THIS CHAPTER traces a journey that began for me in 1996 at the Globe Theatre in London when I became dramaturg for a production of Richard Edwards's play, Damon and Pythias. This, the first designated tragicomedy to be written in English, had its likely first performance at court by the children of the Chapel Royal during Christmas 1564–65. It is thus twenty years earlier than Guarini's Il Pastor Fido, and more than forty years earlier than The Faithful Shepherdess, John Fletcher's version of Guarini, and the play with which most critical accounts of tragicomedy in England begin. Edwards's play, by contrast, has nothing whatsoever to do with shepherds. Instead, it owes its genesis and literary theory to the city plays of Terence and Plautus, and to the urbanity of Horace's Defence of Poetry, whose authority is acknowledged and appealed to in the Prologue: ‘If this offend the lookers-on, let Horace then be blamed’ (D&P, Prologue 24). It is, however, set in Sicily which, ever since Theocritus wrote his Idylls, has seemed the natural home of the pastoral poetry with which tragicomedy has been most often associated because of Horace's brief, rule-breaking reference to the allowability of mixing humour and tragedy in satyr plays. Edwards thus seems aware of the issues and negotiates a minefield of classical and contemporary literary theory with wit and aplomb.
My journey progressed via work on The Comedy of Errors and Cymbeline, and this chapter will end with Marlowe's Dr Faustus, but in the bathetic nature of tragicomedy it had its comically cathartic moment while I was driving to work, listening to the radio, when I encountered Evita Bezuidenhout for the first time.