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am unable to ascertain the situation, and The Curtain, in Shoreditch. The Theatre, from its name, was probably the first building erected in or near the metropolis purposely for scenick exhibitions. • In the time of Shakspeare there were seven principal theatres: three private houses, namely, that in Blackfriars, that in Whitefriars, and The Cockpit or Phønix !, in Drury-Lane, and four that were called publick theatres ; viz. The Globe on the Bank-side,
8 It was probably situated in some remote and privileged place, being, I suppose, hinted at in the following passage of a sermon by John Stockwood, quoted below, and preached in 1578 : “ Have we not houses of purpose built with great charges for the maintenance of them, (the players, ] and that without the liberties, as who shall say, there, let them say what they will, we will play, I know not how I might, with the godly-learned especially, more discommend the gorgeous playing-place erected in the fields, than to term it, as they please to have it called, a Theatre."
9 The Theatre and The Curtain are mentioned in "A Sermon preached at Paules-Crosse on St. Bartholomew day, being the 24th of August, 1578, by John Stockwood," and in an ancient Treatise against Idleness, Vaine Plaies and Interludes, by John Northbrook, bl. 1. no date, but written apparently about the year 1580. Stubbes, in his Anatomy of Abuses, p. 90, edit. 1583, inveighs against Theatres and Curtaines, which he calls Venus' Palaces. Edmund Howes, the continuator of Stowe's Chronicle, says, (p. 1004,) that before the year 1570, he “neither knew, heard, nor read of any such theatres, set stages, or play-houses, as have been purposely built within man's memory."
This theatre had been originally a Cockpit. It was built or rebuilt not very long before the year 1617, in which year we learn from Camden's Anpals of King James the First, it was pulled down by the mob: “ 1617, Martii 4. Theatrum ludionum nuper erectum in Drury-Lane à furente multitudine diruitur, et apparatus dilaceratur." I suppose it was sometimes called The Phænix, from that fabulous bird being its sign. It was situated opposite the Castle tavern in Drury Lane, and was standing some time after the Restoration. The players who performed at this theatre in the time of King James the First, were called the
Queen's Servants, till the death of Queen Anne, in 1619. After - her death, they were, I think, for some time denominated the Lady Elizabeth's Servants ; and after the marriage of King Charles the First, they regained their former title of the Queen's players.
The Curtain ? in Shoreditch, The Red Bull, at the upper end of St. John's Street, and The Fortune in
· See Skialetheia, an old collection of Epigrams and Satires, 16mo. 1598 :
“ if my dispose
“ Or Curtain ," The Curtain is mentioned in Heath's Epigrams, 1610, as being then open; and The Hector of Germany was performed at it by a company of young men in 1615. The original sign hung out at this playhouse (as Mr. Steevens has observed) was the painting of a curtain striped. The performers at this theatre were called The Prince's Servants, till the accession of King Charles the First to the crown. Soon after that period it seems to have been used only by prize-fighters. The following is Heath's epigram, which I have referred to :
“ Momus would act the fooles part in a play,
Heath's Epigrams, 1610. Epig. 39. 3 The Fortune theatre, according to Maitland, was the oldest theatre in London. It was built or re-built in 1599, by Edward Alleyn, the player, (who was also the proprietor of the Bear Garden, from 1594 to 1610,) and cost 5201. as appears from the following memorandum in his hand-writing, in one of his pocketbooks:
Whitecross Street. The last two were chiefly frequented by citizens". There were however, but six
“ What The Fortune cost me. Nov. 1599.
“So it hath cost me in all for the leasse, £880." “ Bought the inheritance of the land of the Gills of the isle of Man within the Fortune and all the howses in Whight Crosstreet and Goulding lane in June 1610 for the some of £340.
“ Bought in John Garret's Lease in reversion from the Gills for 21 years, for £100. So in all it cost me €1320.
“ Blessed be the Lord God everlasting !"
It was a round brick building, and its dimensions may be conjectured from the following advertisement in The Mercurius Politicus, Tuesday Feb. 14, to Tuesday Feb. 21, 1661, for the preservation of which we are indebted to Mr. Steevens : “ The Fortune play-house situate between Whitecross-street and Golding-lane, in the parish of Saint Giles, Cripplegate, with the ground thereto belonging, is to be lett to be built upon; where twentythree tenements may be erected, with gardens; and a street may be cut through for the better accommodation of the buildings."
The Fortune is spoken of as a playhouse of considerable size, in the prologue to The Roaring Girl, a comedy which was acted there, and printed in 1611;
“ A roaring girl, whose notes till now ne'er were,
“ Shall fill with laughter our vast theatre." See also the concluding lines of Shirley's prologue to The Doubtful Heir, quoted below.
