Abbildungen der Seite

the same time in Southwark; and we know that the Rose theatre was standing there not many years afterwards?. John Stockwood, a puritanical preacher, published a sermon in 1578, in which he asserted that there were “eight ordinary places” in and near London for dramatic exhibitions, and that the united profits were not less than £2000 a year, at least £12,000 of our present money. Another divine, of the name of White, equally opposed to such performances, preaching in 1576, called the play-houses at that time erected, “ sumptuous theatres." No doubt, the puritanical zeal of these divines had been excited by the opening of the Blackfriars, the Curtain, and the Theatre, in 1576 and 1577, for the exclusive purpose of the drama; and the five additional places, where plays, according to Stockwood, were acted before 1578, were most likely a play-house at Newington-butts, or inn-yards, converted occasionally into theatres.

An important fact, in connexion with the manner in which dramatic performances were patronized by Queen Elizabeth, has been recently brought to light. It has been hitherto supposed that in 1583 she selected one company of twelve performers, to be called “ the Queen's layers;" but it seems that she had two separate associations in her pay, each distinguished as “the Queen's players." Tylney, the master of the revels at the time, records, in one of his accounts, that in March, 1583, he had been sent for by her Majesty " to chuse out a company of players :" Richard Tarlton and Robert Wilson were placed at the head of that association, which was probably soon afterwards divided into two distinct bodies of performers. In 1590, John Lanham was the leader of one body, and Lawrence Dutton of the other,

i See the "Memoirs of Edward Alleyn,” (published by the Shakespeare Society) p. 189. It seems that the Rose had been the sign of a house of public entertainment before it was converted into a theatre. Such was also the case with the Swan, and the Hope, in the same neighbourhood.

2 By Mr. Peter Cunningham, in his "Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels," printed for the Shakespeare Society, pp. 32 and 186. The editor's" Introduction" is full of new and valuable information.

3 Tarlton died on 3 Sept. 1588, and we apprehend that it was not until after this date that Lanham' became leader of one company of the Queen's Players. Mr. Halliwell discovered Tarlton's will in the Prerogative Office, bearing date on the day of his decease : he there calls himself one of the grooms of the Queen's chamber, and leaves all his “goods, cattels, chattels, plate, ready money, jewels, bonds obligatory, specialties, and debts, to his son Philip 'Tarlton, a minor. He appoints his mother, Katherine Tarlton, his friend Robert Adams, and "his fellow William Johnson, one also of the grooms of her Majesty's chamber,” trustees for his son, and executors of his will, which was proved by Adams three days after the death of the testator. As Tarlton says nothing about his wife in his will, we ay presume that he was a widower; and of his son, Philip Tarlton, we never hear afterwards.


We have thus brought our sketch of dramatic performances and performers down to about the same period, the year 1583. * We propose to continue it to 1590, and to assume that as the period not, of course, when Shakespeare first joined a theatrical company, but when he began writing original pieces for the stage. This is a matter which is more distinctly considered in the biography of the poet; but it is necessary here to fix upon some date to which we are to extend our introductory account of the progress and condition of theatrical affairs. What we have still to offer will apply to the seven years from 1583 to 1590.

The accounts of the revels at court about this period afford us little information, and indeed for several years, when such entertainments were certainly required by the Queen, we are without any details either of the pieces performed, or of the cost of preparation. We have such particulars for the years 1581, 1582, 1584, and 1587, but for the intermediate years they are wanting.

The accounts of 1581, 1582, and 1584, give us the following names of dramatic performances of various kinds exhibited before the Queen: A comedy called Delight. Ariodante and Genevora. The Story of Pompey. . Pastoral of Phillida and A Game of the Cards.

| Clorin. A comedy of Beauty and History of Felix and PhiHousewifry.

liomena, Love and Fortune.

Five Plays in One. History of Ferrar.

Three Plays in One. History of Telomo.

Agamemnon and Ulysses. This list of dramas (the accounts mention that others were acted without supplying their titles) establishes that moral plays had not yet been excluded”.' The “Game of the Cards” is expressly called “a comedy or moral,” in the accounts of 1582; and we may not unreasonably suppose that “ Delight,” and “ Beauty and Housewifry,” were of the same class. “The Story of Pompey," and“ Agamemnon and Ulysses,” were evidently performances founded upon ancient history, and such may have been the case with “ The History of Telomo.” “Love and Fortune” has been called “ the play of Fortune” in the account of 1573; and we may feel assured that “ Ariodante and Genevora” was the story

From 1587 to 1604, the most important period as regards Shakespeare, it does not appear that any official statements by the master of the revels have been preserved. In the same way there is an unfortunate interval between 1604 and 1611.

