« AnteriorContinuar »
ends seriously; and, they resolving that it is
“UPON A STAGE PLAY, WHICH I saw WHEN useless to argue longer with this impenitent sinner, "- somebody casts fire to Iniquity,” and
I WAS A CHILD, he departs in a tempest of squibs and crackers. “ In the city of Gloucester the manner is The business of the play now at length begins. (as I think it is in other like corporations) Darius tells his attendants that the three men that, when players of interludes come to town, who kept his chamber while he slept woke they first attend the mayor to inform him him by their disputing and murmuring, what nobleman's servants they are, and so
to get license for their public playing; and 1“ Every man to say a weightier matter than the if the mayor like the actors, or would show other."
respect to their lord and master, he appoints The subject of their dispute was, what is the them to play their first play before himself strongest thing; and their answers, as we are
and the aldermen and common council of informed by the King's attendants, had been the city; and that is called the mayor's play, reduced to writing :
where every one that will comes in without
money, the mayor giving the players a re“ The sentence of the first man is this,
ward as he thinks fit, to show respect unto Wine a very strong thing is;
them. At such a play my father took me The second also I will declare to you, That the king is stronger than any other
with him, and made me stand between his thing verily; legs, as he sat upon one of the benches,
The The third also I will declare
where we saw and heard very well. Women, saith he, is the strongest of all,
play was called “The Cradle of Security,' Though by women we had a fall.”
wherein was personated a king or some great
prince, with his courtiers of several kinds, Of their respective texts the three young amongst which three ladies were in special men are then called in to make exposition ; grace with him, and they, keeping him in and certainly, whatever defects of manners delight and pleasures, drew him from his were exhibited by the audiences of that day, graver counsellors, hearing of sermons, and they must have possessed the virtue of pa- listening to good counsel and admonitions, tience in a remarkable degree to have en
that in the end they got him to lie down in abled them to sit out these most prolix a cradle upon the stage, where these three harangues. But they have an end ; and ladies, joining in a sweet song, rocked him the king declares Zorobabel to be deserv- asleep, that he snorted again, and in the ing of signal honours, in his demonstration
mean time closely conveyed under the clothes that, of all things, woman is the strongest. wherewithal he was covered a vizard like a A metrical prayer for Queen Elizabeth, ut- swine's snout upon his face, with three wire tered by Constancy, dismisses the audience chains fastened thereunto, the other end to their homes*
whereof being holden severally by those The most precise and interesting account three ladies, who fall to singing again, and which we possess of one of the earliest of then discovered his face, that the spectator the theatrical performances is from the re- might see how they had transformed him collection of a man who was born in the going on with their singing. Whilst all this same year as William Shakspere. In 1639
was acting, there came forth of another door R. W. (R. Willis), stating his age to be se- at the farthest end of the stage two old men, venty-five, published a little volume, called the one in blue, with a sergeant-at-arms his Mount Tabor,' which contains a passage mace on his shoulder, the other in red, with which is essential to be given in any his- a drawn sword in his hand, and leaning with tory or sketch of the early stage:
the other hand upon the other's shoulder, 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 It would appear from Willis's descripvizard, all vanished; and the desolate prince, tion that “The Cradle of Security' was for starting up barefaced, and finding himself the most part dumb show. It is probable thus sent for to judgment, made a lament- that he was present at its performance at able complaint of his miserable case, and so Gloucester when he was six or seven years was carried away by wicked spirits. This of age. It evidently belongs to that class prince did personate in the moral the of moral plays which were of the simplest wicked of the world; the three ladies, construction. And yet it was popular long pride, covetousness, and luxury ; the two after the English drama had reached its old men the end of the world and the last highest eminence. judgment. This sight took such impres
and so they two went along in a soft pace, * There is a copy of this very curious production in the Garrick Collection of Plays in the British Museum; and a
