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that kind. And as most of these pieces contain an absurd mixture of religion and buffoonery, an eminent critick * has well deduced from thence the origin of our unnatural TRAGI-Comedies. Even after the people had been accustomed to Tragedies and Comes dies, Moralities still kept their ground : one of them entitled The New Custom † was printed so late as-2573 : at length they assumed the name of MasQuest, and with some classical improvements, became in the two following reigns the favourite entertainments of the
As for the old Mysteries, which ceased to be acted after the Reformation, they seem to have given rise to a third species of stage exhibition, which, though now confounded with Tragedy or Comedy, were by our first dramatick writers considered as quite distinct froin them both; these were Historical Plays, or HistoRies, a species of dramatick writing, which resembled the old Mysteries, in representing a series of historical events simply in the order of time in which they hap. pened, without any regard to the three great unities. These pieces seem to differ from Tragedy, just as much as Historical poems do from Epick: as the Pharsalia
* Bp. Warburton's Shakspere, vol. v.
* In some of these appeared characters full as extraor. dinary as in any of the old Moralities. In Ben Jonson's Masque of Christmas, 1616, one of the personages is MINCED PYER
does from the Æneid. What might contribute to make dramatick poetry take this turn was this ; soon after the Mysteries ceased to be exhibited, there was published a large collection of poetical narratives, called The Mirrour for Magistrates *, wherein a great number of the most eminent characters in English history are drawn, relating their own misfortunes. This book was popular, and of a dramatick cast, and therefore, as an elegant writer † has well observed, might have its influence in producing Historick Plays. These narratives, probably, furnished the subjects, and the ancient Mysteries suggested the plan.
That our old writers considered Historical Plays as somewhat distinct from Tragedy and Comedy, appears from numberless passages of their works. “Of late 6 days,” says Stow, “instead of those stage-playes I " have been used Comedies, Tragedies, Enterludes, « and HISTORIES, both true and fained.” Survey of London || :-Beaumont and Fletcher, in the prologue to The Captain, say, . « This is nor Comedy, nor Tragedy,
66 Nor HISTORY.''
* The first part of which was printed in 1559.
# The Creation of the World, acted at Skinner's Well, in, 1409.
|| See Mr. Warton's Observations, vol. ii. p. 109.
Polonius, Polonius, in Hamlet, commends the actors, as the best in the world “either for Tragedie, Comedie, “ Historie, Pastorall,” &c. And Shakspere's friends, Heminge and Condell, in the first folio edic tion of his plays, in 1623, have not only entitled. their book, “Mr. William Shakspere's Comedies, “ HISTORIES, and Tragedies :" but, in their Table of Contents, have arranged them under those three several heads; placing in the class of HISTORIES, “ King John, Richard II. Henry IV. 2 parts, Hen. “ ry V. Henry VI. 3 parts, Richard III. and Henry « VIII.”
This distinction deserves the attention of the crio' ticks : for if it be the first canon of sound criticism, to examine any work by those rules the author prescribed for his observance, then we ought not to try Shakspere's HISTORIES by the general laws of Tra. gedy or Comedy. Whether the rule itself be vicious or not, is another inquiry: but certainly we ought to examine a work only by those principles, according to which it was composed. This would save a deal of impertinent criticism...
III. We have now brought the inquiry as low as was intended, but cannot quit it, without entering into a short description of what one may call the economy of the ancient Englisli stage.
Such was the fondness of our forefathers for dramatick entertainments, that not fewer than NINETEEN Playhouses had been opened before the year 1633,
when Prynne published his Histriomastix*. From this writer it should seem that “ tobacco, wine, and so beer f" were in those days the usual accommodations in the theatre, as now at Sadler's Wells,
* * He speaks in page 492, of the playhouses in Bishopsgate-Street, and on Ludgate-Hill, which are not among the SEVENTEEN enumerated in the Preface to Dodsley's Old Plays. : + So, I think, we may infer from the following passage, viz. “ How many are, there, who according to their seven 66. ral qualities, spend 2d. 3d. 4d. 6d. 12d. 18d. 2s. and « sometimes 45. or 5s. at a playhouse, day by day, if $ coach-hire, boat-hire, tobacco, wine, beere, and such 6 like vaine expences, which playes doe usually occasion, 66 be cast into the reckoning ?" Prynne's Histriomastix, p. 322.
But that Tobacco was smoked in the play-houses, appears from Taylor, the Water-Poet, in his Proclamation for Tobacco's Propagation. Let PLAY-HOUSES, drink« ing-schools, taverns, &c. be continually haunted with 66 the contaminous vapours of it; nay (if it be possible) • bring it into the CHURCHES, and there choak up their 66 preachers.” (Works, p. 253.) And this was really the case at Cambridge: James I. sent a letter in 1607, against 66 taking Tobacco” in St. Mary's. So I learn from my friend, Mr. FARMER. · A gentleman has informed me, that once going into a church in Holland, he saw the male part of the audience sitting with their hats on, smoking tobacco, while the preacher was holding forth in his morning-gown.
With regard to the players themselves, the several companies were retainers, or menial servants to particular noblemen *, who protected them in the exercise of their profession: and many of them were occasionally strollers, that travelled from one gentleman's house to another. Yet so much were they encouraged, that, notwithstanding their multitude, some of them acquired large fortunes. Edward Allen, master of the playhouse called the globe, who founded Dulwich College, is a known instance. And an old writer t speaks of the very inferior actors, whom he calls the
* See the Preface to Dodsley's Old Plays. The author of an old Invective against the Stage, called, A third Blast of Retrait from Plaies, &c. 1580. 12mo. says, “ Alas! “ that private affe&tion should so raigne in the nobilitie, " that to pleasure their servants, and to upholde them in 66 their vanitye, they should restraine the magistrates from " executing their office ! ,... They [the nobility] are " thought to be covetous, by permitting their servants. ., " to live at the devotion or almes of other men, passing « from countrie to countrie, from one gentleman's house " to another, offering their service, which is a kind of " beggerie. Who indeede, to speake more trulie, are be" come beggers for their servants, For, comonlie, the “ good-wil men beare to their Lordes, make them draw " the stringes of their purses to extend their liberalitie.” Vide page 75, 76, &c.
+ Stephen Gosson, in his Schoole of Abuse, 1579. 12mo, folio 23, says thus of what he terms in his margin,