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room, it is equally difficult to ascertain the writers, before Shakspeare appeared, were precise time when the latter gave way to a scholars. Greene, Lodge, Peele, Marlowe, more legitimate theatrical exhibition. We Nashe, Lily, and Kyd, had all a regular uniknow that Moralities were exhibited occasio-versity education. From whatever cause it may nally during the whole of the reign of Queen bave 'arisen, the dramatic poetry about this Elizabeth, and even in that of her successor, period certainly assumed a better, though still long after regular dramas had been presented an exceptionable, form. The example which on the scene; but I suspect that about the had been furnished by Sackville was quickly year 1570 (the 13th year of Queen Elizabeth) followed, and a great number of tragedies and this species of drama began to lose much of its historical plays was produced between the years attraction, and gave way to something that had 1570 and 1590 ; some of which are still extant, more the appearance of comedy and tragedy. though by far the greater part is lost. This, i Gammer Gurton's Needle, which was written apprehend, was the great era of those bloody by Mr. Still (afterwards Bishop of Bath and and bombastic pieces, which afforded subsequent Wells), in the 23d year of his age, and acted writers perpelual topics of ridicule; and during at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1566, is the same period were exhibited many Histories, pointed out by the ingenious writer of the tract or historical dramas, formed on our English entitled Historia Histrionica, as the first piece Chronicles, and representing a series of events " that looks like a regular comedy;" that is, simply in the order of time in which they hapthe first play that was neither Mystery nor pened. Some have supposed that Shakspeare Morality, and in which some humour and dis- was the first dramatic poet that introduced this crimination of character may be found. In species of drama ; but this is an undoubted 1561-2, Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, error. I have elsewhere observed that every and Thomas Norton, joined in writing the one of the subjects on which he constructed his tragedy of Ferrer and Porrex, which was historical plays appears to bave been dramalized, exbibited on the 181h of January in that year, and brought upon the scene, before his time. by the Students of the Inner Temple, before The historical drama is by an elegant modern Queen Elizabeth, at Whitehall. Neither of writer [Lord Orford] supposed to have owed these pieces appears to have been acted on a its rise to the publication of The Mirrour for public theatre, nor was there at that time any Magistrates, in which many of the most disbuilding in London constructed solely for the tinguished characters in English history are purpose of representing plays. Of the latter introduced giving a poetical narrative of their piece, which, as Mr. Warton bas observed, is own misfortunes. Of this book three editions, perhaps the first specimen in our language of with various alterations and improvements, an heroic tale written in verse, and divided into were printed between 1563 and 1587. acts and scenes, and clothed in all the forma- At length (about the year 1591) the great lities of a regular tragedy,” a correct analysis luminary of the dramatic world blazed out, and may be found in The HISTORY OF ENGLISH our poet produced those plays which have now POETRY, and the play itself within these few for two hundred years been the boast and admiyears has been accurately reprinted in Dodsley's ration of his countrymen. Collection, vol. i.
Our earliest dramas, as we have seen, were It has been justly remarked by the same ju- represented in churches or near them by ecdicious writer, that the early practice of per- clesiastics : but at a very early period, I believe, forming plays in schools and universities greatly we bad regular and established players, who contributed to the improvement of our drama. obtained a livelihood by their art. So early "While the people were amused with Skellon's as in the year 1378, as bas been already noTrial of Simony, Bale's God's Promises, and ticed, the singing boys of St. Paul's represented Christ's Descent into Hell, the scholars of the to the king, that they had been at a considerable limes were composing and acting plays on his expense in preparing a stage-representation at torical subjects, and in imitation of Plautus and Christmas. These, bowever, cannot properly Terence. Hence ideas of legitimate fable must be called comedians, nor am I able to point out have been imperceptibly derived to the popular the time when the profession of a player became and vernacular drama."
