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Ham. Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? Are they so followed?
Ros. No, indeed, they are not.
Ros. Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace : But there is, sir, an aiery of children,7 little eyases, that
for their abuses, could not be raised but by conjuring:" Shew en. ters, whipped by two furies, and the prologue says to her:
with tears wash off that guilty sin,
“ spare the persons," &c. Alteration, therefore, in the order of the words, seems to be quite unnecessary. Steerens.
There will still, however, remain some difficulty. The statute 39 Eliz. ch. 4, which seems to be alluded to by the words--their inhibition, was not made to inhihit the players from acting any longer at an established theatre, but to prohibit them from strolling “ All fencers, (says the act,) bearwards, common players of enterludes, and minstrels, wandering abroad, (other than players of enterludes, belonging to any baron of this realm or any other honourable personage of greater degree, to be authorized to play under the hand and seal of arms of such baron or personage,) shall be taken, adjudged, and deemed rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars, and shall sustain such pain and punishments as by this act is in that behalf appointed.”
This statute, if alluded to, is repugnant to Dr. Johnson's transposition of the text, and to Mr. Steevens's explanation of it as it now stands. Yet Mr. Steevens's explanation may be right: Shaks. peare might not have thought of the act of Elizabeth. He could not, however, mean to charge his friends the old tragedians with the new custom of introducing personal abuse; but must rather have meant, that the old tragedians were inhibited from performing in the city, and obliged to trarel, on account of the misconduct of the younger company. See note 7. Malone.
By the late innovation, it is probable that Rosencrantz means, the late change of government. The word innovation is used in the same sense in The Triumph of Love, in Fletcher's Four moral Representations in One, where Cornelia says to Rinaldo: . 66
and in poor habits clad. " (You fed, and the innovation laid aside).” And in Fletcher's (Shirley's) play of The Coronation, after Leo. natus is proclaimed king, Lysander says to Philocles:
“What dost thou think of this innovation.?” M. Mason. of Ham. How comes it? &c.] The lines enclosed in cro'chets are in the folio of 1623, but not in any of the quartos. Foh son.
? an aiery of children, &c.] Relating to the play-houses cry out on the top of question, and are most tyrannically
then contending, the Bankside, the Fortune, &c. played by the children of his majesty's chapel. Pope.
It relates to the young singing men of the chapel royal, or St. Paul's, of the former of whom perhaps the earliest mention occurs in an anonymous puritanical pamphlet, 1569, entitled The Children of the Chapel stript and whipt: “ Plaies will neuer be supprest, while her maiesties unfledged minions flaunt it in silkes and sattens. They had as well be at their popish seruice in the deuils garments," &c.--Again, ibid: “ Euen in her maiesties chapel do these pretty upstart youthes profane the Lordes day by the lasciuious writhing of their tender limbes, and gorgeous decking of their apparell, in feigning bawdie fables gathered from the idolatrous heathen poets,” &c.
Concerning the performances and success of the latter in at. tracting the best company, I also find the following passage in Fack Drun's Entertainment, or Pasquil and Katherine, 1601:
“ I saw the children of Powles last night;
“ Tis a good gentle audience,” &c. It is said in Richard Flecknoe's Short Discourse of the English Stage, 1664, that “ both the children of the chappel and St. Paul's, acted playes, the one in White-Friers, the other behinde the Convocation-house in Paul's; till people growing more precise, and playes more licentious, the theatre of Paul's was quite supprest, and that of the children of the chappel converted to the use of the children of the revels.” Steevens.
The suppression to which Flecknoe alludes took place in the year 1583-4; but afterwards both the children of the chapel and of the Revels played at our author's play-house in Blackfriars, and elsewhere : and the choir-boys of St. Paul's at their own house. A certain number of the children of the Revels, I believe, belonged to each of the principal theatres.
Qur author cannot be supposed to direct any satire at those young men who played occasionally at his own theatre. Ben Jonson's Cynthia's Revels, and his Poetaster, were performed there by the children of Queen Elizabeth's chapel, in 1600 and 1601; and Eastward Hoe by the children of the revels, in 1604 or 1605. I have no doubt therefore, that the dialogue before us was pointed at the choir-boys of St. Paul's, who in 1601 acted two of Marston's plays, Antonio and Mellido, and Antonio's Revenge. Many of Lyly's plays were represented by them about the same time; and in 1607, Chapman's Bussy d'Ambois was performed by them with great applause. It was probably in this and some
clapped for 't: these are now the fashion; and so berattle
other noisy tragedies of the same kind, that they cry'd out on the top of question, and were most tyrannically clapp'd for 't.
At a later period indeed, after our poet's death, the Children of the Revels had an established theatre of their own, and some disa pute seems to have arisen between them and the king's compa. ny. They performed regularly in 1623, and for eight years afterwards, at the Red Bull in St. John's street; and in 1627, Shakspeare's company obtained an inhibition from the Master of the Revels to prevent their performing any of his plays at their house: as appears from the following entry in Sir Henry Herbert's Office-book, already mentioned: “ From Mr. Heminge, in their company's name, to forbid the playinge of any of Shakspeare's playes in the Red Bull company, this 11th of April, 1627,-5 0 0.". From other passages in the same book it appears that the Children of the Revels composed the Red-Bull com. pany.
