Page images

nobleman, whose servants they were; but we now approach the time when regular theatres were built, and companies of players were formed, each establishment having its own wardrobe. "The Theatre," simply so called, perhaps from its being the first building dedicated expressly to public dramatic performances, was existing in 1576; and that called " the Curtain," in 1577. In 1576, also, the Blackfriars Theatre was built by James Burbadge, the father of the great tragedian and original representative of Shakspeare's heroes; and these erections were speedily followed by those of the Whitefriars, the Salisbury Court, the Globe, the Fortune, the Rose, the Hope, the Swan, the Newington, the Red Bull, &c. To Philip Henslowe, the proprietor of the Rose Theatre, and manager of the company of players called "the Lord-Admiral's men," we are indebted for a very detailed account of the dresses and properties of a public theatre in the dawn of England's drama, from a diary kept by him, and still preserved at Dulwich College; Mr. Malone* and Mr. Collierf have published several lists of articles of dress and decoration in use at that period. We shall content ourselves with extracting only such items as illustrate the dress of well-known characters, or particular professions. For instance, we find Tamherlyne's (Tamerlane's) coat with copper-lace, and his breeches of crimson velvet; Harry the Fifth's velvet gown, and his satin doublet laid with gold-lace; Tasso's robe and Dido's robe; Eve's bodice! and, what is almost as staggering, a ghost's bodice; Juno's coat; Vortigern's robe of rich taft'ety; Longshanks' suit (Edward the First's, in Peel's play?) senators' gowns, hoods, and caps; a green gown for Maid Marian; green coats and hats for Robin Hood and his men; a pair of hose for the Dauphin, and " Verona's son's hose;" French, Spanish, Venetian, and Danish suits, and portions of suits; janizaries' dresses, &c.; two leather "anteckes," coates (antique or antic ?) with bases (i. e. skirts) for Phaeton;

* Shakspeare, by Boswell, vol. iii.
t Annals, vol. iii. p. 354-362.

and various costumes for queens, cardinals, clowns, soldiers, shepherds, friars, heralds, &c. &c. In another list of clothes bought for his company is mentioned " a robe for to go invisible!" a curious item, which Malone has no doubt rightly conjectured meant a cloak, the wearer of which was supposed to be invisible to the rest of the performers. Several of the suits appear to have been of considerable value. "A doublet of white satin laid thick with gold-lace, and a pair of round-paned hose, of cloth of silver, the panes laid with gold-lace," costs 71., a tolerable proof of expense lavished on theatrical costumes even at this early period. But a still more interesting piece of evidence has been furnished us lately by Mr. Payne Collier,* who, amongst the MSS. of Lord Elsemere, keeper of the great seal to Queen Elizabeth, and lord chancellor of James the First, discovered Shakspeare's own valuation of the wardrobe of the Blackfriars Theatre; which part of the property he owned, as well as four shares of the profits of the establishment. The price demanded by him for the dresses alone is 500/., an enormous sum in those days; and Green in his " Groat's worth of Wit," A.d. 1592, makes a player boast that his share in the stage apparel should not be sold for two hundred pounds; a hit, perhaps, at Shakspeare himself, whom throughout he alludes to by the name of " ShaAescene." Mr. Collier has also discovered, in the Duke of Devonshire's collection of the designs of Inigo Jones, a description of the character of Good-Fellowship, which gives us some information as to the original dressing of the part of Falstaff. The actor is directed to be attired "like a Sr Jo° Falsstaff," in a robe of russet quite low, with a great belly like a swollen man, long mustacheos, the shoes shorte and out of their great toes like naked feet, buskins to show a great swollen leg, a cup coming forth like a beake, a great head and bald, and a little cap "alia Venetiane," grey, a rod, and a scroll of parchment. It may be a question how much of this costume belonged

* New facts regarding the Life of Shakspeare, 12uio. pp. 55. London 1835.

the whole story may have been a malicious invention of some of the many enemies of John Williams, bishop of Lincoln ; but he prints an order for the punishment of the offenders: which decrees, amongst other things, that a Mr. Wilson, (who evidently had supported the part of Bottom the weaver), "because he was a special plotter and contriver of this business, and did in such a brutish manner act the same with an asse's head ... shall, upon Tuesday next from six o'clock in the morning till six o'clock at night, sit in the porter's lodge of my lord bishop's house, with his feet in the stocks, and attired with his asse's head and a bottle of hay set before him, and this superscription on his breast:

"' Good people, I have played the beast,
And brought ill things to pass;
I was a man, but thus have made
Myself a silly asse.'"

Notwithstanding the increased severity of the morals of this reign, the masks at court were still of the most sumptuous description. Sir Henry Herbert records the acting of a mask in 1634, as the noblest of his time; "the best poetry, the best scenes, and the best habits."* And in Jan. 1635, a privy seal was issued to Edmund Taverner, Esq., to enable him to receive one thousand four hundred pounds, a larger sum than had hitherto been paid on account of any mask at court, towards the charge of one to be presented before his Majesty at Whitehall, on the following Shrovetide.f

The extinction of the monarchy was the signal for the suppression of dramatic entertainments of all sorts. On the return of Charles the Second, the players, most of whom had fought and bled in the royal cause, had a natural claim on the gratitude of the monarch; and they are almost the only portion of his Majesty's loyal subjects

* " The Queen," he says, " was pleased to tell me before the King,' Pour les habits, elle n'avoit rien vue de si brave !'— Collier's Annals, vol. ii. p. 62.

X MS. Chamberlain's Office. Collier's Annals, vol. ii. p. 65.

who were fortunate enough to experience it. "Old Rowley" liked the play and the players, and encouraged, by his royal countenance at any rate, both the one and the other. Evelyn and Pepys, in their diaries, make frequent allusions to the getting up of the new dramas of Dryden, Sir W. D'Avenant, and others. Betterton, the actor, was sent to Paris by the royal command, expressly to observe the French stage, and transplant from it such improvements in decoration, &c. as might embellish our own. The introduction of moving scenery is attributed at this period jointly to Betterton and Sir W. D'Avenant; and the magnificent but extravagant costume of Louis the Fourteenth's reign began to render more preposterous the tragic heroes and heroines of ancient Greece and Rome. A print, appended to Kirkman's Drolls, affords us an ocular demonstration of the mode in which many of the principal characters were dressed at this time in the drolls or farces founded on the plays of Shakspeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, &c. It represents the stage of the Red Bull Theatre, which was entirely abandoned about 1663; the figures upon it are supposed to be the most popular actors of that time dressed in character. We perceive Falstaff and the Hostess (Dame Quickly); Clause, in " Beggar's Bush ;" the French dancing-master, from the Duke of Newcastle's " Variety ;" the Changeling (from Middleton's tragedy?) the Clown, from Green's "Tu Quoque ;" the Simpleton, from Coxe's " Diana and Actaeon," &c.

This print is sufficient evidence that no attention was paid to chronological correctness of costume; as Sir John Falstaff is attired in the habit of the time of Charles the First, in lieu of that of Henry the Fourth. He has a cup in his hand, according to the direction for his personation in the time of James the First; but the little grey Venetian cap is here exchanged for a hat, the robe of russet for a soldier's buff-leather jacket. He wears a lace vandyke collar and pair of cuffs, breeches full, and boots, or boothose, with lace tops to them, and large spur leathers.

The next illustration of dramatic costume is the famous picture, painted by Wright, of the favourite come

[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »