Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
The Maid’s Tragedy
Francis Beaumont (1584–1616) and John Fletcher (1579–1625)
Maid’s Tragedy, The, by Beaumont and Fletcher, was acted probably in 1610 and first printed in 1619. It is the most powerful drama of these authors. Evadne, a lady of the court of Rhodes, is the secret mistress of its king. To hide his guilt the monarch commands a young courtier, Amintor, to wed Evadne. Although Amintor is already plighted to another lady, Aspatia, whom he loves, he conceives it his duty to obey; moreover he is dazzled by Evadne’s beauty. In the first act the wedding is being concluded by a masque, and amid many compliments the bride is escorted to the nuptial chamber. Bride and bridegroom are left alone; and then gradually, with a cold, contemptuous delight in the torture she is inflicting, Evadne reveals to Amintor that she is the king’s mistress and that the marriage is to be a marriage in name only. Amintor submits to the principle of unswerving loyalty to the king; and in the morning they accept the railing congratulations of their friends as if they were an ordinary happy married couple. But Melantius, Evadne’s brother, and Amintor’s dearest friend, suspects from his bearing that something is wrong and gets the secret out of him. Being of a more resolute character he decides at once on vengeance. First he summons his relatives and friends for an attack on the king and makes arrangements to seize the fortifications. Then he goes to his sister, forces her to confess, and stirs her not only to repentance but to undertake in her own person to kill the king. After an affecting scene of contrition with her husband she goes off to perform this task. She dismisses the king’s attendants, finds him sleeping, ties his arms to the bed, and then wakening him denounces his lust and cruelty before stabbing him to death. Meanwhile Melantius has seized the fort and holds it to obtain justification from the new king, Lysippus. At the same time Aspatia, eager for death, disguises herself as a youth and goes to Amintor, declaring herself a young brother of Aspatia who is seeking by single combat to avenge her wrongs. Forced at length to fight, Amintor mortally wounds her. At this moment Evadne enters, fresh from the king’s murder, and begs Amintor to receive her as a wife. But he refuses, and Evadne kills herself. The dying Aspatia now reveals her identity and the two lovers are for a moment happily reconciled; but her death speedily follows and Amintor will not survive her. Melantius is prevented from following his example only by force and threatens to die of starvation.  1
  Though over-sensational and lacking in consistency of characterization this play includes situations not only of tremendous theatrical effect but of real tragic pathos and horror.  2

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