H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

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Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 64 of 68)
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fylth or soyle in the water ruuuynge by his house, sub poeua xs."

It is said that the same traditional authority of the
Manor Court for the prevention of nuisances was found in
existence in certain parishes of England at the time when
the first Local Government Act came into force, about forty

years ago.

Apart from plague, the cause of which seemed to he deeper
than all the sanitation of the time could reach, there were other
medical experiences of the reign which show how elementary
was the knowledge of the sixteenth century in all that related
to the provocation of disease. Hooker, who records the duties
of the nuisance inspectors of Exeter, is also the authority for
a remarkable incident at the assizes in that city in March, 1586.
Sir Bernard Drake had taken on the high seas a Portuguese
vessel laden with stock-fish from Newfoundland, and brought
his prize into Dartmouth. The men, to the number of thirty-
eight, were thrown into " the deep pit and stinking dungeon " of
Exeter Castle. Their clothing and persons were filthy after
a season at the cod fishery, and they appear to have been left
uncared for until the time of the gaol delivery. Some of them
died, others grew distracted. Infection spread from them to
the 'other prisoners, of whom many died. When the day of
trial came, the Portugals were so weak and ill that they had
to be carried into court. Their starved condition moved the
compassion of those who saw them, and most of all of tlie



presiding judge, Chief Justice Sir Edmund Anderson, " who
upon this occasion took a better order for keeping all
prisoners thenceforth in the gaol, and for the more often
trials " -namely, once a quarter. The need for some reform
was strongly enforced by what followed. Some fourteen days
after the trial, symptoms of malignant typhus fever began to
appear in many who had been at the assizes. Constables,
reeves, tithing-men. jurors (eleven out of one jury of twelve),
and many of the commons of Exeter, died of it, as well as one
of the judges and a number of the gentry of Devon : two
Careys, a Waldron, Basset, Fortescue, Chichester, Risdon, and
Bernard Drake himself within a few days of reaching his
home at Crediton. An exactly parallel case had happened at
Oxford nine years before. The Queen's Bench Prison in
Southwark was always crowded, and was never free from the
" sickness of the house," by which a hundred had died in six-
years. The records of coroners' inquests at Newgate show
that many deaths occurred among prisoners from " the pining
sickness," and some from "pestilent fever," or bloody flux. It
is not until the prosperous reign of George II. that similar
experiences of " black assizes " and gaol fever reappear in our

The life on board ship was another test of the public health.
Two or three weeks after they had beaten off the Spanish
Armada, the English ships were at anchor in Margate Roads
Avith their crews so crippled by disease that it was found im-
possible to bring the vessels through the Downs to Dover.
Admiral Lord Howard wrote : " They sicken one day, and die
the next." And in another letter : " It is a most pitiful sight
to see the men die in the streets of Margate. The Elizalx.-tli
Jonu* has lost half her crew. Of all the men brought out


by Sir Richard Townsend, he has but one alive." Musty rations
and want of clothes were believed to have brought on sickness
in the first instance, which must have turned to infection

Of the Armada itself, the fifty ships which escaped
destruction returned to Corunna and Santander in such a
state of disease that the inhabitants shut their doors against


the disembarking sailors. These were probably instances of
ship-fever, or dysenteiy, or perhaps, in the case of the Spanish

The doleful Dance, and Song of Death ; Intituled, Dante after mj fife'.

To a Plcafant New Tune.

pmftHjiiJKO creafure tmr,
effcijia of an? man,
.v coming toljtte oj tofoeti.

p _. w .[jit mafee HjticlUalejs Qrcng

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3Dfl pou mafee account to \i\st fo long,
tomato tfct toojia come to gout i

$ nil toon r' v foul mutt tuffctf BO bi.
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ton t|at U an on pcur HaWess 1-ipsJ,
anO la? rout l>eaW upon t^tfr fener,
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1 ana t'yc

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to tut jouCtom futicccaftg Law:
,^ you tut faUlp Imp a t >.rj fell,

iit ulo

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f Cjuitirr teity U'a IcftplGobsr,

TLntojtc VnHlj !j)c learn: 3

J-e;-..kcc toitb

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g.(Ge mu2 fjal-e a pjctfp Cje ?t, 3 C-;E,

tc j pjopnip tte louep to tancc,
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ana ell gooB ft UotejJ tat

