Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
John Fletcher, the fourth son of Richard Fletcher, who rose through the ecclesiastical ranks by the grace of Queen Elizabeth I, initially followed in his father’s footsteps, beginning studies as a pensioner at Benét College, Cambridge, in 1591. Richard, who became bishop of London in 1595, fell from the queen’s grace after his hasty second marriage that year. His death in 1596 left his family severely in debt, and John Fletcher was too junior in the family to inherit any of the few assets. Little is known of his life between his father’s death and the mid-1600’s. The premiere of the first play he wrote alone, The Faithful Shepherdess, heralded Fletcher’s trademark use of the eleven-syllable line with a so-called feminine, or unaccented, ending. Although the title character is the wholesome Clorin, it is the licentious but clever Cloe, the first of Fletcher’s “clever maidens in love,” who with her pursuit of the chaste Daphnis enthralls or enrages audiences.
The 1609 quarto of this play sets forth Fletcher’s definition of the then-new form of theater that describes much of his work.[A] tragi-comedy is not so called in respect of mirth and killing, but in respect it wants death, which is enough to make it no tragedy, yet brings some near it, which is enough to make it no comedy . . . so that a god is lawful in this as in a...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
John Fletcher was born in Rye, Sussex, where he was baptized on December 20, 1579. His father, Richard, was a clergyman who attended Cambridge and was later made president of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, dean of Peterborough, and eventually bishop of London. Elizabeth I reportedly admired his talent as a scholar and bestowed special favor on him. John Fletcher’s uncles, Giles and Phineas Fletcher, were poets with respected reputations, and their successes added honors to the family name. These conditions of birth and social standing were somewhat unusual among playwrights of the age and doubtless helped to reinforce Fletcher’s reputation as an entertainer of gentlemen.
Although Fletcher no doubt attended lectures at his father’s alma mater, he may have been forced to leave Cambridge in 1596 when, perhaps in part because of an ill-advised second marriage, Bishop Fletcher was suspended by the queen. Later in that same year, he died, and Fletcher was probably taken under the wing of his uncle Giles, who may have helped to pay off the family’s large debts. Just when Fletcher began writing plays is not known, but it is certain that he was hard at work in collaboration with Beaumont early in the first decade of the seventeenth century. After Beaumont left the profession in 1613, Fletcher continued as the chief playwright for the King’s Men, working alone or with Philip Massinger, William Shakespeare (on The Two Noble Kinsmen and...
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Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The Renaissance)
Both Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher were products of the English upper class. Fletcher, born in 1579, was the second son (the fourth of nine children) of Richard Fletcher, a leading Anglican clergyman. His father served as president of Bene’t College (Corpus Christi), Cambridge; was dean of Peterborough, officiating at the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots; and was successively bishop of Bristol, Worcester, and London, this last position making him Queen Elizabeth’s chaplain. The families of both Beaumont and Fletcher had a number of poets, including Beaumont’s older brother John and Fletcher’s younger first cousins, the Spenserian poets Phineas and Giles Fletcher.
Thus, the social circle—educated, urbane, and artistic—in which they were reared gave Beaumont and Fletcher a running start as Renaissance playwrights. They grew up with clever, informed talk and, unlike fellow playwright William Shakespeare, did not have to imagine how the upper classes who populated Renaissance drama lived. Their educations were rounded off at Cambridge and Oxford and at the London Inns of Court, England’s law school but also a center of literary and dramatic activity. Fletcher entered Bene’t College, Cambridge, in 1591 and probably moved on to the Inns of Court in 1594 or 1595, after...
(The entire section is 2017 words.)