3 One of the last pieces represented before Queen Elizabeth was a moral play, under the title of " The Contention between Liberality and Prodigality," printed in 1602, and acted, as appears by the strongest internal evidence, in 1600.


their names at this date, and that each company consisted probably of eight or ten performers. On the same authority we learn that theatrical representations upon the Sabbath had been forbidden; but this restriction does not seem to have been imposed without a considerable struggle. Before 1581 the Privy Council had issued an order upon the subject, but it was disregarded in some of the suburbs of London; and it was not until after a fatal exhibition of bea. baiting at Paris Garden, upon Sunday, 13 June, 1583, when many persons were killed and wounded by the falling of a scaffold, that the practice of playing, as well as bear-baiting, on the Sabbath was at all generally checked. In 1586, as far as we can judge from the information that has come down to our day, the order which had been issued in this respect was pretty strictly enforced. At this period, and afterwards, plays were not unfrequently played at court on Sunday, and the chief difficulty therefore seems to have been to induce the Privy Council to act with energy against similar performances in public theatres.

The annual official statement of the Master of the Revels merely tells us, in general terms, that between Christmas 1586, and Shrovetide 1587, “ seven plays, besides feats of activity, and other shows by the children of Paul's, her Majesty's servants, and the gentlemen of Gray's Inn,” were prepared and represented before the Queen at Greenwich. No names of plays are furnished, but in 1587 was printed a tragedy, under the title of “The Misfortunes of Arthur," which purports to have been acted by some of the members of Gray's Inn before the Queen, on 28 Feb., 1587 : this, in fact, must be the very production stated in the revels' accounts to have been got up and performed by these parties; and it requires notice, not merely for its own intrinsic excellence as a drama, but because, in point of date, it is the second play founded upon English history represented at court, as well as the second original theatrical production in blank-verse that has been preserved'. The example, in this particular, had been set, as we have already shown, in “Gorboduc," fifteen years before; and it is probable, that in that interval not a few of the serious compositions exhibited at court were in blank-verse, but it had not yet been used on any of our public stages.

The main body of “ The Misfortunes of Arthur” was the authorship of Thomas Hughes, a member of Gray's Inn;

1 Gascoyne's "Jocasta," printed in 1577, and represented by the author and other members of the society at Gray's Inn in 1566 as a private show, was a translation from Euripides. It is, as far as has yet been ascertained, the second play in our language written in blank-verse, but it was not an original work. The same author's “Supposes,'' taken from Ariosto, is in prose.

but some speeches and two choruses (which are in rhyme) were added by William Fulbecke and Francis Flower, while no less a man than Lord Bacon assisted Christopher Yelverton and John Lancaster in the preparation of the dumb-shows. Hughes evidently took “Gorboduc” as his model, both in subject and style, and, like Sackville and Norton, he adopted the form of the Greek and Roman drama, and adhered more strictly than his predecessors to the unities of time and place. The plot relates to the rebellion of Mordred against his father, king Arthur, and part to the plot is very revolting, on account of the incest befween Mordred and his stepmother Guenevora, Mordred himself being the son of Arthur's sister: there is also a vast deal of blood and slaughter throughout, and the catastrophe is the killing of the son by the father, and of the father by the son; so that a more painfully disagreeable story could hardly have been selected. The author, however, possessed a very bold and vigorous genius ; his characters are strongly drawn, and the language they employ is consistent with their situations and habits: his blank-verse, both in force and variety, is superior to that of either Sackville or Norton?.

It is very clear, that up to the year 1580, about which date Gosson published his “ Plays confuted in Five Actions,” dramatic performances on the public stages of London were sometimes in prose, but more constantly in rhyme. In his “School of Abuse,” 1579, Gosson speaks of two prose books played at the Bell Savage?;" but in his “ Plays confuted" he tells us, that “poets send their verses to the stage upon such feet as continually are rolled up in rhyme." With one or two exceptions, all the plays publicly acted, of a date anterior to 1590, that have come down to us, are either in prose or in rhymes. The case seems to have been different, as already remarked, with some of the court

1 " The Misfortunes of Arthur,” with four other dramas, has been reprinted in a supplementary volume to the last edition of Dodsley's Old Plays. It is not, therefore, necessary here to enter into an examination of its structure or versification. It is a work of extraordinary power,

See the Shakespeare Society's reprint, p. 30. Gosson gives them the highest praise, asserting that they contained - never a word without wit, never a line without pith, never a letter placed in vain."

3 Sometimes plays written in prose were, at a subsequent date, when blank-verse had become the popular form of composition, published as if they had been composed in measured lines. The old historical play, “The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth," which preceded that of Shakespeare, is an instance directly in point: it was written in prose, but the old printer chopped it up into lines of unequal length, so as to make it appear to the eye something like blankverse

« ZurückWeiter »