HEROD. The tragic figure of Herod the Great is one of the favorite traditions of litera ture. History tells us that he was ambitious. Josephus in his 'Antiquities of the Jews' (xv), tells of his tragic love for Mariamne, his wife, but makes no reference to the Gospel story of the massacre of the Innocents. In the 5th cen tury Macrobeus accepts some features of the biblical narrative and augments them by telling that two of Herod's own children were lost in the massacre. Modern writers, among whom were Alexander, Hardy, Voltaire and Hebbel have used such strains of the story as pleased them. In the miracles of the Middle Ages Herod was a ranting figure whose excesses ex plain Hamlet's words aout-Herod's In writing his version of the Herod story for the first year of the 20th century Stephen Phillips places greatest weight on the great king's in fatuation for his wife and fear of losing his kingdom. The victim of Herod's murderous in trigue is in his play the young brother of Mariamne, Aristobulus. • By means of this shift in characters the poet was able to combine the two strains of the Herod tradition. The in genuity the playwright displays in the handling of his situation is equaled by the dramatic skill with which the story is put forth on the stage. The play is vigorous, crisp and poetic. Herod Is a bluff and sympathetic figure. The love passages between Herod and Mariamne offer some of the rarest poetry of the modern theatre. They are full of dramatic prescience. Before
writing plays in verse for the modern stage Phillips had been benefited by two types of ex perience. He had made himself a distinguished poet and in the traveling troupe of his cousin F. R. Benson he had secured abundant experi ence the practice of the theatre in its more romantic and symbolic orders. Well as it reads Herod is in no sense a closet play. It was written for production. Its single scene, vary ing only by the change of light from morning to night and the placing and removal of a few stage properties, its effective use of the 'instru ments of sight and sound, bespeak the experi enced playwright. It is said that it was the poet's use of the sound of trumpets that decided Tree to accept the play for production. Though Herod is a great stage play it takes but a small place in the history of the modern English theatre. For some years reformers had been _press agenting a return to the poetic drama. George Alexander had in 1899 commissioned Phillips to write a play on the Paola and Francesca theme. Before this play could be produced and while it was in the height of its popularity in its published form Beerbohm Tree accepted and produced at His Majesty's Theatre, 31 Oct. 1900, the same poet's 'Herod.' The play did not have a long run. In 1909 the play was given a creditable production by Faversham at the Lyric Theatre in New York.