William John Lawrence.

The Elizabethan playhouse and other studies online

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Seven Hundred and Sixty Copies printed ;
type distributed. No. fQy








Printed by A. H. Bullen, at The Shakespeare Head Press,



The Memory




The genial reception given to my earlier book on the
Elizabethan Playhouse has encouraged me to issue this
Second Series of studies. My chief aim has been, as before,
to throw additional light on the obscurities of the Eliza-
bethan Stage, land to emphasize the remarkable vitality
of its conventions by demonstrating how many of them
contrived to wind their tendrils round the trunk of early
picture-stage dramaturgy. We sometimes forget that if
there have been growth and decadence since Shakespeare's
time, there has also been a certain measure of continuity.

No apology need, 1 hope, be expressed for the inclusion
of one or two papers at the end which lie outside the
scope of the main inquiry. They are the result of patient
delving, and their existence is justified by the new facts
they present. I have also thought it advisable to reprint
in amended form in an appendix the chronological list
of Elizabethan and quasi-Elizabethan theatres originally
published at the end of my first paper in the earlier
volume. Corrected by the light of the recent discoveries
of Monsieur Feuillerat and Professor C. W. Wallace,
this embodies the chief facts known to modern learning
about the early playhouses.

Of these studies it also requires to be noted that the
third, fifth, sixth and eighth are now published for the
first time. For permission to reprint the others I have to
thank the editors of the various periodicals in which they

viii Preface

originally appeared. The first is taken from Englische
Studien (1912), the second and fourth from Anglia (19 12),
the seventh from the Dublin Saturday Herald (1913), the
ninth from The Gentleman s Magazine (1896), and the
tenth from Irish Life (19 13). All have been thoroughly
revised, and one — the paper on "Early Systems of
Admission" — considerably extended. Owing to the fact
that the illustrations have been carefully selected with
the view of helping to a clear understanding of many
moot points, one or two of them happen to be familiar
almost unto triteness ; but on the other hand the great
majority are of a highly uncommon order and will prove
new even to theatrical specialists.

To Sir Harry C. W. Verney, Bart., my thanks are due
for his kindness in causing a second search to be made
in the Verney archives at Steeple Claydon for the missing
seventeenth-century playbills, and for his generous per-
mission, on their discovery, to have them photographed
for reproduction. Although relegated by unfortunate
necessity to the comparative obscurity of an appendix the
facsimiles of these rare old bills form one of the most
interesting features of this book. Mr. William Martin,
LL.D., and the Editor of The Selborne Magazine and
Nature Notes (with the courteous sanction of the Society
of Antiquaries) have kindly lent to me the block of the
broadsheet of England's Joy — the first block ever made
from it. Indebtedness must also be acknowledged to
Mr. Walter H. Godfrey for permission to reproduce two
of his designs for a conjectural reconstruction of the first
Fortune theatre. Lastly, it is once more my agreeable

Preface ix

duty to thank my friend and publisher, Mr. A. H. Bullen,
for his careful reading of the proofs.

May I venture to say, in conclusion, how much I
appreciate the honour that has fallen to my lot of having
two books printed and published in Shakespeare's own
town and in a venerable old house with whose lineaments
the Master from youth upward must have been thoroughly
familiar ? If it should be conceded by the few competent
to judge that I have added, however slightly, to the sum-
total of existing: knowledge regarding the Elizabethan
Stage, I shall deem myself fully rewarded for many years
of ungrudging research and painful excogitation.