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psa 0:1 It>troltmn-|bf?ftfp8ff,
jjOtofutit-tn!i in OxTordfhire,

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anU f uritC 1 :? tlj-it fi'.a h?paf ,
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p a'X'0:ci;Min ;%:. sap,


. too! poti al?<
c? Hout Co t'rr you be,
n-;5 loto, lni& f:ct at anu fnnll,
3 r.eugct t fco fe'ac p.uit l)ig!j Urrcf ..

ijcl} mp;onftDut,{\)f
f^uSl all XDiil) me to rcrt^U' i

ojetefce time tof)le it fs lent,

i!t{)BtE PDUt ftltC0 tO Uintf,

,. ew ttot; gout Uttg lament,

3, comtoftent{m:0 bp fuuften cljance*

aU t|j.:

3 not slt-ajp totlj Vrif'caua
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f junwoto^ja't




(Roxburghe Ballads.)


770 Till-: HXI'AX.^ION Ul' KXULAM).


ships, of true plague. A more ordinary inci lent an incident
almost inseparable from a voyage that lasted three months or
longer - was scurvy. Sir Kichard Hawkins believed that he
knew of ten thousand men lost by it during the twenty
years that he had used the sea : " It is the plague of the sea,
and the spoil of mariners." In Lancaster's first voyage for the
Kast India Company in 1(>01, he kept the crew of his flagship
in comparatively good health, until he could land them at the
Cape, by serving out lime-juice so long as his small stock of
it lasted. The other ships, after a three months' voyage, had
their crews so reduced or crippled by scurvy, that they were
scarcely able to let fall an anchor or hoist out their boats.
An incident told of a coasting cruiser, in a letter from one of
her company which Purchas saw a few years after, is as
follows: a drumbler, of Ipswich, called the Amitie, was
employed in the Queen's service for two years (about KiOO) on
the north coast of Ireland, during which time she is said to
have lost by scurvy thirty-two of her original crew of forty
men, notwithstanding their facilities for getting " fresh victuals
and many other helps."

One other aspect of the public health deserves a brief
notice. The two endowed hospitals of London were St.
Bartholomew's and St. Thomas's, both of them ancient
ecclesiastical foundations which had been preseived to the
sick poor at the dissolution of the monasteries. William
Clowes, surgeon to the former, makes, in a book of the year
1579, a revelation as to the class of patients who occupied-
the hospitals at that time which cannot but excite surprise.
Three out of four, it appears, were admitted as in-patients for
the French pox : " I speake nothing of St. Thomas Hospital,
and other houses about this citye, where an infinite multitude
are dayly in cure. ... It hapneth in the house of Saint
Bartholomew very seldome hut that among every twentye
diseased persons that are taken in, fiftene of them have " this
malady. Along with three other surgeons of the hospital,
he had cured one thousand and more such patients in five
years. For this deplorable state of things he blames the great
number of rogues and vagabonds and the numerous lewd ale-
houses, ; ' which are the very nests and harbourers of such
filthy creatures."




THE Queen showed her sense of the power of the drama to M.BATESON.
guide public feeling when in the first year of her reign she L f e ia
issued a proclamation against the performance of all plays and
interludes for a time. A second proclamation required the
licence ot the mayor for performances in towns, and of the
lord-lieutenant and two justices of the peace for performances
in the country. Furthermore, players were forbidden to touch
questions o/ religion and government. ] >udley, afterwards Earl
of Leicester, at once applied for a licence for his private company
of players. As yet the boys of the Royal chapels, or of the great
city schools, the young lawyers of the Inns of Court, under-
graduates at the universities, and the retainers of courtiers were
the only actors of the new comedies and tragedies written on
the classical model which were beginning to be fashionable at
court. 1 The common people attended the Mystery and Morality
Plays at religious iestivals, and heard there many allusions to
current theological controversy; they also went to see the
Chronicle Histories, in which historical personages were intro-
duced instead of the allegorical abstractions and virtues and
Vices as of yore ; and at the beginning of the reign they crowded
to see the new " interludes," such as Heywood was writing, in
which fictitious characters, drawn to resemble real life, were
for the first time introduced. The moral interlude had be-
come farcical, but as yet the populace had no tragedies or
comedies, and for the first fifteen years of Elizabeth's reign
the drama as we understand it was an amusement peculiar to
royalty. The Queen's Yeoman of the Revels kept an " acting-
box," which had to serve the whole country; its masks,
dresses, and properties were hired to the schools, the Inns of
Court, the Universities, and also to country-players, who are
reported to have damaged them, "by reason of the press of
the people, and foulness both ot the way and soil of the
wearers, who for the most part be of the meanest sort of
men." 2 But ere long the noblemen, the schools, and the
Queen's players found that money was to be made by public
performances, and to this end stages were erected in inn-
yards, and the audience viewed the performance from the

