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How little the imaginations of the audience | 30001. was expended upon it. “At night," were assisted by scenical deception, and how says Sir Dudley Carleton, "we had the Queen's much necessity our author had to call on them | Maske in the Banqueting-house, or ratber her 10 piece out imperfections with their thoughts, Pageant. There was a great engine at the lower may be collected from Sir Philip Sidney, who, end of the room, which had motion, and in it describing the state of the drama and the stage, were the images of sea-horses (with other terin his time (about the year 1583), says, “Now rible fishes), which were ridden by the Moors. you shall have three ladies walk to galher flow- The indecorum was, that there was all fish and ers, and then we must beleeve the stage to be no water. At the further end was a great shell a garden. By and by we heare news of ship- in form of a skallop, wherein were four seats ; wrack in the same place: then we are to blame, on the lowest sat the Queen with my Lady Bedif we accept it not for a rock. Upon the back ford; on the rest were placed the ladies Suffolk, of that, comes out a bidious monster with fire Darby," etc. Such were most of the Masques and smoke; and then the miserable beholders in the time of James the First ; triumpbal cars, are bound lo lake it for a cave; while in the castles, rocks, caves, pillars, temples, clouds, mean time two armies fly in, represented with rivers, tritons, etc. composed the principal part four swords and bucklers, and then what hard of their decoralion. In the courlly masques given hart will not receive it for a pitched field.” by his successor during the first fifteen years of
The first notice that I have found of any bis reign, and in some of the plays exhibited at thing like moveable scenes being used in Eng- court, the art of scenery seems to have been land, is in the narrative of the entertainment somewhat improved. In 1636 a piece written by given to King James at Oxford, in August, Thomas Heywood, called Love's Mistress or 1605, when three plays were performed in the the Queen's Masque, was represented at Denhall of Christ-Church, of which we bave the mark House before their Majesties." For the following account by a contemporary writer. rare decorements,” (says Heywood in his pre" The stage,” he tells us, “was built close to face) “which new apparelled it, when it came the upper end of the hall, as it seemed at the the second time to the royal view, (her gracious first sight: but indeed it was but a false wall majesty then entertaining his highness at Denfaire painted, and adorned with slately pillars, mark House upon his birth-day). I cannot prewhich pillars would turn about; by reason termit to give a due character to that admirable whereof, with the help of olher painted clothes, artist Mr. Inigo Jones, master surveyor of the their stage did vary three times in the acling king's worke, etc. who to every act, pay almost of one tragedy:" that is, in other words, there to every scene, by his excellent inventions gave were three scenes employed in the exhibition of such an extraordinary lustre; upon every occathe piece. The scenery was contrived by Inigo sion changing the stage, to the admiration of all Jones, who is described as a great traveller, and the spectators.” Here, as on a former occasion who undertook to “further bis employers much, we may remark, the term scene is not used; the and furnish them with rare devices, but pro- stage was changed to the admiration of all the duced very lillle to that which was expected.” spectators. It is observable, that the writer of this account
In August, 1636, The Royal Slave, written was not acquainted even with the term, scene, by a very popular poet, William Cartwright, having used painted clothes instead of it: nor was acted at Oxford before the king and queen, indeed is this surprising, it not being then found and afterwards at Hamplon-Court. Wood inin this sense in any dictionary or vocabulary, forms us, that the scenery was an exquisite and English or foreign, that I have met with. Had
uncommon piece of machinery, contrived by lhe common stagez been furnished with them, Inigo Jones. The play was printed in 1639; neither this writer, nor the makers of dictiona- and yet even at that late period, the term scene, ries, could have been ignorant of it. To effect in the sense now aslixed to it, was unknown to even what was done at Christ-Church, the Uni- the author; for describing the various scenes versity found it necessary to employ two of the employed in this court-exhibition, he denoking's carpenters, and to have the advice of the minates them thus: “The first Appearance, a controller of his works. The Queen's Masque, temple of the sun.— Second Appearance, a city which was exhibited in the preceding January, in the front, and a prison at the side,” &c. The was not much more successful, though above three other Appearances in this play were, a * Leland Collect, rol. ii. edit. 1770.
wood, a palace, and a casllc.
