Wednesday, June 20, 2007

1606 to 1608

Volpone, or The Fox. Ben Jonson. British. 1606. Play. Childless, avaricious Venetian nobleman pretends to be dying to pique the expectations of those who aspire to inherit his fortune. Characters have names meaning birds and animals. When the word comes that he is dying, they rush to him with rich gifts to assure their inheritance. About to be outwitted by his servant, Volpone reveals the whole plot in court.

Macbeth. Shakespeare. British. 1606. Play. Shakespeare's shortest play. A study in fear. Prophecy kindles Macbeth's ambition to be king. He kills King Duncan. He tries to avoid the second part of the prophecy by murdering Banquo, Lady Macduff and her children. Lady Macbeth commits suicide. Macduff kills Macbeth. Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene in Act 5 is one of the most famous in Shakespeare. The real Macbeth (d. 1058) killed Duncan, seized the throne and was overthrown by Malcolm, Duncan's son 17 years later.

A Trick to Catch the Old One. Thomas Middleton. British. 1606. Play. A penniless rake borrows money to further his suit of a wealthy widow who is really only a courtesan in disguise.

1607. Jamestown, Virginia is founded May 15 by Capt. Christopher Newport of the London Company; he sails for home June 22, leaving behind colonists under Capt. John Smith.

1607. Jamestown's colonists are sick and starving by autumn, having buried at least 50. Their Capt. John Smith goes up the Chickahominy River in December to trade for corn with the Algonquins and is captured. By his own account his life is spared only by the intercession of the Powhatan Tribe's chief's daughter Pocahontas, 12, who holds his head in her arms to prevent his father's warriors from clubbing Smith to death.

Timon of Athens. Shakespeare. British. 1607. Play. Timon, deserted by friends in time of trouble, turns against Athens. He finds gold in a cave. He plots against the Athenians with Alcibiades, who negotiates with the Athenians on his behalf. But Timon dies without hearing about this, still inveighing against mankind. Shakespeare wrote probably only part of this play.

Antony and Cleopatra. Shakespeare. British. 1607. Play. Antony succumbs to a life of sensual pleasure with Cleopatra. Defeated, thinking that Cleopatra is dead, Antony falls on his sword. To avoid Octavius's leading her through Rome, Cleopatra applies an asp to her bosom. They share a last kiss and then both die.

The Revenger's Tragedy. Cyril Tourneur. British. 1607. Play. Incredible degeneracy of the duke and his court. Senecan tragedy.

The Knight of the Burning Pestle. Francis Beaumont. British. 1607. Play. Play is interrupted by a grocer who inserts scenes and comments on the action. Hackneyed bourgeois romance. Hilarious.

1608. Capt. Christopher Newport arrives at Jamestown in January with 110 new Virginia colony settlers. He finds that disease and malnutrition have reduced the original contingent to a group of 40. Jamestown's fort is destroyed by fire January 7.

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