1 Fleay, '"Chronicle History of the London Stajre," p. 10.

2 J. P. Collier, "English Dramatic Poetry," i. 191.




inn-galleries. In London the Bell in Gracious (now Grace-
church) Street, the Bull in Bishopsgate Street, and the Belle
Sauvage on Ludgate Hill were the most famous.

The City authorities were very jealous of their powers
in licensing plays, as it was thought that crowded assemblies
helped to spread the plague. Harrison, in his "Chronology,"
1572, writes that "for this reason plays are banished for a
time out of London. ' He adds, " Would to God these com-
mon plays were exiled altogether as seminaries of impiety,
and their theatres pulled down as no better than houses of

I'linl'i: V.i/A .[ Sons, AH//IKI; IliU.

haudry." In 1574, however, the Queen exercised her authority
to permit Leicester's company to act within the City of
London, "except in time of common prayer or of common
pLigue." Next year the Common Council complained of the
'' inordinate haunting of great multitudes of people, especially
youth, to plays, interludes, and shows," of gross conduct " in
inns having chambers and secret places adjoining to their
open stages and galleries," of the "waste of money by poor
and fond persons, of pick-purses, and of the spread of
sedition," and forbade all plays, except those played in private
houses for marriages and festivities.



In response to an appeal from the players, the Lord Mayor
conceded them permission to play when the death-rate was
less than fifty per week. To avoid such stringent regulations,
the players determined to build a house suitable for dramatic
performances outside the limits of the City, in the Liberty of
Holy well, out in the fields of Shoreditch, the favourite practising
ground of archers.


In Harrison's " Chronology," under the date 1572, he speaks
of " theatres," and says, " it is an evident token of a wicked time
when players wax so rich that they can build such houses."
The word " theatre " may here mean not a house adapted for
dramatic performances, but a stage, or " pageant house," as it
was called, which, when used for Morality Plays, was sometimes
three storeys high, and very elaborate. If the word be used
in the modern sense, and if Harrison wrote the passage in
1572, it is the first mention of such houses. In Lambard's
" Perambulation of Kent," 1576, we read :

" Those who go to Paris Garden, the Bell Savage, arid the Theatre to
behold bear-baiting, interludes, or fence-play must not account of any
pleasant spectacle unless first they pay one penny at the gate, a second at
the entry of the scaffold, and a third for quiet sitting."

This is the first mention of the house called the " Theatre," in
Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, which was the first built in
London. About this time also the " Curtain " in Moorfielcis,
Shoreditch, was built. Both houses were quite in the country,
and surrounded by fields. The name " curtain " had belonged
of old to the land on which the theatre of that name was
built; a Curtain Row existed as late as 1745; it is now
Gloucester Street. As Sunday was at first the only day on
which players were licensed to perform, it was noted in 1578
that the Theatre and Curtain were as full as they could throng,
and ministers were disturbed at service by the noise of the
drum which summoned the audience. In 1583 a company of
Queen's players, which was managed by Leicester's two chief
actors, Burbage and Laneham, played in the Theatre, and
acquired a special right to the title " Queen's Players," which
had hitherto belonged to all who performed before the Queen.
Throughout the reign the drama Avas encouraged at the
Universities, and performances were given of plays in English




