompany some fire works, a masque that featured a wild man from the woods (perhaps Gascoigne himself) following the Queens return from a hunting expidition and finally an end piece written in haste following the queens announcement of a hurried departure. Much of it is based on classical themes and of course there is much praise for Queen Elizabeth herself. There are some not so coded messages about leaving the country without an heir, which Gascoigne as the wild man might have got away with. This is commendatory poetry and drama, but it is interesting to read and imagine it being produced in front of the royal party.

The Spoyle of Antwerp.
This is reportage by a Johnny on the spot when Gascoigne was lodged in the city and witnessed first hand the Spanish sack of the city. It is a lively piece of newspaper reportage with a few graphic scenes of rape and violence. It is curious for the dichotomy in the piece, because on the one hand Gascoigne cannot fail to admire the Spanish military machine whilst on the other he condemns them for the cruelty of their actions. He describes how it all started and how he got caught up in it. It is a vivid account with Gascoigne himself on hand to help with saving some members of the English community caught up in the violence.

The Steele Glass
In his dedication to the Lord Grey Of Wilton. He says:
I have misgoverned my youth I confess it, but what should I do then? …. I am derided, suspected, accused and condemned……
But neither will magnaminitie suffer me to become unhonest, nor yet can industry see me sink in idleness….
And in ful hope therof, I have presumed to present your honour with this Satyre written without rime, but I trust not without reason.

This has been described as the first regular or formal satire in English and the first using blank verse but has not been highly praised by critics. I think it is a brilliant concept that Gascoigne almost pulls off. The steele glass acts as a mirror and its reflection shows what people really are and what they should be, but there is also the crystal glass that shows people what they would like to be. The steele glass shows us the morally ideal world as well as the actual world so that we can change our ways to achieve it. The crystal glass is doubly dangerous in that it shows us both what we think we are and what we would like to be apart from moral restrictions. The theme of the two glasses is not carried through the entire poem and there is some difficulty in understanding just which reflection we are looking at. What we do get is a fascinating and fairly detailed picture of all levels of society in Elizabethan England and as this is Gascoigne writing it is no panegyric. Throughout the poem he tries to contrast the less than perfect present with a golden age from the past.

The satire ranges far and wide and includes some biting remarks about other countries in Europe. He is conscious of being an English poet writing for the English and so the picture that emerges has the characteristics of his native country. Perhaps the poem is a little too far reaching in its ambitions, but is worth reading to see the Elizabethan world through the eyes of one of its best writers.

I have read many of Gascoignes surviving works and have discovered a fascinating and at times brilliant writer. Much of the poetry is worth a re-read and closer study, while his novel: The Adventures of Master J. was a great discovery. There are still a couple of long moralist tracts available to read, which were written in the final year of his life, but those I think I can give a miss having dipped into them and found that they were written very much to seal his reputation with the greybeards who caused him so much trouble. As with much writing from the sixteenth century it is difficult to place ourselves in the footsteps of the authors, who will remain something of a mystery; for example in a sonnet written in praise of the browne beautie, compiled for the love of Mistresse E P he ends with the lines:

Twixt faire and fowle therefor, twixt great and small,
A lovely nutbrowne face is best of all.

A mystery woman or just a fashionable line from the sixteenth century: that lovely nutbrowne face crops up in a couple of other pieces.
… (més)
1 vota
baswood | Sep 24, 2017 |
[A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres] was first published in 1573 and it appeared as a miscellany of literature. There are seventy pages of poetry, ranging from short lyrics to poems of more than three hundred lines, there are two dramas and a prose romance that is arguably England’s first novel. There are dedications and valedictory letters and more confusingly there appears to be several authors, however it now appears that nearly everything was written by George Gascoigne. The 1573 edition ran into censorship problems and created something of a scandal: Some of the love poetry with its portraits of various people at the court of Queen Elizabeth was too readily identified and the prose novel: The Adventures of Master J was considered far too erotic. Perhaps also his criticisms of society and particularly courtiers rankled with those very people that would read his poetry. It was fortunate for Gascoigne that he was out of the Country a the time. When Gascoigne returned from the wars it was all repackaged with some additions and very few excisions with an epistle from Gascoigne to the “greybeards” who might sit in judgement. In his epistle he said:

So shal your reverend judgements behold in this seconde edition, my poems gelded from all filthie phrases, corrected in all erroneous places, and beautified with addition of many moral examples……….yet hope I that it shall be apparent I have rather regarde to make our native language commendable in itself, than gay with the feathers of strange birdes.

