Elkanah Settle (
January 1, 1648– February 12, 1724), was an English poetand playwright.
He was born at
Dunstable, and entered Trinity College, Oxford, in 1666, but left without taking a degree. His first tragedy, "Cambyses, King of Persia", was produced at Lincoln's Inn Fieldsin 1667. The success of this play led the earl of Rochester to encourage the new writer as a rival to John Dryden. Through his influence, Settle's "Empress of Morocco" (1673) was twice performed at Whitehall, and proved a great success. It is said by John Dennisto have been "the first play that was ever sold in England for two shillings, and the first play that was ever printed with cuts." These illustrations represent scenes in the theatre, and make the book very valuable.
The play was printed with a preface to the Earl of Norwich, in which Settle described with scorn the effusive dedications of other dramatic poets. Dryden was obviously aimed at, and he co-operated with
John Crowneand Thomas Shadwellin an abusive pamphletentitled "Notes and Observations on the Empress of Morocco" (1674), to which Settle replied in "Some Notes and Observations on the Empress of Morocco revised" (1674). In the second part of "Absalom and Achitophel", in a passage certainly by Dryden's hand, he figures as "Doeg."
Neglected by the court party he took an active share in the anti-popish agitation. When this subsided he helped expose
Titus Oates, and with the Revolution of 1688, he veered towards the Whig party. Having lost the confidence of both sides, "recanting Settle" abandoned politics for the appointment (1691) of city poet. In his old age he kept a booth at Bartholomew Fair, where he is said to have played the part of the dragon in a green leather suit devised by himself. He became a poor brother of the Charterhouse, where he died.
Settle's numerous works include, beside numerous political pamphlets and occasional poems:
*"Ibrahim, the Illustrious Bassa" (1676), a tragedy taken from
Madeleine de Scudéry's romance
*"The Female Prelate: being the History of the Life and Death of Pope Joan" (1680), a tragedy
*"The Ambitious Slave: or A Generous Revenge" (1694)
*"The World in the Moon" (1697), an
opera, of which the first scene was formed by a moon fourteen feet across
*"The Virgin Prophetess, or The Fate of Troy" (1701), an opera.
* [http://www.letrs.indiana.edu/cgi-bin/eprosed/eprosed-idx?type=boolean;layer=2;rgn1=period;q1=Res&size=100&slice=2 Settle Plays Online.]
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