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sions of this period are those likewise of the present day, and that no large portion of the catalogue can with propriety call for a more extended notice.
At the head of those which demand some brief elucidation, we shall place the Itinerant Stage, a country amusement, however, which, in the days of Elizabeth, was fast degenerating into contempt. The performance of secular plays by strolling companies of minstrels, had been much encouraged for two or three centuries, not only by the vulgar, but by the nobility, into whose castles and halls they were gladly admitted, and handsomely rewarded. At the commencement of the sixteenth century, the custom was still common, and Mr. Steevens, as a proof of it, has furnished us with the following entry from the fifth Earl of Northumberland's Household Book, which was begun in the year 1512:
"Rewards to Players.
"Item, to be payd to the said Richard Gowge and Thomas Percy for rewards to players for playes playd in Christynmas by stranegers in my house after xxd. every play by estimacion somme xxxiijs. iiijd. Which ys appoynted to be paid to the said Richard Gowge and Thomas Percy at the said Christynmas in full contentacion of the said reward ys xxxiijs. iiijd.”
That these itinerants were still occasionally admitted into the country mansions of the great, during the reign of Elizabeth, we have satisfactory evidence; but it may be sufficient here to remark, that Elizabeth herself was entertained with an historical play at Kenelworth Castle, by performers who came for that purpose from Coventry; and that Shakspeare has favoured us with another instance, by the introduction of the following scene in his Taming of the Shrew, supposed to have been written in 1594:
“Lord. Sirrah, go see what trumpet 'tis that sounds :—
Belike, some noble gentleman; that means,
How now? who is it?
Re-enter a Servant.
An it please your honour,
From this passage it may be deduced, that the itinerant players of this period were held in no higher estimation than menial servants; an inference which is corroborated by referring to the anonymous play of A Taming of a Shrew, written about 1590, where the entry of the players is thus marked, "Enter two of the plaiers, with packs at their backs.' The abject condition of these strollers, Mr. Pope has attributed, perhaps too hastily, to the stationary performers of this reign; "the top of the profession," he observes, "were then mere players, not gentlemen of the stage; they were led into the buttery by the steward, not placed at the lord's table, or the lady's toilette;" a passage on which Mr. Malone has remarked, that Pope "seems not to have observed, that the players here introduced are stollers; and there is no reason to suppose that our author, Heminge, Burbage, Condell, etc., who were licensed by King James, were treated in this manner."
Pope's Preface to his edition of Shakspeare,
On the other hand Mr. Steevens supports the opinion of Pope by asserting, that
"At the period when this comedy (Taming of a Shrew) was written, and for many years after, the profession of a player was scarcely allowed to be reputable. The imagined dignity," he continues, "of those who did not belong to itinerant companies, is, therefore, unworthy consideration. I can as easily believe that the blundering editors of the first folio were suffered to lean their hands on Queen Elizabeth's chair of state, as that they were admitted to the table of the Earl of Leicester, or the toilette of Lady Hunsden. Like Stephen, in every Man in his Humour, the greatest indulgence our histrionic leaders could have expected, would have been a trencher and a napkin in the buttery."
The inference, however, which Mr. Malone has drawn, appears to have the authority of Shakspeare himself; for when Hamlet is informed of the arrival of the players, he exclaims, "How chances it, they travel: their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways;" a question, the drift of which even Mr. Steevens explains in the following words: "How chances it they travel?―i. e. How happens it that they are become strollers?-Their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways-i. e. To have remained in a settled theatre was the more honourable as well as the more lucrative situation." We have every reason, therefore, to suppose, that the difference between the stroller and the licensed performer was in Shakspeare's time considerable; and that the latter, although not the companion of lords and countesses, was held in a very respectable light, if his personal conduct were good, and became the occasional associate of the first literary characters of the age; while the former was frequently degraded beneath the rank of a servant, and, in the statute, indeed, 39 Eliz. ch. 4. he is classed with rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars.
