Alice Ida Perry Wood.

The stage history of Shakespear's King Richard the Third online

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All rights reserved

Copyright, 1909
By The Columbia University Press

Printed from type May, 1909

SEP 2i '1909



Lancaster. Pa.

This Monograph has been approved by the Department of Eng-
lish in Columbia University as a contribution to knowledge worthy

of publication.





Cdarnltn? CH. Binnli



In the following pages it is my purpose to trace the fortune
upon the stage of one of the most popular of Shakespeare's
plays, " The Tragedy of King Richard the Third." In such
a history, the consideration of the play as literature must be
entirely subordinated to the exhibition of its capacity for stage
effectiveness, and its success, deserved or not, with the public.
For this reason, discussions of text, date and authorship, are
deemed out of the province of this enquiry. While the mate-
rials for such a study, especially in the earlier history of the
play, are scant, it has been my aim to give such records of
performances as are extant, with the conditions of staging, the
use of scenery, properties, and costume, the methods of actors,
especially of those who have taken the principal part, and the
attitude of the audience in successive periods and under vary-
ing conditions. Since there is little direct information con-
cerning the play during the Elizabethan period, I have at-
tempted to supply this lack in some measure, by an examina-
tion of the typical plays of the time, with a view to discovering
the stage conditions which affected the original presentation.
Having established the prevailing methods of staging by care-
ful reference to the directions in contemporary plays, and by
noting the favorite devices, and the management of situations
similar to those occurring in this play, I have thought it pos-
sible, by a comparative method, to reconstruct the presentation
of " Richard the Third " in Shakespeare's time.

The work naturally falls into well-marked divisions. First,
the history of the play from its earliest performance to the
closing of the theatres. The next period extends from the
opening of the theatres to 1700, a time of general rather than
particular importance to our subject. With the beginning of
the eighteenth century, the Gibber version of " Richard the
Third," the best known of all the adaptations of Shakespeare,
appeared, and this constitutes the main feature of the history
of the play during the century. Garrick initiates a new era
in the history of acting in the mid-eighteenth century and I
have therefore made his age the beginning of a fourth period.
This extends through the career of Sir Henry Irving. The

fortune of " Richard the Third " in America deserves a place
in the history of this play, both because of its intrinsic interest
and because of its importance in American theatrical develop-
ment, and the last chapter therefore gives the main facts of its
history in this country, from its first performance in 1750,
through the life-time of Edwin Booth. The study ends with
such indications of general tendencies in the presentation of
the play as I have gathered in the course of this investigation.

While the general purpose is expressed in the opening sen-
tence of these introductory remarks, it is hoped that a farther
aim has not been entirely lost sight of, and that this work has
served to add some slight evidence for the worthier estimation
of Shakespeare's genius as one that but turned to most signifi-
cant use the common materials lying close to the hands of all.

I take this opportunity to express my gratitude for many
courtesies received at the Astor, Lenox and Columbia libraries,
and my indebtedness to the various members of the English
department at Columbia University. Especially do I wish to
thank Professor G. R. Carpenter, whose advice and encourage-
ment have been invaluable ; Professor W. P. Trent, for helpful
counsel; Professor W. W. Lawrence, for reading the manu-
script; Professor Brander Matthews, for reading the manu-
script and furnishing some data; Professor W. A. Neilson,
now of Harvard University, at whose suggestion this subject
was undertaken ; and Professor A. H. Thorndike, whose
method of procedure I have adopted and who, throughout the
work, has aided generously with suggestion and criticism.

A. I. P. W.

Vassar College,
December 13, 1908.


L'opinion generalement etablie sur Richard a pu contribuer au succes de

la piece qui porte son nom : aucun peut-etre des ouvrages de Shakspeare
n'est demeure aussi populaire en Angleterre, Les critique ne Font pas en
general traite aussi favorablement que le public; quelques-uns, entre
autres Johnson, se sont etonnes de son prodigieux succes ; on pourrait
s'etonner de leur suprise si Ton ne savait, par experience, que le critique,
charge de mettre de I'ordre dans les richesses dont la public a joui d'abord
confusement, s'affectionne quelquefois tellement a cet ordre et surtout a
la maniere dont il I'a congu, qu'il se laisse facilement induire a condamner
les beautes auxquelles, dans son systeme, il ne sait pas trouver une place

GuizoT : Notice sur La Vie et La Mort de Richard III.