Gascoigne also reorganised the various pieces into three sections Flowers, Herbes and Weeds with an explanation to the young gentlemen who might read them:

I term some Floures bycause being indeed invented upon a verie light occasion, they have yet in them (in my judgement) some rare invention and Method before not commonly used. And therefore being more pleasant than profitable I have named them Floures.
The second (being indeed moral discourses and reformed inventions, and therefore more profitable I have named Hearbes.
The third (being Weedes) might seem to some judgements, neither pleasant nor yet profitable, and therefore meete to be cast away. But as many weedes are right medicinable, so you may find in this none so vile or stinking, but that it hath in it some virtue.

It is interesting to see which pieces he put in his new sections. Much of the love poetry is contained in Flowers. The drama and poems that reminisce about Gascoigne’s own failings are contained in Herbs while the scandalous “The Adventures of Master J and his more overt criticisms of Elizabethan society have been relegated to the Weedes.. The repackaging was a success and the collection was widely read and more importantly secured for Gascoigne much needed patronage for future work.

And so what about the actual literature…………

Much of Gascoigne’s best poetry is contained in [A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres], he claims in his introduction that he is attempting some rare invention and although many poems take the form of courtly love lyrics, Gascoigne strives to add more honesty, irony and more down to earth language to make something a little different. He prised invention above lyrical content and this is evident from the poems. It makes for interesting reading as much of the poetry appears more approachable for 21st century readers even if it might not read so smoothly. The first poem: “The Anatomy of a Lover” takes as a starting point the old Petrarchan theme of the tormented lover, but is taken to such excess that it becomes almost satyrical. “The Lullabie of a Lover” uses the idea of a lyrical lullaby and Gascoigne takes pains to ensure that this flows softly and sweetly just as a lullaby would, however this is Gascoigne and so the final stanza is bitter-sweet: it has become his most anthologised poem. He writes poems with the two voices of the would be lover and his intended conquest, with coquettishness and recriminations in equal measure. The overall tone of much of the poetry is pessimistic with an overriding theme of life wasted in the pursuit of youthful pleasures. Gascoigne looks back on his days as a courtier with equal measures of regret for the loss of his vigour and potency, but also a sense that he could and should have done more.

“Gascoigne’s Woodmanship” appears in his section of Herbs and it contains much of what is good in his poetry. He uses as a central theme his failure at shooting down a deer with a crossbow given to him by one of his patrons. His inability to hit the target even when presented with the best of opportunities are used by him to reflect on his failures in life:

Alas my Lord, while I do muze hereon
And call to minde my youthful years myspent,
They give me such a boane to gnawe upon,
That all my senses are in silence pente,
My mind is rapt in contemplation,
Wherein my dazzled eyes onely beholde
The black hour of my constellation,
Which framed me so lucklesse on the molde.

Much of Gascoigne’s poetry is personal, he is the subject of the poems and although he can and does use many voices it all comes back to his own personal views.

Gascoigne was much more than a courtly love poet, he stretched himself to cover many other themes. Running throughout are comments on the Elizabethan social order, about which he was pessimistic. He looks back to an imagined golden age where greed, deceit and flattery were not so common. He left behind the life a courtier to return to his studies at the Law Courts and was challenged by five friends to compose poems whilst out riding, the idea being that they would be composed on the hoof as it were. He claims to have done this remembering them to write down at a later date. Starting with Satis Sufis they form a critique of the ills of the Elizabethan social order.

Gascoigne drew on his experiences in life in order to write his poetry, he was interested in getting to the truth: “Dulce Bellum inexpertis” starts with the line:

“To write of war and wot* not what it is” * NB wot means know in this context.

This is Gascoigne the war poet, writing from his own experiences of war and castigating those who write about it without ever having been involved in the fighting. For 192 stanzas he documents his war time experiences and as with most of his poetry it is both intensely personal and also critical of war and the hows and whys of the fighting. A couple of stanza’s towards the end of the poem illustrate this:

So loss of goods shall never trouble me,
Since God which gives can take what pleaseth him,
But loss of fame or slaundered so to be,
That makes my wittes to break above the brimme,
And frettes my heart, and lames me every limme:
For noble minds their honour more esteem,
For worldly wights, or wealth, or life can deeme

And yet in warres, such graffes and grudge do growe,
Such lewdness lutkes, such malicfe makes mischief,
Such envie boyles, such falsehoods fire doth blow,
That Bountie burns, and truth is called theif,
And good deserts are brought into such brief,
That saunder snuffe which swears the matter out,
Brings oftentimes the noblest names in doubt.

