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of Shakspeare's dramas, which are yet extant, were taken Hlown by the ear or in short-hand during the exhibition.
At the end of the piece, the actors, in noblemen's houses and in taverns, where plays were frequently performed, * prayed for the health and prosperity of their patrons ; and in the publick theatres, for the king and queen. This prayer sometimes made part of the epilogue. Hence, probably, as Mr. Steevens has observed, the addition of Vivant rex et regina, to the modern playbills.
Plays, in the time of our author, began at one o'clock in the afternoon; † and the exhibition was sometimes
* See A mad World my Masters, a comedy, by Middleton, 1608: “Some sherry for my lord's players there, sirrah; why this will be a true feast ;-a right Mitre supper ;ma play and all.”
The night before the insurrection of the gallant and unfortunate Earl of Essex, the play of King Henry IV. (not Shakspeare's piece) was acted at his house.
f “ Fuscus doth rise at ten, and at eleven
" He goes to Gyls, where he doth eat till one,
“Then sees a play." Epigrams, by Sir John Davies, no date, but printed
about 1598. Others, however, were actuated by a stronger curiosity, and, in order to secure good places, went to the theatre without their din
See the Prologue to The Unfortunate Lovers, by Sir William D'Avenant, first performed at Blackfriars, in April, 1638,
- You are grown excessive proud,
Laugh'd at a clinch, the shadow of a jest,
“ And cry'd—a passing good one, I protest." From the foregoing lines it appears that, anciently, places were not taken in the best rooms or boxes, before the representation. Soon after the Restoration, this practice was established. See a prologue to a revived play, in Covent Garden Drollery, 1672:
“ Herce 'tis, that at new plays you come so soon,
“ Like bridegrooms hot to go to bed ere noon ; TOL, II.
finished in two hours. Even in 1667, they commenced at three o'clock.t About thirty years afterwards, (in 1636) theatrical entertainments began an hour later. I
In the infancy of our stage, mysteries were usually acted in churches; and the practice of exhibiting religious dramas in buildings appropriated to the service of religion on the Lord's-day certainly continued after the Reformation.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth plays were exe, hibited in the publick theatres on Sundays, as well as on other days of the week. The licence granted by that queen to James Burbage in 1574, shows that they were then represented on that day, out of the hours of prayer.
We are told by John Field in his Declaration of God's Judgment at Paris Garden, that in the year 1580 “ the
magistrates of the city of London obtained from Queene | Elizabeth, that all heathenish playes and enterludes
should be banished upon sabbath dayes.” This prohibition, however, probably lasted but a short time; for her majesty, when she visited Oxford in 1592, did not scruple to be present at a theatrical exhibition on Sunday night, the 24th of September in that year. During
“Or if you are detain'd some little space,
“ And drink till three, and then come dropping in." Though Sir John Davies, in the passage above quoted, mentions one o'clock as the hour at which plays commenced, the time of beginning the entertainment about eleven years afterwards (1609) seems to have been later; for Decker in his Guls Horne-booke makes his gallant, go to the ordinary at two o'clock, and thence to the play.
When Ben Jonson's Magnetic Lady was acted (in 1632;) plays appear to have been over at five o'clock. They probably at that time. did not begin till between two and three o'clock.
* See the prologue to K. Henry VIII. andthat to Romeo and Juliet.
+ See The Demoiselles a la Mode, by Fleckno, 1667:
2. Actor. Why, to the theatre, 'tis past three o'clock, and the play is ready to begin."
After the Restoration, (we are told by old Mr. Cibber,) it was a frequent practice of the ladies of quality, to carry Mr. Kynaston the actor, in his female dress, after the play, in their coaches to Hyde-Park.
| See the Epilogue to the She Gallants, printed in that year,
the reign of James the First, though dramatick entertainments were performed at court on Sundays, I believe, no plays were publickly represented on that day; and by the statute 3 Car. 1. c. 1. their exhibition on the sabbathday was absolutely prohibited: yet, notwithstanding this act of parliament, both plays and masques were performed at court on Sundays, during the first sixteen years of the reign of thät king, and certainly in private houses, if not on the publick stage,
The modes of conveyance to the theatre, anciently, as at present, seem to have been various ; some going in coaches, others on horseback, and many by water.
In the year 1613, the Company of Watermen petitioned his majesty, “ that the players might not be permitted to have a playhouse in London or in Middlesex, within four miles of the city on that side of the Thames." From Tayloi's True Cause of the Water men's Suit concerning Players, and the Reasons that their playing on London Side, is their [i. e. the Watermen's] ertreme Hindrance, we learn, that the theatres on the Bankside in Southwark were once so nuinerous, and the custom of going thither hy water so general, that many thousand watermen were supported by it. As the book is not common, and the passage contains some anecdotes relative to the stage at that time, I shall transcribe it.
