Michael Drayton was born at Hartshill in Warwickshire in 1563. As a youth, he became page to Sir Henry Goodeere of Polesworth,
who is to be credited for Drayton's education. Drayton fell in love with Sir Henry's daughter, Anne, who served as an inspiration
for 'Idea'. Goodeere also introduced Drayton to the 'patroness of poets', Lucy, Countess of Bedford,
to whom Drayton's Mortimeriados is dedicated. Little else is known of Drayton's early years, though it has been suggested
that he may have served in the army, before settling down in London in 1590.1
Drayton's career as a poet was long: from his first published work in 1591 to his last in 1630.
Drayton constantly revised his works, rewriting and reissuing them, sometimes under different titles. His first published
work was Harmonie of the Church (1591), a metrical rendering of scriptural
passages, rife with alliteration. Soon thereafter Drayton, a disciple of Edmund Spenser, wrote
Idea, the Shepherd's Garland (1593), consisting of nine eclogues, or pastoral
verse dialogues. Drayton revised and reissued it in 1606.
Next, Drayton published the historical poems Peirs Gaveston (1593),
and Matilda (1594). Drayton used Holinshed as one of the sources.
Idea's Mirror (1594) is a collection of love sonnets, the first version of his
later sonnet sequence Idea. In 1595 Drayton published
Endymion and Phoebe, one of the sources for Keats' Endymion.
Endymion and Phoebe is an epyllion, an erotic treatment of mythological narratives. It, too, was later revised
and reissued as The Man in the Moon (1606 and 1619).
In 1596, Drayton published Robert, Duke of Normandy
(revised 1605 and 1619), a legend. In it, Fame and Fortune tell Robert's story in the presence of Robert's ghost. In the
same year, 1596, Drayton also published the historical poem Mortimeriados,
which underwent an extensive rewriting and reappeared as The Barons' Wars in 1603. Both versions owe a debt to
Marlowe's Edward II. The first was in rhyme royal, a series of scenes, the latter in
ottava rima, several hundred lines longer and more serious in tone and in its interest in the nature of civil war.
The Barons' Wars was itself revised in 1619.
One of Drayton's finest works, England's Heroical Epistles (1597), a collection
of verse letters by lovers, earned Drayton the title of 'our English Ovid'.2 The work
was in the model of Ovid's Heroides, but instead of mythological lovers, Drayton's lovers were figures from
Drayton's only extant play, The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle (1600), played on
the popularity of Falstaff from Shakespeare's plays. It may have been a collaboration, like the now lost plays of which
only records survive.
Drayton's Poems Lyric and Pastoral (1606) was the first to introduce imitations of
Horace's Odes. The collection contains the odes To
the Virginian Voyage and The Battle of Agincourt. Drayton's masterpiece,
however, is Poly-Olbion (1612 and 1622), a thirty-thousand-line historical-geographical poem celebrating
all the counties of England and Wales.3
In 1627 appeared The Battle of Agincourt, an attempt at epic, The Miseries of
Queen Margaret, and Nymphidia, the Court of Fairy, Drayton's most popular
work. Nymphidia is a mock-heroic series of fairy poems, or 'Nimphalls'1, much
influenced by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Drayton's last published work,
The Muses' Elizium, is a return to the pastoral.
Michael Drayton died in London on December 2, 1631. He was buried in Westminster Abbey
under a monument with an epitaph by Ben Jonson commissioned by the Countess of Dorset.
- Gosse, Edmund. "Michael Drayton." The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. Available Online.
- The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. Ian Ousby, Ed.
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993. 273.
- The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Sixth Edition, Vol 1.
New York, W. W. Norton & Co., 1993.
Berthelot, Joseph A., Michael
Brink, Jean R. Michael Drayton revisited (1990)
Drayton, Michael, Works of Michael Drayton, ed. by J. William
Hebel, et al., 6 vols. (1961)
Elton, Oliver. Michael
Drayton, A Critical Study (1905; repr. 1966)
Hardin, Richard F. Michael Drayton and the Passing of Elizabethan
Harner, James L. Samuel Daniel and Michael Drayton: A Reference
Jafri, S. Naqi Husain. Aspects of Drayton's Poetry (1981)
Westling, Louise H., The Evolution of Michael Drayton's Idea
Whitaker, Lemuel. Michael Drayton as a dramatist (1903)
Jokinen, Anniina. "Life of Michael Drayton." Luminarium.
5 Feb 2007. [Date you accessed this article].
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