“UPON AN HONEST MAN’S FORTUNE” BY JOHN FLETCHER:REVISION NOTES FOR WAEC/NECO LITERATURE EXAMS (125)

BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN FLETCHER

Quick Facts

NAME: John Fletcher
OCCUPATION: PlaywrightBIRTH DATE: c. December 20, 1579
DEATH DATE: August 29, 1625
EDUCATION: Corpus Christi College
PLACE OF BIRTH: Rye, England
PLACE OF DEATH: London, England

Early life

Fletcher was born in December 1579 (baptised 20 December) in Rye, Sussex, and died of the plague in August 1625 (buried 29 August in St. Saviour’s, Southwark). His father Richard Fletcher was an ambitious and successful cleric who was in turn Dean of Peterborough, Bishop of Bristol, Bishop of Worcester, and Bishop of London (shortly before his death) as well as chaplain to Queen Elizabeth. As dean of Peterborough, Richard Fletcher, at the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, at Fotheringay “knelt down on the scaffold steps and started to pray out loud and at length, in a prolonged and rhetorical style as though determined to force his way into the pages of history”. He cried out at her death, “So perish all the Queen’s enemies!”

Richard Fletcher died shortly after falling out of favour with the queen, over a marriage the queen had advised against. He appears to have been partly rehabilitated before his death in 1596; however, he died substantially in debt. The upbringing of John Fletcher and his seven siblings was entrusted to his paternal uncle Giles Fletcher, a poet and minor official. His uncle’s connections ceased to be a benefit, and may even have become a liability, after the rebellion of the Earl of Essex, who had patronised him.

Fletcher appears to have entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University in 1591, at the age of eleven.[1] It is not certain that he took a degree, but evidence suggests that he was preparing for a career in the church. Little is known about his time at college, but he evidently followed the same path previously trod by the University wits before him, from Cambridge to the burgeoning commercial theatre of London.

Collaborations with Beaumont

In 1606, he began to appear as an author for the Children of the Queen’s Revels, then performing at the Blackfriars Theatre. Commendatory verses by Richard Brome in the Beaumont and Fletcher 1647 folio place Fletcher in the company of Ben Jonson; a comment of Jonson’s to Drummond corroborates this claim, although it is not known when this friendship began. At the beginning of his career, his most important association was with Francis Beaumont. The two wrote together for close to a decade, first for the children and then for the King’s Men. According to a legend transmitted or invented by John Aubrey, they also lived together (in Bankside), sharing clothes and having “one wench in the house between them.” This domestic arrangement, if it existed, was ended by Beaumont’s marriage in 1613, and their dramatic partnership ended after Beaumont fell ill, probably of a stroke, the same year.
Successor to Shakespeare

By this time, Fletcher had moved into a closer association with the King’s Men. He is commonly assumed to have collaborated with Shakespeare on Henry VIII, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and the lost Cardenio, which is probably (according to modern scholarly consensus) the basis for Lewis Theobald’s play Double Falsehood. A play he wrote singly around this time, The Woman’s Prize or the Tamer Tamed, is a sequel to The Taming of the Shrew. In 1616, after Shakespeare’s death, Fletcher appears to have entered into an exclusive arrangement with the King’s Men similar to Shakespeare’s. Fletcher wrote only for that company between the death of Shakespeare and his own death nine years later. He never lost his habit of collaboration, working with Nathan Field and later with Philip Massinger, who succeeded him as house playwright for the King’s Men. His popularity continued unabated throughout his life; during the winter of 1621, three of his plays were performed at court. He died in 1625, apparently of the plague. He seems to have been buried in what is now Southwark Cathedral, although the precise location is not known; there is a reference by Aston Cockayne to a single grave for Fletcher and Massinger (also buried in Southwark).

His mastery is most notable in two dramatic types, tragicomedy and comedy of manners, both of which exerted a pervasive influence on dramatists in the reign of Charles I and during the Restoration.

  "UPON AN HONEST MAN'S FORTUNE" BY JOHN FLETCHER:REVISION NOTES FOR WAEC/NECO LITERATURE EXAMS (125) THEME:SHOULD ASTROLOGISTS BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE TELLING THE FUTURE OF MAN?

The poem dwells on the Omniscient  nature of God against the belief of dependence on stars and fortune tellers and therefore condemns those that contend with God as shallow minded and should be ignored, hence whatever happens is best known to God.

Upon an Honest Man’s Fortune, is more than worthy of its place at the end of the comedy which bears that name. In it we seem to come nearer than usual to the poet himself, who probably knew too much of “want, the curse of man,” but never lost heart or belief in himself, and who has here described with admirable strength, what Goethe afterwards felt so keenly, the self-sufficience of the mind and its superiority to fortune.

Man is his own star, and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late;
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.

These are fine lines, and there are others in the poem as good; yet we should hardly be willing to exchange one of the best of the plays for them.

THEMES AND FIGURES OF SPEECH

THEMES: Man as the image and prime creature of GOD, Honesty is d surest path to perfection, Belief in one self and ur ow n abilities, Trust in GOD and d power of his providence, Disregard for Astrologers and Spiritualists. [ [ Poetic [ [ Devices: Metaphor- Line 5 and 37, Simile- Line 18 and 28, Alliteration- Line 17 and 20, Elusion- Lines 26-27, Paradox- Line 25, Line 61-62, Personification- Line 2 and Lines 79-82, Symbols- Many words like Light, Morning, Stars, Night, Love were used in the poem

THEMES

Man as the image and prime creature of GOD

Honesty is d surest path to perfection

Belief in one self and ur ow n abilities

Trust in GOD and d power of his providence

Disregard for Astrologers and Spiritualists.

Poetic Devices

Metaphor- Line 5 and 37

Simile- Line 18 and 28

Alliteration- Line 17 and 20

Elusion- Lines 26-27

Paradox- Line 25, Line 61-62

Personification- Line 2 and Lines 79-82

Symbols- Many words like Light, Morning, Stars, Night, Love were used in the poem

TO BE CONTINUED