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court was in greatest jollity, and then the | sion in me, that when I came towards man's foremost old man with his mace stroke a estate it was as fresh in my memory as if fearful blow upon the cradle, whereat all I had seen it newly acted." the courtiers, with the three ladies and the vizard, all vanished; and the desolate prince, starting up barefaced, and finding himself thus sent for to judgment, made a lamentable complaint of his miserable case, and so was carried away by wicked spirits. This prince did personate in the moral the wicked of the world; the three ladies, pride, covetousness, and luxury; the two old men the end of the world and the last judgment. This sight took such impres
It would appear from Willis's description that 'The Cradle of Security' was for the most part dumb show. It is probable that he was present at its performance at Gloucester when he was six or seven years of age. It evidently belongs to that class of moral plays which were of the simplest construction. And yet it was popular long after the English drama had reached its highest eminence.
IN a later period of the stage, when the
men hath decayed, and they are thought
"Your players be come, And do attend your honour's pleasure here."
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, 66 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 'It 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 :
“Lord. Sirrah, go see what trumpet 't is
Now, fellows, you are welcome.
Players. We thank your honour.
Lord. Do you intend to stay with me tonight?
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. It appears 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 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.
2 Play. So please your lordship to accept Unthrift tells his companions, our duty.
Lord. With all my heart."
The lord, however, even in this scene, gives
Of the performances of an itinerant company at this period we will select an example of "Comedy."
'A Pleasant Comedie called Common Conditions' is neither a Mystery nor a Moral Play. It dispenses with impersonations of Good and Evil; Iniquity holds no controversy with Charity, and the Devil is not brought in to buffet or to be buffeted. The play is written in rhymed verse, and very ambitiously written. The matter is "set out with sweetness of words, fitness of epithets, with metaphors, allegories, hy
"But, masters, wot ye what? I have heard news about the court this day,
That there is a gentleman with a lady gone
And have with them a little parasite full of
money and coin."
These travellers the tinkers agree to rob; and we have here an example of the readiness of the stage to indulge in satire. The purveyors who, a few years later, were denounced in Parliament, are, we suppose, here pointed at. Shift says,
"We will take away their purses, and say we do it by commission;"
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.
The gentleman and lady from the court, Sedmond and Clarisia, then come out of the wood, accompanied by their servant, Conditions. It appears that their father has long been absent, and they are travelling to seek him. Clarisia is heavy-hearted; and her brother thus consoles her, after the fashion of "epithets, metaphors, and hyperboles:"
"You see the chirping birds begin you melody to make,
But you, ungrateful unto them, their pleasant
You see the nightingale also, with sweet and pleasant lay,
Sound forth her voice in chirping wise to banish 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
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 his father:
"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
All things we have ready and nothing we want
We fear no enemies, we have escaped them oft:
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 name,
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.
tales, as 'Common Conditions' was, says,
comedy, if he had any object, would appear | dramas formed upon romances and legendary 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.