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poor players, as they called themselves, petitioned the Lords of the Privy Council; and, though they were countenanced and supported by Leicester, the act (or Remedies, as it was called) was not interfered with; and shortly afterwards the Privy Council issued these rules for the regulation of the players. (This was during a visitation of the plague.)
“That they (the players) hold themselves content with playing at private houses, at weddings, &c., without public assemblies.
“If more be thought good to be tolerated, that they then be restrained to the orders of the act of the Common Council-tempore Hawes.
“That they play not openly, till the whole deaths in London have been come in twenty days unto fifty a week, nor longer than it shall so continue. “ That no plays be on the sabbath-day.
That no playing be on holidays, but after evening prayer, nor any received into the auditory until after evening prayer.
“ That no playing be in the dark, nor continue any such time but as any of the auditory may return to their dwellings in London before sunset, or, at least, before it be dark.
“ That the Queen's players only be tolerated, and of them their number and certain * names to be notified in your lordship's letter to the Lord Mayor, and to the justices of Middlesex and Surrey; and those, her players, not to divide themselves into several companies.
“That for breaking any of these orders, their toleration cease."
“But notwithstanding,” continues Strype, “these orders were not duly observed, and the lewd matters of plays increased; and in the haunt unto them were found many dangers, both for religion, state, honesty of manners, unthriftiness of the poor, danger of infection, &c.; and the preachers daily crying out against them, suit was made, that they might be banished the liberties of the City and places adjoining.”
This was accordingly done, and the players were not allowed license or permission for any performance within the city of London after the year 1575. To reconcile what took place in 1589 with this total expulsion of the players in 1575, we must believe, which we readily may, that during some mayoralties the act of Common Council was not so rigidly enforced as in others. Certain, however, it is, that the City, as a body, were sadly
* Or, as we should now say, real names.
inimical to the poor players, and no theatre, that is, place for the exclusive performance of plays, was ever allowed within its liberties.
We have taken some pains to investigate the enmity the City authorities seem to have always entertained against the poor players, and it appears not to have been directed so much against plays as such, as against open playing, that is, playing to which the common people had access.
The word education,* in Bacon's time, was almost exclusively used in relation to the body; learning was the word used to denote mental culture.
The policy of the times of Elizabeth was to educate or train the bodies of the people, and render them strong and athletic, but to keep their minds dull and ignorant. Bacon entertained a contrary opinion: he thought learning could not possibly do any one mischief. “ It is manifest," says het "that there is no danger at all in the proportion or quantity of knowledge, how large so ever, lest it should make it (man's mind) swell or outcompass itself; no, but it is merely the quality of knowledge, which, be it more or less, if it be taken without the true corrective thereof, hath in it some nature of venom or malignity, and some effects of that venom, which is ventosity or swelling.”
* “ Certainly custom is most perfect, when it beginneth in young years ; this we call education, which is, in effect, but an early custom.”—Bacon's Essays.
+ Advancement of Learning.
A fear that the people might learn to think, and an unlucky tendency which the players had of ridiculing absurdity, had no small share in exciting the apprehension and provoking the animosity of the civic authorities. For we find it urged against the playhouse that it took the people away not only from the church, but also from the bearbaiting; whilst we find an alderman was even then an ordinary butt for the wits. When discoursing upon so grave a subject as Death, Bacon cannot spare or pass by a jest” at them, he says :
Death finds not a worse friend than an alderman, to whose door I never knew him welcome; but he is an importunate guest, and will not be said nay. And though they themselves shall affirm, that they are not within, yet the answer will not be taken ; and that which heightens their fear, is, that they know they are in danger to forfeit their flesh, but are not wise of the payment day; which sickly uncertainty is the occasion that for
the most part, they step out of the world unfurnished for their general account, and, being all unprovided, desire yet to hold their gravity, preparing their souls to answer in scarlet.”
The pretence under which the players were banished the City, that is, as we understand it, forbidden to have any public performance within the liberties, is stated to have been the many dangers both for religion, state, honesty of manners, unthriftiness of the poor, danger of infection, &c. The City authorities at last proceeded in a very summary manner. Whilst the players were craftsmen, servants, and retainers, they felt compelled to give some show of reason for their conduct, which, under these altered circumstances, they appear to have considered much less necessary.
The principle upon which the City now proceeded, seems to have been-As they wont work, they sha'nt play. It is hardly so correct to say, play-acting became a trade and calling, as it is to say, these persons ceased to be
men of cupation.” They quitted their previous callings, and, as play-acting was not recognised as a craft, they became in the eye of the law, rogues and vagabonds—men with no obvious means of livelihood, and, as such, liable to be taken