Richard the Third in its Relation to Contemporary

Plays i

II "^
Richard the Third on the Elizabethan Stage 25

Richard the Third and the Drama of the Restora-
tion 60

The Cibber Version of Richard the Third 'jd

From Garrick to Irving — 1741-1897 loi

Richard the Third in America 134


Conclusion 166

Bibliography 172

Index 179

Richard the Third in its Relation to Contemporary


Documentary facts of presentation and stage history — Earlier and con-
temporary plays — " Richardus Tertius " — " The True Tragedy " — References
to other plays on the subject — Theatrical conditions in 1593-4 — The close
relations between dramatic authors tending to produce well-marked types
— Plays based on the chronicles — Typical situations and general character-
istics — Influence of Marlowe — " The Spanish Tragedy " — " Richard the
Third " in reference to these types.

It is one of the surprises of Shakespearian criticism that
some of the plays known to have been on the stage for three
hundred years seem to have left so little trace in the annals of
stage history or in contemporary literature. The play of
" Richard the Third " offers slight reward to the student
searching for documentary facts, merely a few references,
sometimes vague, sometimes ambiguous, to what is conceded
to have been one of the most popular of Shakespeare's plays.
What is surely known may be given very briefly.

While no definite evidence exists, authorities generally agree
in fixing the date of " Richard the Third " at 1593-4.^ We
learn from the title page of the first Quarto, 1597, that it was
performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men, one of the leading

^ Such as Ward, Fleay, The Irving Shakespeare, The Temple and Cam-
bridge editions, etc. The reasons, so far as based upon the publication
of The True Tragedy, are of little weight, as many plays were printed in
1594-S owing to the breaking up of the companies. Surer indications are
the workmanship and the traces of Marlowe. Halliwell-Phillipps puts the
date at 1597, because of the phrase "lately acted" on the Quarto as
referring to the Lord Chamberlain's Company. The company would
obviously be designated by its name at the time, no matter what it may
have been called when the play first appeared. The opinions of the leading
authorities on the question of the date may be found on pages 451-6 of the
New Variorum edition of Richard the Third, which has appeared since this
was written.

2 1

companies of the day. That it was popular and fell in with
the taste of the day, we gather from the constant demands for
republication,^ as well from frequent allusions. It is first men-
tioned in John Weever's "Epigram Ad Gulielmum Shakes-
peare,"^ 1595, where, among other characters of " honie-tong'd
Shakespeare," he names Richard, probably, though not surely,
Richard the Third. In " Epigrams and Elegies " by J. B. and
C. M., supposed to belong to 1596, a part of Richard's speech
is imitated.* " Richard the Third " is among the tragedies
commended by Meres in " Palladis Tamia," 1598. Richard's

A horse ! a horse ! my kingdom for a horse !

found many imitators.^ In " England's Parnassus," 1600,

= Wise published the Quartos of 1597, 1598 and 1602. The copyright
was then sold to Matthew Law who republished the play in 1605, 1612,
1622, 1629 and 1634. In 1623 it appeared in the Folio. There were a
larger number of editions of Richard the Third before 1640 than of any
other of Shakespeare's plays.

^ Honie-tong'd Shakespeare, when I saw thine issue,
I swore Apollo got them and none other.

Rose-checkt Adonis with his amber tresses,
Faire fire-hot Venus charming him to love her,
Chaste Lucretia virgine-like her dresses,
Prowd lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her ;
Romea Richard ; more, whose names I know not,
Their sugred tongues, and power attractive beuty
Say they are Saints, althogh that Sts they show not,
For thousands vowes to them subjective dutie.

* I am not fashioned for these amorous times.
To court thy beauty with lascivious rhymes ;
I cannot dally, caper, dance and sing,
Oiling my saint with supple something.

Compare Richard the Third, Act I, Scene i, lines 14-17.
° Marston : Scourge of Villainie, 1598.

A man, a man, a kingdom for a man !
Chapman: Eastward Hoe, 1605.

A boate, a boate, a boate, a full hundred marks for a boate.
Marston: Parasitaster, or the Fawne, 1606.

A f oole, a foole, a foole, my coxcombe for a foole !
Marston: What you Will, 1607.

