“We, broken Banquers, half destroy’d by Fire”: The State of the King’s Company at LIF, 1671-74

Following the disastrous fire at the King’s Company’s Bridges Street theatre in January 1672 and its relocation to the recently vacated LIF Theatre, several prologues and epilogues from the company’s exile repertoire refer to its relative poverty. The most direct references to the fire itself are to be found in the epilogue to Thomas Shipman’s Henry the Third of France (LIF, 1672?), possibly written before the LIF period, and in Dryden’s prologue for a revival of Fletcher’s Beggar’s Bush, which was the first production mounted at the King’s Company’s new Drury Lane theatre in March 1674. Shipman’s epilogue claims that much of the company’s scenic stock was destroyed:

The Scenes, compos’d of Oyl and porous Firr,
Added to th’ ruine of the Theater.
And ’twas a judgement in the Poets Phrase,
That Plays and Play-house perisht by a blaze
Caus’d by those gaudy Scenes, that spoil good Plays.[1]

While Dryden’s prologue for Beggar’s Bush presents the company as still not recovered from the disaster two years on. Far from the “expected Pomp”, the prologue claims, the new theatre is but a “bare convenience” and the King’s Company diminished: “We, broken Banquers, half destroy’d by Fire,/ With our small Stock to humble roofs retire”.[2]

In between these productions Pierre Danchin records 15 other King’s Company productions at LIF (revivals with newly written prologues or epilogues in addition to new plays).[3] If the picture of ruination painted by the prologue and epilogue above were wholly accurate we might expect to find similar references in the topical addresses written for the other King’s LIF productions. However, only six of the 16 productions (including Henry III) make negative references either to LIF itself or to the company’s relative poverty. This negativity, however, is not cut and dried; it ranges from derision of the vacated LIF building as a “shed” (Fletcher’s Wit Without Money, February 1672), to the near affection of “this trusty Nook” (unknown production, June 1672?).[4] Other prologues describe the players as “poor” and the stage as being equipped with “Alehouse Scenes”.[5] There is little doubt that the fire was a major blow to the company, but the fact that only texts related to six productions make some negative comment while the majority make none at all, and in the case of Thomas Duffett’s The Empress of Morocco (LIF, 1673) even brag that the play was “Perform’d with new and costly Machines” perhaps puts some perspective on the extent of the disaster. It paints a different picture to the one of abject destitution proposed by Colin Visser in an article on the original staging of Dryden’s Amboyna.[6]

Visser is probably correct in relating the jingoism of Amboyna, one of the first post-fire King’s productions, to that of Davenant’s two pre-Restoration ‘operas’, The History of Francis Drake and The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru, which were later bundled together in Davenant’s The Play-house to be Let (LIF, 1663). However, while there are probably too many similar themes and aspects of staging for the relation to be a mere coincidence, I am not convinced by Visser’s contention that Dryden’s play “might well have been designed to exploit the settings” for the two operas, which he proposes would have been left behind by the Duke’s Company when it vacated LIF.[7] We should not assume that the production at LIF of plays designed for the simpler and smaller Siege of Rhodes stage (such as Davenant’s operas) would have been unproblematic.

Differences in dimensions and likely stage arrangements (three pairs of fixed wings for Rhodes compared to probably four pairs of changeable wings at LIF) must have meant that in 1663 Davenant either comprehensively modified the old scenery to fit the larger LIF stage, or, given the off-season, low-key production for an unsophisticated citizen audience, he used the much smaller old stage arrangements and covered up the resulting gaps above the frontispiece and to the sides with curtains or similar. The latter option seems more likely as the Duke’s Company probably never used the scenery again after The Play-house to be Let. Nor is there any record of a revival of the first part of The Siege of Rhodes after 1661.[8]

