Heres a virtual movie of James Shirley reading his very beautiful and profoundly truthfull poem "Death the leveller". James Shirley (or Sherley) (September, 1596 October, 1666), was an English dramatist. He belonged to the great period of English dramatic literature, but, in Lamb's words, he "claims a place among the worthies of this period, not so much for any transcendent genius in himself, as that he was the last of a great race, all of whom spoke nearly the same language and had a set of moral feelings and notions in common." His career of play writing extended from 1625 to the suppression of stage plays by Parliament in 1642. Shirley was born in London. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, London, St John's College, Oxford, and St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree in or before 1618. James Shirley's first poem, Echo, or the Unfortunate Lovers (of which no copy is known, but which is probably the same as Narcissus of 1646), was published in 1618. After earning his M.A., he was, Wood says, "a minister of God's word in or near St Albans." Apparently in consequence of his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith, he left his living, and was master of St Albans School from 162325. His first play, Love Tricks, seems to have been written while he was teaching at St Albans. He removed in 1625 to London, where he lived in Gray's Inn, and for eighteen years from that time he was a prolific writer for the stage, producing more than thirty regular plays, tragedies, comedies, and tragicomedies, and showing no sign of exhaustion when a stop was put to his occupation by the Puritan edict of 1642. Most of his plays were performed by Queen Henrietta's Men, the playing company for which Shirley served as house dramatist, much as Shakespeare, Fletcher, and Massinger had done for the King's Men. On the outbreak of the English Civil War he seems to have served with the Earl of Newcastle, but when the King's fortunes began to decline he returned to London. He owed something to the kindness of Thomas Stanley, but supported himself chiefly by teaching, publishing some educational works under the Commonwealth. , he did not again attempt to write for the stage. Wood says that he and his second wife died of fright and exposure after the Great Fire of London, and were buried at St Giles in the Fields on 29 October 1666. Shirley was born to great dramatic wealth, and he handled it freely. He constructed his own plots out of the abundance of materials that had been accumulated during thirty years of unexampled dramatic activity. He did not strain after novelty of situation or character, but worked with confident ease and buoyant copiousness on the familiar lines, contriving situations 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.
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Death the Leveller....
The glories of our blood and state Are shadows, not substantial things; There is no armour against Fate; Death lays his icy hand on kings: Sceptre and Crown Must tumble down, And in the dust be equal made With the poor crookèd scythe and spade. Some men with swords may reap the field, And plant fresh laurels where they kill: But their strong nerves at last must yield; They tame but one another still: Early or late They stoop to fate, And must give up their murmuring breath When they, pale captives, creep to death. The garlands wither on your brow, Then boast no more your mighty deeds! Upon Death's purple altar now See where the victor-victim bleeds. Your heads must come To the cold tomb: Only the actions of the just Smell sweet and blossom in their dust