Juliana, or The Princess of Poland (staging)

By John Crown (June 1671; pub. 1671)

According to the Literature Online database only 15 plays first performed in the period 1660-1700 begin with a song, and this is the first.[1] Three authors – Behn, Crown and Nathaniel Lee – had a particular liking for the device. Crown uses it in two other plays, but Lee takes the palm with four.

While Juliana has been criticised from Langbaine onward for the absurdities of its plot, it is highly interesting from a staging point of view. The play is scenically varied with only two of its 20 scenes not provided with a scene heading, and the stage directions suggest that the LIF production made extensive use of the full stage area.

Altogether, 12 fictional locations are specified with a further two implied. In production these would likely have been reduced, and in the scenery plot I have used a total of 11 settings: nine shutter pairs, one standard relieve setting, and a combined shutter/relieve setting for the ‘hollow rock’ called for in Act 4. It is also likely that Crown intended shutters for one setting to be used with wings from another in two of his scenes (2.5 and 5.2). In terms of accommodating these settings in the LIF model, only Act 2 demands a mid-act scene replacement.

At the start of Act 2 the model would be preloaded with palace, street, and hall shutters, with grove relieve rows sitting behind. At the end of 2.2 the street shutters and wings would be replaced by grove wings and shutters showing a palace exterior. These two elements are combined in 2.5. This seems the most economical way of satisfying Crown’s scene heading, which states: “The Scene a Garden, at the one end a Palace”.[2] This solution only requires a shutter pair representing a view of the palace to close over the relieve space; the garden/grove wings from the earlier scene remain in place.

A similar solution would serve 4.3-4.4 where the garden tree wings would be backed by a composite shutter and relieve setting of a ‘hollow rock’ or cave, and would also satisfy Crown’s curiously worded scene heading to 5.2. The heading reads, “The Scene a Palace to the Street”, but the words ‘palace’ and ‘street’ have possibly been printed in the wrong order.[3] The ensuing scene takes place wholly outside a locked palace gate, so, assuming that what is required here is a street leading to such a gate, I have used the town wings last seen in 3.2 together with a new shutter pair representing a large gate or door fronting a palace exterior. The scene does not require the gate to be practical and it may be played centre stage with the offstage porter standing either directly behind it unseen, or behind one of the final wings.

The scene immediately before this poses a different problem. Crown’s heading for 5.1 states, “The Scene a Hall”, yet fictionally the opening speech is clearly delivered from a location outside the landlord’s hall. There can be no doubt that the landlord’s hall, used previously in 2.3, is the required setting here, so how can this spatial anomaly be explained? The short answer is that it is brief, serves a dramatic purpose, and does not affect our understanding of the rest of the scene. The speech in question is just three lines long and is used simply to link the narrative at the end of Act 4 to that directly following in Act 5. In a modern play there might well be no gap in the action, but on the LIF stage several minutes of Act music would have split the narrative at this point. At the start of Act 5 the scenery for the landlord’s hall replaces that of the ‘hollow rock’ and Battista hurriedly arrives. She tells the audience “this is our Lodging”, and that from a close vantage point she can “see the persons coming out of the house”, she then exits to keep watch. The anomaly involved is an effective theatrical cheat that immediately sets up the ensuing scene. It is anomalous, but it is a controlled anomaly of a few seconds duration, a world apart from that proposed by other commentators on Restoration staging.

Elsewhere in the play it is clear from stage directions that Crown is using the whole stage, forestage and scenic area. In 2.4, the Landlord’s party on the forestage observe the escaping Princess Juliana being led across the upstage area:

Enter Sharnofsky conducting Juliana, followed by Hypolita, Emilia, Francisca,
the Women all Vizarded.

Lad.
Ha! what is’t I see? It is a Vision; Count Sharnofsky conducting
a Lady out of yonder Monastery, she and her Train all Mask’t… [4]

We know that Juliana’s party is escaping through the Landlord’s gardens because Crown had previously given a long-winded speech to the Landlord fully describing the local topography.[5]

In 5.3 the masque sequence would be difficult to stage without using the whole stage. The relieve area is used for two scenes, the Landlord’s garden and the previously mentioned ‘hollow rock’. This is evidently a cave or grotto with a separate shutter pair and is used to display the Cardinal’s body not once but twice, in scenes 4.3 and 4.4. This double discovery of the same sight is surely one of the theatrical ‘slips’ to which Crown refers (quoted by Langbaine), “there are few Authors but have had those slips from their Prune, which their riper thoughts…had reason to be asham’d of”.[6]

[1] http://lion.chadwyck.co.uk.

[2] London: William Cademan & William Birch, 1671, p.21.

[3] Ibid. p.49.

[4] Ibid. p.20.

[5] See ibid. pp.16-17.

[6] Gerard Langbaine, An Account of the English Dramatic Poets, Oxford: 1691, p.96 [Scolar Press reprint, 1971].

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One thought on “Juliana, or The Princess of Poland (staging)

  1. Pingback: Juliana; or, The Princess of Poland (scenery) | Restoration Theatre

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