The Humorists (staging)

By Thomas Shadwell (December 1670; pub.1671)

Shadwell’s first version of this play was withdrawn before it reached the stage or printer. However, it was preserved in a manuscript that was published in 1975 edited by Richard Perkin. It seems that Shadwell had intended to continue the vein of personal satire exploited in The Sullen Lovers but his intended targets forced him to abandon the plan (Perkin suggests they included the King’s mistress, Lady Castlemaine.[1])  In his preface to the printed version Shadwell mounts a spirited defence of his “mangled, persecuted Play” in which he affects surprise that the Town should be so malicious as to “believe that every thing I write, is too nearly reflecting upon persons”.

As far as this website is concerned the existence of two different versions of any play is potentially of great interest. In this case, although the differences relating to physical staging are not revelatory, the stage directions in the MS are often more detailed and help to clarify the stage action. For example in 4.4 the fools Crazy and Drybob scale a garden wall, but only the MS notes when each man leaps down.

As usual, Shadwell supplies little scenic information in either text. Three locations are stated explicitly – a tavern, a garden, and a cellar – of which the last is probably not a scenic setting. However, the other three locations in the play are clear enough. Action in two of these is preceded by stage directions that seem to follow the pre-Civil War pattern in providing locational clues by means of costume or properties: “Enter Crazy in a Night-Gown and Cap”, and “Enter Crazy with a Ladder”[2]. From the respective contexts it is clear that the action takes place in Crazy’s house in the former, and on the street outside Lady Loveyouth’s in the latter.

A minimal scenic production could make do with one chamber setting – to represent the lodgings of Crazy and Lady Loveyouth – a street, a tavern, and most likely a relieve for the garden. In this solution only one wing scene replacement is required: the tavern wings being replaced with garden wings immediately after the tavern scene, 4.1. Providing specific shutters for Crazy’s lodgings in Act 1, while not necessary for plot clarity, would be a simpler matter, they could be replaced easily during any of the first three act breaks.

The most problematic section of the play occurs in Act 4. From 4.2 the action is centred on Lady Loveyouth’s house and quickly moves from the street just outside – balcony and door much involved – through various parts of the house, including a cellar, to the garden and a garden wall. The interesting thing to note, however, is that all these micro changes of location, as it were, are preceded by stage directions that call for a cleared stage. Shadwell specifies a garden and a cellar, but otherwise the cleared stage and subsequent dialogue clarify the situation for an audience if not always for a reader – a cleared stage will always register with an audience, but a reader may not notice the associated direction(s).

Although a cellar is specified a scenic change is unnecessary. It could be supplied by replacing the street shutters after 4.2, but there is no great advantage to be gained by the effort. The cellar scene (4.6) is specified when Crazy and Drybob seek refuge from the pursuing household servants. This is a fictional dark scene and the comedy arises from watching the two dupes stumble about on the relatively bright forestage trying to escape from the locked cellar. The servants then appear in a balcony with lights (another instance of an internal balcony) and discover the dupes. Later when things have calmed down the pair are summoned for judgement. As the various exits and entrances in these Act 4 scenes follow a logical pattern in their use of fictional door assignations, there should be no need to distinguish the cellar scenically.

Only two forestage doors are required for Loveyouth’s house in Act 4. One fictionally leads to the garden, its opposite to the cellar. Entrances and exits from/to elsewhere in the house should be made through wing passageways. Once this pattern is established, the stage action becomes perfectly explicable. Internal changes of location within Lady Loveyouth’s house are marked either by a cleared stage or by clear locational clues in the dialogue, for example “Come Madam, while your Aunt is seeing the fire quench’d on the back-side, let us escape at the fore-door”[3]. The garden is distinguished scenically, but the various parts of Lady Loveyouth’s house are represented by a single setting, a principle familiar from The Adventures Of Five Hours.

