From Classic Encyclopedia 1911
PEERAGE (Fr. pairage, med. Lat. paragium; M.E. Pere, O. Fr. per, peer, later pair; Lat. Paris, " equal"). Although in England the terms "peerage," "nobility," "House of Lords" are in common parlance frequently regarded as synonymous, in reality each expresses a different meaning. A man may be a peer and yet not a member of the House of Lords, a member of the House of Lords and yet not strictly a peer; though all peers (as the term is now understood) are members of the House of Lords either or in posse. In the United Kingdom the rights, duties and privileges of peerage are centred in an individual; to the monarchial nations of the Continent nobility conveys the idea of family, as opposed to personal, privilege.
Etymologically "peers" are "equals" (pares), and in Anglo. Norman days the word was invariably so understood. The feudal tenants-in-chief of the Crown were all the explanation, "whom some Zabeta call." The Famous Chronicle of King Edward the first, sirnamed Edward Longshankes, with his returne from the holy land. Also the life of Lleuellen, rebell in Wales. Lastly, the sinking of Queen Elinor, who suncke at Charingcrosse, and rose again at Potters-hith, now named Queenehith (printed 1 593). This "chronicle history," formless enough, as the rambling title shows, is nevertheless an advance on the old chronicle plays, and marks a step towards the Shakespearian historical drama. The Battell of Alcazar - with the death of Captaine Stukeley (acted 1588-1589, printed 1 594), published anonymously, is attributed with much probability to Peele. The Old Wives Tale, registered in Stationers' Hall, perhaps more correctly, as "The Owlde wifes tale" (printed 1595), was followed by The Love of King David and fair Bethsabe (written c. 1588, printed 1 599), which is notable as an example of Elizabethan drama drawn entirely from scriptural sources. Mr Fleay sees in it a political satire, and identifies Elizabeth and Leicester as David and Bathsheba, Mary Queen of Scots as Absalom. Sir Clyomon and Sir Clamydes (printed 1599) has been attributed to Peele, but on insufficient grounds. Among his occasional poems are "The Honour of the Garter," which has a prologue containing Peele's judgments on his contemporaries, and "Polyhymnia" (1590), a blank-verse description of the ceremonies attending the retirement of the queen's champion, Sir Henry Lee. This is concluded by the "Sonnet," "His golden locks time hath to silver turn'd," quoted by Thackeray in the 76th chapter of The Newcomes. To the Phoenix Nest in 1593 he contributed "The Praise of Chastity." Mr F. G. Fleay (Biog. Chron. of the Drama) credits Peele with The Wisdom of Doctor Doddipoll (printed 1600), Wily Beguiled (printed 1606), The Life and Death of Jack Straw, a notable rebel (1587?), a share in the First and Second Parts of VI., and on the authority of Wood and Winstanley, Alphonsus, Emperor of Germany. Peele belonged to the group of university scholars who, in Greene's phrase, "spent their wits in making playes." Greene went on to say that he was "in some things rarer, in nothing inferior," to Marlowe. Nashe in his preface to Greene's Menapiton called him "the chief supporter of pleasance now living, the Atlas of Poetrie and primus verborum artifex, whose first encrease, the Arraignment of Paris, might plead to your opinions his pregnant dexteritie of wit and manifold varietie of invention, wherein (me judice) hee goeth a step beyond all that write." This praise was not unfounded. The credit given to Greene and Marlowe for the increased dignity of English dramatic diction, and for the new smoothness infused into blank verse, must certainly be shared by Peele. Professor F. B. Gummere, in a critical essay prefixed to his edition of The Old Wives Tale, puts in another claim for Peele. In the contrast between the romantic story and the realistic dialogue he sees the first instance of humour quite foreign to the comic "business" of earlier comedy. The Old Wives Tale is a play within a play, slight enough to be perhaps better described as an interlude. Its background of rustic folk-lore gives it additional interest, and there is much fun poked at Gabriel Harvey and Stanyhurst. Perhaps Huanebango, 1 who parodies Harvey's hexameters, and actually quotes him on one occasion, may be regarded as representing that arch-enemy of Greene and his friends.
Peele's Works were edited by Alexander Dyce (1828,1829-1839and 1861); by A. H. Bullen (2 vols., 1888). An examination of the metrical peculiarities of his work is to be found in F. A. R. L4mmerhirt's Georg Peele, Untersuchungen fiber sein Leben and seine Werke (Rostock, 1882). See also Professor F. B. Gummere, in Representative English Comedies (1903); and an edition of The Battell of Alcazar, printed for the Malone Society in 1907.