W. J. Lawrence.
Dublin, March, 191 3.



Preface ....... vii

I Light and Darkness in the Elizabethan —

Theatre . . . v . . . i, / ~~ ^ r

II Windows on the Pre-Restoration Stage ( 23 -

III The Origin of the Theatre Programme 55

IV Early Systems of Admission . . 93

V The Origin of the English Picture- ,

Stage . . . . . .119

VI The Persistence of Elizabethan Conven-
tionalisms ..... 149


VII Irish Players at Oxford in 1677 . 189

VIII Louis xiv's Scene Painters . . . 201

IX A Player-Friend of Hogarth . .213

X Garrick's First Appearance as Hamlet 227

Appendices ...... 235

Bibliography ..... 243

Index . . . . . . .251



Screen scene in the original production of The

School for Scandal, 1778 . . . Frontispiece

Frontispiece to The Tragedy of Messallina, 1640 . 28

Mr. Walter H. Godfrey's Reconstruction of The

Fortune Theatre (general view) ... 50

Mr. Walter H. Godfrey's Reconstruction of The

Fortune (transverse section) . . . 52

The Plot of England's Joy. . . . . 68

The Bill of Invidious Distinctions . . . 88

The Swan Theatre . . . . . . 98

Wren's Drury Lane, built in 1674 . . . 106

La Chambre a Quatre Portes . . . .124

Proscenium Front and Pictorial Curtain of the

Pergola Theatre, Florence, 1657 . . 128

Ballet of Furies in the Opera-Ballet of Ipermnestra

(Florence, 1658) . . . . . 130

Scene in the Opera of Ariane at the Theatre Royal,

Bridges Street, 1674 ..... 140

Interior of the Haymarket in 1807 . . . 143

Fitzgiggo : a new English Uproar . . .147

Scene from The Empress of Morocco . . .160

The oldest known English Playbill (1692) . . 240

Seventeenth-century Playbills . . . .241

Light and Darkness in the
Elizabethan Theatre

Light and Darkness in the
Elizabethan Theatre

Writing of the characteristics of the rear stage in a recent
paper on "The Evolution and Influence of the Elizabethan
Playhouse," 1 I stated that "its employment was, to some
extent, restricted by the remoteness and obscurity of its posi-
tion, an inconvenience which almost invariably demanded
the bringing-in of lights at the commencement of all inner
scenes." Further study of this point, on the lines indicated
to me in a private communication by my generous fellow-
worker, Professor G. F. Reynolds, has convinced me that
the latter half of the cited statement, despite the qualifying
"almost", conveys an erroneous impression. I think now
it may be taken as an axiom that lights were never brought
in during the performance in either the public or the private
.theatre with the prime aim of assisting the vision or suiting
the convenience of the spectator. The conclusion to be
arrived at when one has collected and scrutinized a consider-
able number of stage-directions dealing with the bringing-in
of lights (whether on the rear stage or elsewhere) is that
they were brought in not as a matter^of necessity but of
-illusion./ Almost invariably the presence of temporary
lights on the stage indicated that the concurrent action was
taking place at night. The obscurity of the rear stage, I
have recently found reason to believe, was considerably-
relieved by a window at the back admitting reflected light. 2
Besides this symbolization of night by the help of lights,
the convention may have had its degrees of illusiveness and
signification in exterior scenes in accordance with the nature
of the light employed. One gathers this from the reference
made in Westward Ho ! ii. 2, to the various types of night-

1 For which see The Elizabethan Playhouse and other Studies. First Series. 191 2.

2 See under "Lower Stage Windows" in my succeeding paper.


2 Light and Darkness in the Elizabethan ^Theatre

walkers, "the cobbler with his lantern, the merchant or
lawyer with his link, and the courtier with his torch". But
as an ounce of practical demonstration is more to the purpose
than a ton of theory, I shall abandon speculation and pro-
ceed at once to cite examples from both public-theatre and
private-theatre plays showing thafas a rule this introduction
of lights was simply emblematical of the lateness of the
hour. And first as to the vital point, the question of rear-
stage scenes. To prove that lights were brought on behind
as a matter of expediency, not of art, one would have to
cite a goodly number of instances where the practice was
followed in ordinary daylight interiors, or, in other words,
in ordinary domestic scenes. This, I take leave to think,
could not be done. So far as my experience goes, all artifici-
ally-lighted rear-stage scenes, with one exception, are either
night -scenes, scenes in churches before candle -adorned
altars or scenes laid in obscure places such as tombs and
dungeons. Even the exception, which occurs in Satiromastix
(a Globe and Paul's play), can be explained away. Act i. 2
opens with the direction, "Horrace sitting in a study behinde
a Curtaine, a candle by him burning, bookes lying con-
fusedly." The time is clearly early morning, for the poet
says his brains have given assault to the Epithalamium for
Sir Walter Terrel's wedding " but this morning" ; and a
little later, when Crispinus and Demetrius Fannius knock
at the door and get no reply, they express surprise that the
poet is not yet up. It seems to me that the candle was made
a factor of the scene to assist in conveying the impression
that Horace had been in the throes of composition all night.
The truth is the Elizabethans paid a good deal more atten-
tion to the science of stage illusion than we give them credit
for. In this case the conventional method of representing
study scenes would not apply, despite the fact that literary
labours, like the practice of the black art, were associated in
the popular imagination with the burning of the midnight
oil. A typical example of the conventional method occurs in
Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, Act iv, where we find the
direction, "Enter Friar Bacon, drawing the curtains with a

