Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/53

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33
THE ELIZABETHAN CHARACTER

was the most persistent copyist He borrowed his plots. In many cases he borrowed the details of his dramatic technique. This is but another way of saying that when Shakespeare saw a clever device cleverly worked out upon the stage he immediately made use of it; in general, however, displaying greater skill in the manipulation. He was quick to grasp the advantage of a heroine's part played by a boy in his own clothes. Greene set an example of the merry conceit of a man falling in love with a boy disguised as a woman. Shakespeare merely turned the situation end for end when he gave us the love affair of Olivia and Viola.

The Elizabethan fondness for fads goes beyond anything known to-day. The modern linguistic imitation of certain fables in slang so familiar to us of this generation is a mere bagatelle in comparison with the imitation of the more ponderous and often meaningless phrases derived from Lyly's novel. The innumerable sonnets that go to fill up Mr. Lee's large collection were the offspring of a fad that necessitated each and every man of the time to drivel sonnets at a moment's notice in honour of his sweetheart. The sonnet cycle was itself a separate vogue to be distinguished from that of the individual sonnet habit of domestic life. And both lived the short span of life usually allotted to a fashionable fad.