« ZurückWeiter »
and with so much virulence, that on the I I th September the performances at all playhouses and Paris Garden were prohibited by the following order from the public authorities.
‘Whereas the infection of the plague is much increased in and about London, and it is very dangerous to permit any company or Concourse of people to meet and assemble together at playhouses or Parish Garden. It was therefore this day ordered at the Board, that all players, both their Majesty's servants and others, as also the keepers of Parish Garden, be hereby required and commanded for six months to shut up their playhouses, and not to exercise or play in any of them, or in any other place within the City or suburbs of London, till it shall please God to cease the infection. And yet farther order shall be given by the Board. Hereof all the masters and others of the stage players besides are to take notice and to conform themselves, as they will answer it at their perils.’
(Indorsed) ‘ I Ith Sep. 1640. Order to suppress the players.’
How long the restraint lasted we have no information, and all we hear is, that on the very next day after the King made his extraordinary and impolitic visit to the A. D. House of Commons to demand the five members, viz., 1642, on Twelfthday 1641-2, The Scornfull Lady was performed at the Cockpit in Whitehall : the King and Queen were in no mood to be present, but the Prince was there, and Sir H. Herbert adds that ‘it was the only play acted at Court in the whole Christmas'." The latest entries in his
playhouse, wherein comedies, tragedies, tragicomedies, pastoralls, and interludes, may be acted. Provided that noe persons be admitted to act in the said playhouse, but such as shall be allowed by the Master of his Maties office of the Revells. Given under my hand and seale of the office of the Revells, this .” By a warrant in the Chapter-house, dated the 17th of April 1641, exempting the King's musicians from the payment of subsidies, it appears that they were then no fewer than fifty-eight in number. The Musicians for wind-instruments were these — Jerome Lanier, Register relate to two plays by a dramatist of the name of Kirke, only one piece by whom has reached us in a printed form :—‘June, 1642. Received of Mr. Kirke, for a new play, which I burnt for the ribaldry and offence that was in it, 2/. Received of Mr. Kirke, for another new play, called The Irish A’ebel/ion, the 8th of June 1642, 2/.’ •. * *
Clement Lanier, Anthony Bassano, Andrew Carrier, Robert Baker, Peter
Sir H. Herbert adds, after noticing this latest act of his authority, “here ended my allowance of plays, for the war began in August 1642'. The first rencontre, in fact, took place on the 22nd of September of that year.
On the 2nd of September had been issued “An Ordinance of both Houses of Parliament, for the suppressing of public stage-plays throughout the kingdom during these calamitous times'." It was in the following form —
‘AN ORDINANCE OF THE LORDS AND COMMONS CONCERNING STAGE-PLAYS.
‘Whereas the distressed estate of Ireland, steeped in her own blood, and the distracted estate of England, threatened with a cloud of blood by a civil war, call for all possible means to appease and avert the wrath of God appearing in these judgments : amongst which fasting and prayer, having been often tried to be very effectual, have been lately and are still enjoined ; and whereas public sports do not well agree with public calamities, nor public stage-plays with the seasons of humiliation, this being an exercise of sad and pious Solemnity, and the other being spectacles of pleasure, too commonly expressing lascivious mirth and levity : it is therefore thought fit and ordained by the Lords and Commons in this Parliament assembled, that while these sad causes and set-times of humiliation do continue, public stage-plays shall cease and be forborne. Instead of which are recommended to the people of this land the profitable and seasonable considerations of repentance, reconciliation and peace with God, which probably will produce outward peace and prosperity, and bring again times of joy and gladness to these nations.
‘Sept. 2, 1642.’
* Harl, M.S.S., 581. It was succeeded, on the 5th of May 1643, by a resolution ‘that the book concerning the enjoying and tolerating of sports upon the Lords day be forthwith burned by the hand of the common hangman in Cheapside and other usual places'. It was farther directed, that the Sheriffs of London should ‘see the books burned', and on the Ioth of May the order was carried into execution. *
We have distinct proof of only one infraction of this ordinance, which in its form was temporary, although by the framers, perhaps, intended to be permanently enforced. It seems to have originated, not merely in a spirit of religious dislike to dramatic performances, but in a politic caution, lest play-writers and players should avail themselves of their power over the minds of the people to instil notions and opinions hostile to the authority of a puritanical Parliament. The infraction of the ordinance took place rather more than two years after it was published, viz., on the 6th October 1644, when some players were disturbed at the Salisburycourt Theatre, while performing Beaumont and Fletcher's Aïng and no King. The Sheriffs of London dispersed the audience, and seized the person of at least one of the performers, whose name was Timothy Reade, and who was at that time an actor of clowns' parts of great reputation." We
* He is made one of the speakers in a curious tract, sold among Fillingham's books in 1805, called ‘The Stage-Player's Complaint, in a pleasant Dialogue between Cane of the Fortune, and Reed of the Friars. Deploring their sad and solitary conditions, for want of employment in this heavy and contagious time of the plague in London’. It is without date, but it was probably published during the plague of 1625, when Reed belonged to the Blackfriars company, though in 1644 he was playing at Salisbury Court. He is thus mentioned in the preludium to Goffe's Careless Shepherdess, printed in 1656, when the theatre was upon the point of reviving. A Landlord is enlarging upon the excellence of having a fool in every act of a play, and upon the laughter produced by the performer of the part of the Changling, in Middleton's play of that name: Thrift, a citizen, joins heartily in these commendations of the fool, and adds,
‘I’d rather see him leap, laugh, or cry, Than hear the gravest speech in all the play. I never saw Rheade peeping through the curtain, But ravishing joy entered into my heart.’ Reed is applauded in Gayton's Festivous Moses on Don Quezrose, 1654, as ‘the most incomparable mimic on the face of the earth': he was then dead, have no account of the result of this transaction, nor whether Reade sustained any farther punishment. The Account-book and Diary of Sir H. Mildmay establish that plays were performed even in 1643, although he does not insert the names of them : there are, however, only two applicable to that year, and one of those is questionable : — ‘20 Aug. 1643. To a playe and other foleyes, 2s. Id.—I6 Nov. 1643. To a playe of warre, 9d.’ This ‘play of war' was perhaps, only a fencing match between two swordsmen ; and in the Dairy, Mildmay is more explanatory as to the last entry above given. “Att home to dynner, and then with company to a play, where was a disaster.”—Here we are left in the dark as to the nature of the “disaster’: if the ‘play', were a contest between two fencers, ‘playing a prize', as it was termed, the “disaster' might be an accident which befel one of them : if the ‘play', on the other hand, were the performance of a drama, it is possible that Sir H. Mildmay, by the “disaster', refers to some legalized interruption by the Sheriffs, or soldiery, in the course of the representation. Just before Christmas, 1642-3, came out a satirical pamphlet
and, like others, had exhibited at Bartholomew Fair; in 1629 he had played Gratiana's maid in Shirley's Wedding. The last actor before the civil wars who obtained reputation in the part of the Changling, was an actor of the name of Robins, whose name has before occurred, and regarding whom we meet with the following notice in a tract already quoted: he is there mentioned in conjunction with two other celebrated performers. —‘We need not any more stage-plays: we thank them [the Puritans] for suppressing them : they save us money; for I'll undertake we can laugh as heartily at Foxley, Peters, and others of their godly ministers, as ever we did at Cane at the Red Bull, Tom Pollard in the Humourous Lieutenant, Robins in the Changling, or any humourist of them all.’—A A' ey to the Cabinet of the Parliament, 1648. The Christian name of Robins was William, and he had played Rawbone in Shirley's Wedding in 1629, at the Phoenix in Drury Lane.