- two lay
In every disquisition of this kind much trouble sented, we find two officers enter, and many words might be saved, by defining the cushions, as it were, in the Capitol.” So, in King subject of dispute. Before therefore I proceed Richard II. Act IV. sc. i. “Bolingbroke, etc. further in this inquiry, I think it proper to say, enter as to the parliament,” Again, in Sir John that by a scene, I mean, A painting in perspec- Oldcastle, 1600: “Enter Cambridge, Scroop, tive on a clolh fastened to a wooden frame or and Gray, as in a chamber.” When the citizens roller; and that I do not mean by this term, of Angiers are to appear on the walls of their "a coflin, or a lomb, or a gilt chair, or a fair town, and young Arthur to leap from the batchain of pearl, or a crucifix;" and I am the Clements, I suppose our ancestors were contented ralber induced to make this declaration, because with seeing them in the balcony already dea writer, who obliquely alluded to the position scribed; or perhaps a few boards were tacked lowhich I am now maintaining, soon after the first gether, and painted so as to resemble the rude edition of this Essay was published, has men- discoloured walls of an old town, behind which a tioned exhibitions of this kind as a proof of the platform might have been placed near the top, scenery of our old plays; and taking it for gran- on which the citizens stood: but surely this can ted that the point is completely established by scarcely be called a scene. Though undoubtedly this decisire argument, triumphantly adds, “Let our poel's company were furnished with some is for the future no more be lold of the want of wooden fabric sufficiently resembling a tomb, proper scenes and dresses in our ancient thea- for which they must have had occasion in several
plays, yet some doubt may be entertained, wheA passage which has been produced from one ther in Romeo and Juliet any exhibition of of the old comedies, proves that the common thea- Juliet's monument was given on the stage. Romeo fres were furnished with some rude pieces of perhaps only opened with his maltock one of the machinery, which were used when it was ne- stage-trap-doors (which might have represented cessary to exbibit the descent of some god or a tomb-stone), by which he descended to a vault saint; but it is manifest from what has been al beneath the stage, where Juliet was deposited ; ready stated, as well as from all the contempo- and this notion is countenanced by a passage in rary accounts, that the mechanism of our ancient the play, and by the poem on which the drama theatres seldom went beyond a tomb, a painted was founded. chair, a sinking cauldron, or a trap-door, and In all the old copies of the play last-mentioned ibat none of them had moveable scenes. When we find the following stage direction : “They King Henry VIII. is to be discovered by the march about the stage, and serving-men come Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk, reading in his forth with their napkins.” A more decisive proof study, the scenical direction in the first folio, than this, that the stage was not furnished with 1623 (wbich was printed apparently from play- scenes, cannot be produced. Romeo, Merculio, bouse copies), is “The King draws the curtain, &c. with their torch-bearers and attendants, Le draws it open) and sits reading pensively; are the persons who march about the stage. They for, beside the principal curtains that hung in are in the street, on their way lo Capulel's the front of the stage, they used others as sub- house, where a masquerade is given; but Castitutes for scenes, which were denominated pulet's servants, who come forth with their naptraverses. If a bedchamber is to be represented kins, are supposed to be in a hall or saloon of bo change of scene is mentioned; but the pro. their master's house: yet both the masquers perty-man is simply ordered to thrust forth a without and the servants within appear on the bed, or, the curtains being opened, a bed is same spot. In like manner in King Henry VIII. exhibited. So, in the old play on which Shak- the very same spot is at once the outside and speare formed his King Henry VI. P. II. when inside of the council-chamber. Cardinal Beaufort is exhibited dying, the stage It is not, however, necessary to insist either direction is—“Enler King and Salisbury, and upon the term itself, in the sense of a painting iben the curtains be drarn, [i. e. drawn open,] in perspective on cloth or canvas, being unand the Cardinalis discovered in his bed, raving known to our early writers, or upon the various and staring as if he were mad.” When the stage-directions which are found in the plays sable requires the Roman capitol to be repre- of our poet and his contemporaries, and which * Mr. Steevens, if, as supposed, the author of
afford the strongest presumptive evidence that ike letter in the St. James's Chronicle, in which the stage in bis time was not furnished with is “decisive argument” first appeared, May 1780. scenes: because we have to the same point the
concurrent testimony of Shakspeare bimself, of says he, in his Address lo the Reader, that Ben Jonson, of every writer of the last age who our scenes (we having obliged ourselves to the has had occasion to mention this subject, and variety of five changes, according to the ancient even of the very person who first introduced dramatic distinctions made for time), had not scenes on the public stage.