common and established. It has been supIn confirmation of wbat has been suggested, posed that the license granted by Queen Eliit may be observed, that the principal dramatic zabeth to James Burbage and others, in 1574,
was the first regular license ever granted to great number of those that be common players comedians in England; but this is a mistake, for of interludes and playes, as well within the Heywood informs us that similar licenses had city of London as elsewhere within the realme, been granted by her father King Henry the doe for the most part play such interludes as Eighth, King Edward the Sixth, and Queen contain malter tending lo sedition," etc. By Mary. Słowe records, that “when King Ed common players of interludes here mentioned, ward the Fourth would show himself in state I apprehend, were meant the players of the to the view of the people, he repaired to his city, as contradistinguished from the king's own palace at St. John's, where he was accustomed servants. In a manuscript which I saw some to see the City Actors.” In two books in the years ago, and which is now in the library of : Remembrancer's Office in the Exchequer, the Marquis of Lansdown,* are sundry charges containing an account of the daily expenses of for the players belonging to King Edward the King Henry the Seventh, are many articles, Sixth; but I have not preserved the articles. from which it appears, that at that time players, And in the household book of Queen Mary, in both French and English, made a part of the the library of the Antiquarian Sociely, is an appendages of the court, and were supported entry which shows that she also had a theatrical by regal establishment.
establishment: “ Eight players of interludes, It appears that there was then not only a each 668. 8d.-261. 13s. 4d." regular troop of players in London, but also a It has already been mentioned that originally royal company. The intimate knowledge of the plays were performed in churches. Though French language and manners which Henry Bonner, Bishop of London, issued a proclamamust have acquired during his long sojourn in tion to the clergy of his diocese in 1542, proforeign courts (from 1471 to 1485), accounts hibiting “all manner of common plays, games, for the article relative to the company of French or interludes, to be played, set forth, or deplayers.
clared within their churches, chappels," &c. In a manuscript in the Coltonian Library in the practice seems to have been continued octhe Museum, a narrative is given of the shows casionally during the reign of Queen Elizabeth; and ceremonies exhibited at Christmas in the for the author of The Third Blast of Retrait fifth year of this king's reign, 1490: “This from Plays and Players complains, in 1580, Cristmass I saw no disgysyngs, and but right that “the players are permitted to publish their few plays; but ther was an abbot of mis- mammetrie in every temple of God, and that rule, that made muche sport, and did right throughout England,” &c. ; and this abuse is well his office.-On Candell Mass day, tbe taken notice of in one of the Canons of King king, the qwen, my ladye the king's moder, James the First, given soon after his accession with the substance of all the lordes temporell in the year 1603. Early, however, in Queen present at the parlement, etc. wenten a pro- Elizabeth's reign, the established players of cession from the chapel into the hall and soo London began to act in temporary theatres into Westmynster Hall :-The kynge was lbat constructed in the yards of inns; and about the daye in a riche gowne of purple, pirled withe year 1570, I imagine, one or two regular playgold, furred withe sabuls :- At nyght the kyng, houses were erected. Both the theatre in the qwene, and my ladye the kyngs moder, Blackfriars and that in Whitefriars were cercame into the Whit hall, and ther had a pley.” Lainly buill before 1580; for we learn from a -"On new-yeeres day at nyght (says the puritanical pamphlet published in the last censame writer, speaking of the year 1488), ther tury, that soon after that year, “many goodly was a goodly dysgysyog, and also this Cristmass citizens and well disposed gentlemen of London, ther wer many and dyvers playes.”
considering that play-houses and dicing-houses A proclamation which was issued out in the were traps for young gentlemen, and others, and year 1547 by King Edward the Sixth, to pro- perceiving that many inconveniencies and great 1072 hibit for about two months the exhibition of damage would ensue upon the long suffering of miliarde “ any kind of interlude, play, dialogue, or other the same,-acquainted some pious magistrales maller set forth in the form of a play, in the therewith,—who thereupon made humble suite English tongue," describes plays as a familiar lo Queene Elizabeth and her privy-councell, and entertainment, both in London and in the oblained leave from her majesty to thrust the country, and the profession of an actor as common and established. “ For as much as
* Now in the British Museum. C.