Howes, in his continuation of Stowe's Chronicle, p. 1004, edit. 1631, says, it was burnt down in or about the year 1617: “ About foure yeares after, [i. e. after the burning of the Globe) a fayre strong new-built play-house near Golden-lane, called the Fortune, by negligence of a candle was cleane burnt to the ground, but shortly after re-built far fairer.” He is, however, mistaken as to the time, for it was burnt down in December, 1621, as I learn from a letter in Dr. Birch's collection in the Museum, from Mr. John Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton, dated Dec. 15, 1621, in which is the following paragraph : “ On sunday night here was a great fire at The Fortune, in Goldinglane, the first play-house in this town. It was quite burnt downe in two hours, and all their apparell and play-books lost, whereby those poore companions are quite undone. There were two other houses on fire, but with great labour and danger were saved." MS. Birch, 4173. It does not appear whether this writer, by
companies of comedians; for the playhouse in Blackfriars, and the Globe, belonged to the same troop. Beside these seven theatres, there were for some time on the Bankside three other publick theatres; The Swan, The Rose 5, and The Hope 6: but The Hope being used chiefly as a bear-garden, and The Swan and The Rose having fallen to decay early in King James's reign, they ought not to be enumerated with the other regular theatres.
All the established theatres that were open in 1598, were either without the city of London or its liberties?
" the first play-house in this town," means the first in point of size or dignity, or the oldest. I doubt much of its being the oldest, though that is the obvious meaning of the words, and though Maitland has asserted it: because I have not found it mentioned in any of the tracts relative to the stage, written in the middle of Elizabeth's reign.
Pryone says that the Fortune on its re-building was enlarged, Epistle Dedicat. to Histriomastix, 4to. 1633. · Before this theatre there was either a picture or statue of Fortune. See The English Traveller, by Heywood, 1633 :
" - l'le rather stand here,
“ Before the Fortune play-house." 4 Wright's Historia Histrionica, 8vo. 1699, p. 5. 's The Swan and the Rose are mentioned by Taylor the Waterpoet, but in 1613 they were shut up. See his Works, p. 171, edit. 1633. The latter had been built before 1598. See p. 55, n. 2. After the year 1620, as appears from Sir Henry Herbert's office-book, they were used occasionally for the exhibition of prize-fighters.
o Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair was performed at this theatre in 1614. He does not give a very favourable description of it :" Though the fair be not kept in the same region that some here perhaps would have it, yet think that the author hath therein observed a special decorum, the place being as dirty as Smithfield, and as stinking every whit."-Induction to Bartholomew Fair.
It appears from an old pamphlet entitled Holland's Leaguer, printed in quarto in 1632, that The Hope was occasionally used as a bear-garden, and that The Swan was then fallen into decay.
7 Sunt porro Londini, extra urbem, theatra aliquot, in quibus
• It appears from the office-book's of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels to King James the First,
histriones Angli comedias et tragedias singulis fere diebus, in magna hominum frequentia agunt; quas variis etiam saltationibus, suavissima adhibita musica, magno cum populi applausu finiri solent." Hentzneri Itinerarium, 4to. 1598, p. 132.
8 For the use of this very curious and valuable manuscript I am indebted to Francis Ingram, of Ribbisford near Bewdley in Worcestershire, Esq. Deputy Remembrancer in the Court of Exchequer. It has lately been found in the same old chest which contained the manuscript Memoirs of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, from which Mr. Walpole about twenty years ago printed the Life of that nobleman, who was elder brother to Sir Henry Herbert. . The first master of the Revels in the reign of Queen Elizabeth was Thomas Benger, whose patent passed the great seal Jan. 18, 1560-1. It is printed in Rymer's Fodera. His successor, Edmund Tilney, obtained a grant of this office (the reversion of which John Lily, the dramatick poet, had long in vain solicited,) on the 24th of July, 1579, (as appears from a book of patents in the Pells-office,) and continued in possession of it during the remainder of her reign, and till the 20th of August, 1610, on which day he died. He resided when in the country at Leatherhead in Surrey, and was buried at Streatham. Lysons's Environs of London. This office for near fifty years appears to have been considered as so desirable a place, that it was constantly sought for during the life of the possessor, and granted in reversion. King James on the 23d of June, 1603, made a reversionary grant of it to Sir George Buc, (then George Buc, Esq.) to take place whenever it should become vacant by the death, resignation, forfeiture, or surrender, of the then possessor, Edmund Tilney; who, if I mistake not, was Sir George Buc's maternal uncle. Mr. Tilney, as I have already mentioned, did not die till the end of the year 1610, and should seem to have executed the duties of the office to the last ; for his executor, as I learn from one of the Exilus books in the Exchequer, received in the year 1611, 1201. 188. 3d. due to Mr. Tilney on the last day of the preceding October, for one year's expences of office. In the edition of Camden's Britannia, printed in folio in 1607, Sir George Buc is called Master of the Revels, I suppose from his having obtained the reversion of that place : 'for from what I have already stated he could not have been then in possession of it. April 3, 1612, Sir John Astley, one of the gentlemen of the privy-chamber, obtained a reversionáry grant of this office, to take place on the death, &c. of Sir George Buc, as Ben Jonson, the poet, obtained