That the King’s Company in 1672 should resort to such a crude solution, as Visser implies, while it was trying to compete with the Duke’s for the same fashionable audience seems decidedly retrograde. While it is possible that the old opera scenery would have been left behind by the Duke’s Company, its reuse is not as unproblematic as Visser suggests. I argue elsewhere for a certain amount of flexibility in scenic arrangements at Restoration theatres operating in the same period.[9] We know that productions were transferred regularly and therefore presumably easily, between the public theatres and Webb’s 1665 Whitehall stage. By extension, this implies that scenic arrangements were broadly similar at Bridges Street and LIF, making Visser’s belief that any salvaged scenery from Bridges Street could not be used at LIF, and that the Duke’s Company would not have been able to transfer scenery to Dorset Garden, seem unfounded.[10]

There is no need here to rehearse arguments against the type of staging Visser proposes for The Adventures of Five Hours and which he again follows to some extent for Amboyna. Suffice to say that while I agree this production was likely to have been a minimal one, I do not believe Dryden could simply have reused the old opera scenery (assuming it were available) in the uncomplicated manner Visser suggests; it would have been technically problematic, and probably stylistically unacceptable. Moreover, it is significant that the scenic constraints that Visser proposes for Amboyna are evident neither in Henry III nor in the next King’s production, Dryden’s The Assignation (LIF, 1672). Shipman’s text may be too close to the fire to reflect LIF production, and production dates for Henry III and Amboyna are uncertain, but if Visser were correct one might expect other plays in the months following the fire to show evidence of scenic impoverishment, but this is not the case, as a glance at relevant scenery plots on this site will confirm.

[1] Pierre Danchin, Prologues 1.2, op cit p.469.

[2] Ibid. p.580-1.

[3] Ibid. pp.464-579.

[4] The prologue to Fletcher’s play is headed, The Prologue to Witt without money: being the first Play acted after the Fire (Danchin, Prologues 1.2, op cit p.465). The later prologue is printed in Dryden’s Miscellany Poems, 1684 (ibid. p.495).

[5] Respectively, the epilogue to The Widow, Thomas Middleton, LIF 1672-3? (ibid. p.511), and the prologue to Lodowick Carlell’s Arviragus and Philicia, LIF 1672-3? (ibid. p.506).

[6] See Colin Visser, ‘John Dryden’s Amboyna at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 1673’, Restoration and Eighteenth Century Theatre Research, vol.15, no.1, Loyola University of Chicago, 1976, pp.1-11.

[7] Ibid. p.2.

[8] Betterton’s company staged The Play-house at the Queen’s theatre in 1706, but Genest (op cit vol.2, p.352) is probably right in surmising it was performed without the by-then thoroughly old-fashioned Acts 3 & 4 (the two American operas). By contrast, the London Stage lists revivals of part two of The Siege of Rhodes (which may have been designed for LIF) in 1662, 1663, 1667, and 1677 (DG).

[9] Tim Keenan, Restoration Staging, 1660-74, Routledge, 2016, p.76.

[10] Visser, ‘John Dryden’s Amboyna’, op. cit., p.1.

Advertisements

The Amorous Widow (staging)

By Thomas Betterton (November? 1670; pub.1706)

Betterton’s play, an artful reworking of Molière’s Georges Dandin, is recorded on a Lord Chamberlain’s list as being performed in November 1670, though it is not certain that this was the première.[1] The 1706 preface lists performances at LIF, Drury Lane, Dorset Garden, and the Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket. In other words, the play followed the career of its actor-adapter from theatre to theatre, but Betterton seems to have been reluctant to publish until 1706. The late publication date, the list of theatres, and a cast list in the first edition that reflects production closer to 1706 than 1670, raise doubts about its LIF provenance; hence the abbreviated analysis below. However, the play’s popularity resulted in five editions in the period 1706-55 and the differences in scene headings and stage directions among these editions may throw some light on production practices in general, and on another Molière adaptation, Caryll’s Sir Salomon, in particular.

