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quarian lore, who is much more anxious about the intelligence which he has to disclose, than about clothing it in the most permanent form of expression.
Perhaps the most valuable part of Mr. Collier's researches will be considered to be that, in which he treats of the Miracle-plays, sometimes, and not erroneously (as he thinks), called Mysteries, as the source of our national drama. He conceives, with a great degree of probability, that we are indebted for them to France, He traces the connexion between them and the Moral plays, or Moralities, represented by allegorical personages, which finally superseded the Miracle-plays, and shews how the Moralities, in turn, gave way to Tragedy and Comedy, by the gradual introduction of characters existing, or supposed to exist, in actual life. This course of observation leads him into an elaborate review of most of the principal moral plays in our language, whether printed or manuscript, amongst which the reader will find some very curious specimens of the imaginative powers of our ancestors. He next traces the growth of Tragedy and Comedy from their birth, to the period of their maturity under the auspices of Shakespeare, a view of his subject which has led him into a field that had been almost unoccupied, the examination of the predecessors and earlier contemporaries of that matchless ornament of our country. The inquiries of Mr. Collier have enabled him to refute the assertion of Dryden, that Shakespeare “ created the stage amongst us;” to shew that in truth it was created by no one man, and in no one age; and that whatever improvements Shakespeare introduced, when he began to write for the stage, our romantic drama was completely formed and firmly established.'
It will, perhaps, be new to some of our readers to learn, that there is well-authenticated evidence of the performance of Miracleplays in England, so early as the period intervening between the years 1170 and 1182. In the course of time the cities of Chester ånd Coventry became famous for these representations, which were generally taken from Scriptural subjects, and occasionally from the lives of the saints. It is recorded, that when the Emperor Sigismund (1416) came to England for the purpose of mediating a peace between this country and France, he was magnificently entertained at Windsor; and amongst other exhibitions got up
for the occasion, was a kind of play, founded upon certain traditional or fabulous incidents in the life of St. George; consisting, first, of the arriving of the saint, and an angel fastening on his spurs; secondly, St. George riding and fighting with the dragon, with bis spear in his hand; and thirdly, to use the quaint language of the chronicle in the Cottonian collection, “a castel, and Seint George and the kynges daughter ledying the lambe in at the castel gates." It does not appear, however, whether this exhibition was carried on by means of performers, or by show of puppets or other figures, assisted by scenery. There seems to be no trace of the
existence of itinerant players before the reign of Henry VI. During that reign, and after it, they are frequently mentioned, sometimes as minstrels, sometimes as servants of the king or the nobility. The Drury Lane performers still retain the title of His Majesty's servants. At no period do dramatic performances seem to have been much approved of in the city of London. In the year 1576, we find the Lord Mayor and Corporation remonstrating strongly against them, in an address presented on the subject to the Privy Council, when the following remedies were proposed, though not sanctioned, by the latter body, probably in consequence of the favour in which such entertainments had always been held by the aristocracy.
““That they hold them content with playeng in private houses at weddings, &c., without publike assemblies.
• "If more be thought good to be tolerated, that then they be restrained to the orders in the act of common Counsel, tempore Hawes.
"" That they play not openly till the whole death in London haue ben xx daies vnder 50 a weke, nor longer than it shal so continue.
"" That no playes be on the sabbat.
«« That no playeng be on holydaies, but after evening prayer, nor any received into the auditorie till after evening prayer.
• “That no playeng be in the dark, nor continue any such time but as any of the auditorie may returne to their dwellings in London before sonne set, or at least before it be dark.
"" That the Quenes players only be tolerated, and of them their number, and certaine names, to be notified in your Llps. lettres to the L. Maior and to the Justices of Middx and Surrey. And those her players not to divide themselves into several companies.
" " That for breaking any of these orders their toleration cease." ?-vol. i. pp. 225, 226.
