Nahum Tate

Definition

Theater

  • (1652 - 1715) Irish-born writer who has been describedas "a poor poet and worse playwright". Despite this handicap,he was appointed poet laureate in 1692 (and historiographer royalin 1702).

    Tate's own works include the farce A Duke and No Duke(1684); he also collaborated with Dryden on the second part of Absolomand Achitophel (1682). He is mostly remembered, however, for hiseccentric adaptations of Shakespeare's plays. When he adapted RichardII as The History of King Richard II (1680), his work wasbanned for emphasizing usurpation and abdication at a time of politicaltension. His response was to move the action to Sicily, retitlingthe word The Sicilian Usurper (1681). Tate's The Ingratitudeof Common-Wealth (1681) was adapted from Coriolanus, butincorporated part of Titus Andronicus in the last act.

    Tate's most infamous adaptation was his rewriting of KingLear (1681), in which he omitted the character of the Fool, allowedCordelia to survive to marry Edgar, and introduced a happy endingwith Lear restored to the throne. This farrago replaced Shakespeare'splay on the British stage for over 150 years, until William Macreadyresurrected the original, at Covent Garden in 1838.

    Although Tate's adaptations were subsequently ridiculed, theywere extremely popular in their day, winning the admiration of DrJohnson amongst others.

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