The texts of both plays are hazy about fictional locations. Although The Amorous Widow is not as ambiguous as Caryll’s play, it has one moment of spatial anomaly that is Salomon-like. It occurs in Act 3 when the location appears to shift from a clearly stated street – “SCENE, a Street before a Glass-shop” – to an interior with neither scene change nor cleared stage specified.[2] In any production this ambiguity would need to be clarified because two dialogic references to the “next room” and a servant’s announcement that dancers “wait without” are nonsensical if spoken on the street.[3]

While the second edition (Q2, 1710, also appended to Gildon’s Life of Betterton[4]) and third (octavo, 1714) are basically reprints, the fourth edition printed in Dublin in 1725 makes some significant changes. The preface to this edition claims the play was “never ’till now in Print, tho’ a false surreptitious copy crept into the world, and was annex’d by Mr. Gildon, to Betterton’s Life, differing very much from this”.[5]

The difference that concerns us is a change in stated location for Act 3, which becomes “A Glass Shop”. In other words, the whole scene is set indoors eliminating the ambiguity in the original.[6] Whatever the veracity of the Dublin edition’s claim, the point is that by 1725, at the latest, spatial ambiguity of the type discussed on this site was a concern and is manifestly not a chimera born of modern sensibilities. This lends weight to my argument that the published text of Sir Salomon may be a reading edition that does not fully represent the LIF production, which probably provided the scenic variety to which audiences had become accustomed.

The Dublin edition of The Amorous Widow eliminates spatial anomaly and also simplifies Betterton’s staging. The original text specifies an interesting discovery in 4.2 that speeds up the stage action in a filmic manner. The Dublin version, and most subsequent editions, replace this discovery with a series of exits and entrances. This obviously requires fewer theatrical resources and makes the play more suitable for touring.[7]

  •  No scenery plot currently available for reasons stated, but can be supplied on request

[1] See London Stage, p.176.
[2] London: W. Turner, 1706, p.24.
[3] Ibid. p.35, 39, & 40.
[4] See Charles Gildon, The life of Mr Thomas Betterton the late eminent tragedian, London: Robert Gosling, 1710.
[5] Dublin: S. Powell, 1725, Sig.A2r.
[6] Ibid. p.18.
[7] Interestingly another Dublin edition of 1755, which relates to production at the well-equipped Smock Alley theatre, restores the discovery.

Sir Salomon (staging)

By John Caryll (April 1670; pub.1671)

In terms of the LIF repertoire, Caryll’s play is the exception that proves the rule. Like its main model, Molière’s L’École des Femmes, the play gives no indication of scenery, and the text implies a fluid, continuous staging that does not distinguish locations, whether exterior or interior. Examples may be chosen at will from any act; Peter Holland cites an episode at the start of Act 2 when the Arnolphe character, Sir Salomon, interviews his intended bride, Betty, at the secret address he has provided for her.[1] Caryll begins the act by using the device of Sir Salomon pointing out Betty’s house to a servant who is then dismissed to fetch parson and license. Having established the location for the audience, Caryll then directs “Sir Salomon knocks at Mrs. Bettys Lodging”, leaving no doubt that fictionally the character is still outside on the street.[2] There then follows some comic business involving Betty’s servants, a balcony, and a practical front door. The comic turn concluded, Sir Salomon calls for a chair, dismisses the servants, and proceeds to interview Betty. In the text there is no indication whatsoever, theatrical or fictional, that Sir Salomon enters the house, but clearly by this point the location has shifted fictionally from the street to a room in the house.

The play is by no means diluted Molière; it is an excellently contrived comedy transliterated to a London setting with an original sub-plot. However, Caryll has not attempted a similar transliteration of Molière’s staging conventions, which are largely left unaltered. Whereas in plays such as Elvira and Love In A Tub there are isolated examples of interior/exterior fluidity or scenic disparity, in Sir Salomon these episodes permeate the play to the extent that it is impossible to specify fictional locations consistently.

Again, in the manner of the French original, there are no scenic directions beyond the general indication – “The Scene LONDON” – on the dramatis personae page, nor does Caryll supply any scene breaks. On the other hand, he does not observe exactly the convention of liaisons de scènes (linking scenes by avoiding stage clearances), since at several points he calls for a momentarily cleared stage. However, this use is too inconsistent to imply separate scenes or locations.

