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many players to exercise action, musical pre
in former days
Good prologues were as scarce as now good plass, seotments, scenes, dancing, and the like, as be You now have habits, dances, scenes, and rhymes ; the said William Davenant shall think fit and
High language often, ay, and sense sometimes.” approve for the said house, and such persons And still more express is that of the author to 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 : so to be by bim erected, and exercise music, musical presentmenls, scenes, dancing, or other I cannot choose but laugh, when I look back and see
The strange vicissitudes of poetrie. the like, at the same or other hours, or times, Your aged fathers came to plays for wit, or after plays are ended,”-the clause which And sat knee-deep in nutshells in the pit:
Coarse hangings then, instead of scenes, were worn, empowers him to lake 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 that it shall and may be lawful to and for the said W. D. etc. to take and receive of These are not the speculations of scholars such our 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 spectawbalsoever, such sum or sums of money, as is tors of what they describe, or daily conversed or hereafter 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 fitted 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 : 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 sur- I may add also, that Mr. Wright, the aunished his new theatre with scenery, he took thor of Historia Histrionica, whose father had care that the lelters patent which he then ob- been a spectalor of several plays before the tained, should speak a different language, for breaking out of the civil wars, expressly says, tbere the corresponding clause is as follows: that the theatre had no scencs.
" And that it shall and may be lawful to and But, says Mr. Steevens (who differs with me for Ibe 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 Soutbampton do we shirt our scene.' in regard of the great expenses of scenes, musie, and such Dew decorations as have not been
“ This phrase (he 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 bere 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 exbi- years before he was born; that is, for the place biled a few years before. In the former letters of aclion represented by the stage, and not for patent granted in 1639, the word in that sense
That moveable hanging 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 bis 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 1664:
Is now transported to Southampton."
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 his 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, All 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 tinged 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 on
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,---." Ibid. Hamlet, the court or audience before whom “That he might play the woman in the scene."
the interlude was performed, sat 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 All's curtain and the general audience, and on ils 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, ibat 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 Shep was not unknown to our great poet.
herdess, which was acted 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 cressels, 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 enumerated in the first folio edition of our author's gentlemen, the queen's servants, I thought a works, belonged to the same theatre, they com- handsome and liberall gratifying of them would posed a numerous company; but it is doubtful be made known to the queen, their mistriss, whether they all performed at the same period, and well taken by her. I therefore invited or always continued in the same house. Many them one morning to a collation att St. Dunof the companies, in the infancy of the stage, stan's taverne, in the great room, the Oracle of certainly were so thin, that the same person Apollo, where each of them had his plate lay'd played two or three parts; and a battle on by him, covered, and the napkin by it, and which the sale of an empire was supposed to when they opened their plates, they found in depend, was decided by half a dozen com- each of them forly pieces of gould, of their batants. It appears to have been a common master's coyne, for the first dish, and they had practice in their mock engagements, to dis- cause to be much pleased with this surprisall. charge small pieces of ordnance on or behind “ The rest of the musitians bad rewards anthe stage.
swerable to their parts and qualities; and the Before the exhibition began, three flourishes whole charge of the musicke came to about one were played, or, in the ancient language, there thousand pounds. The clothes of the horsemen, were three soundings. Music was likewise reckoned one with another at 1001. a suit, alt played between the acts. The instruments the least, amounted to 10,0001.—The charges chiedly used, were trumpets, cornels, hautboys, of all the rest of the masque, which were borne lates, recorders, viols, and organs. The band, by the societies, were accounted to be above which I believe did not consist of more than twenty thousand pounds. eszbt or ten performers, sat (as I have been “I was so conversant with the musitians, told by a very ancient stage veleran, who had and so willing to gain their favour, especially his information from Bowman, the contem- at this time, that I composed an aire myselle, porary of Betterton), in an upper balcony, over with the assistance of Mr. Ives, and called it what is now called the stage-box.
Whitelock's Coranto; which being cried up, From Sir Henry Herbert's manuscript 1 was first played publiquely by the Blackesryars learn, that the musicians belonging to Shak- Musicke, who were then esteemed the best of speare's company were obliged to pay the common musilians in London. Whenever I master of the Revels an annual fee for a li- came to that house (as I did sometimes in those cense to play in the theatre.
dayes, though not often), to see a play, the Not very long after our poel's death the musitians would presently play Whitelock's Blackfriars' band was more numerous; and Coranto : and it was so often called for, that their reputation was so bigh as to be noticed they would have i' played twice or thrice in an by Sir Bulstrode Whitelocke, in an account allernoone. The queen hearing it, would not which he has left of the splendid Masque given be persuaded that it was made by an Englishby the four inns of Court on the second of Fe- man, bicause she said it was fuller of life and bruary, 1633-4, intilled The Triumph of Peace, spirit than the English aires used to be; butt and intended, as he himself informs us, “to she honoured the Coranto and the maker of it manifest the difference of their opinion from with her majestyes royall commendation. It Mr. Pryone's new learning, and to consule his grew to that request, that all the common muHistriomastir against interludes."
