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following is a chronological enumeration: -Soon after the accession of Elizabeth, appeared Lord Leicester's company, the same which, in 1574, was finally incorporated by royal license; in 1572, was formed Sir Robert Lane's company; in the same year Lord Clinton's; in 1575, companies were created by Lord Warwick and the Lord Chamberlain, the name of Shakspeare being enrolled among the servants of the latter, who, in the first year of the subsequent reign, became entitled to the appellation of His Majesty's servants; in 1576, the Earl of Sussex brought forward a theatrical body, and in 1577, Lord Howard another, neither of which, however, attained much eminence; in 1578, the Earl of Essex mustered a company of players, and in 1579, Lord Strange, and the Earl of Derby, followed his example; in 1591, the Lord Admiral produced his set of comedians; in 1592, the Earl of Hertford effected a similar arrangement; in 1593, Lord Pembroke protected an association of actors, and, at the close of Her Majesty's reign, the Earl of Worcester had in pay, also, a company of theatrical performers.

In the mean time theatres, both public and private, were greatly on the increase, and, during the period that Shakspeare immortalised the stage, not less than seven of these structures, of established notoriety, were in existence. Four of them were considered as public theatres, namely, The Globe on the Bankside, The Curtain in Shoreditch, The Red Bull in St. John's Street, and The Fortune in Whitecross Street; and three were termed private houses, one, for instance, in Blackfriars, another in Whitefriars, and The Cockpit or Phoenix, in Drury-Lane, As The Globe, however, and the theatre in Blackfriars were the property of the same set of players, only six companies of comedians were formed, or wanted. for the purposes of representation.

Beside these principal play-houses, several others, possessing a more ephemeral existence, as The Swan, The Rose, etc., sprung up and fell in succession, forming altogether such a number, as justly gave alarm and offence to the stricter clergy, and at length attracted the attention of the privy-council, who, on the 22d of June, 1600, issued an order for the reduction of the number of play-houses, limiting these buildings to two, selecting that called The Fortune for Middlesex, and fixing on The Globe for Surrey. To such a degree, however, had now arisen the attachment of the people to dramatic recreations, that notwithstanding these orders were re-issued, with still stronger injunctions, the following year, they could never be carried into any effectual execution.

Much as Elizabeth favoured the stage, it appears to have been patronised by her successor with equal, if not superior, zeal. James may be said, indeed, to have given a dignity and consequence to the profession, to which it had hitherto been a stranger, and to have introduced into the theatric world, a new and better constituted arrangement of its parts. No sooner had he ascended the throne, than three companies were formed under his auspices; the Lord Chamberlain's servants he adopted as his own; the Queen chose the Earl of Worcester's, and Prince Henry fixed upon the Earl of Nottingham's; and on the 19th of May, only twelve days after his arrival in London, he granted to his own company, being that performing at The Globe, the following license, which was first published in Rymer's Fœdera," in 1705:


"1. Jac. P. 2. m. 4. James by the grace of God, &c. to all justices, maiors, sheriffs, constables, headboroughs, and other our officers and loving subjects, greeting. Know you that wee, of our special grace, certaine knowledge, and meer motion, have licensed and au thorised, and by these presentes doe licence and authorize theise our servaunts, Laurence Fletcher, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillippes, John Hemings, Henrie Condel, William Sly, Robert Armin, Richard Cowly, and the rest of their associales, freely to use and exercise the art and faculty of playing comedies, tragedies, histories, interludes, morals, pastorals, stage-plaies, and such like other as thei have alreadie studied or hereafter shall use or studie, as well for the recreation of our loving subjects, as for our solace and

pleasure when we shall thincke good to see them, during our pleasure: and the said comedies, Tragedies, histories, enterludes, morals, pastorals, stage-plaies, and such like, to shew and exercise publiquely to their best commoditie, when the infection of the plague shall decrease, as well within theire nowe usuall house called the Globe, within our county of Surrey, as also within anie towne-balls or moute-halls, or other convenient places within the liberties and freedom of any other citie, universitie, toun, or boroughe whatsoever, within our said realmes and dominions. Willing and commanding you and everie of you, as you tender our pleasure, not onelie to permit and suffer them herein, without any your letts, hindrances, or molestations, during our pleasure, but also to be aiding or assistinge to them if any wrong be to them offered, and to allow them such former curtesies as hathe been given to men of their place and qualitie; and also what further favour you shall shew to theise our servaunts for our sake, we shall take kindlie at your handes. In witness whereof, &c.