“ Afterwards,” [i. e. as I conjecture, about the year 1596.] says Taylor, who was employed as an advocate in behalf of the watermen, “ the piayers began to play on the Bankside, and to leave playing in London and Middlesex, for the most part. Then there went such a great concourse of people by water, that the small number of watermen remaining at home (the majority being employed in the Spanish war) were not able to carry them, by reason of the court, the tearms, the players, and other employments. So that we were inforced and encouraged, hoping that this golden stirring world would have lasted ever, to take and entertaine men and boyes, which hoyes are grown men, and keepers of houses; so that the number of watermers, and those that live and are maintained by them, and by the only labour of the oare and scull, betwixt the bridge of Windsor and Gravesend, camot be fewer than forty thousand ; the cause of the greater halfe of which mul. titude hath bene the players playing on the Bankside ; for I have known three companies, besides the bear-baiting, at once there ; to wit, the Globe, the Rose, and the Swan.
“ And now it hath pleased God in this peaceful time, (from 1604 to 1613] that there is no employment at the sea, as it hath bene accustomed, so that all those great numbers of men remaines at home; and the players have all (except the kiogs men) left their usual residency on the Bankside, and doe play in Middlesex, far remote from the Thames ; so that every day in the weake they do
To the Globe playhouse the company probably were conveyed by water: to that in Blackfriars, the gentry went either in coaches, or on horseback ; and the cominon people on foot. †
Plays in the time of King James the First, (and probably afterwards) appear to have been performed every day at each theatre during the winter season, I except
« Some (says
draw unto them three or four thousand people, that were used to spend their monies by water.
“ His majesties players did exhibit a petition against us, in which they said, that our suit was unreasonable, and that we might as justly remove the Exchange, the walkes in Paules, or Moorfields, to the Bankside, for our profits, as to confine them.”
The affair appears never to have been decideda Taylor) have reported that I took bribes of the players, to let the suit fall, and to that purpose I had a supper of them, at the Cardinal's hat, on the Bankside.” Works of Taylor the Water-poet, p. 171, edit. 1633.
* Şee a letter from Mr. Garrard to Lord Strafford, dated Jan.9, 1633-4 ; Strafford's Letters, Vol. I. p. 175 : “ Here hath been an order of the lords in council hung up in a table near Paul's and the Black-fryars, to command all that resort to the playhouse there, to send 'away their coaches, and to disperse abroad in Paul's Church yard, Carter Lane, thie Conduit Fleet Street, and other places, and not to return to fetch their company ; but they must trot a-foot to find their coaches :--twas kept very strictly for two or three weeks, but now, I think, it is disordered again." It should, however, be remembered, that this was written above forty years after Shakspeare's first acquaintance with the theatre, Coaches, in the time of Queen Elizabeth, were possessed but by very few. They were not in ordinary use till after the year 1605. See Stowe's Annals, p. 867
+ In an epigram by Sir John Davies, persons of an inferior rank are ridiculed for presuming to imitate noblemen and gentle, men in riding to the theatre :
« Faustus, nor lord, nor knight, nor wise, nor old,
" To every place about the town doth ride;
Epigrams, printed at Middleburg, about 1598. I. See Taylor's Suit of the Watermen, &c. Works, p. 171: my love is such to them, (the players) that whereas they do play but once a day, I could be content they should play twice or thrice a day. The players have all (except the King's men,) left their usual
in the time of Lent, when they were not permitted on sermon days, as they were called, that is, on Wednes day and Friday ; nor on the other days of the week, except by special licence: which however was obtained by a fee paid to the Master of the Revels, In the summer season the stage exhibitions were continued, but during the long vacation they were less frequently repeated. However, it appears from Sir Henry Her, bert's manuscript, that the king's company usually brought out two or three new plays at the Globe every summer.
Though from the want of newspapers and other per riodical publications, intelligence was not so speedily circulated in former times as present, our ancient theatres do not appear to have laboured under any disa advantage in this respect; for the players printed and exposed accounts of the pieces that they intended to exhibit, which, however, did not contain a list of the
residency on the Bankside, and doe play in Middlesex far remote from the Thames, so that every day in the week they do draw unto them three or four thousand people.”-Ibidem.
* “ They use to set up their billes upon poşts some certaine days before, to admonish the people to make resort to their theatres, that they may thereby be the better furnished, and the people-prepared to fill their purses with their treasures.” Treatise against Idteness, vaine Playes and Interludes, b.l. (no date.)
The antiquity of this custom likewise appears from a story recorded by Taylor the Water Poet, under the head of Wit and Mirth, “Master Field, the player, riding up Fleet Street a great pace, a gentleman called him, and asked him, what play was played that day. He being angry to be staied on so frivolous a demand, answered, that he might see what play was plaied upon every postę. I cry you mercy, said the gentleman, 1 tooke you for a poste, you rode so fast.” Taylor's Works, p. 183.
Ames, in his History of Printing, p. 349, says that James Roberts (who published some of our author's dramas] printed bills for the phyers.
It appears from the following entry on the Stationers' Books, that even the right of printing play-bills was at one time made a subject of monopoly:
“ Oct. 1587. Johu Charlewoode.) Lycensed to him by the whole consent of the assistants, the onlye ymprinting of all manner of billes for players. Provided that if any trouble arise herebye, then Charlwoode to beare the charges."