been confined to about eleven feet in the height In the year 1629, Jonson's comedy, intitled and about fifteen in depth, including the places The New Inn, was performed at the Blackfriars of passage reserved for the music.” From these Thealre, and deservedly damned. Ben was so words we learn that he had in that piece five much incensed at the lown for condemning bis scenes. In 1658 he exhibited at the old theatre piece, that in 1631 he published it with the called the Cockpit in Drury Lane, The Cruelty following title: The New Inne, or the light Heart, of the Spaniards in Peru, express’d by voral a comedy; as it was never acled, but most neg- and instrumental Musick, and by Art of perligently played, by some, the kings servants, spective in Scenes. In spring, 1662, having oband more squeamishly bebeld and censured by tained a patent from King Charles the Second, others, the kings subjects, 1629 : And now at and built a new playhouse in Lincoln's Inn last set at liberty to the readers, his Ma. ser- Fields, he opened this theatre with The First vants and subjects to be judged, 1631.” In the part of the Siege of Rhodes, wbich since its first Dedication to this piece, the author, after ex- exhibition he bad enlarged. He afterwards in pressing bis profound contempt for the specta- the same year exhibited, The Second Part of the tors, who were at the first representation of this Siege of Rhodes, and his comedy called The Wils; play, says, “What did they come for, then? "These plays," says Downes, who himself acted Thou wilt ask me. I will as punctually answer : in The Siege of Rhodes, “having new scenes lo see and to be seene. To make a general muster and decorations, being the first that ever were of themselves in their clothes of credit, and pos- introduced in England.” Scenes had certainly sesse the stage against the playe: to dislike all, been used before in the masques at Court, and but marke nothing: and by their confidence of in a few private exhibitions, and by D'Avenant rising between the actes in oblique lines, make himself in his attempts at theatrical entertainafidavit to the whole house of their not under- ments shortly before the death of Cromwell: standing one scene. Arm'd with this prejudice, Downes, therefore, who is extremely inaccurate as the stage furniture or arras clothes, they were in his language in every part of his book, must there: as spectators away; for the faces in the have meant—the first ever exhibited in a regular hangings and they beheld alike."
drama, on a public theatre. The exhibition of plays being forbidden some I have said that I could produce the testimony time before the death of Charles I. Sir William of Sir William D'Avenant himself on this subject. D'Avenant in 1656 invented a new species of His prologue to The Wits, which was exhibited entertainment, which was exhibited at Rul- in the spring of the year 1662, soon after the land House, at the upper end of Aldersgale opening of his theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, Street. The title of the piece, which was printed if every other document bad perished, would in the same year, is, The Siege of Rhodes, made prove decisively that our author's plays bad not a Representation by the Art of prospective in the assistance of painted scenes. “ There are Scenes; and the Story sung in recitative Music. some,” says D'Avenant, “ The original of this music,” says Dryden, " and of the scenes which adorned bis work,
who would the world persuade,
That gold is better when the stamp is bad; he had from the Italian operas; but he heighl- And that an ugly ragged piece of eight ened his characters (as I may probably imagine)
Is ever true in metal and in weight;
As if a guinny and louis had less from the examples of Corneille and some French Intrinsick value for their handsomeness,
So divers, who outlive the former age, poets." If sixty years before, the exbibilion of
Allow the coarseness of the plain old stage, the plays of Sbakspeare bad been aided on the
And think rich vests and scenes are only fit
Disguises for the want of art and wit." common stage by the advantage of moveable scenes, or if the term scene had been familiar And no less decisive is the different language 10 D'Avenant's audience, can we suppose that of the license for erecting a theatre, granted to he would have found it necessary to use a peri- him by King Charles I. in 1633, and the lelters phrastic description, and to promise that bis re- palent which he oblained from bis son in 1662. presentalion should be assisted by the art of pro. In the former, after be is authorised "10 enterspectwe in scenes?“ Ji has been often wished,” tain, govern, privilege, and keep such and so many players to exercise action, musical pre
