Samuel Daniel Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

In 1594, for the third edition of Delia—which bore the title Delia and Rosamond augmented—Samuel Daniel included a play, Cleopatra, which was written in the “Senecan mode.” Actually, the author entered the piece in the Stationers’ Register as early as October 19, 1593, and dedicated it to his patron, Mary Herbert, countess of Pembroke, the sister of Sir Philip Sidney. He stated that he wrote it at her request and as a companion to her own translation of the French playwright Robert Gainier’s Tragedy of Antonie (1592). Six years later, Daniel began another play, three acts of a tragedy based on the story of Philotas, taken from Quintus Curtius, Justin, and Plutarch’s Life of Alexander. Originally, he had intended the play to be acted at Bath during the Christmas season by certain gentlemen’s sons; however, his printers urged him to complete other projects, and The Tragedy of Philotas was not completed and published until 1605. Daniel dedicated the work to Prince Henry, complaining that the public favor extended to him during the reign of Elizabeth had not been carried over to that of James I.

The Tragedy of Philotas caused Daniel some problems at Court, principally because suspicion arose that Philotas was actually a representation of the late earl of Essex. Such a conclusion meant that the author was trying to apologize for or to defend Essex’s rebellion of 1601. Thus, the nobles summoned Daniel before them requesting him to explain his meaning; upon doing so, he was nevertheless reprimanded. In 1607, Daniel published a “corrected” edition of The Tragedy of Philotas, with an “apology” denying that his play warranted the aspersions that had been cast upon it. Finally, the poet published, in 1618, The Collection of the Historie of England, from the beginnings of English history to the end of Edward III’s reign (1377).

Samuel Daniel Achievements

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Samuel Daniel’s reputation has suffered the misfortune of history, the poet having lived and written during an age of literary giants. In a sense, he lies buried beneath the weight of Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, John Lyly, Sir Philip Sidney, Michael Drayton, Thomas Campion, and Ben Jonson. The existence of those personages was not itself sufficient to relegate Daniel to the second rank of poets; rather, the writer’s own attitudes toward poetry and the state of the world contributed to his eventual position in the literary history of the later Elizabethan period. On the surface, Daniel appears to be an intelligent and thoughtful poet, gifted with imagination and literary eloquence. No one has ever questioned his dedication to the craft of poetry, as he labored to write and then to polish his verse. He embraced all the virtues associated with the best practitioners of his art: the patience to correct and revise and a sensitivity to criticism. Those very virtues, however, restricted both his artistic and personal advancements. He was by nature reluctant to burst forth upon the world. Incessant labor and untiring revision became a refuge for his hesitancy and uncertainty, and he spent much time, both in and outside his poetry, reflecting upon and developing a variety of viewpoints.

Nevertheless, that hesitancy and uncertainty, as observed from a distance of almost three centuries, may well constitute the essence of Daniel’s achievement as a poet. He never saw himself other than as a poet called upon to write poetry. With that purpose in mind, he sought perfection, although he fully recognized the impossibility of ever rising to that state. For example, he revised The Complaynt of Rosamonde five times and Delia on four occasions, while Musophilus was altered substantially from its first appearance in 1599 through editions of 1601, 1602, 1607, 1611, and 1623—so often, in fact, that he almost ruined the piece. Still, the revisions reveal Daniel at work, striving to improve the verbal melodies of his lines, repairing what he thought were technical blemishes, purging the Elizabethan idiom from his language, and seeking conciseness at almost any cost. Indeed, in discussing these revisions and alterations, a modern editor of Daniel’s poetry has referred to the writer as “something of a neoclassicist born before his time,”...

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Samuel Daniel Bibliography

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Attreed, Lorraine. “England’s Official Rose: Tudor Concepts of the Middle Ages.” In Hermeneutics and Medieval Culture, edited by Patrick J. Gallacher and Helen Damico. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. Attreed places Daniel at the end of a tradition of Tudor apologists concerned with the legend of Tudor achievement and with the mythical connection to King Arthur, and she traces Daniel’s growing discomfort with the simplistic tendencies of such historiography. Although not concerned exclusively with Daniel, this article provides important context for much of his historical writing in both verse and prose.

Bergeron, David M. “Women as Patrons of English Renaissance Drama.” In Patronage in the Renaissance, edited by Guy Fitch Lytle and Stephen Orgel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981. Chronicling the importance of women as patrons of dramatic works, Bergeron shows the particular importance to Daniel of both Lucy Russell, the countess of Bedford, and Mary Herbert, the countess of Pembroke. The former arranged for Daniel to be commissioned to write The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, and the latter made him part of her circle at Wilton. Both patrons were major influences on Daniel’s career.

Galbraith, David. Architectonics of Imitation in Spenser, Daniel, and Drayton. Toronto, Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 2000. Galbraith examines Daniel’s Civile Warres, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596), and Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion (1612-1622) to explore the boundaries between...

(The entire section is 696 words.)