Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Shirley, James

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SHIRLEY, JAMES, an English dramatist; born in London, England, Sept. 13, 1596; went to Merchant Taylors' School, whence he passed in 1612 to St. John's College, Oxford. Laud esteemed him highly, but discouraged him from seeking holy orders. He migrated, however, to Catharine Hall, Cambridge, took orders, and held for a short time a living at or near St. Albans, but becoming a Catholic resigned it, taught school for two years, and then retired to the metropolis, lived in Gray's Inn, and set up for a play maker. For his plots Shirley drew on his own inventiveness. Beaumont and Fletcher were his models, even more than Ben Jonson. Most of his plays are tragi-comedies. His chief plays were “Love Tricks” (1625); “The Maid's Revenge” (1626); “The Brothers” (1626); “The Witty Fair One” (1628); “The Wedding” (1628); “The Traitor,” his finest and also his strongest tragedy (1631); “The Changes, or Love in a Maze” (1632); “The Gamester,” an admirable comedy, (1633); “The Lady of Pleasure” (1635); and “The Cardinal.” In 1646 he printed a volume of his poems, including his masque of “The Triumph of Beauty.” As a writer of masques he is second only to Ben Jonson. Among his best was “The Triumph of Peace,” presented by the Inns of Court before the king and queen in 1633. The only complete edition of his works is that edited by Gifford and Dyce (6 vols. 1833). There is a selection of five plays with “The Triumph of Peace,” in the “Mermaid” series, by E. W. Gosse (1888). He died in poverty, Oct. 29, 1666.