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any reference to unity of action. Frequently these plays had a chorus, and the dumb-show preceded each act. The latter was often used to indicate an interval in time and a distance in space, and thus afford some degree of probability to the action. Such were the first inchoate attempts at drama in England. Prose, rhyme, and blank-verse, or a mixture of all three, were indifferently used in the dialogue. The authors of these works, though scholars, habitually disregarded the unities, and paid little attention to national colouring either in the characters or manners. The style and situations were alike exaggerated, ascending either to turgid bombast or descending to low buffoonery; for the serious and comic were generally blended in the same work. Such, in general, are the characteristics of the plays written by Greene, Hodge, Peele, Nash, Lily, and Kyd.
Contemporary with Shakspere was Marlowe, a writer who was free from many of the faults of his predecessors, and mainly aimed at sublimity. But he mistook horror for terror, and revelled in the portraiture of crime. Often, however, he is rich in pathos and inspired with the truest poetry. He may be regarded as the Eschylus of English tragedy.
Of plays so produced the mansions of the nobility and the palaces of royalty were sometimes the theatres, sometimes the courtyards of inns. The first regular theatre opened in England was the Blackfriars, erected in 1570 near the present Apothecaries' Hall. Another was subsequently built in Whitefriars, near Salisbury Court; another in Shoreditch, near where the Standard
Progress of the Stage.
now stands; another at Bankside, called the Globe; another called the Bull, at the upper end of St. John's Street; another in Whitecross Street, called the Fortune; another in Drury Lane, called the Cockpit or Phoenix; and several others. Some of these were summer, some winter theatres. The difference of the performances in these from those exhibited at court consisted in their having neither scenes nor machinery. But in the forty and odd years between the erection of the first playhouse and Shakspere's death considerable improvement had been made in stagedecoration.
The drama thus represented exerted an important influence on the opinions of society. Government accordingly undertook its regulation, by legislative enactments, royal proclamations, and orders of Privy Council. The actors from the first were subject to the authority of the Lord Chamberlain, and in some cases a Master of the Revels was appointed, under whose control, in 1574, Burbage and his company were placed by express terms in his license. At this period plays were acted in Lent and on Sundays, but not during the hours of prayer. Four years later, this was prohibited; but the practice nevertheless continued.
Shakspere, on his coming to London, became an actor at the Globe and Blackfriars theatres. His salary was probably, considering the parts he played, about six shillings and eightpence a week. The company performing at these houses belonged to the Lord Chamberlain, and was appropriated by King James, who granted a license, accordingly, to Laurence
Fletcher, William Shakspere, Richard Burbage, and others, constituting them his servants. Like the other servants of the household, the performers enrolled in the King's company were sworn into office, and each was allowed four yards of bastard scarlet cloth for a cloak, and a quarter of a yard of velvet for the cape, every second year.
Shakspere is said to have been in favour both with Elizabeth and James as an author, though it does not appear that he was rewarded by either. In the course of a few years, however, he rose to a high position in the theatre as a sharer not only in the capacity of an actor or author, but as a manager. A good yearly profit, it seems, accrued to him from the concern, and his interest therein was at his absolute disposal. Accordingly we find that Shakspere gradually became a rich man, and no traces of his having ever been in pecuniary distress exist. From the year 1603, he appears to have dropped his occupation as an actor, and thenceforward to have given his undivided attention to the conduct of the theatre, and the composition of his dramas.
Of these dramas, I have already considered those which were probably written between the years 1585 and 1591, during the period when his faculties were in an elementary and impulsive condition, and the poetical life that was in him was struggling from a mechanical to an organic development, and rising from the individuate to the individual. We have now to pass into what I call the Fantastical and Historical period; of these two degrees of individuality,
Henry VI. Part 1.
dealing with the second in the first instance. We have seen Shakspere humbly and diligently following in the steps of a romantic poem, the subject of which he had taken for the argument of a passionate tragedy. We shall presently see him doing the same with history. In the same year in which he composed Romeo and Juliet, he was also engaged on The First Part of Henry VI. In undertaking this task, he availed himself of the work of a previous dramatist, whom he appears to have followed closely. Coleridge quotes the opening speech, and says that no one with an ear can ever suppose it to have been written by the author of Love's Labour's lost, or Romeo and Juliet. With such a proximity in date, the fact is an impossibility. Only a few lines in the play can have been written by him; and it is supposed that the drama itself was inserted in the folio merelybecause it was introductory to the second and third parts, which, though not written, had been recast by Shakspere. It was probably adopted by him merely in the way of theatrical management, and in pursuance of an intention that he had formed of placing on his stage a series of chronicle plays devoted to the life of Henry VI. And here we begin to catch a glimpse of Shakspere in his new character-that of the conductor of a playhouse,-in which his interests as an author yield to those of a manager, and he is found to be fathering, for commercial purposes, the productions of others. But this view of the case reverses altogether the usual theory respecting Shakspere's earlier employments for the stage. A little
consideration will suffice to convince a rational inquirer that a novice in stage-business and dramatic composition is not the likeliest person to be employed in the task of arranging old dramas for performance. Experience is, in fact, the one thing needful for such a service. Accordingly, we find that Shakspere had been connected with the stage for seven years before he meddled with the business of fitting the more ancient plays to the taste of a comparatively modern audience. In Henry VI. we may note him making his first efforts in a new walk; for it is evident that he proceeded cautiously, like a prudent beginner, and made as few alterations as possible. But though little of his genius may be apparent in the first part of the trilogy, we may estimate his taste in the choice of the piece. His judgment, no doubt, was swayed by the subject. The piece itself may be accepted as the gauge of the dramatic skill existing just previous to the advent of Marlowe and Shakspere. The anonymous author was evidently a scholar and student of history; but it is equally evident that he had paid little attention to the proper structure of a drama. He takes no note at all of the unities, but in one and the same act passes from London to Paris, Rouen, or Bourdeaux, and back again, and is regardless altogether of the lapse of time. The characters and events are introduced in the order of the chronicle sought to be dramatised; and no modification is attempted for the attainment either of a poetic or dramatic purpose. The only end in view was, indeed, an historical one -that of instructing the people, by a scenic repre