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who, for the most part, are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows, and noise:? I would have such a fel
mimical and mute representation of the drama, previous to the dialogue. Johnson.
Before each act of the tragedy of Focasta, translated from Euripides, by George Gascoigne and Francis Kinwelmersh, the order of these dumb shows is very minutely described. This play was presented at Gray's-Inn by them, in 1566. The mute exhibitions included in it are chiefly emblematical, nor do they display a picture of one single scene which is afterwards per. formed on the stage. In some other pieces I have observed, that they serve to introduce such circumstances as the limits of a play would not admit to be represented. Thus, in Herod and Antipater, 1622:
Let me now
“ Out of this DUMB SHow tell your memories." In short, dumb shows sometimes supplied deficiencies, and, at others, filled up the space of time which was necessary to pass while business was supposed to be transacted in foreign parts. With this method of preserving one of the unities, our ancestors appear to have been satisfied.
Ben Jonson mentions the groundlings with equal contempt: “ The understanding gentlemen of the ground here."
Again, in The Case is Alter'd, 1609: “ a rude barbarous crew that have no brains, and yet grounded judgements; they will hiss any thing that mounts above their grounded capacities.”
Again, in Lady Alimony, 1659: ~ Be your stage.curtains artificially drawn, and so covertly shrowded that the squint-eyed groundling may not peep in ?"
In our early play-houses the pit had neither floor nor benches Hence the term of groundlings for those who frequented it.
The groundling, in its primitive signification, means a fish which always keeps at the bottom of the water. Steevens.
7 who, for the most part, are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumh shows, and noise : ] i. e. have a capacity for nothing but dumb shows; understand nothing else. So, in Heywood's History of Women, 1624: “ I have therein imitated our historical and comical poets, that write to the stage; who, lest the auditory should be dulled with serious discourses, in every act present some zany, with his mimick gesture, to breed in the less capable mirth and laughter." See Vol. XI, p. 89, n. 2. Malone.
inexplicable dumb shows,] I believe the meaning is, shows, quithout words to explain them. Johnson.
Rather, I believe, shows which are too confusedly conducted to explain themselves.
I meet with one of these in Heywood's play of The Four Prentices of London, 1615, where the Presenter says:
“I must entreat your patience to forbear
“ Their infant fortunes I will soon express :" &c. Then follow the dumb shows, which well deserve the character Hamlet has already given of this species of entertainment, as may be seen from the following passage: “Enter Tancred, with Bella Franca richly attired, she somewhat affecting him, though she makes no show of it.” Surely this may be called an inexplica. ble dumb show. Steevens.
8- Termagant;] Termagaunt (says Dr. Percy) is the name given in the old romances to the god of the Sarazens; in which he is constantly linked with Mahgund, or Mohammed. Thus, in the legend of Syr Guy, the Soudan swears :
“ So helpe Mahowne of might,
" And Termagaunt my God so bright.” So also, in Hall's first satire :
Nor fright the reader with the Pagan vaunt
“ Of mightie Mahound, and greate Termagaunt.” Termagant is also mentioned by Spenser in his Fairy Queen, and by Chaucer in The Tale of Sir Topas; and by Beaumont and Fletcher, in King or no King, as follows: “ This would make a saint swear like a soldier, and a soldier like Termagant." Again, in The Picture, by Massinger: “
a hundred thousand Turks “ Aassail'd bim, every one a Termagaunt.” Steevens. 9- out-herods Herod :) The character of Herod in the ancient mysteries, was always a violent one.
See the Coventriæ Ludus among the Cotton MSS. Vespasian d. VIII:
“ Now I regne lyk a kyng arrayd ful rych,
“ My dedys be full dowty demyd be day.” Chaucer, describing a parish clerk, in his Miller's Tale, says:
“ He plaieth Herode on a skaffold high.” The parish clerks and other subordinate ecclesiasticks appear to have been our first actors, and to have represented their characters on distinct pulpits or scaffolds. Thus, in one of the stage-directions to the 27th pageant in the Coventry collection already mentioned: 6 What tyme that processyon is entered into yt place, and the Herowdys taken his schaffalde, and Annas and Cayphas their schaffaldys," &c. Steevens.
To the instances given by Mr. Steevens of Herod's lofty language, may be added these lines from the Coventry plays among the Cotton MSS. p. 92:
1 Play. I warrant your honour.
Ham. Be not too tame neither, but let your own dis. ucretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o'er-step not the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first, and now, was, and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirrour up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time,i his form and pressure. Now this, overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure of which one,3 must, in your allowance,4 o'er-weigh a whole theatre
“ Of bewte and of boldnes I ber evermore the belle,
Malone. Again, in The Unluckie Firmentie, by G. Kyttes, 4to. bl. 1:
“ But he was in such a rage
“ The part of Herode playe.” Ritson. 1_ age and body of the time,] The age of the time can hardly pass. May we not read, the face and body, or did the author write the page? The page suits well with form and pressure, but ill with body. Johnson.
