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What time Ierusalem that Cittie faire, Was sieg'd and sackt by great Vespasians heire   Canaan's Calamitie, Jerusalem's Misery ; The dolefull destruction of faire Ierusalem by Tytus, the Sonne of Vaspasian Emperour of Rome, in the yeare of Christ's Incarnation 74  (1598) Wherein is shewed the woonderfull miseries which God brought upon that Citty for sinne, being utterly over-throwne and destroyed, by Sword, pestilence and famine. 


COLLECTIONS FROM THE ARTS
 
 
 

DRAMA / PLAYS

Titus and Bernice
 


1676

 




Thomas Otway, print from the Enthoven Collection

Thomas Otway
( 1652 - 1685 )

 

 "Titus and Berenice is a pared down version of Racine's Berenice and Cheats is based on Moliere's Les fourberies de Scapin. John Crowne was working on a ten-act version of Berenice, and Edward Ravenscroft was writing a commedia dell'arte form of Les fourberies, works which were performed in 1677... Titus and Berenice dramatizes the parting of true lovers. Titus had just become emperor of Rome and by law and custom is debarred from marrying a foreign monarch Berenice, queen of Palestine. Titus must decide between his conflicting desires for rule and glory and love and happiness... Unlike Racine's more resolved hero, Titus's eventual decision to repudiate Berenice is not treated as the triumph of duty over desire but rather as a sacrifice that distorts Titus's character. Alone and unhappy, he decides to "make the world's as wretched as I am" (III. 479). .. Titus and Berenice was Otway's last verse tragedy... " [Oxford DNB]
 
TITUS AND BERENICE
A TRAGEDY

Grandis Oratio non est turgida,
Sed naturali pulchritudine exsurgit
. Pe. Arb.

 G Allants, our Author met me here to Day,
And begg'd that I'd say something for his Play.
You Waggs that judge by Roat, and damn by Rule,
Taking your measures from some Neighbour fool,
Who has Impudence a Coxcombs useful Tool;
That always are severe you know not why,
And would be thought great Criticks by the By;
With very much ill-Nature, and no Wit,
Just as you are, we humbly beg you'd Sit,
And with your Silly selves divert the Pit.
You Men of Sence, who heretofore allow'd
Our Author's Follies, make him once more proud.
But for the Youths that newl' are come from France,
Who's Heads want Sence, though heels abound with Dance:
Our Authour to their Judgment won't submit,
But swears that they, who so infest the Pit
With their own Follies, ne're can judge of Wit.
'Tis thence he Chiefly favour would implore;

[to the Boxes.

And Fair Ones pray oblige him on my Score:
Confine his Foes, the Fops within their Rules;
For Ladies you know how to manage Fools.
 
 
TITUS AND BERENICE
 
EXCERPTS
 
ACT I. SCENE I.

A PALACE.

Enter Antiochus and Arsaces.

Antiochus.

THOU my Arsaces art a Stranger here:
This is th' Apartment of the Charming Fair,
That Berenice, whom Titus so adores;
The Universe is his, and he is hers:
Here from the Court himself he oft conceals;
And in her Ears his charming story tells;
Whilst I a Vassal for admittance wait,
And am at best but thought importunate.

Arsac. You want admittance! who with generous care
Have follow'd all her Fortunes every-where,
Whose Fame throghout the World so loudly rings,
One of the greatest of our Eastern-Kings.
As once you seem'd the Monarch of her Breast,
Too firmly seated to be dispossest;
Nor can the Pride she doth in Titus take,
Already so severe a distance make.

Antio. Yes! still that Wretch Antiochus I am.
But Love! Oh how I tremble at the name;
And my distracted Soul at that doth start,
Which once was all the pleasure of my heart;
Since Berenice has all my Hopes destroi'd,
And an Eternal silence on me laid.

Arsac. That you resent her pride, I see with Joy;
'Tis that which does her gratitude destroy:
But Friendship wrong'd should into hatred turn,
And you methinks might learn her Art to scorn.

Anti. Arsaces, how false Measures dost thou take!
Remove the Poles, and bid the Sun go back;

ACT III. SCENE I.

Enter Berenice in Disorder.

Ber.I Of my Wrong too well am satisfied;
To see the perjur'd Titus twice I try'd;
Twice for admittance to him begg'd in vain,
Nor is Phænicia yet return'd again.
Phænicia has no answer to bring back,
Ingrateful Titus will not hear her speak:
But hides himself, and from my fury flyes;
Nor will have sense tho Berenice dies.
Phænice, Well, my Titus hast thou seen?
What will he come and make me live again?

 

[Enter Phænice.

Phæ. Madam, the Emperor I alone did find;
And saw in his the trouble of your mind;
I saw the tears he would have hid, run down.

Ber. But was he not asham'd they shou'd be shown?
Lookt he not as he thought his Love disgrace?
And was not all the Emperor in his face?
Phæ. Doubt it not, Madam, he will soon be here.
But wherefore will you this disorder wear?
Your rifl'd dress let me in order place,
And these dishevel'd locks that hide your Face.

