London: Printed by Richard Oulton for Charles Greene, 1637.
Quarto: 17.3 x 13 cm.  p. Collation: A-K4. (-final blank K4)
Bound in 19th c. calf, with the gilt arms of Frederick Perkins on the boards, edges of boards gilt (binding rebacked preserving spine with some chipping, discoloration at the board edges.) The text is in fine condition, with just a mended tear to leaf H3 without loss and another small tear mended in the blank margin of the title; title a little dusty, verso of final leaf lightly soiled. Woodcut printer’s device on title page; attractive woodcut ornament at head of text on B1.
First edition of Nabbes’ historical drama examining hubris and virtue against the backdrop of the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage. Contemporary productions of this play likely utilized perspective scenery. This edition is important for the inclusion of a printed cast list, making it one of the few plays in English Renaissance drama for which cast information exists.
The Roman general Scipio Africanus (236/235–c. 183 BC) gained immortal fame for masterminding the Roman victory against the Carthaginians, led by the equally-famous Hannibal (247-c.183/181 BC) at the decisive Battle of Zama. The defeat resulted in the capitulation of the Carthaginians, marking the end of the Second Punic War.
“Nabbes' account of the two ancient generals of the title is drawn primarily from Livy and from North's translation of Plutarch. As in Nabbes's earlier comedies there is a contrast between the brave and temperate Scipio and the conflicted Hannibal, whose initial virtue is ultimately undermined by sins of the flesh. ‘Hannibal and Scipio’ differed from Nabbes's early comedies not just in its subject matter but in its probable use of perspective scenery and its increased use of song and dance.” (ODNB) In the prologue, Nabbes mentions the music and changing scenery used during the play:
The places sometimes chang'd too for the Scene.
Which is translated as the musick playes
Betwixt the acts.
“Thematically, ‘Hannibal and Scipio’ is concerned with the nature of virtue and proper human conduct. The ultimate source for Nabbes's Neoplatonic philosophy is Cicero. Nabbes maintains the Ciceronian distinction between political and contemplative virtues, and he differentiates his two heroes on the basis of this distinction. The result is that Scipio is revealed as an epic hero, Hannibal as a tragic hero, and the play as an attempt at a kind of ‘epic tragedy.’
“Nabbes depicts Hannibal as a man whose pride and ambition can pervert political virtue so that the desire for earthly fame comes to override concern for one's country, and a man thus blinded is prey to ingratitude and Fortune. When he receives word of his recall, Hannibal admits his ambition for earthly fame:
Must I then leave
Rome unsubverted? So a man that strives
To make himselfe eternall by erecting
Of some stupendious monument, is forc't
To his last quiet e're the work be perfect,
Leaving it but a lame and halfe designe
Of his ambition.
“Hannibal considers himself ‘built for fame’. In his pride, he sees himself ‘a Colossus to be gaz'd at / By all beneath me’. Scipio rejects the temptation to seek worldly glory because he looks upon this life and his physical body as imperfect imitations of the eternal life of the spirit:
From outward accidents should not derive
The knowledge of himselfe: for so hee's made
The creature of beginnings over which
His vertue may command: Fortune and chance.
When he by speculation hath inform'd
His divine part hee's perfect; and 'till then
But a rough matter, onely capable
Of better forme. (264)
“Scipio’s decision to retire, then, becomes an affirmation of this philosophy.” (Vince 327-43)
“By the early 1630s Nabbes had settled in London and started to write plays for the professional theatre. He is generally considered one of the ‘sons of Ben’, and while there is no evidence that he knew Ben Jonson personally his work shows Jonson's strong influence. In addition to his dramatic works, Nabbes wrote numerous commendatory verses for his literary friends. At some point Nabbes married a woman named Bridget and they settled in London. He was buried in St Giles on 6 April 1641, and the following year the parish granted 1s. for poor relief to 'Mrs. Mabbs, a poet's wife, her husband being dead'.” (ODNB).
STC 18341; Greg II 513; Pforzheimer 755; ESTC S113063