In consequence of the aversion of the corporate authorities from these diversions, probably on account of the loss of time and money which they caused to the city apprentices, the players withdrew from the Lord Mayor's jurisdiction altogether, and erected, in the precinct of the dissolved monastery of Blackfriars, a theatre, which is said to have been one of the most ancient of English playhouses. Another building, called “The Theatre,” par excellence, was constructed in Shoreditch, near which was established a third, under the name of “ The Curtain.” An old satirical epigranı, which has been preserved in manuscript, shews the feelings with which the actors of the day contemplated the hostility of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London.
666 THE FOOLES OF THE CITTIE.
From Troynovaunts olde cittie
• The cause I will declaer.
Of Wilson and Jack Lane,
They onely meane to laber
This is the cause and reason,
• That Playes are worse then treason."'-vol. i. p. 231. The dramatic art had already been, in various ways, gradually extending itself over other parts of the kingdom. At Court it had been highly favoured, and placed under the special protection of the Master of the Revels, whose business it was to provide plays and shows for the royal family and their guests. The Inns of Court were also famous for their theatrical exhibitions. Gray's Inn outshone all the others in the splendour and excellence of its entertainments, which were carried on in the Hall. Even in the liberties of the city, however, the actors were not without opponents. Upon the occurrence of the slightest accident to a city apprentice, their theatres were threatened to be pulled down by the corporate authorities. A very remarkable petition, to which the immortal name of William Shakespeare is appended, and which appears to have been presented to the Privy Council in 1596, shows the difficulties under which the Blackfriars Theatre then laboured, discountenanced as it was by the prejudices of the age.
• The Blackfriars Theatre, built in 1576, seems, after the lapse of twenty years, to have required extensive repairs, if, indeed, it were not, at the end of that period, entirely rebuilt. This undertaking, in 1596, seems to have alarmed some of the inhabitants of the Liberty, and not a few of them, “ some of honour," petitioned the Privy Council, in order that the players might not be allowed to complete it, and that their farther performances in that precinct might be prevented. A copy of the document, containing this request, is preserved in the State Paper Office, and to it is appended a much more curious paper-a counter petition by the Lord Chamberlain's players, entreating that they might be permitted to continue their work upon the theatre, in order to render it more commodious, and that their performances there might not be interrupted. It does not appear to be the original, but a copy, without the signatures, and it contains, at the commencement, an enumeration of the principal actors who were parties to it. They occur in the following order, and it will be instantly remarked, not only that the name of Shakespeare is found among them, but that he comes fifth in the enumeration :6.6. Thomas Pope,
« William Shakespeare, « Richard Burbage,
" William Kempe, “ John Hemings,
“ William Slye, " Augustine Phillips, “ Nicholas Tooley. vol. 11. (1831.) NÒ. III.
• This remarkable paper has, perhaps, never seen the light from the moment it was presented, until it was very recently discovered. It is seven years anterior to the date of any other authentic record, which contains the name of our great dramatist, and it may warrant various conjectures as to the rank he held in the company in 1596, as a poet and as a player. It is in these terms: "" To the right honourable the Lords of her Majesties most honourable
Privie Councell. “The humble petition of Thomas Pope, Richard Burbadge, John Hemings, Augustine Phillips, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Slye, Nicholas Tooley, and others, servaunts to the Right Honourable the Lord Chamberlaine to her Majestie.
