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of the players with packs at their backs, and | perboles, amphibologies, similitude.”* a boy." To the question of the lord,—
"Now, sirs, what store of plays have you?"— the Clown answers, "Marry, my lord, you may have a tragical or a commodity, or what you will;" for which ignorance the other player rebukes the Clown, saying, "A comedy, thou shouldst say: zounds! thou 'lt shame us all." Whether this picture belongs to an earlier period of the stage than the similar scene in Shakspere's 'Induction,' or whether Shakspere was familiar with a better order of players, it is clear that in his scene the players appear as persons of somewhat more importance, and are treated with more respect :
is a dramatized romance, of which the title expresses that it represents a possible aspect of human life; and the name of the chief character, Common Conditions, from which the play derives its title, would import that he does not belong to the supernatural or allegorical class of personages. Mr. Collier, in his History of Dramatic Poetry,' expresses
an opinion that the character of Common
Conditions is the Vice of the performance. to us, on the contrary, that the ordinary craft of a cunning knave—a little, action, in the same way that the Vice restless, tricky servant-works out all the had formerly interfered with it in the moral plays; but that he is essentially
"Lord. Sirrah, go see what trumpet 't is and purposely distinguished from the Vice.
Mr. Collier also calls this play merely an interlude: it appears to us in its outward form to be as much a comedy as the 'Winter's Tale.'
Three tinkers appear upon the stage, singing,
"Hey tisty toisty, tinkers good fellows they be; In stopping of one hole, they used to make
These worthies are called Drift, Unthrift, and Shift; and, trade being bad with them, they agree to better it by a little robbing. Unthrift tells his companions,
"But, masters, wot ye what? I have heard news about the court this day,
That there is a gentleman with a lady gone away;
And have with them a little parasite full of
These travellers the tinkers agree to rob;
"We will take away their purses, and say we do
to which Drift replies,
"Who made a commissioner of you? If thou make no better answer at the bar, thou wilt hang, I tell thee true."
*Gosson.Plays Confuted,' second action.
hang himself, and to help him up in the tree to accomplish his determination. They consent, arguing that if he hangs himself they shall be free from the penalty of hanging him; and so into the tree he goes. Up the branches he runs like a squirrel, hallooing for help, whilst the heavy tinkers have no chance against his activity and his Sheffield knife. They finally make off; and Conditions releases his mistress. The next scene presents us Sedmond, the brother, alone. He laments the separation from his sister, and the uncertainty which he has of ever finding
You see the nightingale also, with sweet and his father: pleasant lay,
Sound forth her voice in chirping wise to ba
nish care away.
You see Dame Tellus, she with mantle fresh and green,
For to display everywhere most comely to be seen;
You see Dame Flora, she with flowers fresh and gay,
"But farewell now, my coursers brave, attrapped to the ground;
Farewell, adieu, all pleasures eke, with comely hawk and hound:
Farewell, ye nobles all; farewell each martial knight;
Farewell, ye famous ladies all, in whom I did delight."
Both here and there and everywhere, her Sedmond, continuing his lament, says,—
banners to display."
The lady will have no comfort. She replies to her brother in a long echo to his speech, ending
"And therefore, brother, leave off talk; in vain
you seem to prate:
Not all the talk you utter can, my sorrows can abate."
Conditions ungallantly takes part against the lady, by a declamation in dispraise of women; which is happily cut short by the tinkers rushing in. Now indeed we have movement which will stir the audience. The brother escapes; the lady is bound to a tree; Conditions is to be hanged; but his adroitness, which is excessively diverting, altogether reminding one of another little knave, the Flibbertigibbet of Scott, sets the audience in a roar. They are realizing the description of Gosson,-"In the theatres they generally take up a wonderful laughter, and shout altogether with one voice when they see some notable cozenage practised." When the tinkers have the noose round the neck of Conditions, he persuades them to let him
*Plays Confuted,' &c.
"Adieu, my native soil; adieu, Arbaccas king; Adieu, each wight and martial knight; adieu,
each living thing:
Adieu, my woful sire, and sister in like case, Whom never I shall see again each other to
For now I will betake myself a wandering knight to be,
Into some strange and foreign land, their comeliness to see."
When Conditions released the lady, we learnt that the scene was Arabia:—
And, lady, it is not best for us in Arabia longer to tarry."
