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CECCHI ON THE FARSA.
Of Those that Know wrote nothing in her favour,
It would hardly be possible, I think, to plead the cause of the Romantic Drama against the supposed canons of Aristotle and the rules of Horace more pleasantly than thus, or to set forth with more genial intelligence the claims of the new style on popular acceptance. Curiously enough, the prediction uttered by Cecchi in the last lines of his prologue has been amply verified. We condemn the stilted tragedies of his contemporaries, and tax their comedies with imitative affectation. We regard the Italian playwrights, with two or perhaps three luminous exceptions, as obsolete antiquities; while Shakspere's masterpieces in the mingled or romantic manner are still new; a perennial Fount of Juvenescence for all dramatists who seek fresh inspiration, and for all the audiences of Europe who desire a draught of nature quickened with poetic passion.
The very faults of youthfulness which Sidney made so manifest, were now to build the fortune of this sweetest, prettiest country lass, for whom no name as yet was found in England. Precisely because she, the untaught girl, the latest born of all the Muses, pronounced herself no Muse of Tragedy or Comedy, because she knew no rules distilled from foreign, obsolete, and scholar-disciplined tradition, it was her mission to become the Muse of Modern Drama. The Italian playwright called her Farsa. This title reminds us of French Farce, with which she can indeed afford to recognise some slight relationship. But she travelled so far wider, climbed so far higher, penetrated so far deeper, that to name her Farce at any time in English, would be out of question. The destinies of all dramatic art were in her hands. She held the keys of Tragedy and Comedy; bid classic myth and legend suit her turn ; stretched her rod over fairyland and history; led lyric poetry, like a tamed leopard-whelp, at chariotwheels of her fantastic progress. Critics now recognise this village-maiden Muse, as Muse of the Romantic Drama, Shakspere's Drama. Under those high-sounding titles she now enjoys a fame equal to that of her grave sisters, Attic Tragedy and Comedy. It was her fortune to give to the modern world a theatre commensurate with that of ancient Greece, adapted to the spirit of the new-born age, differing indeed in type from the antique, but not less perfect nor less potent in its bearing on the minds of men.
What a future lay before this country lass—the bride-elect of Shakspere's genius! For her there was preparing empire over the whole world of man :-over the height and breadth and depth of heaven and earth and hell; over facts of nature and fables of romance ; over histories of nations and of households; over heroes of past and present times, and
FUTURE OF ROMANTIC DRAMA.
airy beings of all poets' brains! Hers were Greene's meadows, watered by an English stream. Hers, Heywood's moss-grown manor-houses. Peele's goddesshaunted lawns were hers, and hers the palace-bordered, paved ways of Verona. Hers was the darkness of the grave, the charnel-house of Webster. She walked the air-built loggie of Lyly's dreams, and paced the clouds of Jonson's Masques. She donned that ponderous sock, and trod the measures of Volpone. She mouthed the mighty line of Marlowe. Chapman's massy periods and Marston's pointed sentences were hers by heart. She went abroad through primrose paths with Fletcher, and learned Shirley's lambent wit. She wandered amid dark dry places of the outcast soul with Ford. “Hamlet' was hers. 'Anthony and Cleopatra' was hers. And hers too was “The Tempest.' Then, after many years, her children mated with famed poets in far distant lands. “Faust' and · Wallenstein, Lucrezia Borgia' and 'Marion Delorme,' are hers.
For the present moment, when Marlowe is yet at school at Canterbury, this young-eyed, nonchalant girl, with the still unrecognised promise of such womanhood, saunters afield with nameless playwrights and forgotten singers. The strait-laced Melpomene, who smiled so acidly on Gorboduc,' watches her pastimes with a frown. But our Lady of Romance heeds not Melpomene, and flouts the honours of that pedant-rid Parnassus. She is abroad in dew-sprent meadows to bring home the may. Nature, the divine schoolmistress, instructs her in rules of living art beneath the oaks of Arden, by the banks of Cam and Isis. Lap-full of flowers, warbling her native woodnotes wild,' the country lass of English art returns from those excursions to crowded booths at Bankside or Blackfriars, to torch-lit chambers of Whitehall and Greenwich. You may call her a grisette. But, once again, what destinies are hovering over her!
THEATRES, PLAYWRIGHTS, ACTORS, AND PLAYGOERS,
I. Servants of the Nobility become Players—Statutes of Edward VI.
and Mary-Statutes of Elizabeth— Licences.-11. Elizabeth's and Leicester's Patronage of the Stage-Royal Patent of 1574—Master of the Revels—Contest between the Corporation of London and the Privy Council.—111. The Prosecution of this Contest-Plays Forbidden within the City-Establishment of Theatres in the Suburbs-Hostility of the Clergy.-IV. Acting becomes a Profession—Theatres are Multiplied-Building of the Globe and Fortune--Internal Arrangements of Playhouses—Interest of the Court in Encouragement of Acting Companies.—V. Public and Private Theatres—Entrance PricesHabits of the Audience.-VI. Absence of Scenery-Simplicity of Stage-Wardrobe-Library of Theatres.–VII. Prices given for Plays -Henslowe--Benefit Nights-Collaboration and Manufacture of Plays.—VIII. Boy-Actors—Northbrooke on Plays at School—The Choristers of Chapel Royal, Windsor, Paul's Popularity of the Boys at Blackfriars-Female Parts—The Education of Actors.-IX. Payment to various Classes of Actors—Sharers--Apprentices-Receipts from Court Performances—Service of Nobility-Strolling Companies -Comparative Dishonour of the Profession.—X. Taverns—Bad Company at Theatres—Gosson and Stubbes upon the Manners of Playgoers—Women of the Town—Cranley's 'Amanda.'—XI. “The Young Gallant's Whirligig'-Jonson's Fitzdottrel at the Play.-XII. Comparison of the London and the Attic Theatres.
N.B. The authorities for this chapter are Collier's ‘History of English Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shakespeare,' upon which it is chiefly based; the Tracts published by the Old Shakespeare Society, 1853 ; and the Collection of Documents and Tracts in the Roxburghe Library, 1869.
The history of English dramatic literature cannot be rightly understood without a survey of the theatres in which plays were exhibited, of the actors who performed