Lapas attēli

picture, clearly and truly drawn, of a weak king who is forced with tragic pride and reluctance to give up his crown and finally his life. Here Marlowe is distinctively the predecessor of Shakespeare as a master of historical tragedy. Charles Lamb has said of this play, “the death-scene of Marlowe's king moves pity and terror beyond any scene, ancient or modern, with which I am acquainted."

Theaters. — For the production of so many plays on such varied subjects, one might suppose many theaters would be needed in London even before Shakespeare's time. But we must remember that the development of the playhouse, like that of the drama, was gradual. Indeed, plays were acted in England long before any theaters were built. The interludes or the early dramas were often played before the Queen in the royal palace, or before some great noble on a platform at one end of the huge hall, perhaps at a great banquet or festival. And when plays became a popular pastime, they were often performed in the open courtyards of the inns, such as the Bull, the Bell, and the Cross Keys in London. These square inn-yards, overlooked by the balconies which ran around the enclosing walls of the inn, are supposed to have furnished the model for the regular theaters. The growing delight in play-going seems to have produced a general demand for more permanent and roomy accommodations. The first building devoted especially to plays was The Theatre, erected in 1576 in Shoreditch, just outside of London. The Puritan citizens of London at first opposed the production of plays and the building of theaters within the city walls; plays were godless, they said, and not only caused disturbances of the peace, but increased the danger of the plague. The first theater built in London proper was The Blackfriars

(1596). From this time the playhouses increased rapidly. Shakespeare's theater, The Globe, built in 1599, lay across the Thames on the Bankside in Southwark, near London bridge. Other famous theaters of the day were The Curtain, The Rose, The Swan, and The Fortune. The Swan was the largest and finest. It was

built, we are told, of

a concrete of flintstones," and it had wooden columns painted in imitation of marble. The theaters were of two kinds, public and private. The first were large four-or six-sided buildings, partly roofed over above the stage, that the costumes of the players, which were often costly, might be protected from the

weather. The greater Elizabethan Tavern, Four Swans, part of the stage, showing evolution of the theater however, on which

the principal action in the drama took place, was uncovered and extended into the yard. The pit or yard was open to sun and rain. Galleries ran round the walls as in the inn-yards. The stage projected into the pit, which was alive with disorderly crowds who stood on the bare ground, joking, fighting, or shoving to gain the best places. A penny admission was charged, and if a young gallant wished


to sit on the stage, he could get “a good stool for sixpence.” There, with others of his kind, seated likewise or lying on the rushes, he would smoke, lay wagers,

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or play cards, and sometimes interrupt the play by loud laughing or talking, even in the midst of a tragic part.

There was some attempt at scenery in the Elizabethan theaters; a painted canvas was hung as a cloud, or run on grooves to represent a house or a wall; and in one play, given at Oxford in 1605, there were three changes

of scene." The costumes and hangings were usually of the most elegant and costly kind, but the stage effects were in general crude and inadequate. In the old plays we find such significant stage directions as these: “Exit Venus; or, if you can conveniently, let a chair come down from the top of the stage and draw her up.” In more than one place in the choruses of Henry V, Shakespeare seems to be impatient of the slender resources of his stage-setting, as when he asks:

Can this cock-pit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?

And in the wonderful description that precedes the battle of Agincourt he complains:

“And so our scene must to the battle fly;
Where (O for pity!) we shall much disgrace
With four or five most vile and ragged foils,
Right ill-disposed, in brawl ridiculous -
The name of Agincourt. Yet, sit and see,
Minding true things by what their mockeries be.”

The private theaters were smaller and more comfortable than the public. They had seats in the pit and were entirely under roof. Performances were given by candle or torch light, and the audiences were usually more select. The following description by J. A. Symonds gives us a vivid notion of the performance of a play in Shakespeare's time: “Let us imagine that the redlettered play-bill of a new tragedy has been hung out beneath the picture of Dame Fortune [i.e. at 'The Fortune' Theater, the great rival of Shakespeare's theater,

1 F. E. Schelling, Elizabethan Drama, I, p. 172.

The Globe']; the flag is flying from the roof, the drums have beaten, and the trumpets are sounding for the second time. It is three o'clock upon an afternoon of summer. We pass through the great door, ascend some steps, take our key from the pocket of our trunk hose, and let ourselves into our private room on the first or lowest tier. We find ourselves in a low, square building, not unlike a circus; smelling of sawdust and the breath of people. The yard below is crowded with simpering mechanics and 'prentices in greasy leather jerkins, servants in blue frieze, with their master's badges on their shoulders, boys and grooms elbowing each other for bare standing ground and passing jests on their neighbours. Five or six young men are already seated before the curtain playing cards and cracking nuts to while away the time. A boy goes up and down among them offering various qualities of tobacco for sale, and furnishing lights for the smokers. The stage itself is strewn with rushes; and from the jutting tiled roof of the shadow, supported by a couple of stout wooden pillars, carved with satyrs at the top, hangs a curtain of tawny-colored silk. This is drawn when the trumpets have sounded for the third time, and an actor in a black velvet mantle, with a crown of bays upon his flowing wig, struts forward, bowing to the audience. He is the Prologue.”

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