This depreciation of the character of the itinerant player, towards the close of Elizabeth's reign, soon narrowed his field of action; the opulent became unwilling to admit into their houses persons thus legally branded; and the stroller was reduced to the necessity of exhibiting his talents at wakes and fairs, on temporary scaffolds and barrel heads; "if he pen for thee once," says Ben Jonson, addressing a strolling player, "thou shalt not need to travell, with thy pumps full of gravell, any more, after a blinde jade and a hamper, and stalk upon boards and barrel-heads to an old crackt trumpet."*
Many country-towns, indeed, at this period, were privileged to hold fairs by exhibiting a certain number of stage plays at their annual fairs. Of these, Manningtree in Essex was one of the most celebrated; Heywood mentions it as notorious for yearly plays at its fair; and that its festivity on these occasions was equally known, is evident from Shakspeare's comparison of Falstaff to a "roasted Manningtree ox with a pudding in his belly." The histrionic fame of Manningtree Mr. Malone proves by two quotations from Nashe and Decker; the former exclaiming in a poem, called "The Choosing of Valentines,"
"Or see a play of strange moralitie,
Shewen by bachelrie of Manning-tree,
Whereto the countrie franklins flock-meale swarme;'
and the latter observing, in a tract entitled "Seven deadly Sinnes of London," 1607, that "Cruelty has got another part to play; it is acted like the old morals at Manningtree."
This custom of stage-playing at annual fairs continued to support a few itinerant companies; but in general, after the halls of the nobility and gentry were shut against them, they divided into small parties of three or four, and at length
Poetaster, 1601, vide Ben Jonson's Works, fol. edit. of 1640, vol. i. p. 267.
Apology for Actors, 1612.
By the statute of the 39 Eliz. any baron of the realm might license a company of players; but by the statute of first James I. "it is declared and enacted, that from thenceforth no authority given, or to be
became mere jugglers, jesters, and puppet-show exhibitors. This last-mentioned amusement, indeed, and its professors, seem to have been known, in this country, under the name of motions, and motion-men, as early as the commencement of the sixteenth century; and the term, indeed, continued to be thus applied in the time of Jonson, who repeatedly uses it, in his "Bartholomew Fair." The degradation of the strolling companies, by the statutes of Elizabeth and James, rendered the exhibition of automaton figures, at this period, common throughout the kingdom. They are alluded to by Shakspeare under the appellation of drolleries; thus in the Tempest, Alonzo, alarmed at the strange shapes bringing in the banquet, exclaims,
"Give us kind keepers, heavens! What were these?"
a question to which Sebastian replies,
meaning by this epithet to distinguish them from the wooden puppets, the performers in the shows called drolleries.
A very popular annual diversion was celebrated, during the age of Shakspeare, and for more than twenty-five years after, on the Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire. It has been said that the rural games which constituted this anniversary, were founded by one Robert Dover on the accession of James I.; ‡ but it appears to be ascertained that Dover was only the reviver, with additional splendour, of sports which had been yearly exhibited, at an early period, on the same spot, and perhaps only discontinued for a short time before their revival in 1603.
"We may learn from Rudder's History of Glocestershire," says Mr. Chalmers, "that, in more early times, there was at Cottswold a customary meeting, every year, at Whitsontide, called an ale, or Whitson-ale, which was attended by all the lads, and the lasses, of the villagery, who, annually, chose a Lord and Lady of the Yule, who were the authorized rulers of the rustic revellers. There is in the Church of Cirencester, say Rudder, an ancient monument, in basso relievo, that evinces the antiquity of those games, which were known to Shakspeare, before the accession of King James. They were known, also, to Drayton early in that reign: for upon the map of Glocestershire, which precedes the fourteenth song, there is a representation of a Whitsunale, with a May pole, which last is inscribed Heigh for Cotswold.'
"Ascending, next, faire Cotswold's plaines,
She revels with the Shepherd's swaines."S
Mr. Strutt also is of opinion that the Cotswold games had a much higher origin than the time of Dover, and observes that they are evidently alluded to in the following lines by John Heywood the epigrammatist:
"He fometh like a bore, the beaste should seeme bolde,
For he is as fierce as a lyon of Cotswold."**
In confirmation of these statements it may be added, that Mr. Steevens and Mr. Chalmers have remarked, that in Randolph's poems, 1638, is to be found
given or made, by any baron of this realm, or any other honourable personage of greater degree, unto any isteriode players, minstrels, jugglers, bearward, or any other idle person or persons whatsoever, using any un awful games or plays, to play or act, should be available to free or discharge the said persons, or any of them, from the pains and punishments of rogues, of vagabonds, and sturdy beggars, in the said statutes
those of Eliz.) mentioned."