"“ Sheweth most humbly, that your Petitioners are owners and players of the private house, or theatre, in the precinct and libertie of Blackfriers, which hath beene, for many yeares, used and occupied for the playing of tragedies, commedies, histories, enterludes, and playes. That the same, by reason of its having been so long built, hath fallen into great decay, and that besides the reparation thereof, it has beene found necessarie to make the same more convenient for the entertainment of auditories coming thereto. That to this end your Petitioners have all and eche of them put down sommes of money, according to their shares in the said theatre, and which they have justly and honestly gained by the exercise of their qualitie of stage-players; but that certaine persons (some of them of honour) inhabitants of the said precinct and libertie of Blackfriers have, as your Petitioners are infourmed, besought your honourable Lordshipps not to permitt the said private house any longer to remaine open, but hereafter to be shut up and closed, to the manifest and great injurie of your Petitioners, who have no other meanes whereby to maintain their wives and families, but by the exercise of their qualitie as they have heretofore done. Furthermore, that in the summer season your Petitioners are able to playe at their new built house, on the Bankside, calde the Globe, but that in the winter they are compelled to come to the Blackfriers; and if your honourable Lordshipps give consent unto that which is prayde against your Petitioners, they will not onely, while the winter endures, loose the meanes whereby they now support them selves and their families, but be unable to practise them selves in anie playes or enterludes, when called upon to perform for the recreation and solace of her Matie and her honourable Court, as they have been heretofore accustomed. The humble prayer
Petitioners therefore is, that your honourable Lordshipps will grant permission to finish the reparations and alterations they have begun; and as your Petitioners have hitherto been well ordered in their behaviour, and just in their dealings, that your honourable Lordshipps will not inhibit them from acting at their above namde private house, in the precinct and libertie of Blackfriers, and
your Petitioners, as in dutie- most bounden, will ever pray for the increasing honor and happinesse of your honorable Lordshipps.'”—vol. i. pp. 297-300.
Mr. Collier has gleaned together two or three new facts relating to Shakespeare, one of which ought to have been omitted for its indecency. Indeed we must remark that the enthusiasm of the antiquary often prevails, in the author of these volumes, over the
gravity of the moralist. He acts, in general, under the feeling, that he would not be justified in suppressing an anecdote which he had discovered to be authentic, and which had not been published before; and this feeling, he seems to think, affords a sufficient apology for expressions and allusions of the coarsest nature. We do not agree in the propriety of the rule which he has laid down, for his guidance; we can never be induced to believe that any
department of literature, whether it be history, or the drama, poetry, or biography, can be benefitted at the expense of modesty: One trifling question, with respect to the time when “ Twelfth Night” was written, Mr. Collier has been enabled to settle.
• The period when he wrote his Twelfth Night, or What You Will, has been much disputed among the commentators. Tyrwhitt was inclined to fix it in 1614, and Malone for some years was of the same opinion ; but he afterwards changed the date he had adopted to 1607. Chalmers thought be found circumstances in the play to justify him in naming 1613, but what I am about to quote affords a striking, and at the same time a rarely occurring, and convincing proof, how little these conjectures merit confidence. That comedy was indisputably written before 1602, for in February of that year, it was an established play, and so much liked, that it was chosen for performance at the Reader's Feast on Candlemas day, at the Inn of Court to which the author of this diary belonged,—most likely the Middle Temple, which at that date was famous for its costly entertainments. After reading the following quotation, it is utterly impossible, although the name of the poet be not mentioned, to feel a moment's doubt as to the identity of the play there described, and the production of Shakespeare.
66 Feb. 2, 1601 [-2.] "" At our feast we had a play called Twelve Night, or What You Will, much like the comedy of errors, or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in Italian called Inganni. A good practise in it to make the steward believe his lady widdowe was in love with him, by counterfayting a letter, as from his lady, in generall termes telling him what shee liked best in him, and prescribing his gestures, inscribing his apparaile, &c., and then when he came to practise, making him beleeve they tooke him to be mad.".
"At this date, we may conclude with tolerable safety that Shakespeare's Twelfth Night had been recently brought out at the Black-friars Theatre, and that its excellence and success had induced the managers of the Reader's Feast to select it for performance, as part of the entertainments on that occasion. There is no reason to suppose
that any of Shakespeare's productions were represented for the first time any where but at a theatre. The Comedy of Errors noticed in the preceding extract, was no doubt also Shakespeare's work mentioned by Meres in 1598, and not the old History of Èrror performed at Hampton Court in 1576-7. The Menechmi, likewise spoken of, was of course the play of Plautus, as translated by W. W., and printed in 1595. Should the Italian comedy, called Ingunni, turn up, we shall probably find in it the actual original of Twelfth Night, which, it has been hitherto supposed, was founded upon the story of Apollonius and Silla, in Barnabe Rich's Farewell to Militarie Profes