Page images
PDF
EPUB

“The first of them is reverend Bishop Babington, who writes thus of playes.” These prophane and wanton stage-playes or enterludes, what an occasion they are of adultery and uncleanesse by gesture, by speech, by convayances, by devices to attaine to so ungodly desires, the world knoweth by too much hurt, by long experience. They corrupt the eyes with alluring gestures; the eyes, the heart; and the heart, the body; till all be horrible before the Lord. Histrionicis gestibus inquinantur omnia (saith Chrysostome). These players' behaviour polluteth all things; and of their playes he saith: they are the feasts of Satan, the inventions of the devill, &c. Councels have decreed very sharply against them; and polluted bodies by these filthy occasions have on their death-beds confessed the danger of them, lamented their owne foule and grievous faults, and left their warning for ever with us to beware of them. But I referre you to them that, upon good knowledge of the abominations of them, have written largely and well against them. If they be dangerous in the day-time, more dangerous are they in the night certainly; if on a stage and in open courts, much more in chambers and private houses:t for there are many roomes besides that where the play is; and peradventure the strangenesse of the place, and lacke of light to guide them, causeth error in their way, more then good Christians should in their houses suffer.’ Thus this right godly prelate of our church, who makes stage-playes a breach of the 7 commandment,

* Exposition upon the Commandments: Com. 7. In his works at large, printed at London 1622; the last part, p. 60 and 67.

+ “ Note this well, Oyee lascivious persons, who harbour players in your private houses.”

because they are the frequent occasions both of contemplative and actual fornication, and the inducement to it. “The second is one Master Stephen Gosson, (once a professed play poet; yea, a great patron and admirer of playes and players,t as himselfe confesseth, till God had called him to repentance, and opened his eyes to see their abominablenesse:) who, among other things, writeth thus of stage-playes.j ‘As I have already discovered the corruption of playes, by the corruption of their causes,-the efficient, the matter, the forme, the end; so will I conclude the effects that this poyson workes among us. The devill is not ignorant how mightily these outward spectacles effeminate and soften the hearts of men; vice is learned with beholding; sinne is tickled, desire pricked; and those impressions of minde are secretly conveyed over to the gazers, which the players counterfeit on the stage. As long as we know our selves to be flesh beholding those examples in theatres that are incident to flesh, we are taught by other men's examples how to fall, and they that come honest to a play may depart infected. + + * “‘ Mine eyes throughly beheld the manner of theatres when I wrote playes myselfe, $ and found them to be the very markets of b “** y; where choyce without shame hath beene as free, as it is for your money in the

f : In his Anatomy of Abuses; in his epistles prefixed to his Playes Confuted in five actions; and so thorowout these bookes of his.”

+ “Playes Confuted, action 5.”

§ “ Note this, and note it so as to believe it, because the author testifieth it from his owne experience.”

Royall Exchange to take a short stocke or a long, a faling band or a French ruffe. The first building of theatres was to ravish the Sabines; and that they were continued in w “** m ever after, Ovid confesseth in these words: Scilicet exillo solennia more theatra, Nunc quoque formosis insidiosa manent. De Arte Amandi, lib. 1.

As at the first, so now ; theatres are snares for faire women. And as I told you long ago, in my Schoole of Abuses,t our theatres and play-houses in London are as full of secret adultery as they were in Rome.' * *

“The third of them is Master John Brinsly, an eminent worthy divine; who writes thus of stage-playes. “But to passe over these also, with all other unlawfull flockings and lewde sports upon the sabbath, by every of which the worke of the Lord is hindered, as every one must needs acknowledge, what defence can we make for that concourse that is ordinary to those wanton playes in such places even upon that day ? in which are the continuall sowings of all atheisme, and throwing the very firebrands of all filthy and noysome lusts into the hearts of poore simple soules, the stirring up and blowing the coales of concupiscence to kindle and increase the fire thereof, to breake out into an hideous flame untill it; burne downe to Hell. Aske but your owne hearte as in

+ “Quod nota.”

# “The 3 part of the True Watch, edit. 2. London 1623. chap. ii. Abomination, 30, pag. 302.”

§ “Concourse to plays and the vileness of them. The inevitable danger of frequenters of plays.”

the presence of the Lord, and you will need no further witnesse. And how can it be otherwise ? how can you take these firebrands of Hell into your bosomes, and not be burnt? Is not every filthy speech, every w = * h gesture, such a firebrand cast by Satan into the heart of every wanton beholder, as a brand cast into a bundle of tow, or into a barrell of gunpowder, to sett all on fire of a sudden 't Thy protection is gone, whosoever thou art, that adventurest hither, for thou art out of thy wayes. These are not the wayes of the Lord, and much lesse upon his sabbath, when thou shouldest be amongst his people, and doing his worke, where his angels waite for thee, his owne presence expects thee. f**How then shouldest thou possibly escape when thou wilt offer thy heart naked unto these fiery darts of Satan? How canst thou thinke to be delivered from that flame into thy soule; that fire in the infernall lake, that river of brimstone that shall never be consumed nor quenched, when thou wilt desperately cast thy selfe headlong into the middest thereof.” How can it be but that such must needs bring fagots and firebrands to set in the gates of our Hierusalem ż' “The fourth of them is Mr. Robert Bolton, a reverend learned minister of our church, now living; who writes thus of stage playes. § ‘Lastly, let those examine themselves at this marke, who offer themselves to these sinfull occasions, breeders of many strange and fearefull mischiefes, I meane prophane and obscene + “Such are from under God’s protection.” : “They cannot think to escape.” § “A Discourse of True Happinesse, pp. 73, 74.”

playes. Pardon me, beloved, I cannot passe by these abominable spectacles without particular indignation. For I have ever esteemed them (since I had any understanding in the wayes of God) the grand empoysoners of grace, ingenuousnesse, and all manly resolution; greater plagues and infections to your soules, then the contagious pestilence to your bodies; the inexpiable staine and dishonor to this famous city; the noysome wormes that canker and blast the generous and noble buds of this land; and doe, by a slie and bewitching insinuation, so empoyson all seeds of vertue, and so weaken and emasculate all the operations of the soule, with a prophane, if not an unnatural dissolutenesse, * that whereas they are planted in these worthy houses of law, to be fitted and enabled for great and honourable actions for the publike good, and the continuance of the glory and happinesse of this kingdome, they licentiously dissolve into wicked vanities and pleasures; and all hope of ever doing good either unto God, the church, their country, or owne soules, melteth as the winter ice, and floweth away as unprofitable waters. These infamous spectacles are condemned by all kinde of sound learning, both divine and humane. Distinctions devised for their upholding and defence may give some shallow and weake contentment to partiall and sensuall affections possest with prejudice; but how shall they be able to satisfie a conscience sensible of all appearance of evill? How can they preserve the inclinablenesse of our corrupt nature from the infection of these schooles of lewdnesse, and sinckes of all sinne,

* “Let innes-of-court gentlemen observe this.” VOL. II. X

« PreviousContinue »