Drama at
the Uni-



of the


and Latin, by modern and ancient writers, at Oxford and rani-
bridge, where the AuJu/<tri<t of I'laut.us was played in Kind's
College Chapel on a Sunday afternoon, 1 in honour of Her
Majesty's visit. Harrington says, the wiser but not the
" presyser " sort at Cambridge thought there might be much
good in well-penned comedies, and especially tragedies. In 15N7
Marlowe and Greene left Cambridge for London, and created
a new spirit in the drama. Plays had no " long runs" in those
days, and the rivalry of the stages in seeking out new plays by
educated playwrights was keen. This rivalry led to an in-
crease in the number of theatres, and by 1592 the " Rose " had
been built in Bankside, South wark. There in that year Shake-
speare acted as a member of Lord Strange's company, managed
by Henslow. In 1504 the Earl of Sussex's company performed
Tit a* Andronicus, a piece whose revolting story was well
adapted to the prevalent taste for horrors. In 1594 he played
before the Queen at Greenwich, and in his Comnl ;/ of Error.* at
Gray's Inn. It has been estimated that out of twenty-eight
plays acted before the Queen by the Lord Chamberlains
company, twenty were Shakespeare's. 2 A contemporary writer
says that between March and July, 1592, ten thousand people
saw the First Part of Henri/ VI. ; and whether this be an
exaggeration or not, it is evident that the need of more
theatres was felt, for, in 1590, Burbage, Shakespeare's fellow-
actor, bought a large house in Blackfriars, which he converted
into a private theatre, and before the end of the century two
important new theatres were built in Bankside. The district
chosen was one of extreme squalor, known as the Clink or
Bishop of Winchester's Liberty, and of evil reputation ; but as
the new " Globe " and " Fortune " were visited by boat, the
inconveniences of access were not so great as to the Theatre
and ( 'urtain in remote Shoreditch. The new theatres did not
follow the classical model described by Vitruvius, as the con-
temporary Italian theatres did. but, like the old Theatre and
( 'uriain, they followed a plan which is generally believed to be
an imitation of the arrangement of an inn-courtyard, where
the stagings about the house formed ready-made balconies,
galleries, and boxes (p. 714). The floor was filled with the
poorest part of the audience, the " groundlings " or " pit,"

1 Nichols. "Progresses." i. 10(!. - Fleay. -'Life of Shakespeare,'' p. 47.



who had to stand pressed up against the stage, which was
raised on a small scaffold.

From contemporary pictures l it can be seen that the
Globe was not fully roofed in : the audience alone were under
the thatched roof; yet there were plays even in winter time,
for a performance in February is recorded. It was built 1598-9
by the actor Burbage, who had been a carpenter, out of the
materials of the Theatre, which was pulled down. It stood
close to the bear-garden, and had as its sign Atlas supporting
the globe. It was octagonal, and built of wood, lath, and
plaster. The Fortune, between Cross Street and Golding
Lane, was built by Alleyn, Burbage's rival, 1599-1600, at a
cost of 120. The contract is extant,' 2 and shows it to have
been a square, measuring 80 feet outside, 55 inside, three
storeys in height, " with four convenient divisions for gentle-
men's rooms and other sufficient divisions for twopenny
rooms," with seats throughout the house. Over the stage
there was to be a covering, but in all other respects it
appears to ha,ve resembled the Globe.

These two playhouses, where alone performances were The Plays
sanctioned in 1600, were the great social and political centres
of the time. The Globe was a meeting-place for those con-
cerned in the Essex rebellion. The Master of the Revels was
dramatic censor, and an attempt was made to check the
political use of the stage when in 1589 a divine and a statesman
were ordered to help him. Nevertheless the Martin Marprelate
tracts (p. 612) were answered from the stage, and plays were
filled with political allusions, obscurely put to evade the
authorities, and now difficult to understand. Every educated
man made a point ot reading new plays, and of larding his
discourse with quotations from the plays then running. He
must speak " in print," and keep a " huge long-scraped stock
Df Avell-penned plays." In the playhouses the gallants con-
g7egated, and in private theatres, such as Burbage's Blackfriars
Theatre, they hired seats on the stage, where they could show
3ff their clothes and their skill in taking tobacco to the best

1 Wilkinson, "Londina Illustrata " [from originals of 16 1'2 and 1647].
- Halliwell-Phillipps, "Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare," 5th ed.,
p. 265.



