The prologue to Tuke’s The Adventures of Five Hours (1663)

Prologue (1663)

Prologue (1663)

Several commentators have suggested that the prologue to the original LIF production was delivered in front of the street scene used to represent Seville. This suggestion is prompted by the public prologue printed in the 1663 folio. Unusually, this is headed “THE FIRST SCENE IS THE CITY OF SEVIL”, and the prologue states:

…I dare boldly say,
The English Stage ne’er had so New a Play;
The Dress, the Author, and the Scenes are new.
This ye have seen before ye’l say; ’tis true;
But tell me, Gentlemen, who ever saw
A deep Intrigue confin’d to Five Hours Law.

John Freehafer interprets these lines to mean that the prologue is saying that play, author, costumes, and other scenes are new, but you have seen ‘this’ scene of Seville.[1] If this interpretation is correct it contradicts the usual Restoration practice of delivering the prologue in front of a lowered front curtain. It is possible that as The Adventures is an early play ‘usual’ practices had not yet been established, but Summers can record only two instances in the whole period – “altogether exceptional circumstances” – where a prologue was given after the curtain was drawn: Fletcher’s Wit Without Money staged by the King’s company at LIF in 1671, and The Indian Queen by Robert Howard and Dryden (Bridges St. 1664).[2] In F (1663) the heading and LIF prologue appear on sig. A3 recto. There is no scenic heading to the Court prologue which appears on the verso. A4 recto is headed “DRAMATIS PERSONAE” and at the foot of this page is the general location “THE SCENE/ SEVIL”; the verso has a printer’s errata notice. The next page, B1 recto, is headed “The First Act/ THE SCENE/ DON HENRIQUE’s/ HOUSE”. Thus, there are three pages between the prologue heading and the first scene heading.

Of course, this page layout has no bearing on performance – first scene immediately follows prologue – but the prologue heading is intended for the reader not an audience. No attempt is made to establish for the reader either that a putative scenic backing to the prologue continues through to the first scene proper, or that it changes before the first scene. Instead, all the reader has to go on is the sequence ‘Seville’, ‘Seville’, ‘House’. Without the benefit of an actor’s gesture on ‘this’, the reader, if he or she registers it at all, is unlikely to view the prologue heading as referring to anything more than the general location of the play, which the dramatis personae page repeats before the play starts in Henrique’s house. If Tuke intended the printed prologue to reflect an important piece of scenic information the result is ambivalent. To clarify such intentions all he had to do was to add a marginal note to the effect that the actor points to the scenery. He provides two ample glosses of this kind in the margin of his Court prologue for the reader’s benefit. The second of these refers specifically to how the prologue is to be delivered, “He looking up and seeing the King starts. He kneels. He rises”. The LIF prologue itself starts with a stage direction “The Prologue Enters with a Play-Bill in his hand, and reads”, yet Freehafer’s ‘this’ is passed by without comment. It should also be noted that Court performances, which almost certainly used the same scenery, apparently had no need of a scenic backing to the prologue.

The prologue heading appears again in a 1664 quarto (Q1) reprint of F, and again it is followed by the Court prologue, which eschews any scenic reference. On the following dramatis personae page ‘SEVIL’ is stretched almost to the full width of the page, the reader here would be in no doubt, but in Q2, Tuke’s 1671 revision, a new public prologue is added and the heading is omitted.

I do not believe the heading in F refers to an actual item of scenery. Holland lists three Restoration meanings of the word ‘scene’: (i) part of an act, (ii) scenery, and (iii) the scenic stage area.[3] However, the preliminary pages of many plays alert us to another meaning, as mentioned above, that of ‘scene’ as a general location or setting for the play. Several examples could be adduced to demonstrate this further, but I have chosen Flecknoe’s Love’s Kingdom (LIF?, 1663) as its preliminary pages make an interesting fictional/theatrical distinction and it includes a further gloss on place terminology. The Act 1 scene heading to this play notes, “The Scene, a delightful Landskip or Paisage”, but on the frontispiece we find “The Scene, Cyprus…”[4] While scenery is clearly the meaning in Flecknoe’s heading, the meaning on the frontispiece is of ‘scene’ as a general location of setting – country, area, or region. Consequently I do not believe the LIF prologue heading means anything more than that the play is set in Seville: the meaning in Q2.