players out of the citty, and to pull down all play- | accurate a delineation of the internal form and houses and dicing-houses within their liberties; economy of our ancient theatres as the distance which accordingly was effected, and the play- at which we stand, and the obscurity of the subhouses in Gracious-Street, Bishopsgate-Street, ject, will permit. that nigh Paul's, that on Ludgate-Hill, and the The most ancient English playhouses of which White-Friars, were quite pulled down and I have found any account, are, the playhouse in suppressed by the care of these religious sena- Blackfriars, that in Whitefriars, The Theatre, tors." The theatre in Blackfriars, not being of which I am unable to ascertain the situation, within the liberties of the city of London, es- and The Curtain, in Shoreditch. The Theatre, caped the fury of these fanatics. Elizabeth, from its name, was probably the first building however, though she yielded in this instance to erected in or near the metropolis purposely for be frenzy of the time, was during the whole scenic exhibitions. no urse of her reign a favourer of the stage, and In the lime of Shakspeare there were seven a frequent attendant upon plays. So early as principal theatres : three private houses, nameti the year 1569, as we learn from another ly, that in Blackfriars, that in Whitefriars, and puritanical writer, the children of her chapel | The Cockpit or Phænix, in Drury Lane: and who are described as “her majesty's unfledged four that were called public theatres ; viz. The minions ") "flaunted it in their silkes and Globe on the Bankside, The Curtain in Shoresaftens," and acted plays on profane subjects in ditch, The Red Bull, at the upper end of St. the Chapel Royal. In 1574 she granted a li- John's Street, and The Fortune in Whitecrosscense to James Burbage, probably the father of Street. The last two were chiefly frequented the celebrated tragedian, and four others, ser-by citizens. There were, however, but six vants to the Earl of Leicester, to exhibit all companies of comedians: for the playbouse in kinds of stage-plays during pleasure, in any Blackfriars, and the Globe, belonged to the same part of England, “ as well for the recreation of troop. Beside these seven theatres, there were her loving subjects, as for her own solace and for some time on the Bankside three other pubpleasure when she should think good to see lic theatres ; The Swan, The Rose and The them;" and in the year 1583, soon after a Hope: but The Hope being used chiefly as a furious attack had been made on the stage by bear-garden, and The Swan and The Rose havthe paritans, twelve of the principal comedians ing fallen lo decay early in King James's reign, of that time, at the earnest request of Sir they ought not to be enumerated with the other Francis Walsingham, were selected from the regular theatres. companies then subsisting, under the license All the established theatres that were open and protection of various noblemen, and were in 1598, were either without the city of London sporn her majesty's servants. Eight of them or its liberties. had an annual stipend of 31. 6s. 8d. each. At It appears from the office-book of Sir Henry that time there were eight companies of co- Herbert, Master of the Revels to King James medians, each of which performed twice or the First, and the two succeeding kings, that thrice a week.
very soon after our poet's death, in the year King James the First appears to have patro- 1622, there were but five principal companies dized the stage with as much warmth as his pre- of comedians in London; the King's Servants, dre essor. In 1599, while he was yet in Scotland, who performed at the Globe and in Blackfriars ; be solicited Queen Elizabeth (if we may be the Prince's Servants, who performed then at leve a modern historian) 10 send a company of the Curtain; the Palsgrave's Servants, who bad English comedians to Edinburgh; and very soon possession of the Fortune; the players of the after his accession to the throne, granted a li- Revels, who acted at the Red Bull; and the tense to the company at the Globe, which is Lady Elizabeth's Servants, or, as they are somefound in Rymer's Fædera.
times denominated, the Queen of Bohemia's players, who performed at the Cockpit in DruryLane.
When Prynne published bis Histriomastix Having now, as concisely as I could, traced (1633), there were six playhouses open ; the the History of the English Stage, from its first iheatre in Blackfriars ; the Globe ; the Fortune ; rede state to the period of its maturity and great the Red Bull; the Cockpit or Phænix, and a est splendor, I shall endeavour to exhibit as I theatre in Salisbury Court, Whitefriars.