" Ruf'iis, the courtier, at the theatre,
Leaving the best and most conspicuous place,
Doth either to the stage himself transfer,
Or through a grate doth show his double face :
For that the clamorous fry of Iims of Court
Fills up the private rooms of greater price :
And such a place where all may have resort,
He in his singularity doth despise." l

Another favourite place, the worst for seeing but the best
for being seen, was the box adjoining the balcony at the back
of the stage, which the actors used for plays within plays. In
Elizabeth's reign prices varied from a penny to a shilling; in
the next reign they rose. Twopenny rooms or boxes and the
twopenny gallery are often mentioned, but sixpence seems to
have been the most usual fee. The St. Paul's private theatre
had no seats at less than fourpence, and its audience was
more select ; there

" ... A man shall not be choked
With the smell of garlic, nor be pasted
To the barmy jacket of a beer-brewer."

In 1585 a Dutchman reported that "the players might
take 10 to 12 at a time, particularly if they act anything
new, when people have to pay double. They perform nearly
every day in the week; notwithstanding plays are forbidden
on Friday and Saturday, this prohibition is not observed." - The
average daily expenditure on a dramatic performance has been
estimated at forty-live shillings : a new play was known to
cost (i 13s. 4d., though a private theatre would be willing to
give double that amount, The data concerning actors' salaries
are not precise, but it appears that the takings were divided
into shares and fractions of shares : the master-shares or
proprietors of the theatre got a certain proportion of shares,
others three-quarter or half shares, and the poorest actors
or hirelings about 6s. a week, according to Gosson's " School
of Abuse," 1579. Malone estimated that a good actor might
get 90 a year (an outside estimate ). :; Sweet bully Bottom's
"sixpence a day in PyraniiiK or nothing" was to be a pension

' Sir John Davies' Epigrams (Grosart, ii 10).

2 Rye. "England as seen by Foreigners.'' p. SS

3 "Historical Account of the English Stage,'" p. 1 7H (wl.



for life, such as Preston got from the Queen for his acting
in the play of Dido, at King's College, Cambridge. 1

As a rule the play began at one o'clock, and as the public At the
playhouses were not roofed in, the performance was by daylight. Play '
The private theatres in dwelling-houses alone had evening
performances. Plays were advertised by bills in the town, and
the signal that the play had begun was the hoisting of a flag.
All classes whiled away the intervals between the acts by eating
fruit, especially apples, cracking nuts, card- play ing, and smoking.
Ladies attended, and, when masks came into fashion, were
masked. As yet no woman acted, and it fell to " some squeaking
Cleopatra " to " boy " her greatness. The floor of the stage
was strewn with rushes ; in front was a curtain which was
drawn from the sides.

The nature of scenery in the reign of Elizabeth has been scenery,
much debated, 2 and many passages may be cited which seem
to show that stage effects were very primitive, while others
seem distinctly to point to the use of movable scenes. Sir
Philip Sidney makes fun of the written labels used to explain
what the properties were intended to represent, but he may be
speaking of rustic acting only. There certainly were trap-
doors in Elizabeth's reign, and in 1592 a stage direction bids
Venus be let down from the top of the stage, and when she
has said her speech, " if you can conveniently, let a chair
come down from the top of the stage and draw her up."
Shakespeare's stage directions involve the use of walls and
battlements, from which actors could speak, and the minute
descriptions his characters give of scenes in which they find
themselves must often have been ludicrous if the objects spoken
of were not represented on the stage. Undoubtedly scenery was
used for the Queen's great masques and pageants, and it may
reasonably be supposed that towards the end ot the reign it
was being used on the stage so far as there was space for it.

English players and their playing became famous through-
out Europe ; large towns in Germany and the Netherlands
were visited as early as 1591, and in 1597 a company of English
actors performed for seven days before the court at Stuttgart.

; Nichols. ' Progresses,'' i. 181.

2 J. P. Collier, "English Dramatic Poetry," iii. 170. Drake, "Shakespeare
wid his Times," ii. 212 sr<j.





Allusion has already I icon made to smoking in ihentvs:
b\ the end of the n ign, smoking had become general. Sir
.blm Hawkins is believed to have h'rst brought tobacco to
England in 15G5. Stow, in his " Annales," gives 1577 as tin-

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 64 of 68)