round about by the skirt of the stage, till at transcript of Garrick's copy is in the Bodleian Library. last they came to the cradle, when all the
In a later period of the stage, when the men hath decayed, and they are thought actors chiefly depended upon the large sup- to be covetous by permitting their servants, port of the public, instead of receiving which cannot live by themselves, and whom the wages of noblemen, however wealthy for nearness they will not maintain, to live and powerful, the connection of a company on the devotion or alms of other men, passof players with a great personage, whose ing from country to country, from one gentle“servants” they were called, was scarcely man's house to another, offering their service, more than a licence to act without the in- which is a kind of beggary. Who, indeed, terference of the magistrate. But, in the to speak more truly, are become beggars for period of the stage which we are now de- their servants. For commonly the good-will scribing, it would appear that the players men bear to their lords makes them draw were literally the retainers of powerful the strings of their purses to extend their lords, who employed them for their own liberality to them, where otherwise they recreation, and allowed them to derive a
would not.”. Speaking of the writers of profit from occasional public exhibitions. plays, the same author adds,—“ But some In “The Third Blast of Retreat from Plays perhaps will say the nobleman delighteth and Theatres' we have the following pas- in such things, whose humours must be consage, which appears decisive upon this point: tented, partly for fear and partly for com
-“What credit can return to the nobleman modity; and if they write matters pleasant to countenance his men to exercise that they are best preferred in Court among the quality which is not sufferable in any com- cunning heads." In the old play of “The monweal? Whereas, it was an ancient cus- Taming of a Shrew' the players in the ‘Intom that no man of honour should retain duction are presented to us in very homely any man but such as was as excellent in guise. The messenger tells the lordsome one good quality or another, whereby, if occasion so served, he might get his own
“ Your players be come, living. Then was every nobleman's house a And do attend your honour's pleasure here." commonweal in itself. But since the retaining of these caterpillars the credit of noble-1 The stage-direction then says, “ Enter two
of the players with packs at their backs, and perboles, amphibologies, similitude.”* It a boy.” To the question of the lord, - is a dramatized romance, of which the title
“ Now, sirs, what store of plays have you?" — expresses that it represents a possible aspect the Clown answers,
of human life; and the name of the chief Marry, my lord, you character, Common Conditions, from which may have a tragical or a commodity, or what you will ;" for which ignorance the
the play derives its title, would import that other player rebukes the Clown, saying,
he does not belong to the supernatural or al“ A comedy, thou shouldst say: zounds ? legorical class of personages. Mr. Collier, in thou 'lt shame us all.” Whether this pic
his · History of Dramatic Poetry,' expresses ture belongs to an earlier period of the
an opinion that the character of Common stage than the similar scene in Shakspere's Conditions is the Vice of the performance. • Induction,' or whether Shakspere was fa- It appears to us, on the contrary, that the miliar with a better order of players, it is ordinary craft of a cunning knave—a little, clear that in his scene the players appear action, in the same way that the Vice
restless, tricky servant-works out all the as persons of somewhat more importance, and are treated with more respect:
had formerly interfered with it in the
moral plays; but that he is essentially “ Lord. Sirrah, go sce what trumpet 't is and purposely distinguished from the Vice. that sounds :
Mr. Collier also calls this play merely an Belike, some noble gentleman, that means,
interlude: it appears to us in its outward Travelling some journey, to repose him here.
form to be as much a comedy as the Re-enter a Servant.
"Winter's Tale.' How now? who is it?
Three tinkers appear upon the stage, Serv. An it please your honour,
singing, Players, that offer service to your lordship. Lord. Bid them come near.
“Hey tisty toisty, tinkers good fellows they be; Enter Players.
In stopping of one hole, they used to make
three." Now, fellows, you are welcome.
These worthies are called Drift, Unthrift, Players. We thank your honour. Lord. Do you intend to stay with me to
and Shift; and, trade being bad with them, night?
they agree to better it by a little robbing. 2 Play. So please your lordship to accept | Unthrift tells his companions, our duty.