- in former days
Good prologues were as scarce as now good plays sentments, scenes, dancing, and the like, as he You now have habits, dances, scenes, and rhymes ;
High language often, ay, and sense sometimes." the said William Davenant shall think fit and approve for the said house, and such persons And still more express is that of the author lo permit and continue at and during the plea of The Generous Enemies, exhibited at the sure of the said W. D. to act plays in such house King's Theatre in 1672 : 50 to be by bim erected, and exercise music,
* I cannot choose but laugh, when I look back and see musical presentments, scenes, dancing, or other
The strange vicissitudes of poetrie. the like, at the same or other hours, or limes, Your aged fathers came to plays for wit,
And sat knee-deep in nutshells in the pit : or after plays are ended,”-the clause which
Coarse hangings ihen, instead of scenes, were worn, empowers him to take certain prices from those And Kidderminster did the stage adorn:
But you, their wiser offspring did advance who should resort to his theatre runs thus :
To plot of jig, and to dramatic dance," &c "And ibat it shall and may be lawful to and for the said W. D. etc. to lake and receive of These are not the speculations of scholars such oor subjects as shall resort to see or hear concerning a custom of a former age, but the any such plays, scenes, and entertainments testimony of persons who were either spectawhatsoever, such sum or sums of money, as is tors of what they describe, or daily conversed or bereafter from time to time shall be accus- with those who bad trod our ancient stage : for tomed to be given or taken in other playhouses D'Avenant's first play, The Cruel Brother, was and places for the like plays, scenes, present acted at the Blackfriars in January, 1626-7, ments, and entertainments.”
and Mohun, and Hart, who had themselves Here we see that when the theatre was acted before the civil wars, were employed in filled up in the usual way of that time without that company, by whose immediate successors the decoration of scenery (for scenes in the fore. The Generous Enemies was exhibited : I mean going passages mean, not paintings, but short the King's Servants. Major Mohun acted in stage representations or presentments), the usual the piece before which the lines last quoted prices were authorized to be taken : but after were spoken. the Restoration, when Sir W. D'Avenant fur- I may add also, that Mr. Wright, the aunished his new theatre with scenery, he took thor of Historia Histrionica, whose father bad care that the lelters patent which he then ob- been a spectator of several plays before the tained, should speak a different language, for breaking out of the civil wars, expressly says, ibere the corresponding clause is as follows: that the theatre had no scenes.
"And that it shall and may be lawful to and , says Mr. Steevens (who differs with me for the said Sir William D'Avenant, his heirs, in opinion on the subject before us), “ how and assigns, to take and receive of such of our happened it, that Shakspeare himself should subjects as shall resort to see or hear any such have mentioned the act of shifting scenes, if in plays, scenes, and entertainments whatsoever, bis time there were no scenes capable of being such sum or sums of money, as either have ac- shifted ? Thus, in the chorus to King customably been given and taken in the like kind, Henry V. : or as shall be thought reasonable by him or them,
Unto Southampton do we shine our scene.' in regard of the great expenses of SCENES, musie, and such new decorations as have not been
“ This phrase (be adds) was hardly more formerly used."
ancient than the custom it describes." Here for the first time in these letters patent
Who does not see, that Shakspeare in the the word scene is used in that sense in which passage here quoted uses the word scene in the Sir William bad employed it in the printed same sense in which it was used two thousand title-pages of his musical entertainments exhi- years before he was born; that is, for the place biled a few years before. In the former letters of action represented by the stage, and not for patent granted in 1639, the word in that sense that moveable banging or painted cloth, strained does not once occur.
