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A Collection of Old English Plays, Volume 1   By:

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A Collection of Old English Plays, Volume 1 is a remarkable anthology that delves into the rich tapestry of Old English drama. Compiled by an array of anonymous authors, this collection transports readers back to a bygone era, immersing them in the vibrant world of early English theater.

The book begins with a comprehensive introduction that provides valuable insights into the historical context and significance of these plays. It explores the origins of Old English drama, the development of performance spaces, and the cultural influences that shaped these works. This introduction proves invaluable in providing readers with a nuanced understanding of the plays' contexts and enhances their overall reading experience.

The anthology showcases a diverse range of plays, each one exhibiting its distinct voice and tone. From comedies to tragedies, these works reflect the societal concerns, moral dilemmas, and human experiences of the time. They offer fascinating glimpses into the struggles of common folk, the machinations of the elite, and the impact of social hierarchies on daily life.

While reading, I was struck by the richness of language and the clever use of rhetorical devices. The authors masterfully wielded poetic verse, employing vivid imagery and evocative metaphors to convey emotions and ideas. This intricate use of language not only elevates the reading experience but also serves as a testament to the creative prowess of these early playwrights.

One standout feature of this anthology lies in the depth and complexity of its characters. From the conniving villain to the virtuous heroine, each play offers a constellation of personalities, flawed yet human. Through their journeys, readers are given a glimpse into the depths of human nature, with characters grappling with themes of ambition, love, honor, and revenge.

Moreover, the inclusion of stage directions and theatrical notes further enriches the reading experience. These additions enable readers to envision the plays' staging and imagine the performances as they would have unfolded centuries ago. It allows for a more immersive reading, inviting readers to become directors, actors, and spectators all at once.

However, it is important to note that the language in these plays can be challenging for modern readers unfamiliar with Old English. While footnotes and glossaries are provided, the archaic syntax and vocabulary can still pose a significant hurdle. Yet, it is precisely this linguistic challenge that adds to the authenticity and charm of the anthology, encapsulating the essence of centuries-old literature.

In conclusion, A Collection of Old English Plays, Volume 1 successfully revives and preserves a significant aspect of English literary history. Its meticulous selection, scholarly introduction, and enchanting plays make it an indispensable resource for scholars, literature enthusiasts, and anyone seeking to explore the enlightening world of Old English drama.

First Page:


In Four Volumes



1882 1889


The Tragedy of Nero The Mayde's Metamorphosis The Martyr'd Souldier The Noble Souldier


Most of the Plays in the present Collection have not been reprinted, and some have not been printed at all. In the second volume there will be published for the first time a fine tragedy (hitherto quite unknown) by Massinger and Fletcher, and a lively comedy (also quite unknown) by James Shirley. The recovery of these two pieces should be of considerable interest to all students of dramatic literature.

The Editor hopes to give in Vol. III. an unpublished play of Thomas Heywood. In the fourth volume there will be a reprint of the Arden of Feversham , from the excessively rare quarto of 1592.


Of the many irreparable losses sustained by classical literature few are more to be deplored than the loss of the closing chapters of Tacitus' Annals . Nero, it is true, is a far less complex character than Tiberius; and there can be no question that Tacitus' sketch of Nero is less elaborate than his study of the elder tyrant. Indeed, no historical figure stands out for all time with features of such hideous vividness as Tacitus' portrait of Tiberius; nowhere do we find emphasised with such terrible earnestness, the stoical poet's anathema against tyrants "Virtutem videant intabescantque relicta... Continue reading book >>

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