The fluidity of staging together with the lack of scenic information precludes any discussion of scenery (or provision of a scenery plot). If this text bears the same relationship to its original staging that we have found elsewhere, we may well conclude this is a one-set play. The allocation of separate settings, indicating various possible fictional locations, cannot be made without continual, if minor, textual intervention. This is not to say that this did not occur, various editions of another Molière adaptation – Betterton’s The Amorous Widow – suggest such a possibility (see my commentary on that play).

It is possible that the published text of Sir Salomon represents an intermediate stage between translation and theatre production, or it may have been conceived primarily as a reading version, as the following extract suggests (Peregrine is reading an important document):

 Ah Heaven! I did not want

                                         [Meaning the Writing

this farther Evidence to let me see from what State of happiness
I’m fall’n into the bottom of despair.[3]

The presence of the non-theatrical stage direction can only be for the benefit of readers (the document would be clearly in sight for audiences and its presence would almost certainly be underlined by an actor’s deictic gesture on “this”). The LIF production may, therefore, have used a theatrically modified version of Caryll’s text, in which case several settings representing, for example, the houses of Sir Salomon, Wary, and Betty would have alternated with a general setting of a London street. Such an arrangement would conform to the pattern for other London comedies discussed here. Alternatively, the text may be an accurate reflection of the staging, in which case a single setting, that of a London street, would have stood throughout the play in much the same way proposed by Colin Visser for The Adventures Of Five Hours; indeed it is strange that he does not refer to this play in his influential article on that play.[4]

The text may not include scenic information but it does supply some interesting stage directions absent in Molière. Caryll would seem to be particularly interested in stage position. There are six references to ‘stage’ in his directions and four of these, taken in context with dialogue, allow reasonable inference of the actors’ positions: “Sir Salomon takes several turnes upon the Stage, and takes no notice of Timothy, who follows him from side to side”; “Sir Salomon goes off the Stage the other way, and at the Door meets Peregreen coming in”; “He run’s to the end of the Stage, and then turns back”; “Enter Single and Julia at the Corner of the Stage”.[5]

If Holland, J. L. Styan and others are correct in arguing for a generic distinction in the staging of tragedies and comedies, with action in the latter more or less confined to the forestage, it is odd that this comedy, which is apparently unconcerned with realistic scenic representation, does not support their case. Instead, like most LIF plays at this time, it treats the scenic area as a necessary acting space. The third direction describes a hasty retreat by the foolish Sir Arthur. He runs as if to exit and just before he does so he “turns back” to deliver a short speech to the audience. In the context of the stage action this makes little sense if it refers to an exit through a forestage door. Similarly, it is difficult to argue that a forestage door, even one of four, could be described as being positioned in the “Corner of the Stage”.

The directions become clearer if we relate them to the likely stage picture, which may well have matched Mahelot’s description for L’Ecole des Femmes – “Théâtre est deux maisons sur le devant et le reste une place de ville” – the two forestage doors and proscenium walls represent the exteriors of the houses of Sir Salomon and Wary, while the shutter and wings show a street scene.[6]Unless characters are specifically entering or exiting the downstage houses, all entrances and exits must logically be made through wing passages and the whole stage is in use. Caryll’s otherwise ambiguous terms in these directions make perfect sense if we understand they relate to the use of wing passages close to the shutter line.

  •  There is no scenery plot for this play for the reasons stated above.

[1] See, Ornament of action, p.47.
[2] London: Herringman, 1671, p.17.
[3]  Ibid. p.93.
[4] ‘The Anatomy of the Early Restoration Stage’, Parts 1&2, Theatre Notebook, vol.29, nos.2 & 3, 1975.
[5] Ibid. p.65, 76, 86, 89.
[6] From Le Mémoire de Mahelot in T. E. Lawrenson, The French Stage and Playhouse in the 17th Century, New York: AMS Press, 1986, p.162.

