Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 991 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
SHIRLEY (or SHERLEY), SIR ANTHONY (1565-c. 1635), English traveller, was the second son of Sir Thomas Shirley (1542-1612), of Wiston, Sussex, who was a member of parliament during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. and who was heavily in debt when he died in October 1612. Shirley's imprisonment in 1603 was an important event as in consequence thereof the House of Commons successfully asserted one of its privileges—freedom of its members from arrest. Educated at Oxford Anthony Shirley gained some military experience with the English troops in the Netherlands-and also during an expedition to Normandy in 1591 under Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, who was related to his wife, Frances Vernon; about this time he was knighted by Henry of Navarre (Henry IV. of France), a proceeding which brought upon him the displeasure of his own sovereign and a short imprisonment. In 1596 he conducted a predatory expedition along the western coast of'Africa and then across to Central America, but owing to a mutiny he returned to London with a single ship in 1597. In 1598 he led a few English volunteers to Italy to take part in a dispute over the possession of Ferrara; this, however, had been accommodated when he reached Venice, and he decided to journey to Persia with the twofold object of promoting trade between England and Persia and of stirring up the Persians against the Turks. He obtained money at Constantinople and at Aleppo, and was very well received by the shah, Abbas the Great, who made him a mirza, or prince, and granted certain trading and other rights to all Christian merchants. Then, as the shah's representative, he returned to Europe and visited Moscow, Prague, Rome and other cities, but the English government would not allow him to return to his own country. For some time he was in prison in Venice, and in 16o5 he went to Prague and was sent by the emperor Rudolph H. on a mission to Morocco; afterwards he went to Lisbon and to Madrid, where he was welcomed very warmly. The king of Spain appointed him the admiral of a fleet which was to serve in the Levant, but the only result of his extensive preparations was an unsuccessful expedition against the island of Mitylene. After this he was deprived of his command. Shirley, who was a count of the Holy Roman Empire, died at Madrid some time after 1635. Sir Anthony's elder brother, Sir Thomas Shirley (1564-c. 1620), was knighted while serving in Ireland under Sir William Fitzwilliam in 1589. In 16o1 he was chosen a member of parliament, but his time was mainly passed in seeking to restore the shattered fortunes of his family by piratical expeditions. In January 1603 he was captured by the Turks and he was only released from his captivity at Constantinople in December 1605. One of his sons was Henry Shirley (d. 1627) the dramatist, who was murdered in London on the 31st of October 1627, and one of his grandsons was Thomas Shirley (1638-1678), the physician and writer. Sir Anthony's younger brother, Sir Robert Shirley (c. 1581-1628), went with his brother to Persia in 1598, remaining in that country when the latter returned to Europe in 1599. Having and exhibiting characters after types whose effectiveness on the stage had been proved by ample experience. He spoke the same language with the great dramatists, it is true, but this grand style is sometimes employed for the artificial elevation of commonplace thought. " Clear as day " becomes in this manner " day is not more conspicuous than this cunning"; while the proverb " Still waters run deep " is ennobled into " The shallow rivers glide away with noise The deep are silent." The violence and exaggeration of many of his contemporaries left him untouched. His scenes are ingeniously conceived, his characters boldly and clearly drawn; and he never falls beneath a high level of stage effect. Shirley's tragedies are: The Maides Revenge (acted, 1626; printed, 1639) ; The Traylor (licensed, 1631; printed, 1635), which Dyce reckoned as Shirley's best tragedy; Love's Crueltie (1631; printed, 164o) ; The Duke's Mistris (acted, 1636; printed, 1638) ; The Politilian (acted, 1639; printed, 1655) ; The Cardinal (acted, 1641; printed, 1652), a good example of Shirley's later style, and characterized by Edmund Gosse as perhaps the last great play produced by the giants of the Elizabethan age. His comedies are: Love Tricks, or the School of Complement (licensed, 1625; printed under the latter title, 1631) ; The Wedding (licensed, 1626; printed, 1629) ; The Brothers (acted, 1626; printed, 1652) ; The Wittie Faire One (acted, 1628; printed, 1633); The Gratefull Servant (licensed in 1629 as The Faithful Servant; printed, I63o); Changes: Or Love in a Maze (acted and printed, 1632) ; Hide Parke (acted, 1632; printed, 1637) ; The Ball (acted, 1632; printed, 1639) ; The Bird in a Cage (acted and printed, 1633), ironically dedicated to William Prynne; The Young Admirall (licensed, 1633; printed, 1637) ; The Gamester (played at court, 1634; printed, 1637), executed at the command of Charles I. who is said to have invented or proposed the plot; The Example (acted, 1634; printed, 1637); The Opportunity (licensed, 1634; printed, 164o); The Coronation (licensed, 1635, as his, but printed, 164o, as by Fletcher) ; The Lady of Pleasure (licensed, 1635; printed, 1637); The Constant Maid, or Love will find out the Way, printed in 164o under the former title with St Patrick for Ireland; The Royall Master (acted and printed, 1638), an excellent comedy of intrigue, with an epilogue addressed to Strafford; The Doubtfull Heir (printed, 1652), licensed as Rosania, or Love's Victory in 164o; The Gentleman of Venice (licensed, 1639; printed, 1655) ; The Imposture (acted, 164o; printed, 1652) ; The Sisters (licensed, 1642; printed, 1653); The Humorous Courtier (perhaps identical with The Duke, licensed, 1631), printed, 164o; The Court Secret (printed, 1653). Poems (1646), by James Shirley, contained " Narcissus," and a masque dealing with the Judgment of Paris, entitled The Triumph of Beautie. A Contention for Honour and Riches (1633) appeared in an altered and enlarged form in 1659 as Honoria and Mammon. In 1653 a selection of his pieces was published as Six New Playes. He wrote the magnificent entertainment presented by the members of the Inns of Court to the king and queen in 1633, entitled The Triumph of Peace, the scenery being devised by Inigo Jones and the music by W. Lawes and Simon Ives. In this kind of composition he had no rival but Ben Jonson. His Contention of Ajax and Ulysses (printed, 1659) closes with the well-known lyric, " The Glories of our Blood and State." The standard edition of Shirley's works is The Dramatic Works and Poems of James Shirley, with Notes by William Gifford, and Additional Notes, and some Account of Shirley and his Writings, by Alexander Dyce (6 vols., 1833). A selection of his plays was edited (1888) for the " Mermaid " series, with an. introduction by Edmund Gosse.
End of Article: SHIRLEY (or SHERLEY), SIR ANTHONY (1565-c. 1635)
SHIRLEY (or SHERLEY), JAMES (1596-1666)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.