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse !

there are five quotations from " Richard the Third." Sir
Wilham CornwalHs, in 1600, remonstrated against the popular
conception of Richard as gained from the plays. In 1601, in
" The Return from Parnassus," Part I, Act IV, Scene 3,
Burbage and Kempe are represented as teaching students to
act and as using this play for their text.^ Manningham, in his
"Diary" under date of March 13, 1601, tells an anecdote of
Burbage and Shakespeare at a performance of " Richard the
Third." Barnabe Barnes, in " Four Bookes of Office," 1606,
and Nicholas Breton in " Good and Badde," 1616, both refer
to the popularity of " Richard the Third " with vulgar audi-
ences. The allusion most frequently quoted occurs somewhat
later in Bishop Corbet's " Iter Boreale " of about 1618, where
Burbage is inseparably identified with the part of Richard the
Third.'' In the same year, in " Funeral Elegy " on Burbage,
it is said,

And Crookback, as befits, shall cease to live.

Brathwaite : Strappado for the Divell, 1615.

A horse, a kingdom for a horse.
Heywood : Iron Age, 1611.
Syn. A horse, a horse.

Pyn. Ten kingdoms for a horse to enter Troy.
Beaumont and Fletcher: Little French Lawyer, c. 1620.

My kingdom for a sword.
Heywood: Edward the Fourth, 1600 pub.
A staff, a staff,

A thousand crowns for a staff !
Peele : The Battle of Alcazar, 1594.
A horse, a horse, villain, a horse.
This last may antedate Richard the Third and therefore be the original
line. Compare with these Shakespeare's own imitation in the Prologue of
Henry the Fifth,

A kingdom for stage.
'Burbage. I like your face, and the proportion of your body for
Richard III ; I pray. Master Philomusus let me see you
act a little of it.
Phil. " Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by the sun of York."
Bur. Very well, I assure you.

^ For when he would have sayed " King Richard dyed,"
And called — " a horse, a horse ! " — he Burbage cryed.

We find later references in Nahum Tate's " Loyal General,"
1680,^ and in Milton's " Eikonoclastes," 1690,® and reminis-
cences of lines from " Richard the Third " appeared in various
poems for fifty years after the play.

These allusions/" while scanty, show that the figure of
Richard the Third was a familiar one,^^ that it appealed to the
imagination in its portrayal of an arch-villain, and that the
greatest actor of the time, Burbage, was identified with it.
With the one record of a performance, given in Sir Henry
Herbert's Ofiice Book under date of 1633,^^ these references
comprise all the direct information we possess prior to the
Restoration, of " Richard the Third " as a stage play. What
further light we may throw upon its presentation must come
from a consideration of the theatrical and dramatic situation
of the time.

Before considering this, however, it is necessary to turn for
a moment to the earlier plays on the subject.^^ " Richard the

* In the dedication to Edward Tayler, he speaks of Shakespeare's power
in delineating Richard the Third's " Person, and Cruel Practices " and
gives quotations to illustrate.

' Shakespeare " introduces the Person of Richard the Third, speaking in
as high a strain of Piety, and mortification, as is uttered in any passage of
this Book (Eikon Basilike) ; and sometimes to the same seise and pur-
pose with some words in this Place, etc." There is a reference to Richard
the Third in Gayton's Festivous Notes on Don Quixote, 1654, ^^ addition
to these given.

'" See for many of these Shakespeare's Centurie of Prayse, edited by
C. M. Ingleby, revised by L. T. Smith, published by The New Shakespeare
Society, Series IV, number 2, 1879.

" C. B., the author of a poem. The Ghost of Richard III, explains that
he does not enlarge on the story of Richard because it is " made so common
in plays and so notorious among all men."

" " On Saterday the 1 7th of Novemb being the Queene's birthday,
Richarde the Thirde was acted by the K. players at St. James, wher the
king and queene were present."

" This subject as it has appeared in chronicle, poem and play, has been
fully treated by Mr. G. B. Churchill in Richard the Third up to Shakespeare,
and to that I am greatly indebted. He shows that before, and con-
temporary with its appearance on the stage, the subject was popular in
several forms. In ballads there are extant The Song of Lady Bessie,
dating from about 1500, The Tragical Report of King Richard the Third,