A character in Gammar Gurton's Needle, says Mr. Strutt, a comedy supposed to have been written A.D. 1517, declares he will go "and travel with young Goose, the motion-man, for a puppet-player.” This reference, however, is inaccurate, for after a diligent perusal of the comedy in question, no such passage is to be found.
Ben Jonson's Works, fol. edit. 1640, vol. ii. p. 77. act v. sc. 4. Vide Malone on the Chronological Order of Shakspeare's Plays. $ Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, p. 323, note s.
* Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 150, note b.
Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 20,
"An eclogue on the noble assemblies revived on Cotswold hills by Mr. Robert Dover; and in D'Avenant's poems published the same year, a copy of verses "In celebration of the yearely preserver of the games at Cotswold."
The Reviver of these far-famed games was an enterprising attorney, a native of Barton on the Heath in Warwickshire, and consequently a near neighbour to Shakspeare's country-residence. He obtained permission from King James to be the director of these annual sports, which he superintended in person for forty years. They were resorted to by prodigious multitudes of people, and by all the nobility and gentry for sixty miles round, until "the rascally rebellion," to adopt the phraseology of Anthony Wood, "was begun by the Presbyterians, which gave a stop to their proceedings, and spoiled all that was generous and ingenious elsewhere."
They consisted originally, and previous to the direction of Dover, merely of athletic exercises, such as wrestling, leaping, cudgel-playing, sword and buckler fighting, pitching the bar, throwing the sledge, tossing the pike, etc. etc. To these Dover added coursing for the gentlemen and dancing for the ladies; a temporary castle of boards being erected for the accommodation of the fair sex, and a silver collar adjudged as a prize for the fleetest greyhound.
To these two eras of the Cotswold Games Shakspeare alludes in the Second Part of King Henry IV., and in the Merry Wives of Windsor. Justice Shallow refers to the original state of this diversion, when in the first of these dramas he enume rates among the swinge-bucklers, "Will Squeele, a Cotsole man;" and to Dover's improvement of them, when, in the second, he represents Slender asking Page, "How does your fallow greyhound, Sir? I heard say, he was out-run on Cotsale."
Dover, tradition says, was highly delighted with the superintendence of these games, and assumed, during his direction of them, a great deal of state and consequence. "Captain Dover," relates Granger, a title which courtesy had probably bestowed on this public-spirited attorney, "had not only the permission of James I. to celebrate the Cotswold Games, but appeared in the very cloaths which that monarch had formerly worn †, and with much more dignity in his air and aspect."+
In 1636, there was published at London a small quarto, entitled, "Annalia Dubrensia, upon the yearly Celebration of Mr. Robert Dover's Olympic Games, upon Cotswold Hills, a book consisting entirely of recommendatory verses, written by Jonson, Drayton, Randolph, and many others, and with a print prefixed of Dover on horseback.
It is probable that, at this period, and for many subsequent years, there were several places in the kingdom which had Games somewhat similar to those of Cotswold, though not quite so celebrated; for Heath says, that a carnival of this kind was kept every year, about the middle of July, upon Halgaver-moor, near Bodwin in Cornwall; "resorted to by thousands of people. The sports and pas times here held were so well liked," he relates, "by Charles the Second, when he touched here in his way to Sicily, that he became a brother of the jovial society. The custom," he adds, "of keeping this Carnival is said to be as old as the Saxons." S
Of the four great rural diversions, Hawking, Hunting, Fowling and Fishing. the first will require the greatest share of our attention, as it is now nearly, if not altogether extinct, and was, during the reigns of Elizabeth and James, the most prevalent and fashionable of all amusements.
To the very commencement, indeed, of the seventeenth century, we may point.
* Athenæ Oxon. vol. ii p. 812.
They were given him by Endymion Porter, the King's servant.