The Women’s Conquest (staging)

By Edward Howard (Spring? 1670; pub. 1671)

Virtually no concern with scenery is evident in either of Howard’s LIF plays (The Six Days’ Adventure being the other). Howard’s interests are elsewhere; both plays are furnished with critical prefaces that deserve to be better known. Both also appear on first view to foreground women’s rights. However, the issue is raised only to be mocked and both plays end with an unequivocal endorsement of the Carolean status quo. As Howard tells us in the preface to The Six Days’ Adventure, his purpose is “to confirm the judgement and practice of the world in rendring them more properly the weaker Sex”.[1]

Only one scenic direction is provided in The Women’s Conquest: “Musick plays a while, after which the masque begins; the Scene a Grove, in which Diana is beheld sleeping, having at one of the sides next the Stage a Rock, from which—Enters Arethusa habited like a Water-Nymph”.[2] As in Stapylton’s plays, this masque, inserted in Act 1, has only a tenuous connection with the plot. The wording of the direction strongly suggests that Diana is discovered sleeping, rather than the actress entering and then lying down. Within the context of the scene – an onstage Royal entertainment – it would be possible for the masquers to set portable scenery and for Diana to get into position while the music plays “a while”. However, there is no doubt that using a shutter discovery to reveal actress and rock would be the more elegant and, by this time, more standard solution.

More problematic is the fact that at this point in the play the whole court has gathered on stage in a choreographically challenging series of arrivals and subsequent positioning – 13 named characters, plus four Court ladies, guards and attendants – and according to one stage direction the Queen, at least, is sitting, presumably on a throne of state.[3] If the scene were not followed by a discovery the best place for the throne would be an upstage, central position, but in this position the Queen and her courtiers would mask the discovery area. Edward Langhans does not acknowledge practical considerations when he suggests that the masque could be presented in the downstage scenic area in the vicinity of the first wing.[4] Such positioning would provide plenty of room for the masque and subsequent dance, but would crowd the forestage, potentially blocking the view of audience members.

The best solution would be to use the whole stage length, as follows. A group of six female petitioners positioned on the forestage await the arrival of the queen who enters with her entourage through wing passages on both sides of the stage. Half the Court line one side of the scenic area downstage of the shutters, with the other half and the throne (brought on and positioned by attendants) on the other side. The women then move centre stage in the scenic area to petition the queen. The petition being dismissed, the women also move to one side of the stage while simultaneously the queen’s general and two officers enter on the forestage and take the just vacated centre stage position to be interviewed by the queen. The masque is announced and while the music plays the soldiers in their turn move to vacant spaces on one side of the stage. This leaves a clear view of the subsequent discovery, masque, and dance, which now has room to take place centre stage in either the scenic area or forestage. This is the only staging difficulty in the play.

Although there are no scenic headings it is clear from the dialogue that at least two scenic settings are required – a neutral chamber of state for scenes set in the Scythian court, and a general camp with tent wings for scenes set in the camps of the opposing Amazon and Scythian armies. The Scythian court scenes alternate between the public main plot, and a more domestic sub-plot. Scenes from both plots are spatially neutral and could be located anywhere in the palace. One setting could serve both, but a scenic contrast would provide variety and help to separate the plots. Stage clearances are marked at the points I propose a scene change. There is little to be gained, however, by scenically distinguishing the camps of the opposing armies; one imagines the sexual differentiation would prove sufficient. The suggested scenic requirement is thus three sets of wings and shutters – two palace rooms, a camp – and one relieve scene of a grove for the masque.

[1] London: Herringman, 1671, sig.A3v. [2] Ibid. p.15. [3] The direction reads: “Enter Parisatis the Queen led by Tysamnes, Andrages and Foscaris, Alv. Tox. Arax. Attendants and Guards: being sate Clarina delivers the Petition” (p.12). [4] See Thesis, pp.319-20.