We learn from Heywood's Apology for Actors, that the little eyases here mentioned were the persons who were guilty of the late innovation, or practice of introducing personal abuse on the stage, and perhaps for their particular fault the players in general suffered; and the older and more decent coinedians, as well as the children, had on some recent occasion been inhibited from acting in London, and compelled to turn strollers. This supposition will make the words, concerning which a difficulty has been stated, (see n. 5,) perfectly clear. Heywood's Apology for Actors, was published in 1612; the passage therefore which is found in the folio, and not in the quarto, was probably added not very long before that time.
"Now to speake (says Heywood,) of some abuse lately crept into the quality, as an inveighing against the state, the court, the law, the citty, and their governments, with the particularizing of pri. vate mens humours, yet alive, noblemen and others, I know it distastes many; neither do I any way approve it, nor dare I by any means excuse it. The liberty which some arrogate to themselves, committing their bitterness and liberal invectives against all estates to the mouthes of children, supposing their juniority to be a priviledge for any rayling, be it never so violent, I could advise all such to curbe, and limit this presumed liberty within the bands of discretion and government. But wise and judicial censurers before whom such complaints shall at any time hereafter come, will not, I hope, impute these abuses to any transgression in us, who have ever been carefull and provident to shun the like”
Prynne in his Histriomastix, speaking of the state of the stage, about the year 1620, has this passage : “Not to particularise those late new scandalous invective playes, wherein sundry persons of place and eminence (Gundemore, the late lord acimiral, lord treasurer, and others,] have been particularly personated, jeared, abused in a gross and scurrilous manner,” &c.
the common stages, (so they call them) that many, wearing rapiers, are afraid of goose quills, and dare scarce come thither.
Ham. What, are they children? who maintains them? how are they escoted? Will they pursue the quality no
The folio, 1623, has-berattled. The correction was made by the editor of the second folio.
Since this note was written, I have met with a passage in a letter from Mr. Samuel Calvert to Mr. Winwood, dated March 28, 1605, which might lead us to suppose that the words found: only in the folio were added at that time:
" The plays do not forbear to present upon the stage the whole course of this present time, not sparing the king, state, or religion, in so great absurdity, and with such liberty that any would be afraid to hear them.” Meinorials, Vol. II, p. 54.
Malone. 8 little eyases, that cry out on the top of question,] Little eyases ; i. e. young nestlings, creatures just out of the egg.
Theobald. The Booke of Haukying, &c. bl. I. no date, seems to offer another etymology: “ And so bycause the best knowledge is by the eye, they be called eyessed. Ye may also know an eyesse by the paleness of the seres of her legges, or the sere over the beake.”
Steevens. From ey, Teut. ovum, q. d. qui recens ex ovo emersit. Skinner, Etymol. An aiery or eyrie, as it ought rather to be written, is derived from the same root, and signifies both a young brood of hawks, and the nest itself in which they are produced.
An eyas hawk is sometimes written a nyas hawk, perhaps from a corruption that has happened in many words in our language, from the latter » passing from the end of one word to the beginning of another. However, some etymologists think nyas a legitimate word. Malone.
- cry out on the top of question, ] The meaning seems to be, they ask a common question in the highest note of the voice.
Johnson. I believe question, in this place, as in many others, signifies conversation, dialogue. So, in The Merchant of Venice: “ Think, you question with a Jew." The meaning of the passage may therefore be-Children that perpetually recite in the highest notes of voice that can be uttered. Steevens.
When we ask a question, we generally end the sentence with a high note. I believe, therefore, that what Rosencrantz means to say is, that these children declaim, through the whole of their parts, in the high note commonly used at the end of a question, and are applauded for it. M. Mason.
escoted?] Paid. From the French escot, a shot or reckoning. Johnson.
longer than they can sing ?1 will they not say afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common players, (as it is most like, if their means are no better, their writers do them wrong,' to make them exciaim against their own succession?
Ros. 'Faith, there has been much to do on both sides; and the nation holds it no sin, to tarre them on to controversy :* there was, for a while, no money bid for argument, unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in the question.
Ham. Is it possible? Guil. O, there has been much throwing about of brains.
Ham. Do the boys carry it away?
Ros. Ay, that they do, my lord; Hercules and his load too.s]
1 Will they pursue the quality no longer than they can sing?] Will they follow the profession of players no longer than they keep the voices of boys, and sing in the choir ? So afterwards, he says to the player, Come, give us a taste of your quality; come, a passion. ate speech. Johnson.
So, in the players' Dedication, prefixed to the first edition of Fletcher's plays in folio, 1647 : “ — directed by the example of some who once steered in our quality, and so fortunately aspired to chuse your honour, joined with your now glorified brother, patrons to the flowing compositions of the then expired sweet swan of Avon, Shakspeare.” Again, in Gosson's School of Abuse, 1579: “ I speak not of this, as though every one of the players) that professeth the qualitie, so abused himself, -"
“ Than they can sing," does not merely mean, “ than they keep the voices of boys,” but is to be understood literally. He is speaking of the choir-boys of St. Paul's. Malone.
2- most like,] The old copy reads-like most. Steevens. The correction was made by Mr. Pope. Malone.
3 - their writers do them wrong, &c.] I should have been very much surprised if I had not found Ben Jonson among the writers here alluded to. Steevens.
4- to tarre them on to controversy:] To provoke any animal to rage, is to tarre him. The word is said to come from the Greek tapdrow Johnson. So, already, in King Fohn:
“ Like a dog, that is compelled to fight,
“ Snatch at his master that doth tarre him on.” Steevens.
_ Hercules and his load too.] i.e. they not only carry away the world, but the world-bearer too: alluding to the story of Hercules's relieving Atlas. This is humorous. Warburton.