11 the plays of Shakspeare appear to have siderable size, and there they always acted by been performed either at The Globe, or the daylight. On the roof of this and the other theatre in Blackfriars. I shall therefore confine public theatres a pole was erected, to which my inquiries principally to those two. They be a flag was affixed. These flags were probably langed, as I have already observed, to the same displayed only during the hours of exhibition; company of comedians, namely, His Majesty's and it should seem from one of the old comedies servants, which title they obtained after a license that they were taken down in Lent, in which nad been granted to them by King James in time, during the early part of King James's reign, 1603 ; having before that time, I apprehend, plays were not allowed to be represented, though been called the servants of the Lord Chamber - at a subsequent period this prohibition was dislain. Like the other servants of the household, pensed with. the performers enrolled into this company were I formerly conjectured that The Globe, though sworn into office, and each of them was allowed hexagonal at the outside, was perhaps a rolunda four yards of bastard scarlet for a cloak, and a within, and that it might have derived its name quarter of a yard of velvet for the cape, every from its circular form. But, though the part apsecond year.
propriated to the audience was probably circular, The theatre in Blackfriars was situated near I now believe that the house was denominated the present Apothecaries' Hall, in the neigh-only from its sign; which was a figure of Herbourbood of which there is yet Playhouse Yard, cules supporting the Globe, under which was pot far from which the theatre probably stood. written, Totus mundus agit histrionem. This It was, as has been mentioned, a private house; theatre was burnt down on the 29th of June, but what were the distinguishing marks of a 1613; but it was rebuilt in the following year, private playhouse, it is not easy to ascertain and decorated with more ornament than had We know only that it was smaller than those been originally bestowed upon it. which were called public theatres ; and that The exhibitions at The Globe seem to have in the private theatres plays were usually pre- been calculated chiefly for the lower class of sented by candle-light.
people; those at Blackfriars for a more select In this theatre, which was a very ancient and judicious audience. This appears from the one, the children of the Revels occasionally per- following prologue to Shirley's Doubtful Heir, formed.
which is inserted among his poems, printed in It is said in Camden's Annals of the Reign 1646, with this title: of King James the First, that the theatre in Blackfriars fell down in the year 1623, and Prologue at the GLOBE, to his Comedy called that above eighty persons were killed by the The Doubtful Heir, which should have been accident; but he was misinformed. The room
presented at the Blackfriars. which gave way was in a private house, and appropriated to the service of religion.
"Gentlemen, I am only sent to say,
Our author did not calculate his play I am unable to ascertain at what time the
For this meridian. The Bankside he knows, Globe theatre was built. Hentzner has alluded
Or water than of wit ; he did not mean to it as existing in 1598, though he does not For the elevation of your poles, this scene. expressly mention it. I believe it was not built
No shews,-no dance,
and what you most delight is.
Grave understanders, here's no target-fighting long before the year 1596. It was situated on Upon the stage; all work for cutlers barr'd;
No bawdry, nor no ballads ;-this goes bard: the Bankside (the southern side of the river
But language clean, and, what affects you not, Thames), nearly opposite to Friday-Street, Without impossibilities the plot;
No clown, no squibs, no devil in't.-Oh now, Cheapside. It was an hexagonal wooden build- You squirels that want nats, what will you do? ing, partly open to the weather, and partly
Pray do not crack the benches, and we may
Hereafter fit your palates with a play. thatched.* When Hentzner wrote, all the other But you that can contract yourselves, and sit,
As you were now in the Blackfriars pit, theatres as well as this were composed of wood.
And will not deaf us with lewd noise and tongues, The Globe was a public theatre, and of con- Because we have no heart to break our lungs,
Will pardon our vast stage, and not disgrace
This play, meant for your persons, not the place." • In the long Antwerp View of London in the Pepysian Library at Cambridge, is a representation The superior discernment of the Blackfriar of the Globe theatre, from which a drawing was audience may be likewise collected from a pasmade by the Rev. Mr. Henley , and transmitted to Mr. Steevens. See the vignetle on the title page sage in the preface prefixed by Hemings and of Vol II.