on a wooden frame, or rolled round a cylinder, To the testimony of D'Avenant himself may which is now called a SCENE? If the smallest be added that of Dryden, both in the passage doubt could be entertained of his meaning, the already quoted, and in his prologue to The Rival following lines in the same play would remove it: Ladies, performed at the King's Theatre in
«The king is set from London, and the scene
This, and this only, was the shifting that progress of the play, which were disposed in was meant; a movement from one place to an- such a manner as lo be visible to the audience. other in the progress of the drama; nor is there Though the apparatus for the theatric exbifound a single passage in bis plays in which the bitions was thus scanty, and the machinery of word scene is used in the sense required to the simplest kind, the invention of trap-doors support the argument of those who suppose that appears not to be modern; for in an old the common stages were furnished with move- Morality, entitled, Au for Money, we find a able scenes in his time. He constantly uses marginal direction, which implies that they the word either for a stage-exhibition in ge- were very early in use. neral, or the component part of a play, or the We learn from Heywood's Apology for Acplace of action represented by the stage : tors, that the covering, or internal roof, of
the stage, was anciently termed the heavens. "For all my life has been but as a scene
It was probably painted of a sky-blue colour ; or Acting that argument.” King Henry IV. Part II.
perhaps pieces of drapery linged with blue, * At your industrious scenes and acts of death."
were suspended across the stage, to represent King John.
the heavens. “What scene of death hath Roscius now to act?»
King Henry VI. Part III. It appears from the stage-directions given in • Thus with imagin'd wing our swift scene flies.--"
The Spanish Tragedy, that when a play was
King Henry V. cxhibited within a play if I may so express *To give our scene such growing,--."' Ibid, mysell), as in the case in that piece and in * And so our scene must to the battle fly,-." Hamlel, the court or audience before whom « That he might play the woman in the scene."
the interlude was performed, sal in the balcony,
or upper stage already described ; and a curtain A queen in jest, only to fill the scene.
or traverse being hung across the stage for the King Richard III.
nonce, the performers entered belween that I shall add but one more instance from Au's curtain and the general audience, and on its well that ends well :
being drawn, began their piece, addressing
themselves to the balcony, and regardless of the « Our scene is alter'd from a serious thing
spectators in the theatre, to whom their backs And now chang'd to the Beggar and the King."
must have been turned during the whole of the from which lines it might, I conceive, be as performance. reasonably inferred that scenes were changed in from a plate prefixed to Kirkman's Drolls, Shakspeare's lime, as from the passage relied printed in 1672, in which there is a view of a on in King Henry V.; and perhaps by the same theatrical booth, it should seem that the stage mode of reasoning it might be proved, from a was formerly lighted by two larges branches, line above quoted from the same play, that the of a form similar to those now hung in churches; technical modern term, wings, or side-scenes, and from Beaumont's Fletcher's Faithful Shepwas not unknown to our great poet.
herdess, which was acled before the year The various circumstances which I have 1611, we find that wax lights were used. stated, and the accounts of the contemporary These branches having been found incomwriters, furnish us, in my apprehension, with modious, as they obstructed the sight of the decisive and incontrovertible proofs, that the spectators, gave place at a subsequent period stage of Shakspeare was not furnished with to small circular wooden frames, furnished with moveable painted scenes, but merely decorated candles, eight of which were hung on the stage, with curtains, and tapestry hangings, which, four at either side; and these within a few when decayed, appear to bave been sometimes years were wholly removed by Mr. Garrick, ornamented with pictures ; and some passages who, on his return from France in 1765, first in our old dramas incline me to think, that introduced the present commodious method of when tragedies were performed, the stage was illuminating the stage by lights not visible to hung with black.
the audience. In the early part, at least, of our author's The body of the house was illuminated by acquaintance with the theatre, the want of cressets, or large open lanterns of nearly the scenery seems to bave been supplied by the same size with those which are fixed in the poop simple expedient of writing the names of the of a ship. different places where the scene was laid in the If all the players whose names are enume