"Witness our selfe at Westminster, the nynteenth daye of Maye,

"Per Breve de privato sigillo."

To The Globe mentioned in this license, and to the play-house in Blackfriars, as being the theatres exclusively belonging to Shakspeare's company, and where all his dramas were performed, we shall now confine our attention, the customs and usages of these, the one being a public, and the other a private theatre, pretty accurately applying to the rest.

The exact era of the building of The Globe has not been ascertained. Mr. Malone, from the documents which he consulted, conceives it to have been erected not long anterior to the year 1596; and Mr. Chalmers, resting on the evidence of Norden's map of London, concludes it to have been built before the year 1593. * Its site appears to have been on the southern side of the Thames, called the Bankside, and its form, which was of considerable size, to have been externally hexagonal, and internally circular. It was constructed of wood, and only partly thatched, its centre being open to the weather. It was probably named The Globe, not from the circularity of its interior, but from its sign exhibiting Hercules supporting the globe, under which was inscribed "Totus mundus agit histrionem" Being a public theatre, The Globe was likewise distinguished by a pole erected on its roof, to which, during the hours of exhibition, a flag was attached; for, by reason of its central exposure, it necessarily became a summer theatre, its performers, the King's company, usually commencing their season here during the month of May. The exhibitions at the Globe were frequent, and it is said, chiefly calculated for the lower class of people, the upper ranks, and the critics, generally preferring the private theatres, which were smaller, and more conveniently fitted up. The advantages of elegance and decoration, however, were no longer wanting to The Globe, in 1614; for the old structure, consisting of wood and thatch, being burnt down on the 29th of June, 1613, the subsequent year saw it rise from its ashes with considerable splendour. †

The Theatre in Blackfriars may be classed among the earliest buildings of the kind, being certainly in existence before 1580. It was erected near the present site of Apothecaries' Hall, and being without the liberties of the city of London, had the good fortune to escape the levelling fury of the fanatics, who, shortly after the above period, obtained leave to destroy all the play-houses within the jurisdiction of the city.

It does not appear that Shakspeare's company, or the King's servants, had any interest in this theatre before the winter of 1604, at which period, or in the following spring, they became its purchasers; the children of the Revels, or, as they were sometimes called, the children of Blackfriars, being the usual performers at this house, prior to that event.

• See Malone's Inquiry. p. 87.; and Chalmers's Apology, p 115.

Of the perishable materials, and inconvenient construction of the old theatre, we have some remarkable proofs, in two letters extant, describing the accident. The first written by Sir Henry Wotton, and dated July 2, 1613, concludes by asserting that "nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks," and the second from Mr. John Chamberlaine to Sir Ralph Winwood, dated July 8, 1613, remarks, that it was a great marvaile and fair grace of God that the people had so little harm, having but two narrow doors to get out."-Reliquia Wotton, p. 425. edit. 1685; and Winwood's Memorials, vol. iii. p. 469.

The distinctions subsisting between Blackfriars and The Globe, seem to have been nothing more, than that the former being a private, and a winter, house, was smaller, more compactly put together, and, as the representations were by candle-light, better calculated for the purposes of warmth and protection. As the internal structure, however, with the exception of the open centre, was similar to that of The Globe, and as the economy and usages were, there is every reason to believe, the same, not only in both these houses, but in every other contemporary theatre, the subsequent notices may be considered as applying, where not otherwise expressed, to the general state of the Elizabethan stage, though immediately derived from the costume of The Globe.

The interior architectural arrangements of this ancient theatre have been, in their leading features, preserved to the present day. The galleries, or scaffolds, as they were sometimes called, were constructed over each other, occupying three sides of the house, and assuming, according to the plan of the building, a square or semicircular form. Beneath these were small apartments, called rooms, intended for the genteeler part of the audience, and answering, in almost every respect, to our modern boxes. In The Globe, these were open to all who chose to pay for them, but at Blackfriars and other private theatres, there is some reason to conclude, that they were occasionally the property of individuals, who secured their claim through the medium of a key.