Biographical History of England, vol. ii. p. 399. 8vo. edit. of 1775,
Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 20, and Heath's Description of Cornwall, 1750.
as to the zenith of its popularity and reputation; for although it had been introduced into this country as early as the middle of the eighth century,* it was, until the commencement of the sixteenth, nearly, if not entirely, confined to the highest rank of society. During the reigns of Elizabeth and James, however, it descended from the nobility to the gentry and wealthy yeomanry, and no man could then have the smallest pretension to the character of a gentleman who kept not a cast of hawks. Of this a ludicrous instance is given us by Ben Jonson, in his "Every Man in his Humour:"
"Master Stephen. How does my cousin Edward, uncle?
Knowell. O, well cousse, goe in and see: I doubt he be scarce stirring yet.
Steph. Uncle, afore I goe in, can you tell me, an' he have ere a booke of the sciences of hawking, and hunting? I would faine borrow it.
Know. Why, I hope you will not a hawking now, will you?
Steph. No, cousse; but I'll practise against next yere, uncle. I have bought me a hawke, and a hood, and bells, and all; I lacke nothing but a booke to keepe it by.
Know. 0, most ridiculous.
Steph. Nay, looke you now, you are angrie, uncle: why you know, an' a man have not skill in the hawking, and hunting-languages now-a-days, I'll not give a rush for him. They are more studied than the Greeke, or the Latine. He is for no gallant's company without 'hem.-A fine jest ifaith! Slid a gentleman mun show himselfe like a gentleman!"+
That the character of Master Stephen is not, in this respect, overcharged, but represents faithfully the fashionable folly of the age, is evident from many contemporary writers, and especially from that sensible old author Richard Brathwait, who, speaking of dogs and hawks, says,
"They are to be used only as pleasures and recreations, of which to speake sparingly were much better, than onely to discourse of them, as if our whole reading were in them. Neither doe I speake this without just cause; for I have noted this fault in many of our younger brood of Gentry, who either for want of education in learning, or their owne neglect of learning, have no sooner attained to the strength of making their fist a pearch for a hawke, but by the help of some bookes of faulconry, whereby they are instructed in the words of art, they will run division upon discourse of this pleasure: whereas, if at any time they be interrupted by occasion of some other conference, these Highflyers are presently to bee mewed up, for they are taken from their element."
Many of the best books on the Art of Falconry were written, indeed, as might be expected, during this universal rage for the amusement, and the hawking coxcombs of the day, adopting their language on all occasions, became necessarily obtrusive and pedantic in a disgusting degree. Of these manuals the most popular were written by George Turberville, Gervase Markham, and Edmund Best. S
But the most detrimental consequence arising from the universality of this elegant diversion, was the immense expense that attended it, and which frequently involved those who were not opulent in utter ruin a result not to be wondered
About the year 750, Winifrid, or Boniface, a native of England, and archbishop of Mons, acquaints Ethelbald, a king of Kent, that he has sent him one hawk, two falcons and two shields. And Hedilbert, a king of the Mercians, requests the same archbishop Winifrid to send him two falcons which have been trained to kill cranes. See Epistol. Winifrid. (Bonifac.) Mogunt. 1605. 1629. And in Bibl. Patr. tom. vi., and tom. xiii p. 70."-Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, vol. ii. p. 221.
Jonson's Works, fol. vol. i. p. 6. act i. sc. 1.
Brathwait's English Gentleman, 2d edit. 1633. p. 220.
The Booke of Faulconrie, or Hawking, for the onely delight and pleasure of all Noblemen and GenLemen: collected out of the best aucthors, as wel Italians as Frenchmen, and some English practises withall Concernyng Faulconrie, the contentes whereof are to be seene in the next page folowyng. By Geo. Turberville, Gentleman. Nocet empta dolore voluptas. Imprinted at London for Chr. Barker, at the signe of the Grashoper in Paules Church-yarde, 1575." To this was added, the “Noble Arte of Venerie or Huntm" and a re-impression of both, "newly revived, corrected, and augmented with many additions proper to these present times," was published by Thomas Purfoot, in 1611.
Gervase Markham published in 1595 the edition of Dame Julyana Barne's Treatise on Hawking and Hunting, which we have formerly noticed, and which was first printed by Caxton, and afterwards by Winkin De Worde; and in 1615, the first edition of his Country Contentments, which contains a treatise on Hawking: a work so popular, that it reached thirteen or fourteen editions.
Edmund Best, who trained and sold hawks, printed a treatise on Hawks and Hawking in 1619.