“ But, masters, wot ye what? I have heard news Lord. With all my heart."
about the court this day,
That there is a gentleman with a lady gone The lord, however, even in this scene, gives his order, “ Take them to the buttery,"
And have with them a little parasite full of a proof that the itinerant companies were
money and coin.” classed little above menials. Of the performances of an itinerant com
These travellers the tinkers agree to rob; pany at this period we will select an example and we have here an example of the readiof “ Comedy.”
ness of the stage to indulge in satire. The • A Pleasant Comedie called Common Con- purveyors who, a few years later, were deditions' is neither a Mystery nor a Moral nounced in Parliament, are, we suppose, here Play. It dispenses with impersonations of pointed at. Shift says, Good and Evil ; Iniquity holds no “We will take away their purses, and say we do troversy with Charity, and the Devil is it by commission;" not brought in to buffet or to be buffeted. to which Drift replies, The play is written in rhymed verse, and
“Who made a commissioner of you? very ambitiously written. The matter is If thou make no better answer at the bar, thou “ set out with sweetness of words, fitness wilt hang, I tell thee true.” of epithets, with metaphors, allegorics, hy- * Gosson. Plays Confuted,' second action.
The gentleman and lady from the court, hang himself, and to help him up in the Sedmond and Clarisia, then come out of tree to accomplish his determination. They the wood, accompanied by their servant, consent, arguing that if he hangs himself Conditions. It appears that their father they shall be free from the penalty of hanghas long been absent, and they are travel- ing him; and so into the tree he goes. Up ling to seek him. Clarisia is heavy-hearted; the branches he runs like a squirrel, hallooand her thus consoles her, after the ing for help, whilst the heavy tinkers have fashion of “ epithets, metaphors, and hyper- no chance against his activity and his Shefboles :"
field knife. They finally make off; and Con“ You see the chirping birds begin you melody ditions releases his mistress. The next scene to make,
presents us Sedmond, the brother, alone. He But you, ungrateful unto them, their pleasant
laments the separation from his sister, and voice forsake:
the uncertainty which he has of ever finding You see the nightingale also, with sweet and his father : pleasant lay,
“But farewell now, my coursers brave, attrapped Sound forth her voice in chirping wise to ba- to the ground; nish care away.
Farewell, adieu, all pleasures eke, with comely You see Dame Tellus, she with mantle fresh
hawk and hound:
Farewell, ye nobles all; farewell each martial For to display everywhere most comely to be knight; seen;
Farewell, ye famous ladies all, in whom I did You see Dame Flora, she with flowers fresh delight.” Both here and there and everywhere, her
Sedmond, continuing his lament, says, banners to display.”
“ Adieu, my native soil; adieu, Arbaccas king;
Adieu, each wight and martial knight; adieu, The lady will have no comfort. She replies each living thing: to her brother in a long echo to his speech, Adieu, my woful sire, and sister in like case, ending
Whom never I shall see again each other to “And therefore, brother, leave off talk; in vain
embrace; you seem to prate:
For now I will betake myself a wandering Not all the talk you utter can, my sorrows can
knight to be, abate."
Into some strange and foreign land, their
comeliness to see.” Conditions ungallantly takes part against the lady, by a declamation in dispraise of women;
When Conditions released the lady, we learnt which is happily cut short by the tinkers that the scene was Arabia :rushing in. Now indeed we have movement " And, lady, it is not best for us in Arabia which will stir the audience. The brother
longer to tarry." escapes; the lady is bound to a tree; Con- It is to Arabia, his native soil, that Sedmond ditions is to be hanged; but his adroitness, bids adieu. But the audience learn by a very which is excessively diverting, altogether re- simple expedient that a change is to take minding one of another little knave, the Flib- place: a board is stuck up with the word bertigibbet of Scott, sets the audience in a
“ Phrygia” upon it, and a new character, roar. They are realizing the description of Galiarbus, entereth “out of Phrygia.” He Gosson,—“In the theatres they generally is the father of the fugitives, who, banished take up a wonderful laughter, and shout alto- from Arabia, has become rich, and obtained gether with one voice when they see some a lordship from the Duke of Phrygia; but he notable cozenage practised."* When the thinks of his children, and bitterly laments tinkers have the noose round the neck of that they must never meet. Those children Conditions, he persuades them to let him have arrived in Phrygia ; for a new character * Plays Confuted,'&c.