It has been remarked, that the centre of The Globe, or summer theatre, was open to the weather, and, from the first temporary play-houses having been built in the area of inns or common ostleries, this was usually called The Yard. It had neither floor nor benches, and the common people standing here to see the performance, were, therefore, termed by Shakspeare groundlings; an epithet repeated by Decker, who speaks of "the groundling and gallery commoner, buying his sport by the penny. The similar space at Blackfriars was named the Pit, but seems to have differed in no other respect than in being protected by a roof. It was separated from the stage merely by a railing of pales, for there was no intervening orchestra, the music, consisting chiefly of trumpets, cornets, hautboys, lutes, recorders, viols, and organs, being executed by a band of eight or ten performers, who were stationed in an elevated balcony nearly occupying that part of the house which is now denominated the upper stage-box.

The stage itself appears to have been divided into two parts, namely the lower and the upper stage; the former with nearly the same relative elevation with regard to the pit as in the theatres of our own times; the latter, resembling a balcony in shape, was placed towards the rear of the former, having its platform not less than eight or nine feet from the ground. This was a contrivance attended with much conveniency; here was represented the play before the King in Hamlet; here, in several of the old plays, part of the dialogue was carried on, and here, having curtains which drew in front, were occasionally concealed, from the view of the audience, persons whose seclusion might be necessary to the business of the plot.

Curtains also of woollen, or silk, were hung in the front of the greater or lower stage, not suspended, in the modern style, by lines and pullies, but opening in the middle, and sliding on an iron rod.

Beside the accommodation of boxes, pit, and galleries, in the usual parts of the house, two boxes, one on each side, were attached to the balcony or upper stage, and were termed private boxes; but, being inconveniently situated, and, as Decker remarks," almost smothered in darkness," were seldom frequented, except from motives of eccentricity, by characters higher than waiting-women and gentlemenushers. Seats also, at the private theatres, were allowed to be placed on the stage, and were generally occupied by the wits, gallants, and critics of the day: thus Decker observes," by sitting on the stage, you have a signed patent to

* Gull's Horn-book, Nott's reprint, p. 132.

+ Ibid. p. 135.

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engross the whole commodity of censure; may lawfully presume to be a girder, and stand at the helm to steer the passage of scenes."

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The passage in italics which closes this quotation, would seem to be decisive of the long agitated question relative to the use of scenery; Mr. Malone asserting,― "that the stage of Shakspeare was not furnished with moveable painted scenes, but merely decorated with curtains, and arras or tapestry hangings, which, when decayed, appear to have been sometimes ornamented with pictures;" and Mr. Steevens contending, that where so much machinery as the plays of Shakspeare require, is allowed to have been employed, the less complicated adjunct of scenes could scarcely be wanting; for that where "the column is found standing, no one will suppose but that it was once accompanied by its usual entablature. — In short," he adds, "without characteristic discriminations of place, the historical dramas of Shakspeare in particular would have been wrapped in tenfold confusion and obscurity; nor could the spectator have felt the poet's power, or accompanied his rapid transitions from one situation to another, without such guides as painted canvas only could supply. But for these, or such assistances, the spectator, like Hamlet's mother, must have bent his gaze on mortifying vacancy; and with the guest invited by the Barmecide, in the Arabian tale, must have furnished from his own imagination the entertainment of which his eyes were solicited to partake."

If the machinery accompanying trap-doors, tombs, and cauldrons, the appearance of ghosts, phantoms, and monsters, the descent of gods, the magic evanishment of articles of furniture and provision, and the confliction of the elements, were not strangers to the Shakspearean theatre, it surely would have been an easy matter to have transferred the frame-work and painted canvas which, according to Holinshed, and even preceding chroniclers, decorated the pageants and tournaments of those days, to the business of the stage. Nor can we, indeed, conceive, as Mr. Steevens has remarked, how the minute inventory of Imogen's bedchamber, and the accurate description of the exterior of Inverness Castle, could have been rendered intelligible or endurable without such assistance.

It is highly probable, therefore, from these considerations, and from the passage in Decker, that, notwithstanding the mass of negative evidence collected by Mr. Malone, moveable painted scenes were occasionally introduced on the stage during the age of Shakspeare; and it may be further reasonably concluded, that, from the phrase of steering the passage of scenes," the mechanism was formed and conducted on a plan approximating that which is now familiar to a modern audience.


