Nahum Tate - Encyclopedia

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NAHUM TATE (1652-1715), English poet laureate and playwright, was born in Dublin in 1652. He was the son of Faithful Teate (as the name was spelt), who wrote a quaint poem on the Trinity entitled Ter Tria. Nahum Tate was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, graduating B.A. in 1672. He published a volume of poems in London in 1677, and became a regular writer for the stage. Brutus of Alba, or The Enchanted Lovers (1678), a tragedy dealing with Dido and Aeneas, and The Loyal General (1680), were followed by a series of adaptations from Elizabethan dramas. In Shakespeare's Richard II. he altered the names of the personages, and changed the text so that every scene, to use his own words, was "full of respect to Majesty and the dignity of courts"; but in spite of these precautions The Sicilian Usurper (1681) was suppressed on the third representation on account of a possible political interpretation. King Lear (1687) was fitted with a happy ending in a marriage between Cordelia and Edgar; and Coriolanus became the Ingratitude of a Commonwealth (1682). From John Fletcher he adapted The Island Princess (1687); from Chapman and Marston's Eastward Ho he derived the Cuckold's Haven (1685); from John Webster's White Devil he took Injured Love, or The Cruel Husband (pr. 1707); and Sir Aston Cockayne's Trappolin suppos'd a Prince he imitated in Duke and no Duke (1685). Tate's name is chiefly connected with these mangled versions of other men's plays and with the famous New Version of the Psalms of David (1696), in which he collaborated with Nicholas Brady. A supplement was licensed in 1703. Some of these hymns, notably "While Shepherds watched," and "As pants the hart," rise above the general dull level, and are said to be Tate's work.

Tate was commissioned by Dryden to write the Second Part of Absalom and Achitophel. The portraits of Elkanah Settle and Thomas Shadwell, however, are attributed to Dryden, who probably also put the finishing touches to the poem. Of his numerous poems the most original is Panacea, a poem on Tea (1700). In spite of his consistent Toryism, he succeeded Shadwell as poet laureate in 1692. He died within the precincts of the Mint, Southwark, where he had taken refuge from his creditors, on the 12th of August 1715.

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