No spatial anomaly is implied for the cellar scene. Unlike in Elvira, where I believe the forestage and the scenery must represent briefly different parts of the same house simultaneously, the action in the cellar scene is played against a general chamber setting, which stands for the house. As far as an audience is concerned, the forestage simply becomes the cellar during 4.6. The staging of this scene is easily managed using the LIF model.

As in Act 5 of The Adventures of Five Hours, the duo enter from the wings, grope about, discover the locked door and exit through another wing passageway. The text provides several hints that such a staging is not only possible, but also expected. Theatrically the audience sees two forestage doors; fictionally there is only one, the one through which they originally entered and which has subsequently been locked. However, directions for a cleared stage precede and follow this scene allowing all fictional door assignations to be reset. Feasibly, therefore, Crazy and Drybob could enter from either forestage door without breaking the established stage logic.

A more elegant solution, however, would be for the pair to enter from one of the wing passageways. This way attention need not be drawn either to a fictionally invisible door, or to a door that they are later to declare to be locked. As if in confirmation of this solution, Shadwell has the pair exit the scene with Crazy proposing “We’ll see if we can get out at the Window”[4]. This is a fictional rather than a theatrical exit and is not evidence for a low-level window in the scenery. (Indeed, the only LIF play where such a facility is indicated is in Tuke’s Adventures.)  The speculative window is located fictionally in a supposed part of the cellar that the audience cannot see. Shadwell is using Crazy’s suggestion as a fictional means of getting his actors physically offstage without using either forestage door. That Crazy and Drybob are still trapped as far as the plot is concerned becomes clear a few lines later when Loveyouth’s servants bring the pair onstage (fictionally hauled up from the cellar) for judgement. That such an interpretation springs so organically from the text and the stage action lends weight to the LIF model proposed in these pages.

A two-door forestage with a wing and shutter chamber setting caters for the bustling sequence of entrances and exits in the major part of Act 4. The fictional door assignations in this act are different from other acts where Loveyouth’s chamber appears and where a more central part of the house is implied. However, this is one of the great advantages of Restoration dramaturgy and one should not be surprised when such an advantage is exploited by Restoration dramatists.

The last stage action to be accounted for is the use of the garden wall. It would be possible, if clumsy and counter-intuitive, to stage the play using a balcony as a wall. However, as there is no reason why the garden scene should not be a relieve setting, a practical wall could easily be set in the relieve area just behind the shutter line. The stage directions lend themselves to this interpretation. Both men are instructed to enter frontally, “looking over the Wall”; they then immediately scale the wall and leap down: “Now for my leap of honour” declares Drybob. As no other relieve scene is required in the play a practical wall could be pre-set upstage of the shutter line before the play began. This solution presents no staging difficulties and offers several theatrical advantages.

[1] Shadwell’s The Humorists, Dublin: Laurel House Press, 1975, pp.2-4.
[2] London: Herringman, 1671, p.1, 47.
[3] Ibid. p.59.
[4] Ibid. p.58.

The Forc’d Marriage (staging)

By Aphra Behn (September 1670; pub.1671)

Dawn Lewcock and Lee J. Martin offer detailed analyses of the staging of this play. In an important Theatre Survey article Martin focuses on scenery, while Lewcock examines Behn’s dramaturgy in relation to narrative and audience reception.[1] Martin’s assertion that Behn was “anything but an innovator, and her stage directions are most probably the reflection of what she saw in use on the stage of her time” highlights the general lack of overt staging information in most published plays.[2] His judgement seems harsh, but it is impossible to disprove on the basis of Behn’s two LIF plays (The Amorous Prince being the other). The scanty evidence of staging in most play texts may provide a distorting mirror of actual practice, and as a tyro playwright it certainly seems possible that Behn would be following stage fashions in her first staged play, rather than leading them. Yet, the impression gained from the tone and detail of her ample stage directions is quite the opposite. Indeed, Lewcock argues that Behn exploits the dramaturgy of the play to manipulate likely audience reception, suggesting that even at this early stage Behn was remarkably assured in her control of dramatic and theatrical resources.[3]