Condell to the first folio edition of our author's
Is far more skilful at the ebbs and flows
Forks: “And though you be a magistrale of houses of reputation, such as the Globe, and that meat, and sit on the stage at Blackfriers, or the in Blackfriars, the price of admission into those Cockpit
, to araigne plays daille, know these plays parts of the theatre was sixpence, while in some have had their trial already, and stood out all meaner playhouses it was only a penny, in others appeales.”
twopence. The price of admission into the best A writer already quoted informs us that one rooms, or boxes, was, I believe, in our author's of these theatres was a winter, and the other a time, a shilling, though afterwards it appears to summer, house. As the Globe was partly ex- have risen to two shillings and half a crown. posed to the weather, and they acted there usually At the Blackfriars' theatre the price of the boxes by daylight, it appeared to me probable (when was, I imagine, higher than at the Globe. this Essay was originally published) that this was From several passages in our old plays we the summer theatre; and I have lately found my learn, that spectators were admitted on the stage, conjecture confirmed by Sir Henry Herbert's and that the critics and wits of the time usually Manuscript. The king's company usually began sat there. Some were placed on the ground; to play at the Globe in the month of May. The others sat on stools, of which the price was eiexhibitions here seem to have been more fre- ther sixpence, or a shilling, according, I supquent than at Blackfriars, till the year 1604, pose, to the commodiousness of the situation. ar 1605, wben the Bankside appears to have be- And they were attended by pages, who furcome less fashionable, and less frequented iban nished them with pipes and tobacco, which was it formerly had been.
smoked here as well as in other parts of the Many of our ancient dramatic pieces (as has house. Yet it should seem that persons were been already observed) were performed in the suffered to sit on the stage only in the private yards of carriers' inns, in which, in the begin- playhouses, (such as Blackfriars, etc.) where ning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, the comedians, the audience was more select, and of a higher who then first united themselves in companies, class ; and that in the Globe and the other puberected an occasional stage. The form of these lic theatres no such license was permitted. temporary playhouses seems to be preserved in The stage was strewed with rushes, which, sur modern theatre. The galleries, in both, are we learn from Hentzner and Caius de Ephemera, ranged over each other on three sides of the was in the time of Shakspeare the usual coverbuilding. The small rooms under the lowest ing of Doors in England. On some occasions of these galleries answer to our present boxes ; it was entirely matted over; but this was proand it is observable that these even in theatres bably very rare. The curtain which hangs in which were built in a subsequent period ex- the front of the present stage, drawn up by lines pressly for dramatic exhibitions, still retained and pullies, though not a modern invention their old name, and are frequently called rooms, (for it was used by Inigo Jones in the masques by our ancient writers. The yard bears a suf- at court), was yet an apparatus to which the fcient resemblance to the pit, as at present in simple mechanism of our ancient theatres had use. We may suppose the stage to have been not arrived; for in them the curtains opened raised in this area, on the fourth side, with its in the middle, and were drawn backwards and back to the gateway of the inn, at which the forwards on an iron rod. In some playhouses money for admission was taken. Thus, in fine they were woollen, in others, made of silk. weather, a playhouse not incommodious might Towards the rear of the stage there appears to bove been formed.
have been a balcony, or upper slage; the plalHence, in the middle of the Globe, and I sup- form of which was probably eight or dine fect pose of the other public theatres, in the time from the ground. I suppose it to bave been supof Shakspeare, there was an open yard or area, ported by pillars. From bence, in many of our where the coinmon people stood to see the ex- old plays, part of the dialogue was spoken ; and bibilion : from which circumstance they are in the front of it curtains likewise were hung, called by our author groundlings, and by Ben so as occasionally to conceal the persons in it Jonson “ the understanding gentlemen of the from the view of the audience. At each side of ground."
this balcony was a box, very conveniently situThe galleries, or scaffolds, as they are some-ated, which sometimes was called the private times called, and that part of the house which box. In these boxes, which were at a lower in private theatres was named the pit, seem to price, some persons sate, cither from economy have been at the same price ; and probably in or singularity.