Third " on the stage dates from the appearance in 1579, of the
Latin play, " Richardus Tertius," by Dr. Thomas Legge, Vice
Chancellor of Cambridge and Master of Caius College. This
is said to have been elaborately staged, and was very popular
with academic audiences. There are some, though rather
doubtful, evidences that it was repeated in 1582 and in 1592,
on the former date before the Earl of Essex, on the latter
before the Queen,^* and Henry Lacey, in 1586, made a tran-
script of it for presentation at Trinity College, Cambridge.
An indication of its popularity lies in the large number of
manuscripts in existence, of which there are no fewer than
ten; three at Cambridge, two in the British Museum, one in
Bodleian, and one in private hands.^^ It is to this play that

1586, Deloney's Lamentation of Jane Shore in The Garland of Good-Will
of the same time. In The Mirour for Magistrates, compiled as early as
1554, but first published in 1559, there were nine poems concerned with
the story of Richard the Third in the first four editions. These were the
poems on Henry the Sixth, on the Duke of Clarence and on Edward the
Fourth, in the 1559 edition; in the edition of 1563 were added Sir Anthony
Woodville, Lord Rivers, Lord Hastings, The Complaint of Henrie, Duke
of Buckingham by Thomas Sackville, Collingborne by Baldwin, Richard
Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester by Segar, and Shore's Wife by Thomas
Churchyard. In 1593, contemporary with Richard the Third, two poems
on the subject, Beawtie dishonoured written under the title of Shore's
wife by Anthony Chute, and Licia or Poems of Love, in Honour of the
admirable and singular vertues of his Lady, to the imitation of the best
Latin poets and others. Whereunto is added the Rising to the Crowne of
Richard the third, by Giles Fletcher. Michael Drayton's Heroicall Epistles
were published in 1599, but were probably written earlier. Those related
to this subject are, Queene Margaret to William de-la-Poole, Duke of
Suffolk, Edward IV to Shore's Wife, and The Epistle of Shore's Wife to
King Edward the fourth. Less popular versions of the story were to be
found in Sir Thomas Mere's History of King Richard III, which appeared
in English about 1513 with an earlier Latin version, in Polydore Vergil's
Historia AnglicB, 1534, in John Rastell's Pastime of People or the Chronicles
of Divers Realms, 1529, and in such accounts as Hall's, 1548, Grafton's,
1562, and Holinshed's, 1578, and in the work of the contemporary popular
chronicler Stowe, whose accounts date 1561 and 1580.

" Churchill, op. cit., page 267. See also Fuller's Worthies, Norwich,
edition of 1840, Vol. II, page 491.

^° Ditto, page 269.


Sir John Harrington refers in his " Apologia of Poetrie," 1591,
where he says :

" For tragedies, to omit other famous tragedies, that which was played
at St. John's in Cambridge, of Richard the Third, would move, I thinke,
Phalaris the tyrant, and terrifie all tyrannous minded men from following
their foolish ambitious humours, seeing how his ambition made him kill
his brother, his nephews, his wife, beside infinit others, and last of all,
after a short and troublesome raigne, to end his miserable life, and to
have his body harried after his death."

This opinion of the " convicting " power of the play is quoted
by Thomas Hey wood in his " Apology for Actors," 1612, and
Meres in " Palladis Tamia," 1598, includes Dr. Legge, of Cam-
bridge, among " our best for Tragedy," mentioning his " two
famous tragedies" of "Richard the Third" and "The De-
struction of Jerusalem. "^"^ The play follows the story as
found in Polydore Vergil and More with slight variations for
the sake of bringing it into the Senecan mould, as the personal
wooing of Anne by Richard and the extension of the scenes
with the counsellors.

Mr. Churchill has pointed out that, while the choice of the
subject of Richard the Third was probably the result of its
adaptability to the Senecan idea of tragedy, this play neverthe-
less, in treating English material, was the precursor, if not the
" direct incitement to that dramatizing from the chronicles of
the careers of English monarchs which established a national
historical drama in popular form upon the popular stage."^'^
Since this was a university play and in Latin, it was known to
a limited, but nevertheless an important audience, for Mar-
lowe, Lodge, Peele, and Greene were Cambridge men and must
have been familiar with it. This first chronicle play must,
therefore, have undoubtedly helped to establish a tradition for
later forms. ^^

^^ Allusion to this play is made by Thomas Nash in Have with you to
Saffron Walden, 1596, where he tells of the mistake of an actor, who,
" in the Latine tragedie of King Richard cries Ad urbs, ad urbs, ad urbs
when his whole part was no more than Urbs, urbs, ad arma, ad arma."
Churchill, op. cit., page 265.