I think the prologue heading in F is a mistake, which Tuke, with the textual care I have been arguing for, corrects in his revision. However, Freehafer’s suggestion does not rest on any prologue heading, it relies on the actor performing the prologue gesturing to the scenery on the word ‘this’. I am not convinced this was likely. For the prologue, the novelty of Tuke’s play lies less in the fact that costumes, author, and scenery are new, but that in addition it conforms to the neo-classical unity of time – the ‘confining’ of the plot to five hours. ‘This’ – the whole (non-gestural) package – is what has not been seen before, and why “The English Stage ne’er had so New a Play”. The other novelties had most likely been presented at LIF less than three months previously at the premiere of Porter’s first play The Villain on October 18, 1662. Promptbook annotation included in the 1663 edition of Porter’s play tells us that the play featured at least one new scene, “The new Scene of the Hall”. At the time of The Villain, LIF had been open for not much more than a year and was almost certainly in the process of building a basic scene stock, as the hall heading indicates. There is no evidence relating to costumes in The Villain, but as it was the only completely new play of 1662, and we know it received at least some new scenery, it seems plausible that it should also be deemed worthy of new costumes, at this time still the most important visual element of theatrical production.[5] The excitement The Villain generated at its premiere certainly implies an elaborate production. It was recommended to Pepys on three separate occasions before he saw it on October 20, two days after it opened. He reports that these recommendations were in such a manner “as if there never had been any such play come upon the stage”. Moreover, Downes’s comment that the play was “well perform’d […] It Succeeded 10 Days with a full House, to the last” suggests a carefully prepared production that would not baulk at expenditure on new costumes.[6]

Freehafer goes on to suggest that the street scene used in the original production of The Adventures was designed by Inigo Jones for a production of The Cid at the Cockpit-In-Court in 1639.[7] Irrespective of whether 24-year old scenery would be fit to present at such a prestigious occasion, this scene was originally used behind the relatively small central opening in the permanent frons scenae at the Cockpit. Orrell calculates Jones’s designs for the Cockpit as being 6 ft wide by just less than 9 ft tall, and according to Webb a pair of back shutters at the Hall measured 15 ft wide by 11 ft tall.[8] Given these measurements, it seems unlikely that this single piece of scenery could be disposed on the LIF stage in the manner that Freehafer proposes.

[1] See ‘Perspective Scenery And The Caroline Playhouses’, Theatre Notebook, vol. 27, no. 3, 1973, p. 111. Visser footnotes Freehafer’s suggestion (Visser, p. 68, n. 15) as it supports his hypothesis of the street scene standing throughout The Adventures until the garden scene, 3.2.
[2] Any search relies on play texts that note the occurrence. However, unusual performance practices are often recorded, whereas standard procedures are usually ignored. Summers also believes Tuke’s prologue was delivered in front of a street scene, though he does not include the play in his examples. See, The Restoration Theatre, London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Trubner, 1934, pp. 120-1 &  p. 213.
[3] The ornament of action, op cit p. 32.
[4]London: R. Wood, 1664. The full frontispiece text is “The Scene Cyprus, with all the Rules of Time and Place so exactly observ’d, as whilst for Time ’tis all compriz’d in as few hours as there are Acts; for Place, it never goes out of the view or prospect of Loves Temple”. Interestingly, Flecknoe uses the nomenclature of the stock item of scenery for his heading, reserving relative specificity for his description of the fictional ‘Place’.
[5] Downes or Pepys are both more informative about costumes than scenery.
[6] Roscius Anglicanus, op cit, p. 54.
[7] See op cit p. 111.
[8] The shutter frames are marked as 12ft 6in, the lower groove height is marked 8in and the overlap of the border is 9in. This indicates a shutter height of somewhere between 11ft 1in and 12ft 6in, but lead additions show an increased border overlap and a note in Webb’s hand has “11 fo” next to the shutters. So I take a shutter height of 11 ft as a conservative measurement. These additions are barely perceptible in reproductions. For the size of Cockpit scenes see, Orrell, The Theatres of Inigo Jones and John Webb, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985, p. 111.

One thought on “The prologue to Tuke’s The Adventures of Five Hours (1663)

  1. Pingback: The Humorous Lovers (staging) | Restoration Theatre

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