Mr. Anthony (staging)

By Roger Boyle (December 1669; pub.1690)

A Lord Chamberlain’s list records a performance of this comedy in December 1669, but it was not printed until 1690. Aside from the gap between performance and publishing there are no compelling reasons to doubt that the text is related to LIF production. There is very little commentary on the play, old or modern. Pepys did not see it and the LIF prompter John Downes records that it took “but indifferent”.[1] The usually perceptive Hume is dismissive, but I think Summers is nearer the mark in describing it as an “extremely amusing piece”.[2] Reflecting the general tendency for comedies, especially those set in London, to make fewer scenic demands than other genres, Mr. Anthony calls for a maximum of five backscenes and three wing settings. While this play would be easy to stage, it has one very interesting stage direction that indicates a development in the use of the discovery scene. This occurs in 4.2 when the would-be swains Anthony and Cudden, aided by their seconds Art and Plot, arrive at the door to the chamber of Philadelphia and Isabella, the objects of the lovers’ suits. The text at this point reads:

Plot.
This is the door—I’le knock—

Exeunt.

He knocks. The Scene opens, Philadelphia and Isabella appear with their Hoods over their Faces.
Nan and Nell. Cudden runs to Philadelphia and Antony to Isabella, whom they lead by the Hand on the Stage.[3]

If we take this literally, the men exit, knock, and re-enter. Getting four men off and on stage in this manner is clumsy and uncharacteristic of Boyle, who by this time was more secure in his scenic dramaturgy. This is especially noticeable here where it appears the whole point of the stage direction is speed. The usually scrupulous W. S. Clark evades the problem in his edition by silently omitting the direction to exeunt. It is, however, present in the two British Library copies I have examined and also in the LION database.[4]

I believe Clark is right in effect if not in principle. It seems to me that the marked exeunt reflects the fictional impulse at this point. Fictionally the men would be outside the door, theatrically, however, I believe they remain onstage to expedite the transition. What we have here, I believe, is the first example so far of a discovery being used in a cinematic fashion to switch the action rapidly from one location to another. In this case, the discovered actors move swiftly downstage aided by their respective partners and the impetus of the discovery. This is not the only use of the scenic area in this play. Contrary to standard views of Restoration staging, Boyle directs his actors to remain upstage of the curtain line in three other significant episodes. In 3.1 six actors are instructed to hide in the scenic area to eavesdrop on a comic duel between Anthony and Cudden: “They all fix conceal themselves within the Scene”.[5] They remain there for the duration of the scene, a total of 200 lines (there is no marked exit for them, but it is logical that they witness the ‘duel’ and exit behind the wings when the duellists leave the field).

This eavesdropping scene is neatly reversed in 5.3 when this time it is Anthony and Cudden who listen while Philadelphia and Isabella are encouraged by their maids to mock their suitors. The two men then suddenly appear to confront the women. The first of the respective directions for these actions is implicit in the dialogue, while the second is explicit:

Ant.
‘Slid, they are on our backs already, we must Tappis instantly,
or they’ll have a view of us.

Cudd.
Let’s leap into our Forms; but little do they think how this Ambush
will break out upon them.
[…]

                            [They both discover themselves, and come upon the Stage.[6]

Cudden’s use of the word ‘forms’ is both fictionally and theatrically appropriate. Cudden is given to country and down-to-earth metaphors and his reference to a hare’s hiding place is characteristic. At the same time, ‘forms’ accurately reflects the paired rows of wings in the scenic area. The actors remain in their forms for 40 lines before surprising the women. Finally, in the street scene 5.1 it is clear from dialogue and stage directions that the three supposed musicians must enter through wing passages. This is fictionally coherent and is indicated theatrically by the direction, “a noise is made within; he looks within the Scene”, which precedes the entrance of the three men.

The scenery plot allocates a field setting to the duel scene 3.1. This is fictionally more appropriate for a duel than the garden suggested by Clark. Similarly, I prefer a street setting for 3.3 rather than Clark’s chamber. Possibly because this is a London comedy and therefore easy to fit up with stock scenery, Boyle supplies far fewer scene headings in this play than any other since Mustapha. We get only two: a chamber for 1.1 and a garden in 5.3. The chamber setting was probably used for every scene set in Sir Timothy’s house (Anthony’s father), although it is clear from the text that several different rooms in the house are being used fictionally. The exception is the young women’s chamber, which must be a relieve setting following the women’s discovery in 4.2 discussed above. The action in the garden – the ‘forms’ scene – does not seem to require a relieve setting, although this is what Boyle’s scene heading implies: “The SCENE, a Garden with an Arbour”.[7] As either a shutter or a relieve scene could be used here I have followed the implication in Boyle’s direction and allocated a relieve: there would be several such settings to choose from LIF’s stock and I suspect Boyle may have had a particular one in mind.