" Ditto, page 272.

^^ A detailed analysis of the play is given by Mr. Churchill, op. cit., pages

" Richard the Third " soon became a favorite on the pubHc
stage. On June 19, 1594, Thomas Creede entered on the
Stationers' Register " an enterlude " which was pubHshed the
same year under the title of " The True Tragedy of Richard
the Third: Wherein is showne the death of Edward the
Fourth, with the smothering of the twoo yoong Princes in the
Tower: With a lamentable ende of Shore's wife, an example
for all wicked women. And lastly the conjunction and join-
ing of the two noble Houses, Lancaster and Yorke. As it was
playd by the Queenes Maiesties Players." This play seems to
have been the outcome of the rivalry between the Queen's
Company at The Theatre and Pembroke's Men at The Cur-
tain, in an attempt to supply the popular demand for a con-
tinuation of the subject of the Lancastrian and Yorkist con-
flict already set forth in the play given by the Queen's Com-
pany, and called " The First Part of the Contention betwixt
the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, with the
death of the good Duke Humphrey: And the banishment and
death of the Duke of Suffolk, and the Tragicall end of the
proud Cardinall of Winchester, with the notable Rebellion of
Jacke Cade: And the Duke of Yorkes first claime unto the
Crowne."^^ A continuation of this play, the second part of
" The Contention," also called " The True Tragedy of the
Duke of Yorke," was given a little later by the Earle of Pem-
broke's Men, a rival company, which still later probably acted
the third part of " Henry the Sixth," evidently based on this
play. While these are not preeminently dealing with Richard
the Third, his character is prominent and suggests the possi-
bilities which were later carried out in making him protagonist
in the play given by the Queen's Men. This was in competi-
tion, apparently, with " The Second Contention," and in it we
find the typical situations that have distinguished the plays on
Richard the Third throughout.

It is not to be supposed that The Rose was without a play
upon a subject that, according to Thomas Nash, filled both

" F. G. Fleay, A Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama, Vol. II,
page 315. Also Churchill, op. cit., page 485. Fleay dates this play about

■ 8

houses as did those on the Hfe of King Henry the Sixth.^"
In Henslowe's Diary, in the account of the Earl of Sussex'
Men, we find:

" Rd at buckingam, the 30 of desembr 1593 lix'.

" " " " I " Jenewary 1593 Iviii"

" " " " 10 " " " xxii^

" " " " 27 " " " xviii^ " ^

This play of " Buckingham " may have been a version of the
story of Richard the Third with the emphasis upon this charac-
ter, his " rising " and overthrow offering a tragic theme almost
as notable as that of Richard himself. There is a possibility
also^^ that the entries for December 31, and January 16, 1593,
in regard to a play of " Richard the confeser " may be on the
same subject, or at least connected with it.

It is seen, therefore, that when the play of " Richard the
Third," which we attribute to Shakespeare,^^ appeared, prob-
ably at The Theatre,^* and probably in the season of 1593-4,
there were several plays in the possession of companies on the
same subject, and perhaps more than one actually on the
boards at the same time.

The theatrical situation in London in 1593-4 should be
noticed. The old Queen's Company had been broken up, the
children's companies, for one reason or another, had been

^ " How would it have joyed brave Talbot, the terror of the French, to
think that after he had been two hundred years in his tomb he should
triumph again on the stage, and have his bones embalmed with the tears
of ten thousand spectators (at least at several times) who, in the tragedian
that represents his person, behold him fresh bleeding." Pierce Penniless,

^Shakespeare Society Publications, 1845, pages 31—3.

^^ According to J. P. Collier's edition of Henslowe's Diary, Shakespeare
Society Publications, 1845, page 31.

^ F. G. Fleay {Life of Shakespeare, pages 118 and 276-7) believes that
Marlowe left this play incomplete at his death, and that it was finished by
Shakespeare. Halliwell-Phillips {Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare,
page 94) thinks it is essentially Shakespeare's, but contains remnants of an
older play. J. R. Lowell, on aesthetic grounds, denies that Shakespeare
did more than to remodel an old play. See Latest Literary Essays and

^ Fleay, History of the London Stage, page 154.


inhibited, not to appear in public again until 1596, and from
the large number of players' companies of the earlier time,

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Online LibraryAlice Ida Perry WoodThe stage history of Shakespear's King Richard the Third → online text (page 1 of 17)