To exhibit the form and pressure of the age of the time, is, to represent the manners of the time suitable to the period that is treated of, according as it may be ancient, or modern. Steevens.
I can neither think this passage right as it stands, or approve of either of the amendments suggested by Johnson. -There is one more simple than either, that will remove every difficulty: Instead of " the very age and body of the time,” (from which it is hard to extract any meaning) I read~" every age and body of the time ;" and then the sense will be this:--- Show virtue her own likeness, and every stage of life, every profession or body of men, its form and resemblance." By every age, is meant, the different stages of life ;-by every body, the various fraternities, sorts, and ranks of mankind. M. Mason.
Perhaps Shakspeare did not mean to connect these words. It is the end of playing, says Hamlet, to show the age in which we live, and the body of the time, its form and pressure: to deline. ate exactly the manners of the age, and the particular humour of the day. Malone.
2- pressure.) Resemblance, as in a print. Johnson.
3._ the censure of which one,] Ben Jonson seems to have imit tated this passage in his Poetaster, 1601 :
of others. O, there be players, that I have seen play,-and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that, neither having the accent of christians,
I will try
the censure of which one,] The meaning is, “the censure of one of which,” and probably that should be the reading also. The present reading, though intelligible, is very licentious, especially in prose. M. Mason.
4- in your allowance,] In your approbation. See Vol. XIV, King Lear, Act II, sc. iv. Malone.
50, there be players, &c.] I would read thus: “ There be players, that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly (not to speak profanely) that neither have the accent nor the gait of Christian, Pagan, nor Mussulman, have so strutted and bellowed, that I thought some of nature's journeymen had made the men, and not made them well,' &c. Farmer.
I have no doubt that our author wrote, -" that I thought some of nature's journeymen had made them, and not made them well," &c. Them and men are frequently confounded in the old copies. See The Comedy of Errors, Act II, sc. ii, folio, 1623: “ – because it is a blessing that he bestows on beasts, and what he hath scanted them fr. men] in hair, he hath given them in wit.”-In the present instance the compositor probably caught the word men from the last syllable of journeymen. Shakspeare could not mean to assert as a general truth, that nature's journey. men had made men, i. e. all mankind; for, if that were the case, these strutting players would have been on a footing with the rest of the species. Nature herself, the poet means to say, made all mankind except these strutting players, and they were made by Nature's journeymen.
A passage in King Lear, in which we meet with the same sen. timent, in my opinion fully supports the emendation now pro
“ Kent. Nature disclaims in THEE, a tailor made THEE.
“ Kent. Ay, a tailor, sir; a stone-cutter or a painter (Nature's journeymen) could not have made him so ill, though he had been but two hours at the trade.”
This notion of Nature keeping a shop, and employing journeymen to form mankind, was common in Shakspeare's time. See Lyly's Woman in the Moon, a comedy, 1597 : “ They draw the curtains from before Nature's shop, where stands an image clad, and some unclad.” Malone.
- not to speak it profanely,] Profanely seems to relate, not
Bor the gait of christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted, and bellowed, that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.
1 Play. I hope, we have reformed that indifferently with us.
Ham. O, reform it altogether. And let those, that play your clowns, speak no more than is set down for them :P for there be of them, that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too; though, in the mean time, some necessary question of the play be then to be considered : that's villainous; and shows a most
to the praise which he has mentioned, but to the censure which he is about to utter. Any gross or indelicate language was called profane. Johnson. So, in Othello :-" he is a most profane and liberal counsellor.”
Malone. 7- speak no more than is set down for them:] So, in The Antipodes, by Brome, 1638:
“ you, sir, are incorrigible, and
“ Before the stage was purg'd from barbarism,” &c. Stowe informs us, (p. 697, edit. 1615,) that among the twelve players who were sworn the queen's servants in 1583, “ were two rare men, viz. Thomas Wilson, for a quick delicate refined extemporall witte ; and Richard Tarleton, for a wondrous plentifull, pleasant extemporall wit,” &c.
Again, in Tarleton's Newes from Purgatory: “- I absented myself from all plaies, as wanting that merrye Roscius of plaiers that famosed all comedies so with his pleasant and extemporall invention."
This cause for complaint, however, against low comedians, is still more ancient ; for in The Contention betwyxte Churchyard and Camell, &c. 1560, I find the following passage:
“ But Vices in stage plaies,
“ When theyr matter is gon,
“ To the lookers on.
“ You brynge in my coate," : &c. Steevens. The clown very often addressed the audience, in the middle of the play, and entered into a contest of raillery and sarcasm with such of the audience as chose to engage with him. It is to this absurd practice that Shakspeare alludes. Malone