Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 " Shakescene." Mr. Collier has also discovered, in the Duke of Devonshire's collection of the designs of lnigo 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 S' Jo" Falsstaff," in a robe of russet quite low, with a great belly like a swollen man, long mustaeheos, 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, 12mo. pp. 55. London 1835.

of right to Falstaff, and how much to the allegorical personage. The naked feet, the rod, and the scroll we should say, decidedly belonged to the latter. The low robe of russet, the great buskins, the long mustaches, the bald head, and the little grey Venetian cap, appear to be characteristic of the jovial knight. The cup undoubtedly so. The celebrated Burbadge we find, from an elegy upon him, lately discovered by Mr. Payne Collier, played Shylock in a red beard and wig, in order, it is supposed, to render the character more repulsive.

Fire, the implacable enemy and destroyer of all theatrical property, from the days of Geoffrey the Norman to those of Mr. Samuel James Arnold, consumed in 1613 the Globe, and in 1621 the Fortune theatre. Sir Henry Wotton, writing to his nephew three days after the conflagration of the former, says :* " Now, to let matters of state sleep, I will entertain you at the present with what happened this week at the Bankside. The King's players had a new play called ' All is true;' representing some principal pieces of the reign of King Henry the Eighth; which set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and majesty, even to the matting of the stage, the knights of the order with their Georges and garter, the guards with their embroidered coats, and the like: sufficient in truth within awhile to make greatness very familiar, if not ridiculous. Now King Henry making a masque at the Cardinal Wolsey's house, and certain cannons being shot off at his entry, some of the paper or other stuff, wherewith one of them was stopped, did light on the thatch, where being thought at first but an idle smoak, and their«yes more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole house to the very ground. This was the fatal period of that virtuous fabrick, wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks: only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broyled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit put it out with bottle ale."

• Reliq. Wotton, edit. 1672, p. 425.

Notwithstanding Sir Henry's assurance that a few forsaken cloaks alone perished with the wood and straw, it appears, from " A Sonett upon the pitiful burning of the Globe Playhouse in London,"* that great part, if not the whole, of the wardrobe was consumed ; for says the Sonneteer—

"The perry wigs and drum-heads frye
Like to a butter firkin ; f
A woeful burning did betide
To many a good buffe jerkin."

John Chamberlain, writing to Sir Dudley Carleton on the 15th of December 1621, mentions the other catastrophe in the following terms; "On Sunday night here was a great fire at the Fortune in Golding-lane, the first playhouse in this town. It was quite burnt down in two hours, and all their apparel and play-books lost, whereby those poor companions are quite undone."J

The puritanical spirit, which began to manifest itself during the troublous times of Charles the First, interfered considerably with dramatic entertainments; but we can scarcely be surprised if less severe thinkers than "Mr. Comissary General" had been scandalized by the performance of the "Midsummer Night's Dream" in a bishop's house, by order of the right reverend prelate, and "for the amusement of himself and divers knights and ladyes, upon the 27 th of September (1631), being Sabbath day ;§ the play beginning about ten at night, and ending about two or three in the morning." Mr. Collier thinks

* Vide Gentleman's Magazine, lxxxvi. p. 114, and Collier, vol. i. p. 387.

+ This sonneteer was not half so pathetic and so grandiloquent on the destruction of theatrical wigs, as was the penny-a-line man of one of our papers, who in describing the burning down of one of our London theatres (we believe it 'was the .' Royalty,") turned along sentence by saying, " and the finest collection of tragic wigs in the universe fell a prey to the devouring element."

% Dr. Birch's MSS. Brit Mus. No. 4173, Collier, vol. iii p. 309.

J Collier, vol. ii. p. 34.

Vol. i. a

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,' Pourles habits, elle n'avoit rien vue de si brave !'— Collier's Annals, vol. ii. p. 62. T 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

« PreviousContinue »