"READ JOHNSON, SHAKESPEARE, BEAUMONT, FLETCHER, OR THY NEAT-LIMNED PIECES, SKILLFUL MASSINGER": PHILIP MASSINGER'S THE EMPEROR OF THE EAST, 1632 FIRST EDITION, WITH AN EARLY REFERENCE IN PRINT TO SHAKESPEARE
MASSINGER, Philip. The Emperour of the East. A Tragæ-Comedie. The Scæne Constantinople. London: Thomas Harper, 1632. Small quarto, 20th-century three-quarter brown morocco. $3500.
Scarce first edition of Massinger's tragicomedy, with an early mention in print of Shakespeare.
Philip Massinger was the principal dramatist after 1625 for Shakespeare's company, the King's Men. He was a gifted deviser of plots and a fluent maker of dialogue, but he was most interesting for "the audacity with which he represented controversial political and religious opinions on the stage… Characteristically, Massinger found his story in the intrigues and scandals of his times" (Ruoff, 278-79). "This play [Emperor of the East] was at first ill-received. It was apparently originally acted at the Blackfriars as a tragedy, then altered for performance at the Globe and at Court to a tragicomedy" (Pforzheimer, 696). "It is clear from several remarks in its front matter, and probably from its early publication in 1632, that The Emperor of the East, a tragicomedy with sources in Byzantine history, was one of Massinger's least popular plays" (ODNB—companies typically held work back from publication while it was likely to be reusable). The reference to Shakespeare appears in the dedicatory poem by Massinger's friend Aston Cokaine on A3: "Read Johnson, Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, or/ Thy neat-limnd peeces, skilfull Massinger." Each leaf inset into a larger leaf. Without final blank. Pforzheimer 677. STC 17636.
Text clean. Binding lightly rubbed, sound and attractive. Very scarce.