In terms of references to the use of forestage doors, the play follows the familiar oppositional pattern. Most striking is the following example:

Ex. Sir Timothy and Lady, at one door: Goody Winifred stops Pedagog.

Goo. Win.
Stay worthy Sir, you were not wont to go out at one door, when I come in at the other.[8]

[1] Roscius Anglicanus, p.28.
[2] See Hume, The Development of English Drama in the late 17th Century, Oxford: 1976p.258; Summers, Playhouse Of Pepys, p.242.
[3] London: James Knapton, 1690, p.25.
[4] BL call marks 79.k.6 and 644.g.21.
[5] London: Knapton, 1690, p.18.
[6] Ibid p.42, 43
[7] Ibid p.42.
[8] Ibid p.16.

She Wou’d If She Cou’d (staging)

by George Etherege (February 1668; & pub.)

In terms of its dramaturgical control this play marks a considerable advance over Love in a Tub. The plot is more closely allied to LIF staging resources, there are no locational ambiguities, and it is clear from the mirrored construction of the first and last scenes that plot and staging were integrally conceived. Any discussion of the staging of this play must refer both to Holland’s subtle analysis in The ornament of action, and to Graham Barlow’s well-argued case for a two-door forestage in relation to the much cited pair of stage directions in Act 2: “The Women go out, and go about behind the Scenes to the other Door”, “Enter Courtal and Freeman. Enter the Women, and after ’em Courtal at the lower Door, and Freeman, at the upper on the contrary side”.[1] I discuss these directions in ‘“Scaenes with four Doors”: Real and Virtual Doors on Early Restoration Stages’, all I need to add here is that Barlow’s proposed staging is both detailed and perceptive. One may quibble over some minor points, but his argument that the multiple entrances and re-entrances specified in these stage directions cannot be confined to the forestage and must involve the scenic area is persuasive: “the movement [otherwise] being almost impossible figures of eight on the apron without making either choreographic or comic use of the whole scenic stage…for if the audience can anticipate the entrances in this scene the comedy is diminished considerably”.[2] Barlow’s proposed staging ends with the women being trapped mid-stage by the men in a pincer movement, one at a ‘lower door’ and the other an ‘upper on the contrary side’, as the directions state. Not only does this solution satisfy the directions it is both choreographically interesting and comically effective. It is also congruent with the hunting language used by the men throughout the play, especially prior to the women’s appearance in this scene:

Court.
Now art thou as mad upon this trail, as if
We were upon a hot scent.

Free.
Since we know the bush, why do we not start
The Game?[3]

In his scenic analysis, Holland infers another example of the doubling proposed in his analysis of Guzman and followed in my discussion of The Humorous Lovers. He believes that the dining room setting that represents Courtall’s house in 1.1 also backs the Cockwoods’ house in later scenes. As the scene headings specify “A Dining-Room” in both locations, this inference looks correct. The text also specifies “Sir Oliver’s Dining-Room” in other scene headings, but the two descriptions are likely to have been represented by a single scenic setting for reasons of theatrical economy. However, Holland goes one further and suggest tentatively that all the interior settings – two at the Cockwoods’, one at Courtall’s – might have used the same setting.[4] Strangely, this conflicts with his concern that the scenery should set up a polarity between dupes and libertines. This polarity may be preserved if we take Etherege at his word and propose two interior settings: the dining room and ‘a chamber’, or similar, whenever the Cockwood’s lodgings is specified.[5] Thus, the play’s second scene – “Sir Oliver Cockwood’s Lodgings” – is differentiated from the opening dining room scene at Courtall’s. This is the only scene in the play set at Courtall’s and once this contrast has been provided there is obviously no further occasion to distinguish the houses.