The conjecture of Mr. Steevens, however, that private theatres had no scenes, while the public had, owing to the former admitting part of the audience on the stage, who might interfere with the convenient shifting of such an apparatus, is annihilated by the quotation from Decker, who expressly says, that "by sitting on the stage, you have a signed patent to stand at the helm to steer the passage of the scenes," by which it would appear, that those who obtained seats on the private stage, occasionally amused themselves by assisting the regular mechanists in the adjustment of the scenery.

We learn, also, from Heywood, that the internal roof of the stage was either painted of a sky-blue colour, or hung with drapery of a similar tint, in order to represent the heavens; and there is much reason to suppose, with a very ingenious commentator, that when the idea of a gloomy and starless night was to be impressed, these heavens were hung with black, whence, among many passages in Shakspeare illustrative of this position, the following line manifestly owes its origin:

"Hung be the Heavens with black, yield day to night."+

* Gull's Horn-book, p. 138.

+ Whiter's Specimen of a Commentary on Shakspeare, p. 157, 158.

It has, likewise, been asserted, and, indeed, to a certain extent, proved, by the same learned writer, that the lower part of the stage was distinguished by the name of Hell; and he quotes the annexed passage from Chapman as decisive on the subject:

"The fortune of a Stage (like fortune's self)

Amazeth greatest judgments: and none knows
The hidden causes of those strange effects,

That rise from this HELL, or fall from this HEAVEN."

From this connection of the celestial and infernal regions with the stage, Mr. Whiter has inferred, through the medium of numerous pertinent quotations from Shakspeare and his contemporaries, that a vast mass of imagery was so blended and associated in the mind of our great poet, as to form an intimate union in his ideas between Hell and Night; the darkened Heavens and the Stage of Tragedy; and this, too, at an early period, even during the compo sition of his Rape of Lucrece, which contains some striking instances of this theatrical combination.

To these notices on the interior structure of the Shakspearean theatre, we shall now add the most material circumstances relative to its economy and


The mode of announcing its exhibitions, if we except the medium of newspapers, a resource of subsequent times, seems to have been not less effectual and extensive than that of the present day. Playbills were printed, expressing the title of the piece or pieces to be performed, but containing neither the names of the characters nor of the actors; these were industriously circulated through the town and affixed to posts and public buildings, a custom which forms the subject of a repartee recorded by Taylor the water-poet, who began to write towards the close of Shakspeare's life:-"Master Field, the player," he relates, “riding up Fleet-street a great pace, a gentleman called him, and asked him, what play was played that day. He being angry to be staied on so frivolous a demand, answered, that he might see what play was plaied upon every poste. I cry you mercy, said the gentleman, I tooke you for a poste, you rode so fast."+

In the early part of the reign of Elizabeth, the Days of Acting, at the public theatres, were chiefly confined to Sundays, Her Majesty's license to Burbage in 1574, granting such exhibition on that day, out of the hours of prayer; and this was the day which the Queen herself usually selected for dramatic representation at court. The rapidly increasing taste, however, for theatric amusement SOOB induced the players to go beyond the limits of permission, and we find Gosson, in 1579, exclaiming, that the players, "because they are allowed to play every Sunday, make four or five Sundays, at least, every week." A reformation more consonant to morality and decorum took place in the subsequent reign; for, though plays were still performed on Sundays, at the court of James the First, yet they were no longer tolerated on that day at the public theatres, permission being now given, on application to the Master of the Revels, for their perfor mance every day, save on the Sabbath, during the winter, and with no further exception than the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent, which were at that time called sermon-days.

The Hours of Acting, during the whole period of Shakspeare's career, con tinued to be early in the afternoon. In 1598, we are informed by an epigram of

* Whiter's Specimen of a Commentary on Shakspeare, p. 178, 183; and see Prologue to All Fosis, by Chapman, 1605 in Old Plays, vol. iv. p. 116.

+ Taylor's Works, p. 153 Mr Malone is of opinion that to these play-bills we owe the long and whimsical titles which are prefixed to the quarto copies of our author's plays —It is indeed absurd to sup pose, that the modest Shakspeare, who has more than once apologized for his untutored lines, shoaid la his manuscripts have entitled any of his dramas ufost excellent and pleasant performances" Thus:"The most excellent Historie of the Merchant of Venice, 1600.”

"Amost pleasant and excellent conceited Comedie of Syr John Falstaffe and the Merry Wives of Windsor, 1602," "The late and much admired Play, called Pericles Prince of Tyre, 1609," &c. &c.

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