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James Shirley (1596-1666) English dramatist

Dramatist James Shirley was born in London in 1596 and educated at the University of Cambridge. He was a schoolmaster from 1623 and aiming to be a lawyer until the success of his first play Love Tricks, or the School of Compliment in 1625.

During the first days of the Civil War Shirley attended his patron, the Duke of Newcastle, on some of the Royalist campaigns, but after the defeat at Marston Moor he returned to his former profession of school-teaching. In 1642 the Puritan suppression of the theatre definitively ended his playwright career. Until then he came to about 40 plays. They are considered a link between Renaissance drama and Restoration drama, bearing an extremely close and interesting relationship to that of his fellows while at the same time, it anticipates much of the material and characters of the Restoration, if not its spirit.

Shirley's best works are his comedies, which are noted for their fantasy and clever satire. They include The Witty Fair One (1628) and The Lady of Pleasure (1635). He also wrote The Traitor (1631) and The Cardinal (1641), two tragedies, and a masque called The Triumph of Peace (1634), which was performed at the Inns of Court with scenery by Inigo Jones, England's first major architect and designer, and music by William Lawes.

James Shirley died in 1666 from exposure to the Great Fire.

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