Nicholas Rowe Biography

Nicholas Rowe (20 June 1674 – 6 December 1718), English dramatist, poet and miscellaneous writer, was appointed Poet Laureate in 1715.

The Ambitious Stepmother, Rowe's first play, produced in 1700 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields by Thomas Betterton and set in Persepolis, was called and was well received.[12] This was followed in 1701 by Tamerlane. In this play the conqueror represented William III, and Louis XIV is denounced as Bajazet. It was for many years regularly acted on the anniversary of William's landing at Torbay.

The Fair Penitent (1703), an adaptation of Massinger and Field's Fatal Dowry, was pronounced by Dr Johnson, and was one of the most pleasing tragedies in ever written in English. In it occurs the famous character of Lothario, whose name passed into current use as the equivalent of a rake. Calista is said to have suggested to Samuel Richardson the character of Clarissa Harlowe, as Lothario suggested Lovelace. Samuel Johnson noted of The Fair Penitent that, "The story is domestic, and therefore easily received by the imagination, and assimilated to common life; the diction is exquisitely harmonious, and soft or spritely as occasion requires."

In 1704, Rowe tried his hand at comedy, producing The Biter at Lincoln's Inn Fields. The play is said to have amused no one except the author, and Rowe returned to tragedy in Ulysses (1706). According to Johnson, this play was to share the fate of many such plays based on mythological heroes, as, "We have been too early acquainted with the poetical heroes to expect any pleasure from their revival"

The Royal Convert (1707) dealt with the persecutions endured by Aribert, son of Hengist and the Christian maiden Ethelinda. The story was set in England in an obscure and barbarous age. Rodogune was a tragic character, of high spirit and violent passions, yet with a wicked with a soul that would have been heroic if it had been virtuous.

The Tragedy of Jane Shore, professedly an imitation of Shakespeare's style, was played at Drury Lane with Mrs Oldfield in the title role in 1714. It ran for nineteen nights, and kept the stage longer than any other of Rowe's works.[20] In the play, which consists chiefly of domestic scenes and private distress, the wife is forgiven because she repents, and the husband is honoured because he forgives.

The Tragedy of Lady Jane Grey followed in 1715, and as this play was not successful, it was his last foray into the medium.

Rowe was the first modern editor of Shakespeare, however, it is unfortunate that he based his text (6 vols., 1709) on the corrupt Fourth Folio, a course in which he was followed by later editors. Rowe's practical knowledge of the stage allowed him to suggest technical improvements: he divided the play into acts and scenes on a reasonable method, noted the entrances and exits of the players, and prefixed a list of the dramatis personae to each play. Additionally, Rowe also wrote a short biography of William Shakespeare, entitled, Some Account of the Life &c. of Mr. William Shakespear

Rowe wrote occasional verses addressed to Godolphin and Halifax, adapted some of the odes of Horace to fit contemporary events, and translated the Caractres of Jean de La Bruyère and the Callipaedia of Claude Quillet. He also wrote a memoir of Boileau prefixed to a translation of the Lutrin.

Finally, Rowe's version of Lucan's Pharsalia is one of the greatest productions in English poetry as it captures the genius and spirit of the original. Lucan's works are distinguished by a kind of dictatorial or philosophic dignity, more declamatory than poetical; full of ambitious morality and pointed sentences, comprised in vigorous and animated lines. Rowe diligently and successfully preserved this character. His versification was seldom lacking in either melody or force. The Pharsalia of Rowe deserves more notice than it obtains, and the more it is read, the more esteemed it will be.

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