sitians in this towne, and all over the kingdome, A very particular account of this Masque is gott the composition of itt, and played it pubfound in his Memorials; but that which Dr. liquely in all places for above thirtie years Barney has lately given in his very curious and after.” elegant History of Music, from a manuscript in The stage, in Shakspeare's time, seems to the possession of Dr. Morelon, of the British have been separated from the pit only by pales. Museum, contains some minute particulars not Soon after the Restoration, the band, I imanoticed in the former printed account, and gine, took the station which they have kept among others an eulogy on our poet's band of ever since, in an orchestra placed between the musicians.
stage and the pit. “For the Musicke,” says Whitelock, “ which The person who spoke the prologue, who was particularly commitled to my charge, I entered immediately after the third sounding, gave to Mr. Ives, and to Mr. Lawes, 1001, a usually wore a long black velvet cloak, which, piece for their rewards : for the four French I suppose, was considered as best suited to a
supplicalory address. Or this custom, what common curtizans to play women s parts." ever may have been its origin, some traces re- What Nashe considered as a bigb eulogs on bis mained till very lately; a black coat having country, Pryone has made one of his principal been, if I mistake not, within these few years, charges against the English stage; having emthe constant stage-babiliment of our modern ployed several pages in bis bulky volume, and prologue-speakers. The complete dress of the quoted many bundred authorities, to prove that ancient-prologue speaker, is still retained in the “ those playes wherein any men act women's play exhibited in Hamlet, before the king and parts in woman's apparell must deeds be sinful, court of Denmark.
yea abominable unto christians." The grand An epilogue does not appear to have been basis of his argument is a text in scripture; a regular appendage to a play in Shak- Deuteronomy, xxii. 5. ; " The woman shall not speare's time, for many of bis dramas. had wear that which pertaideth unto man, neilber none; at least they have not been preserved. sball a man put on a woman's garment :" a In All's well that ends well, A Midsummer- precept, which Sir Richard Baker has justly Night's Dream, As you like it, Troilus and remarked, is no part of the moral law, and Cressida, and The Tempest, the epilogue is ought not to be understood literally. “Where," spoken by one of the persons of the drama, and says Sir Richard, “finds be this precept? adapted to the character of the speaker ; a Even in the same place where he finds also that circumstance that I bave not observed in the we must not weare cloaths of linsey-woolsey; epilogues of any other aulbor of that age. The and seeing we lawfully now weare cloalhes of epilogue was not always spoken by one of the liosey-woolsey, why may it not be as lawful for performers in the piece; for that subjoined to men to put on women's garments ?” The Second Part of King Henry IV. appears to It may perhaps be supposed, that Prynne, have been delivered by a dancer
having thus vehemently inveighed against men's The performers of male characters frequently representing female characters on the stage, wore periwigs, which in the age of Shakspeare would not have been averse to the introduction were not in common use. It appears from a of women in the scene; but sinful as this zealot passage in Puttanham's Arte of English Poesie, thought it in men to assume the garments of the 1589, that vizards were on some occasions Other sex, he considered it as not less abominable used by the actors of those days; and it may be in women to tread the stage in their own proper inferred from a scene in one of our author's dress : for he informs us, “that some Frenchcomedies, that they were sometimes worn in women, or monsters rather, in Michaelmas his time, by those who performed female cha- term, 1629, allempted to act a French play at racters. But this, I imagine, was very rare. the playhouse in Blackfriars,” wbich he reSome of the female part of the audience like- presents as “an impudent, shameful, unwowise appeared in masks
manish, graceless, if not more than whorish alBoth the prompter, or book-holder, as he tempt." was sometimes called, and the property-man, Soon after the period be speaks of, a regular appear to bave been regular appendages of our French theatre was established in London, ancient theatres.
where without doubt women acted. They had The stage-dresses, it is reasonable to sup- long before appeared on the Italian as well as pose, were much more costly in some playhouses the French stage. When Coryale was at Vethan others. Yet the wardrobe of even the pice (July, 1608), he tells us, he was at one of king's servants at The Globe and Blackfriars their playhouses, and saw a comedy acted was, we find, but scantily furnished; and our “ The house (be adds) is very beggarly and author's dramas derived very little aid from the base, in comparison of our stately playhouses splendour of exhibition.
in England ; neither can their actors compare li is well known, that in the time of Shak- with us for apparell, shewes, and musicke. Here speare, and for many years afterwards, female I observed certaine things that I never saw becharacters were represented solely by boys or fore; for I saw women act, a thing that I never young men. Nashe, in a pamphlet published saw before, though I have heard that it hath in 1592, speaking in defence of the English been some times used in London ; and they stage, boasts that the players of his time were performed it with as good a grace, action, “not as the players beyond sea, a sort of squirt- gesture, and whatsoever convenient for a player, ing bawdie comedians, that have whores and as ever I saw any masculine actor.
