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ralities had as little to do with the British stage, as the Greek drama or Roman plays. The Mysteries and Moralities were, we doubt not, first produced for the purpose of propagating religion ; they were persevered in by the priests, to preserve their power. There was so much of fiction and absurdity mixed up with religious truth, that the people soon turned the tables upon the priests, and the persecuted Devil and the Vice became the most popular persons in the performance.
These Mysteries and Moralities were openly played by the parish clerks and others connected with the state religion, who thus endeavoured to influence the people. The public preachings at Paul's Cross and other places, the May meetings at Exeter Hall, the outpourings at Surrey Chapel or the Surrey Gardens, are their ligitimate issue. The English drama had a much earlier and more domestic origin: Private playings commenced long before, and continued during, these public religious exhibitions, until, as we shall presently demonstrate, the theatre became an institution of the country. The child's exclamation, “Let's play,” is the sesame to the English drama. We may daily witness it on our domestic hearths. Your little boy will be papa, your little girl mamma, and dolly shall be their child. Dolly is dandled, praised, and punished; her dress and her duties arranged and rearranged, discussed and disputed over, till the playmates quarrel, and seek their parents to adjust their differences.
Here we have a domestic drama, representing the cares, passions, pleasures, and anxieties of life, and, as it were, carried on into a future of rewards and punishments.
The highest reach of the drama is but an amplification of this; and none is enduring which is not founded on a basis as simple and natural.
Banish Hamlet from the precincts of the Court of Denmark-strip him of his inky cloak--forget the fine painting with the upturned eyes and the skull in the left hand-dress him in a frock-coat and plaid trousers-call him Mr. Brown or Mr. Smith-and, placed in circumstances equally perplexing, you shall find that an ordinary man would act, if not in a precisely, certainly in a proximately similar manner, to that pursued by the Prince of Denmark.
Like a skilful artist, the poet draws the natural figure, and then adds the appropriate drapery; others, like milliners and tailors exhibiting their fabrics, make the outward semblance of a human being, which, when we come to examine, we find as foreign to nature, as wire and whalebone are to flesh and blood.
Hamlet is not a grand conception, as we vulgarly count grandeur. It is more largely grand :
- it is grand in the truth and simplicity of nature.
BUBBAGE and his fellows having, through the influence of Leicester, obtained a license from the Queen in 1574, they took a house in Blackfriars (which was then without the liberties of the City), and altered and fitted it up as a theatre in 1576.
The Theatre and the Curtain, two places in Shoreditch where plays were performed, appear to have been already in existence. Of these
little is known; and we are disposed to think the theatre in Blackfriars the first public theatre ; though all the commentators and critics have chosen to consider it, what they denominate, a private theatre.
“Our old theatres," says Collier, “were either public or private.”—“What,” says Malone,“ were the distinguishing marks of a private playhouse, it is not easy to ascertain. We know only that it was smaller than those which were called public theatres; and that in the private theatres, plays were usually presented by candlelight.”
“From various authorities," says Collier, “I find that there were seven distinguishing marks of a private playhouse.
“1. Private theatres were of smaller dimensions than public theatres.
“ 2. They were entirely roofed in from the weather, while public theatres were open to the sky, excepting over the stage, and boxes or rooms.
“ 3. The performances at private theatres were by candle or torch light.
" 4. They had pits furnished with seats; and not yards, as they were called in public theatres, where the spectators stood to behold the plays.
“ 5. The audience at private theatres usually consisted of a superior class of persons.
“ 6. The visitors there had a right to sit upon the stage during the performance.
“7. The boxes or rooms of private theatres were enclosed or locked."
Although agreeing with Mr. Tomlin, “that it is with diffidence that any one should differ with Mr. Collier in matters to which he has devoted so much ability, so perseveringly, and with such unusual advantages," yet it certainly would not be