Light and Darkness in the Elizabethan Theatre 3

white stick, a book in his hand, and a lamp lighted by him ;
and the Brazen Head and Miles, with weapon, by him." l

To admit that lights could have been used indiscrim-
inately on the rear stage, wholly without relation to their
appropriateness, would be to disallow the realism which
accompanied their bringing-in in bed-chamber scenes by
one of the principal characters and not, as in the generality
of other scenes, by attendants. The force of this realism has
been wholly lost upon some of our recent Shakespearean
commentators, one or two of whom have contrived in edit-
ing Othello 2 to weaken the potency of the Moor's opening
soliloquy in v. 2. Nothing could militate more stubbornly
against a clear understanding of this speech than the placing
at the head of the scene some such description as "Desde-
mona's apartment : a light burning in the bed-chamber ".
The direction in Quarto 2, " Enter Othello with a light,
and Desdemona in bed ", plainly shows in what manner the
soliloquy was, and should be, spoken. Half the cogency
of the passage beginning, "Put out the light, and then put
out the light", is lost unless we conceive that the Moor is
addressing the torch (" thou flaming minister") he holds in
his hand.

We have a bed-chamber scene of similar illusiveness in
Love's Sacrifice, a late Cockpit play in which frequent em-
ployment was made of lights. In Act ii. 4, Bianca comes in
her night-mantle, bearing a candle which she sets down, to
Fernando's bedside. In passing it may be noted that the
previous scene, with its game of chess played by the light of
tapers, clearly shows that, when necessary, artificially lighted
interior scenes of ordinary domesticity could be given on
the outer stage. 3 This is an important point, as one is apt to
associate all such scenes with the rear stage. It affords still
another proof that realism was the only purpose fulfilled in

1 Mr. T. H. Dickenson, in his recension of this play in the Mermaid edition of
Greene's Works, interprets this direction to imply that Friar Bacon was discovered in
bed, surely an unwarranted deduction even although the Friar subsequently falls asleep.
The curtains drawn here can have been none other than the curtains of the rear stage.

2 e.g. the recension of the tragedy in the Arden Shakespeare series.

3 Cf. A Woman Killed with Kindness, iii. 2 (as divided in Verity's recension of
Thomas Heywood in the Mermaid edition).

4 Light and Darkness in the Elizabethan Theatre

the bringing-in of lights. Bed-chamber scenes, we know,
were not always rear-stage scenes. Not infrequently the
beds were thrust out so that their occupants might be the
better seen and heard. Expediency could not have demanded
the use of lights in such cases and yet we find them occa-
sionally employed. Take, for example, that curious scene
in the fourth act of Heywood's Red Bull play, The Golden
Age, where the four Beldams enter £C drawing out Danae's
bed, she in it," and then " place foure tapers at the foure
corners." That the purpose here was one of sheer illusion
is indicated by the subsequent direction, "Jupiter puts out
the lights and makes unready."

When we come to discuss the methods employed in pre-
senting scenes of obscurity, not necessarily night scenes, on
the rear stage, we shall find obeyance to a certain conven-
tionalism. l Paradoxically enough, darkness was indicated
by an increase of light. We note this in prison scenes, as in
The Martyr d Souldier, iii. 2 (a late Cockpit play), where
Eugenius is " discovered sitting loaden with many Irons, a
lampe burning by him." Tomb scenes, which were invari-
ably rear-stage scenes, were commonly signalized, although
some apparent exception can be traced, by the bringing-in
of torches, or by the presence of lights. Notable examples
are to be found in Love's Sacrifice, v. 3 ; The Lost Lady, i. 2 ;
and The Tragedy of Hoffmann, iv. 1. Church or Temple
scenes might, in a sense, be denominated scenes of obscurity,
but the lights used in these were illusive altar-lights. 2

We come now to a vital phase of this inquiry, the question
as to whether actual darkness was ever realized on the Pre-
Restoration Stage, and under what conditions. In this
connexion one must bear in mind that, although there was
a certain standardization of effects in both classes of theatres,
distinctions in convention might have arisen owing to struc-
tural differences and the individual methods of house (as

1 Just as in Masque scenes on the outer stage torches were almost invariably
brought in at the beginning. Cf. The Cardinal, iii. 2 ; The Lover's Melancholy, iii. 2 ;
A Woman is a Weathercock, v. I.

' Cf. The Two Italian Gentlemen, Act ii ; The Broken Heart, v. 3. In the latter
"two lights ol" virgin wax" were stationed on the altar.