Ber. Forbear Phænice, let it all alone:
No, he shall see the triumph he has won;
How vain those foolish ornaments must prove,
If neither faith, nor tears, nor means can move!

Enter Antiochus and Arsaces.

Oh, my unruly sorrows! Oh, my Fears!
Who's here?

Ant. Arsaces, Berenice in tears;
Ber. Antiochus! Phænice, let's away;
To let him see my torments I'le not stay.
 

 

[Ex.

Antio. Now whither's all my resolutions gone?
Arsaces) who could see't and be his own!
I said I'd never see her face again:
But come and find my boastings all were vain;
Seeing her sufferings, all her scorn forget,

 

BIOGRAPHY

The Poet's Complaint of his Muse, 1680
I am a Wretch of honest Race:
My Parents not obscure, nor high in Titles were;
They left me Heir to no Disgrace.
My Father was (a thing now rare)
Loyall and brave, my Mother chast and fair.
Their pledge of Marriage-vows was onely I;
Alone I liv'd their much-lov'd fondled Boy:

Thomas Otway was born on 3rd March, 1652, in the small village of Milland, Sussex. He was the only son of Humphrey Otway's first marriage but he had a stepsister Susanna, daughter of Humphrey Otway and his second wife Elizabeth. Nothing is known of Thomas' own mother except that she must have died when he was very young. Humphrey Otway was rector of All Hallows at Woolbedding, Sussex, and the family, though not great, was of some distinction, being of old Yorkshire stock, with the inevitable Irish connections of the English comic dramatist.

At the age of 13 he was entered for Winchester College. Once there, he struck up an acquaintance with Anthony Cary, later Lord Falkland. This friendship was to last all Otway's life; and indeed at Winchester Falkland seemed to have exerted more influence on Thomas than his master, especially urging him "not to be ashamed of idleness". Not surprisingly, Thomas twice missed a scholarship and went to Oxford as a commoner of Christ Church in 1669. His father died in 1671 and at the age of 19 Tom moved on to the more immediate rewards of London.

To Britain's great Metropolis I stray'd,
Where Fortune's generall Game is play'd;
I mist the brave and wise, and in their stead
On every sort of Vanity I fed.
His first play, "Alcibiades" was published in 1675.

 His first job in the theatre was as an actor in a play by Mrs. Aphra Behn. She had given up her voluntary services in Continental espionage in order to revive her first play "The Forced Marriage". Betteron, already middle-aged, played the youthful lover while young Otway was cast as the doddering old king. He was a notable failure.

"Mr. Otway the Poet having an Inclination to turn Actor; Mrs. Behn gave him the King in the Play, for a Probation Part, but he being not us'd to the Stage; the full House put him to such a Sweat and Tremendous Agony, being dash't, spoilt him for an Actor."

Some say that this was his first and last appearance on the stage but it is thought he went on playing bit-parts for two years. However, that particular show resulted in something much more personally disturbing than' the bad notices of his performance.

Tom Otway came next, Tom Shadwell's, dear Zany;
And swears for Heroicks, he writes best of any;
Don Carlos his Pockets so amply hath fill'd,
That his Mange was quite cur'd, and his Lice, were all kill'd.
But Apollo, had seen his Face on the Stage,
And prudently did not think fit to engage,
The scum of a Play-house, for the Prop of an Age.
from A Session of the Poets by the Earl of Rochester, 1647-1680

The part of Draxilla in that play was played by a 17-year-old girl called Elizabeth Barry, eventually to be the English Theatre's first leading lady. Despite, or possibly because of, a plump, unhandsome appearance and a strong tendency only to speak with one side of her mouth, it is said she did have a considerable presence and was thought a remarkable tragedienne. Thomas fell in love with her; a passion that was to last all his life. She, however, was the mistress of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, the poet to whom Otway dedicated "Don Carlos", a heroic tragedy, his first success. But like other poets, Dryden, Settle and Crowne, who had sought the Earl's patronage, Otway was soon to be the object of his ridicule and satire.

Nevertheless, Otway enjoyed a certain popularity especially with the ladies; 5' 7" "but with a thoughtful speaking eye; inclineable to fatness" (a feature later to prove something of an oddity, since the less he had to eat, the fatter he became.) Mrs. Behn said, "Everyone knows Mr. Otway's good nature, which will not permit him to shock any of our sex to their faces." But there were some whose feelings were less warm. Otway and Dryden lived in houses which faced each other and, one night Otway inscribed on Dryden's front door:—

"Here Dryden lives — a poet and wit".

Next evening appeared on his own door:—

"Here Otway lives-exactly opposite".

"Friendship in Fashion", his first comedy, had a small but warm first night at the Duke's Theatre in 1678 but was hissed off the stage at the only known revival in 1708 at Drury Lane. Of the three comedies he wrote, only "The Soldier's Fortune" boasts several revivals and that was last seen in London in 1935 at the Ambassadors Theatre.