It is to Arabia, his native soil, that Sedmond bids adieu. But the audience learn by a very simple expedient that a change is to take place: a board is stuck up with the word "Phrygia" upon it, and a new character, Galiarbus, entereth "out of Phrygia." He is the father of the fugitives, who, banished from Arabia, has become rich, and obtained a lordship from the Duke of Phrygia; but he thinks of his children, and bitterly laments that they must never meet. Those children have arrived in Phrygia; for a new character appears, Lamphedon, the son of the Duke,
who has fallen violently in love with a lady whom we know by his description to be Clarisia. Conditions has discovered that his mistress is equally in love with Lamphedon; all which circumstances are described and not rendered dramatic: and then Conditions, for his own advantage, brings the two lovers together, and they plight their troth, and are finally married. The lost brother, Sedmond, next makes his appearance under the name of Nomides; and with him a Phrygian lady, Sabia, has fallen in love. But her love is unrequited; she is rejected, and the uncourteous knight flies from her. Lamphedon and Clarisia are happy at the Duke's court; but Conditions, as it obscurely appears, wanting to be travelling again, has irritated the Duchess against her daughter-in-law, and they both, accompanied by Conditions, fly to take ship for Thracia. They fall in with pirates, who receive them on ship-board, having been secretly promised by Conditions that they will afford a good booty. We soon learn, by the appearance of Lamphedon, that they have thrown him overboard, and that he has lost his lady; but the pirates, who are by no means bad specimens of the English mariner, soon present themselves again, with a seasong, which we transcribe; for assuredly it was fitted to rejoice the hearts of the playgoers of a maritime nation :
"Lustily, lustily, lustily, let us sail forth; The wind trim doth serve us, it blows from the north.
All things we have ready and nothing we want To furnish our ship that rideth hereby; Victuals and weapons they be nothing scant; Like worthy mariners ourselves we will try. Lustily, lustily, &c. Her flags be new trimmed, set flaunting aloft; Our ship for swift swimming, oh, she doth excel :
We fear no enemies, we have escaped them oft: Of all ships that swimmeth, she beareth the
Lustily, lustily, &c. And here is a master excelleth in skill, And our master's mate he is not to seek ;
If Fortune then fail not, and our next voyage prove,
We will return merrily and make good cheer, And hold altogether as friends link'd in love; The cans shall be filled with wine, ale, and beer.
Lustily, lustily," &c.
The action of this comedy is conducted for the most part by description; an easier thing than the dramatic development of plot and character. Lamphedon falls in with the pirates, and by force of arms he compels them to tell him of the fate of his wife. She has been taken, it seems, by Conditions, to be sold to Cardolus, an island chief; and then Lamphedon goes to fight Cardolus, and he does fight him, but finds not the lady. Conditions has however got rid of his charge, by persuading her to assume the name of Metræa, and enter the service of Leosthines. Hardship must have wonderfully changed her; for after a time her brother, Sedmond, arrives under his assumed name, and becomes a candidate for her affections. The good old man under whose protection she remains has adopted her as his daughter. Lamphedon is on the way to seek her, accompanied by Conditions; and thus by accident, and by the intrigues of the knavish servant, all those are reunited who have suffered in separation: for Leosthines is the banished father'*. How Conditions is disposed of is not so clear. He is constantly calling himself a little knave, and a crafty knave, a parasite, a turncoat; and he says,
"Conditions? nay, double Conditions is my
That for my own advantage such dealings can frame."
It is difficult to discover what advantage he derives from his trickiness, yet he has always a new trick. It is probable that he was personated by some diminutive performer, whose grimaces and ugliness would make the audience roar with delight. The tinkers in the first scene say they know not what to do with him, except to "set him to
And here is a boatswain will do his good will, keep crows." The object of the writer of the
And here is a ship, boy, we never had leak. Lustily, lustily, &c.
* A leaf or two is lost of the original copy, but enough remains to let us see how the plot will end. We learn that Nomides repents of his rejection of Sabia.
comedy, if he had any object, would appear to be to show that the purposes of craft may produce results entirely unexpected by the crafty one, and that happiness may be finally obtained through the circumstances which appear most to impede its attainment. This comedy is remarkable for containing none of the ribaldry which was so properly objected to in the plays of the early stage. It is characterised, also, by the absence of that melodramatic extravagance which belonged to this period, exhibiting power, indeed, but not the power of real art. These extravagances are well described by the author of "The Third Blast of Retreat from Plays and Theatres;' although his notion that an effort of imagination, and a lie, are the same thing is very characteristic:-"The writers of our time are so led away with vain glory that their only endeavour is to pleasure the humour of men, and rather with vanity to content their minds than to profit them with good ensample. The notablest liar is become the best poet; he that can make the most notorious lie, and disguise falsehood in such sort that he may pass unperceived, is held the best writer. For the strangest comedy brings greatest delectation and pleasure. Our nation is led away with vanity, which | the author perceiving, frames himself with novelties and strange trifles to content the vain humours of his rude auditors, feigning countries never heard of, monsters and prodigious creatures that are not: as of the Arimaspie, of the Grips, the Pigmies, the Cranes, and other such notorious lies." Sidney, writing of the same period of the drama, speaks of the apparition of "a hideous monster with fire and smoke."* And Gosson, having direct reference to some romantic
*Defence of Poesy.'