Light and Darkness in the Elizabethan Theatre 5

contrasted with theatrical) lighting these gave rise to. It is
obvious that actual darkness was by no means so easy to
realize in an unroofed public theatre, depending upon
natural light, as in a covered private theatre where artificial
light was employed. For this reason we must be careful to
consider the question, not broadly, but in its relationship to
each particular class of theatre. In connexion with both,
however, it may be admitted at the outset that one specific
kind of darkness or obscurity, but not a kind, it is to be
noted, associated with night, was certainly made manifest.
Effects of heavy mist were illusively procured by the
emission of smoke through a trap or traps. 1 The method
employed is purely conjectural, but it is apparently indi-
cated in Robert Wilson's comedy, The Coblers Prophecy
(1594), in the direction, "from one part let a smoke arise. "
That the device was utilized for other purposes besides mist
effects is seen in the details of the dumb-show preceding the
opening act ofTheDivil's Charter. A magician draws a circle
on the stage with his wand, and from this arises a devil, amid
"exhalations of lightning and sulphurous smoke". In the
public theatres the offence, even to the stage stool-holders,
could only have been temporary, but one wonders how the
smoke was got rid of in the covered-in private theatres. 2
Probably in the more select houses the objectionableness
was minimized after the manner indicated in Ben Jonson's
entertainment of The Barriers, as given at court in 1 606 on
the night after The Masque of Hymen. At the beginning
" there appeared at the lower end of the hall, a mist made
of delicate perfumes ; out of which (a battle being sounded
under the stage) did seem to break forth two ladies, the one
representing Truth, the other Opinion." 3 How grateful

1 According to Schelling {Elizabethan Drama, ii. 106) the device was of a very
respectable antiquity. He traces it to the Roman stage, giving as reference Pliny, xxxi. 17.

2 For evidence of mist effects in the private theatre, see the masque-scene in The
Maid's Tragedy (1622), as acted at the Blackfriars. For other mist scenes see Jupiter
and Io, in The Pleasant Dialogues of Thomas Heywood ; The Prophetess, Act v, dumb
show ; Histriomastix, opening of Act iii 5 The Raigne of King Edward III, Act iv. 5>
Philip's reference to "this sodain fog ".

3 Henry Morley, Masques and Entertainments by Ben Jonson (Carisbrooke Library
Series, 1890), p. 80.

6 Light and Darkness in the Elizabethan Theatre

on occasion was this mist effect can be seen by an intelligent
study of Arden o/Feversham, iv. 2-3, where the illusion was
useful in showing how Arden escaped for the second time
from his would-be assassins. It is noteworthy that this
pseudo-Shakespearean piece is a public-theatre play of circa
1 590, a point on which I desire to lay stress, as it seems to
afford evidence in an earlier scene that in the public theatres
the darkness of night was never illusively realized. In Act
iii. 2, Shakebag's opening speech,

Blacke night hath hid the pleasurs of ye day,
And sheting darknesse overhangs the earth
And with the black folde of his cloudy robe
Obscures us from the eiesight of the worlde,

would be mere verbiage if the darkness had been otherwise
indicated. That any attempt was made in such scenes to
deprive the public theatres of their normal light, none too
satisfying at the best, I unreservedly doubt. In this I am
wholly at variance with Mr. John Corbin, whose belief in
the manifestation of actual darkness has led him to theorize
far beyond the limits of common-sense. l He would have
us believe that the public theatres boasted a velarium, or
cloud of canvas, that could be thrown out from the sur-
mounting hut and extended over the theatre, when required.
If such were employed, it is remarkable that no clue to its
presence is to be traced in prompters' marginalia or else-
where. In assuming the " shadowe or cover " mentioned in
the Fortune contract to be a velarium of the movable nature
he demonstrates, Corbin has clearly blundered. The shadow
or cover was only another and less technical name for "the
Heavens ", otherwise the half-roof, which plainly rears itself
above the staire in the well-known Dutch sketch of the


Swan. Here are the proofs. Heywood, in dealing with the
Roman Theatre in his Apology for Actors (16 12), writes:
" The coverings of the stage (which we call the heavens)
were geometrically supported ". If we want to make sure
what Heywood implies by " the heavens" we have only to