The concluding lines of the poem sums up Gascoigne’s views:

To warne the wise, that they such faults do flie
As put down peace, by covine or debate,
Since warre and strife bryng woe to every state.

There are some poems with religious lyrics and they are from a man with a simple faith in God.

It would seem obvious to me that Gascoigne was a major poetical voice of the sixteenth century. Much of his poetry is successful and speaks to us with an honesty and a search for truth that makes it relevant to readers, from many ages, but there is much more to A hundreth Sundrie Flowres than just the poetry. The two plays: “The Tragedie called Jocasta” and the “Comedie called Supposes” are not original works, both are translations and yet I suspect there is much that is original from Gascoigne in both pieces.

Gascoigne claims that “Jocasta is a Tragedie written in Greek by Euripides, translated into Acts by George Gascoigne, and Francis Kinwelmershe of Grayes Inn and there by them presented 1566.” It is now known that only fragments of Euripides play survives and Gascoigne was translating from a renaissance Italian version which was itself a translation from a Roman translation of the original play. However it has come down to us, we have Gascoigne’s version, complete with dumb shows at the start of each of the five acts and a Greek chorus. It is a play to be read for enjoyment rather than being acted on stage. It tells the story of Jocasta the wife/mother of Oedipus Rex. and their two sons Pollynices and Eteocles. Oedipus Rex himself exists blinded in a dungeon in the castle and Jocasta is left with the responsibilities of the State of Thebes. She is perplexed in choosing her successor and decides that her two sons should both rule, but on alternate years. This does not work because Eteocles is not prepared to give up the kingship after a year and so Pollynices with the help of a foreign army (Greeks) attempts to take what he has been promised by force. Both sons are killed in the fighting and Creon (Jocasta’s brother) depicted as a tyrant takes the throne for himself banishing both Jocasta and Oedipus Rex. The play has many moral conundrums, not fully resolved by the playwrights, but one can see why it was chosen by Gascoigne to translate. Elizabeth the virgin queen did not have an heir and the whole issue of her successor was a hot topic of debate. The play is written largely in blank verse with a rhyming scheme used for the Greek chorus. Much of the action takes place off stage and there is little in the way of repartee and so the only drama of note is supplied by the dumb shows, which are fully described in the text.

“The Supposes” is a translation of a play by Ariosto. Gascoigne’s translation emphasises the moral position of the characters and he also does not loose sight of the comedy. It is a fast moving plot driven play with conventional stock characters. The story centres around two young lovers trying to get together against the desires of two old men and in some respects society. There are many twists in the play based on false identities and mistaken identities. The dialogue is lively and witty and the action moves along at a fast pace.

“The Adventures of Master F J” is something else again and has been described as one of England’s first novels. Gascoigne uses prose, poetry and letters to tell his story of high eroticism. Characterisation takes centre stage in the story and the Characters are F J a young courtier invited to a castle to woo the Dukes daughter Frances. Lady Elinor married to the Duke’s son intervenes to seduce FJ. who we soon discover is way out of his depth. F.J. is easily seduced and he spends his time writing poems and riddles and arranging possible meetings with lady Elinor. The Duke’s son travels away on business and Lady Elinor seizes the chance to get F J into her bed. Frances who is described as a chaste virgin falls in love with F.J. to the extent that she helps him with his arrangements with Lady Elinor because she just wants to give him what he wants. Inevitably Lady Elinor tires of F J and when her husband returns she wants nothing more to do with him. Frances offers herself to F J but he rejects her, filled with his own self pity and a sense of outrage. Gascoigne manages to make the chaste Francis’ offer/sacrifice of herself completely believable as he does F J’s rejection of her. The story is extremely well written with some excellent scenes. I particularly enjoyed the courtship/seduction of F.J by Lady Elinor where the two of them are out hunting with the full retinue from the castle, it is skilfully done and has moments of real poetry. This story which develops characters to novel proportions can rank highly amongst the best stories from the Italian Renaissance. This is the story that caused much of the trouble with the censors for the 1573 edition of Gascoigne’s book and it was the subject of most of his excisions to get it re-published in 1575.
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baswood | Sep 24, 2017 |

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