appears, Lamphedon, the son of the Duke, who has fallen violently in love with a lady If Fortune then fail not, and our next voyage whom we know by his description to be
prove, Clarisia. Conditions has discovered that his We will return merrily and make good cheer, mistress is equally in love with Lamphedon ;
And hold altogether as friends link'd in love; all which circumstances are described and
The cans shall be filled with wine, ale, and
beer. not rendered dramatic: and then Conditions, for his own advantage, brings the two lovers
Lustily, lustily," &c. together, and they plight their troth, and are The action of this comedy is conducted for finally married. The lost brother, Sedmond, the most part by description; an easier thing next makes his appearance under the name than the dramatic development of plot and of Nomides; and with him a Phrygian lady, character. Lamphedon falls in with the Sabia, has fallen in love. But her love is pirates, and by force of arms he compels them unrequited; she is rejected, and the un- to tell him of the fate of his wife. She has courteous knight flies from her. Lamphedon been taken, it seems, by Conditions, to be and Clarisia are happy at the Duke's court; | sold to Cardolus, an island chief; and then but Conditions, as it obscurely appears, want- Lamphedon goes to fight Cardolus, and he ing to be travelling again, has irritated the does fight him, but finds not the lady. ConDuchess against her daughter-in-law, and ditions has however got rid of his charge, by they both, accompanied by Conditions, fly to persuading her to assume the name of Metake ship for Thracia. They fall in with | træa, and enter the service of Leosthines. pirates, who receive them on ship-board, hav- Hardship must have wonderfully changed ing been secretly promised by Conditions that her; for after a time her brother, Sedmond, they will afford a good booty. We soon learn, arrives under his assumed name, and becomes by the appearance of Lamphedon, that they a candidate for her affections. The good old have thrown him overboard, and that he has man under whose protection she remains has lost his lady; but the pirates, who are by no adopted her as his daughter. Lamphedon is means bad specimens of the English mariner, on the way to seek her, accompanied by Consoon present themselves again, with a sea- ditions; and thus by accident, and by the insong, which we transcribe; for assuredly it trigues of the knavish servant, all those are was fitted to rejoice the hearts of the play- reunited who have suffered in separation : for goers of a maritime nation :
Leosthines is the banished father. How “ Lustily, lustily, lustily, let us sail forth ;
Conditions is disposed of is not so clear. He The wind trim doth serve us, it blows from
is constantly calling himself a little knave, the north.
and a crafty knave, a parasite, a turncoat; All things we have ready and nothing we want
To furnish our ship that rideth hereby; " Conditions? nay, double Conditions is my Victuals and weapons they be nothing scant ;
name, Like worthy mariners ourselves we will try. That for my own advantage such dealings can Lustily, lustily, &c.
frame." Her flags be new trimmed, set flaunting aloft; It is difficult to discover what advantage he Our ship for swift swimming, oh, she doth derives from his trickiness, yet he has alexcel :
ways a new trick. It is probable that he We fear no enemies, we have escaped them oft: Of all ships that swimmeth, she beareth the former, whose grimaces and ugliness would
was personated by some diminutive perbell.
make the audience roar with delight. The Lustily, lustily, &c.
tinkers in the first scene say they know not And here is a master excelleth in skill,
what to do with him, except to “set him to And our master's mate he is not to seek ; And here is a boatswain will do his good will, keep crows." The object of the writer of the
* A leaf or two is lost of the original copy, but enough And here is a ship, boy, we never had leak.
remains to let us see how the plot will end. We learn that Lustily, lustily, &c. Nomides repents of his rejection of Sabia.
and he says,