Unusually, the text calls for four specific London settings: Mulberry Garden, Spring Garden, the New Exchange, and the Bear Inn, Drury Lane. The use of specific locations builds on the example set by other London comedies such as Love in a Tub, The Humorous Lovers, and Martin Mar-all, and it is possible that recognizable representations were required. Allowing for this specificity would mean a total of six backscenes (possibly all shutters, there is no definite need for a relieve scene, but I have designated the dining room such in my scenery plot to minimise backshutter replacements). As ever, there need be fewer wing settings. The garden settings could be represented by the same tree wings, with a similar economy being used for the two interiors; thus only four wing settings would be needed. However, this would still occasion a wing setting replacement during Act 3, when the New Exchange wings (3.1) would need to make way for the inn setting in 3.3.

As Holland and others have noted, the last scene in the play mirrors the first. In both, two hiding places are needed, while one forestage door is used for exits and entrances to and from the street. In Act 5 there are no difficulties; Etherege has Freeman hiding in a closet, that is, behind one of the forestage doors, while Courtall hides under a table specifically furnished with a large tablecloth (‘carpet’). The stage direction at the start of the act flatly combines fictional and theatrical notation: “Enter Lady Cockwood, Table, and Carpet”.[6] The table provides a more genteel hiding place than the wood hole into which poor Sentry is squeezed in 1.1: “leave trembling, and creep into the Wood-hole here”.[7] As Holland wryly notes, no true gentleman would stoop to enter a wood-hole, but it raises the question of where it might be located on the LIF stage. A trapdoor is theatrically unnecessary and architecturally unrealistic: Courtall’s dining room would be on an upper storey of his fashionable town house.[8] The simplest solution is that Courtall directs Sentry to the gap between proscenium arch and first wing; the narrowness need only be fictional.

There is only one further difficulty. The New Exchange scene heading in 3.1 is followed immediately by the stage direction: “Mistriss Trinckit sitting in a Shop, People passing by as in the Exchange”. An obvious solution, perhaps, is for the New Exchange to be a relieve setting and for Trinket to be discovered in her shop. However, as much of the following dialogue takes place in the vicinity of the shop this means much of the scene would be in this upstage position. Elsewhere on this site I have advocated the full use of the stage where there are sound dramaturgical or theatrical reasons for doing so. I am not so certain such a positioning would be an advantage here. Courtall has arranged to meet Lady Cockwood “in the/ Lower-walk of the New Exchange, out of which/ We can quickly pop into my Coach”, however he is really planning another meeting with her two nieces. In 3.1 his plans go awry, but then Mrs. Gazette invites the girls to Trinckit’s shop and he asserts, “This falls out more luckily than what I had/ Contrived my self…for here/ Will they be busie just before the Door, where/ We have made our appointment”. These references to a door for his quick exit – presumably an entrance door on the ground floor – being in close proximity to Trinket’s shop, suggests the possibility that the shop is set up in a wing passageway or between proscenium arch and the first wing position. The wings for this setting would undoubtedly show other shops, so Trinket’s would not be out of place. Her counter could quickly be set in position at the start of Act 3, and this would explain the lack of a specified discovery in the initial stage direction. The ensuing dialogue and the pattern of entrances and exits also favour a position closer to the forestage.


[1] Holland, Ornament of action, pp.48-54. Barlow, ‘From tennis court to opera house’, PhD thesis, Glasgow, 1983, pp.99-111.
[2] Op cit p.110, 111.
[3]London: Herringman, 1671, p.14.
[4] Op cit p.52.
[5] This setting also appears as “Sir Oliver’s Lodgings”.
[6] Op cit p.76.
[7] Ibid. p.3.
[8] References to visitors ‘coming up’ in Restoration plays are legion.  In the next scene of She Would, set in the Cockwoods’ lodgings, Sentry says, “Hark, here is some body coming up stairs” (p.20).