(c. 1585-1616)
Francis Beaumont is best known for his partnership with John Fletcher,* chief dramatist, after William Shakespeare's* retirement, to the King's Men. His sa­tiric wit and sensibility differed markedly from Fletcher's, however, and deserve the separate and appreciative notice recent scholarship has afforded them.
Beaumont was born in Leicestershire, England, the third son of a justice of the court of common pleas and a member of a prominent recusant family. Fol­lowing a brief period at Oxford, he entered the Inner Temple, presumably to study his father's profession, but he never became a lawyer. Instead, he began writing satirical verse, ranging from the Ovidian Salamacis and Hermaphroditus (1602) to the biting, even shocking poems on the deaths of acquaintances. His earliest unaided play, The Knight ofthe Burning Pestle (1607), although unsuc­cessful when first presented, was, when published several years later, highly praised. It is today his most popular solo work. In these early works Beaumont's tart and cutting observations of the new and middle-class world around him brought him considerable notice. His detachment may well have been sharpened by his position both as a recusant and a younger son, both conditions having left him outside the path of economic success his position in a well-connected family might otherwise have provided him.
Between 1605 and 1613 Beaumont lived and worked closely with John Fletcher, producing many other dramas, including Philaster, The Maid's Trag­edy, and A King and No King. Their popular collaboration provided a balance between Beaumont's penchant for satire and Fletcher's interest in weightier, more lyrical material. Their work achieved its preeminence in their own time for having articulated on stage what Philip Finkelpearl has called "the inaugu­ration of the postheroic age" during James I's* reign.
In 1613 Beaumont retired from the theater following his marriage to Ursula Isley, an heiress from Kent. Evidently Beaumont suffered an apoplectic attack, or stroke, during that same year and wrote no more afterwards. He fathered two daughters, one born posthumously, and died in 1616. He was only the third poet, after Geoffrey Chaucer and Edmund Spenser,* to be buried in Westminster Abbey.
L. Bliss, Francis Beaumont, 1987.
F. Bowers, ed., The Dramatic Works in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon, 16 vols., 1966-96. P. J. Finkelpearl, Court and Country Politics in the Plays ofBeaumont and Fletcher, 1990.
Robin Farabaugh

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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