The New International Encyclopædia/Shirley, James

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SHIRLEY, James (1596-1666). An English dramatist, born in London. He attended the Merchant Taylors' School, London (1608-12), whence he passed to Saint John's College, Oxford. He afterwards entered Catharine Hall, Cambridge, where he received the degree of B. A. (c.1618). Subsequently he took orders, and became a minister at Saint Albans. He gave up his living owing to his conversion to the Church of Rome and held the mastership of the grammar school from 1623 to 1625. At the end of this period he moved to London and began his career as phaywright. Before the theatres were closed by act of Parliament in 1642, he produced about forty plays, most of which have survived. He was befriended by the Court, for which he composed many masques. He shared in the misfortunes of the Royalists during the Civil War. Surviving until after the Restoration, he became an important literary figure. He died during the great fire of 1666, and was buried in Saint Giles's churchyard. Shirley carried on the traditions of the Elizabethan drama and served as a link to the new drama after the Restoration. He essayed both tragedy and comedy. Of his plays may he cited: The Witty Fair One (1628), a good comedy; The Wedding (1626), a still better comedy; The Traitor (1631), a powerful tragedy; Hyde Park (1632), a comedy; The Gamester (1633), a comedy revived by Garrick; The Lady of Pleasure (1635), perhaps his most brilliant comedy; and The Cardinal (1641), a strong tragedy. Of his masques, The Triumph of Peace, performed before the King and Queen (1634), is regarded as the best. Consult: Dramatic Works and Poems, with notes by Gifford and Dyce (London, 1833); Shirley, selected plays, ed. by Gosse (Mermaid Series, ib., 1888); and Ward, English Dramatic Literature (revised ed., ib., 1899).