Nahum Tate, Irish poet, hymnist, and lyricist, who becomes Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 1692, dies on July 30, 1715. Tate is best known for The History of King Lear, his 1681 adaptation of William Shakespeare‘s King Lear.
Tate is born in Dublin in 1652 and comes from a family of Puritan clergymen. He is the son of Faithful Teate, an Irish clergyman who was rector of Castleterra, Ballyhaise, until his house is burned and his family attacked after he passes on information to the government about plans for the Irish Rebellion of 1641. After living at the provost’s lodgings in Trinity College, Dublin, Faithful Teate moves to England. He becomes the incumbent at East Greenwich around 1650, and “preacher of the gospel” at Sudbury from 1654 to 1658 before returning to Dublin by 1660. He publishes a poem on the Trinity entitled Ter Tria, as well as some sermons, two of which he dedicates to Oliver and Henry Cromwell.
Nahum Teate follows his father to Trinity College, Dublin in 1668, and graduates BA in 1672. By 1676 he moves to London and is writing for a living. He publishes a volume of poems in London in 1677 and becomes a regular writer for the stage. He also adopts the spelling Tate, which remains until his death.
Tate then turns to make a series of adaptations from Elizabethan dramas. His version of William Shakespeare’s Richard II alters the names of the characters and changes the text so that every scene, to use his own words, is “full of respect to Majesty and the dignity of courts.” In spite of these precautions The Sicilian Usurper (1681), as his rewrite is called, is suppressed on the third performance on account of a possible political interpretation.
In 1682, Tate collaborates with John Dryden to complete the second half of his epic poem Absalom and Achitophel. Tate also writes the libretto for Henry Purcell‘s opera Dido and Aeneas, which is given its first known performance in 1689. Tate’s name is also connected with the famous New Version of the Psalms of David (1696), for which he collaborates with Nicholas Brady.
Nahum Tate dies in Southwark, London, England, on July 30, 1715 and is buried at St. George Southwark on August 1, 1715.