The practice of men's performing the parts day when Arbuscula exhibited with the highest of women in the scene is of the highest antiquity. applause. On the Greciap stage no woman certainly ever The same practice prevailed in the time of arted. From Plutarch's Life of Phocian, we the emperors; for in the list of parts which learn, that in his time (about three hundred Nero, with a preposterous ambition, acted in and eighteen years before the Christian era) the public theatre, we find that of Canace, the performance of a tragedy at Athens was who was represented in labour on the stage. interrupled for some time by one of the actors, In the interludes exhibited belween the acts who was to personale a queen, refusing to come undoubtedly women appeared. The elder Pliny on the stage, because he had not a suitable mask | informs us, that a female named Lucceïa acted and press, and a train of attendants richly ba- in these interludes for an hundred years; and biled; and Demosthenes, in one of his orations, Galeria Copiola for above ninely years; baving mentions Theodorus and Aristodemus as have been first introduced on the scene in the fourjag often represented the Antigone of Sophocles. | teenth year of her age, in the year of Rome 672, This fact is also ascertained by an anecdote when Caius Marius the younger, and Cneius preserved by Aulus Gellius. A very celebrated Carbo were consuls, and having performed in actor, whose name was Polus, was appointed the 1041h year of her age, six years before the to perform the part of Electra in Sophocles's death of Augustus, in the consulate of C. Popplay; who in the progress of the drama appears pæus and Quintus Sulpicius, A. U. C. 762. with an urn in her hands, containing, as she Eunuchs also sometimes represented women sopposes, the ashes of Orestes. The actor on the Roman stage, as they do at this day having some time before been deprived by death in Italy; for we find that Sporus, who made so of & beloved son, to indulge his grief, as it conspicuous a figure in the time of Nero, being sboald seem, procured the urn which contained appointed in the year 70 [A. U. C. 823), 10 the asbes of bis child, to be brought from bis personate a nymph, who, in an interlude excomb; which affected him so much, that when hibited before Vitellius, was to be carried off he appeared with it on the scene, he embraced by a ravisher, rather than endure the indignily it with unseigned sorrow, and burst into of wearing a female dress on the stage, put tears.
himself to death; a singular end for one, who That on the Roman slage also female parls about ten years before had been publicly essere represented by men in tragedy, is ascer-poused to Nero, in the hymeneal veil, and had ained by one of Cicero's letters to Atticus, in been carried through one of the streets of Rome sbich he speaks of Antipho, who performed the by the side of that monster, in the imperial part of Andromache; and by a passage in Ho-robes of the empresses, ornamented with a race, who informs us, that Jusius Phocæus being profusion of jewels. la perform the part of llione, the wife of Polym- Thus ancient was the usage, which, though Treslor, in a tragedy written either by Accius or not adopted in the neighbouring countries of Pacovius, and being in the course of the play France and Italy, prevailed in England from the a be awakened out of sleep by the cries of the infancy of the stage. The prejudice against shade of Polydorus, got so drunk, that he fell women appearing on the scene continued so mto a real and profound sleep, from which no strong, that till near the time of the Restoration, scise could rouse him.
boys constantly performed female characters : Horace indeed mentions a female performer, and, strange as it may now appear, the old alled Arbuscula ; but as we find from his own practice was not deserted without many apologies authority that men personated women on the for the indecorum of the novel usage. In 1636, Roman stage, she probably was only an embolia- or 1660, in imitation of the foreign theatres, mia, who performed in the interludes and dances women were first introduced on the scene, In exbibited between the acts and at the end of the 1656, indeed, Mrs. Coleman, represented lanthe play. Servius calls her mima, but that may in the First Part of D'Avenant's Siege of Rhodes; mean nothing more tban one who acted in the but the little she had to say was spoken in remumes, or danced in the pantomime dances ; citative. The first woman that appeared in any and this seems the more probable from the man- regular drama on a public stage performed the ser in which she is mentioned by Cicero, from part of Desdemona; but who the lady was I am abom we learn that the part of Andromache unable to ascertain. The play of Othello is ** performed by a male aclor on that very | enumerated by Downes as one of the slock-plays