dramas formed upon romances and legendary tales, as 'Common Conditions' was, says, "Sometimes you shall see nothing but the adventures of an amorous knight, passing from country to country for the love of his lady, encountering many a terrible monster made of brown paper; and at his return is so wonderfully changed, that he cannot be known but by some posy in his tablet, or by a broken ring, or a handkerchief, or a piece of cockle-shell." When the true masters of the romantic drama arose, they found the people prepared for the transformation of the ridiculous into the poetical. We have analysed this very curious comedy from the transcript in the Bodleian Library made under the direction of Malone from the only printed copy, and that an imperfect one, which is supposed to exist. In the page which contains the passage nobles all," &c., Malone has inserted the following foot-note, after quoting the celebrated lines in Othello, "Farewell the tranquil mind," &c.:-" The coincidence is so striking that one is almost tempted to think that Shakspeare had read this wretched piece." It is scarcely necessary for us to point out how constantly the date of a play must be borne in mind to allow us to form any fair opinion of its merits. Malone himself considers that this play was printed about the year 1570, although we believe that this conjecture fixes the date at least ten years too early. It appears to us that it is a remarkable production even for 1580; and if, as a work of art, it be of little worth, it certainly contains the elements of the romantic drama, except the true poetical element, which could only be the result of extraordinary individual genius.
THE LAWFULNESS OF PLAYS.
THE controversy upon the lawfulness of stageplays was a remarkable feature of the period which we are now describing; and pamphlets were to that age what newspapers are to ours. The dispute about the Theatre was a contest between the holders of opposite opinions in religion. The Puritans, who even at that time were strong in their zeal if not in their numbers, made the Theatre the especial object of their indignation; for its unquestionable abuses allowed them so to frame their invectives that they might tell with double force against every description of public amusement, against poetry in general, against music, against dancing, associated as they were with the excesses of an ill-regulated stage. A Treatise of John Northbrooke, licensed for the press in 1577, is directed against "dicing, dancing, vain plays, or interludes." Gosson, who had been a student of Christchurch, Oxford, had himself written two or three plays previous to his publication, in 1579, of 'The School of Abuse, containing a Pleasant Invective against Poets, Pipers, Players, Jesters, and such-like Caterpillars of a Commonwealth.' This book, written with considerable ostentation of learning, and indeed with no common vigour and occasional eloquence, defeats its own purposes by too large an aim. Poets, whatever be the character of their poetry, are the objects of Gosson's new-born hostility:—“ Tiberius the Emperor saw somewhat when he judged Scaurus to death for writing a tragedy; Augustus when he banished Ovid; and Nero when he charged Lucan to put up his pipes, to stay his pen, and write no more." Music comes in for the same denunciation, upon the authority of Pythagoras, who "condemns them for fools that judge music by sound and ear." The three abuses of the time are held to be inseparable:-"As poetry and piping are cousin-germans, so piping and playing are of great affinity, and all three chained in links of abuse." It is not to be
thought that declamation like this would produce any great effect in turning a poetical mind from poetry, or that even Master Gosson's contrast of the ". manners of England in old time" and "New England," would go far to move a patriotic indignation against modern refinements. We have, on one hand, Dion's description how Englishmen went naked and were good soldiers; they fed upon roots and barks of trees; they would stand up to the chin many days in marshes without victuals;" and, on the other hand, "but the exercise that is now among us is banqueting, playing, piping, and dancing, and all such delights as may win us to pleasure, or rock us in sleep. Quantum mutatus ab illo!" In this his first tract the worthy man has a sneaking kindness for the Theatre which he can with difficulty suppress:
"As some of the players are far from abuse, so some of their plays are without rebuke, which are easily remembered, as quickly reckoned. The two prose books played at the Bel Savage, where you shall find never a word without wit, never a line without pith, never a letter placed in vain. The Jew,' and 'Ptolemy,' shown at the Bull; the one representing the greediness of worldly choosers, and bloody minds of usurers; the other very lively describing how seditious estates with their own devices, false friends with their own swords, and rebellious commons in their own snares, are overthrown ; neither with amorous gesture wounding the eye, nor with slovenly talk hurting the ears, of the chaste hearers. The Blacksmith's Daughter,' and 'Catiline's Conspiracies,' usually brought in at the Theatre: the first containing the treachery of Turks, the honourable bounty of a noble mind, the shining of virtue in distress. The last, because it is known to be a pig of mine own sow, I will speak the less of it; only giving you to understand that the whole mark which I shot at in that work was to show the reward of