Early 1678 sees Otway obtaining a commission through the Earl of Plymouth, one of the natural sons of Charles II and Louise De Querouaille, to whom he dedicated "Venice Preserv'd". With his regiment Otway sets out for military service in Flanders. An unexpected peace treaty soon interrupted the course of the war, causing the troops to be disbanded and Otway's return to England with "naught but drums and trumpets in his head", materially no better off than before. Such a frame of mind brought him into contact with Jack Churchill who was to become the first Duke of Marlborough. "Churchill, for beating an orange wench in the Duke's Playhouse, was challenged by Captain Otway (the poet) and were both wounded, but Churchill most". This pugnacity along with a strong resentment to the general treatment of disbanded troops finally found an outlet in the autumn of 1683 in "The Soldier's Fortune", with Betterton as Beaugard and Mrs. Barry as Lady Dunce.

When the Earl of Rochester died in 1680, he assumed, not unreasonably, that his turn with Elizabeth Barry had come at last. However, Rochester's death only revealed that Elizabeth was also the mistress of Sir George Etherege, who wrote one of the earliest Restoration comedies "The Man of Mode", based on the personality of the Earl of Rochester. Elizabeth, it seemed, preferred her poets to have titles.

Earl of Shaftesbury, National Portrait GalleryEarly in 1682 "Venice Preserv'd" was produced for the first time with Mrs. Barry in the lead as Belvidera. It was a huge success; partly due to its bearings on the Popish Plot and because of its portrait of the Earl of Shaftesbury as the kinky old Senator, Antonio. It is the only tragedy of its period to have been played consistently ever since.

On the verge of theatrical and financial prosperity Thomas had a last go with Elizabeth. She promised to meet him in the Mall but, like so many times before in the early years in St. James's Park, she stood him up. He sent her a letter:—

You were pleased to send me word you would meet me in the Mall this evening, and give me further satisfaction in the Matter you were so unkind to charge me with; I was there, but found you not, and therefore beg of you, as you ever would wish yourself to be eased of the highest Torment it were possible for your Nature to be sensible of, to let me see you some time to Morrow, and send me word by this Bearer, where, and at what Hour you will be so just as either to acquit or condemn me; that I may hereafter, for your sake, either bless all your bewitching Sex; or as often as I henceforth think of you, curse Womankind for ever."

Eventually Otway gave up. Desperate want and poverty followed. "The Atheist", a sequel to "The Soldier's Fortune" and his last play, appeared in 1683. He died at the age of thirty-three.

There are many colourful accounts of his death; the most popular, but not necessarily authentic, is that of Theophilis Cibber in Dr. Johnson's "Lives of the Poets". Hiding from his creditors in a pub on Tower Hill, Otway

"driven at last to the most grievous necessity, ventured out of his lurking place, almost naked and shivering, and went into a coffee-house on Tower Hill, where he saw a gentleman, of whom he had some knowledge, and of whom he sollicited the loan of a shilling. The gentleman was quite shocked, to see the author of "Venice Preserv'd" begging bread, and compassionately put into his hand a guinea. Mr. Otway, having thanked his benefactor, retired, and changed the guinea to purchase a roll; as his stomach was full of wind from excess of fasting, the first mouthful choked him and instantaneously put a period to his days."

He is buried in the churchyard of St. Clement Danes.

His Scepter and his P—— are of a length,
And she that plays with one may sway the other,
And make him little wiser than his Brother.
I hate all Monarchs and the Thrones they sit on,
From the Hector of France to the Cully of Britain.
Poor Prince, thy P—— like the Buffoons at Court,
It governs thee, because it makes thee sport;
Tho' Safety, Law, Religion, Life lay on't,
'Twill break through all to it's way to C——.
Restless he rolls about from Whore to Whore,
A merry Monarch, scandalous and poor.
On King Charles, ascribed to the Earl of Rochester, for which he was banish'd the Court and turn'd Mountebank.
Oh Happy Age! Oh times like those alone,
By Fate reserv'd for great Augustus throne!
When the joint growth of Arms and Arts foreshew
The World a Monarch, and that Monarch You.
From Astraea Redux John Dryden, 1631-1700

Plays

"Alcibiades"
a tragedy, 1675;
"Don Carlos"
a tragedy, 1676;
"Titus and Berenice"
a tragedy, 1676, adapted from Racine's "Berenice";
"The Cheats of Scapin"
adapted from Moliere's "Les Fourberie de Scapin", 1676;
"Friendship in Fashion"
a comedy, 1678;
"Caius Marius"
a tragedy, 1679;
"The Orphan"
a tragedy, 1680;
"The Soldier's Fortune"
a comedy, 1680;
"Venice Preserv'd"
a tragedy, 1682;
"The Atheist"
or "The Second Part of the Soldier's Fortune", 1683.

[See also the Thomas Otway biography from the Venice Preserv'd programme.]

 

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