1 See his article, "Shakespeare his own Stage Manager" in The Century Magazine
for December, 1911, p. 267.

Light and Darkness in the Elizabethan Theatre J

turn to the Hope contract of 1 6 1 3, wherein it was stipulated
that Katherens should " builde the Heavens over the saide
stage, to be borne or carried without any postes or sup-
porters to be fixed or sett uppon the saide stage ".* This
stipulation was made because the Swan, upon which the
new theatre was to be largely modelled, had (as shown in
van Buchell's sketch) these undesired supports. Finally I
take the Fortune contract to which Corbin pins his faith, and
after first finding mention of "a shadowe or cover over the
saide stadge ", I note later on the stipulation "and the saide
frame, stadge and stearecases to be covered with tyle, and to
have sufficient gutter of lead, to carrie and convey the water
from the coverings of the saide stadge to fall backwardes ". 2
Now, does Mr. Corbin really mean to tell us this gutter
of lead was attached to his "cloud of canvas"?

Elizabethan-stage night scenes can readily be divided
into three classes : — ( 1 ) scenes where thelateness of the hour
was indicated by some slight textual allusion, accompanied
by the bringing-in of lights; (2) scenes of wholly unrelieved
darkness, whether real or imaginary ; (3) scenes where the
poignancy or humour of the action depended upon a sug-
gested darkness, deftly accentuated by the momentary use
of lights. Class 1 is readily differentiated from the others
inasmuch as it deals with scenes of mere casual illusion. An
apt illustration is to be found in Jack Drum's Entertainment,
Act ii (a Paul's play), where a torch is brought on in a street
scene to show the lateness of the hour, the text indicating
that day is about to break. 3 Symbolic effects of this kind
were common to both the public and the private theatres.
Of Class 2 two typical examples may be cited. In The
Dutchess ofMa/fi, v. 4 (as at the Blackfriars and Globe), the
prevailing darkness leads Bosola to stab Antonio by mistake.

1 Given in extenso by Prof. G. P. Baker in The Development of Shakespeare as a
Dramatist, appendix, pp. 320-5.

2 J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps, Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare (ninth edit., 1890),
i. 304.

3 For other examples see The Jeiv of Malta, ii. I (as at the Rose and Cockpit) ;
Much ado About Nothing, Act v ; The Picture, iii. 4 (Globe and Blackfriars) ; Alphonsus,
Emperor of Germany, i. 1 (Blackfriars) ; King Henry VIII, v. 1 (folio) ; Lust's Dominion,
iii. 1 and 4.

8 Light and Darkness in the Elizabethan Theatre

Whether any diminution of light was effected in such scenes
in the private theatres, it is at least certain that no alteration
in the normal lighting of the stage took place in the public
theatres. My second example clearly proves this. It is taken
from The Iron Age^ Part II, a Red Bull play. Act ii. opens
at night outside the walls of Troy. " Enter Agamemnon,
Menelaus, Ulisses, with souldiers in a soft march without
noise." In accordance with the arrangement for a signal,
Sinon enters on the walls and waves a torch. Then Ulysses
and his followers enter by the breach and immediately come
on again through another door. They are now inside Troy.
Sinon appears on the rear stage and unlocks the Horse.
Then comes a direction showing that the darkness of the
scene was not realized. "Pyrhus, Diomed and the rest,
leape from out the Horse, and, as if groping in the darke,
meete with Agamemnon and the rest."

With that point settled we may proceed to consider the
possibility of the actual manifestation of darkness in scenes
of this order in the private theatres. It will doubtless suggest
itself to the reader that the end might have been gained
by extinguishing the regular stage-lights, but on second
thoughts the clumsiness of such an expedient will become
apparent. There would not only be the delay in putting out
the lights but the delay in restoring them ; and all this
frequently in the middle of an act. On the other hand, there
is some reason to believe that, without any diminution of
the normal stage-lighting, the house was slightly darkened
at particular junctures. The evidence for this is the curious
simile in Dekker's Seven Deadly Sins of London (i 606): "all
the city looked like a private playhouse, when the windows
arc clapped down, as if some nocturnal or dismal tragedy
were presently to be acted." Here the impression to be
gained is that in the private theatres light was procured as
far as possible — one must remember that they were only
winter houses — bv means of windows, and that in occasional
dark scenes these were somehow shuttered. To clap down
a window as we now conceive it would not be to obscure the
light ; and one feels inclined to think that the windows

Light and Darkness in the Elizabethan Theatre 9

referred to must have been some sort of wooden contri-
vances like the stall-windows in the old London streets. A

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Online LibraryWilliam John LawrenceThe Elizabethan playhouse and other studies → online text (page 1 of 22)