The Northern Lass Essay - Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

Richard Brome

Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

John Addington Symonds, the Victorian critic, observed that “the cock in the fable scratched up a pearl from the dunghill, and it is possible that some ingenious student may discover pearls in what is certainly the rubbish heap of Brome’s plays.” That harsh judgment may be unfair when applied to Brome’s entire dramatic canon, but it is difficult to find much in THE NORTHERN LASS in the way of refutation. Just about everything Brome does in this early play-—his characterizations, his dramatizations of contemporary mores and manners, his satiric jabs at various human and social targets—has been done better by such contemporaries as Middleton, Dekker, and Jonson. Still, this was a popular work in its time, and the commendatory verses preceding the play (by such contemporaries as Jonson, Dekker, and Ford) testify to the esteem in which Brome was held by playwrights of very high repute indeed.

All critics agree that Brome is a skillful plotter; and it is primarily the frenetic pace of the action, as the misunderstandings multiply, that holds the reader’s interest. At one point, for instance, we have the spectacle of a false Sir Philip (actually Widgine) wooing a false northern lass (actually Constance Holdup). In addition, the activities of scheming underlings, working at various cross purposes, including Pace (Sir Philip’s man), Howdee (Mistress Fitchow’s man), Beavis (Mistress Trainwell’s man), and Anvile (Widgine’s tutor),...

(The entire section is 483 words.)