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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 ry 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.—II. 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
them, and of the audience for which they were provided. In the infancy of the stage, there existed no permanent buildings set apart for theatrical exhibitions ; nor did play-acting constitute a recognised profession. We have seen in the chapter upon Moral Plays that noblemen used to maintain a musical establishment for the service of their Chapels, and to this department of their households the actors of Interludes and Moral Plays were attached. When not required by their masters, these players strolled the country, calling themselves Servants of the magnate whose pay they took and whose badge they
After this fashion Companies of Actors came into existence; and the towns of England were infested by wandering bands, professing to be the Servants of the Earl of Warwick, Lord Clinton, the Earl of Derby, or some other eminent person, whose household supported the luxury of a trained set of players. Often enough, the claim of such strollers was well founded. But pretenders to a title which they could not justify were numerous; and under the name of My Lord's Players, common vagabonds and men of no condition roamed the counties. During the reign of Edward VI. it was found necessary to place the theatrical establishments of noble houses under the special control of the Privy Council. Licences were granted to the aristocracy to maintain troops of players,
, and their performances were limited to the residences of their masters. The political and religious disturbances of that reign had given occasion to seditious propaganda under the colourable pretext of playacting. There were no newspapers; and next to the
STAGE IN REIGNS OF EDWARD AND MARY.
pulpit, the stage, rude as it was, formed the most popular and powerful engine for disseminating opinions on matters of debate. During the reign of Mary, theatrical exhibitions were submitted to even stricter control. Finding that the Protestant reaction was being worked by means of Moral Plays, the Crown endeavoured to silence secular acting in public through the length and breadth of England. Encouragement, meanwhile, was given to the revival of Miracle Plays, in the belief that these would educate the people back to their old creeds. The Court, however, still maintained a musical and dramatic establishment upon a scale of great magnificence. In salaries alone, independent of board, liveries, and incidental expenses, it is calculated that Mary spent between two and three thousand pounds a year on this department of her household. It was impossible, however, by any repressive measures of the Privy Council, to check a custom which had gained so strong a hold upon the manners of the nation. Noblemen refused to be interfered with. The public had no mind to be deprived of their
Therefore the class of men who gained their livelihood by acting, having the goodwill of the people and the protection of powerful masters on their side, defied or eluded the orders of the Crown. It would seem that Mary's edicts had the effect of increasing clandestine performances, and driving the professors of the art of acting into vagrancy and vagabondage. This at least is the conclusion we may draw from the tenor of Elizabeth's first proclamations on the subject of the stage. These are clearly regulative, implying the intention to check disorder