Curiously, however, two stage directions in this play seem to reveal apparent indecision or lack of confidence (less probably in her own abilities than in relation to LIF stage management): “He strangles her with a Garter, which he snatches from his Leg, or smothers her with a Pillow”; “the Dance done, they lay them [emblematic symbols] at his feet, or seem to do so, and go out”.[4] These directions suggest that Behn, as we might expect at this early stage, had less influence over LIF production than more established playwrights such as Dryden and Boyle. However, Dryden and Boyle are likely to have been exceptions to a rule, and Behn’s case is probably more representative of LIF playwrights as a whole in this regard. However, her apparent hesitancy over what hand props actors may have available in these two directions does not devalue scenic and staging information elsewhere in The Forc’d Marriage.

An unusual feature of the play text is that while Behn provides only nine explicitly located scene headings (plus two implicitly stated) she numbers all 28 of her scenes. The lack of scene headings may again reflect some uncertainty about LIF stage management in her first production, or, more likely, she generally does not restate a heading once supplied. Behn’s nine explicit scene headings specify five individual settings. These comprise three shutter scenes: a bedchamber, the court gallery, a room decorated in black; and two relieves: an extension to the gallery scene (“at the Chamber door of Erminia”), and a chamber (Erminia’s). These settings account for the majority of the locations. The scene keeper had only to supply one setting not accounted for, namely a formal stateroom for some neutral scenes within the general setting of a palace.[5]

There is one further stated location that does not form the setting for any of the numbered scenes. Behn represents the wedding ceremony (of the titular marriage) by an elaborate and large-scale tableau set in a temple. This tableau forms a prelude to Act 2 and it is worth reproducing the stage direction in full as it indicates both the detail of Behn’s stage directions and her intended control over the theatrical presentation (no matter how conventional):

The REPRESENTATION of the WEDDING.

The Curtain must be let down; and soft Musick must play: the Curtain being drawn up, discovers a Scene of a Temple: The King sitting on a Throne, bowing down to joyn the Hands of Alcippus and Erminia, who kneel on the steps of the Throne; the Officers of the Court and the Clergy standing in order by, with Orgulious.

This within the Scene.

Without on the Stage, Phillander with his sword half-drawn, held by Gallatea, who looks ever on Alcippus: Erminia still fixing her eyes on Phillander; Pisaro passionately gazing on Gallatea: Aminth on Fallatio, and he on her; Alcander, Isillia, Cleontius, in other several postures, with the rest; all remaining without motion, whilst the Musick softly plays; this continues a while till the Curtain falls; and then the Musick plays aloud till the Act begins.[6]

In his Behn edition, Summers designates fictional headings for all those scenes lacking such.[7] His allocation is sensitive to the text and I differ in only one. It seems more appropriate in 1.2 and 1.3 for the distraught Erminia to retire to her own chambers rather than those of the Princess Gallatea. This is also a more appropriate location for her puzzled father’s bluff entrance and subsequent interview of Erminia in 1.3. Martin presents Summers’s designations as if they were Behn’s own and does not interrogate them. His analysis also suffers because it follows Southern’s dispersed-shutter theory. Rightly, however, he draws attention to Behn’s carefully controlled use of shutter and relieve scenes (though following Southern he designates them as shallow and deep).

As with other plays, the 14 or so fictional locations in this play would need to be reduced to a more theatrically manageable number. Following the hint from Behn’s own generic scene headings – “a Bed-Chamber”, “a Chamber” – we can reduce the settings to seven: the six named above, plus a temple setting. The scenery plot shows how these settings are accommodated within the LIF model. As all the fictional chambers are rooms within the same palace and the explication of plot is not at issue in this play, as it is in The Adventures of Five Hours, there seems little point in adding to these seven settings. The presence of a particular character together with the dialogue provides sufficient indication of place in this play. I have allocated a relieve setting to Erminia’s chamber because such a scene is implicitly demanded in 4.4 and 4.6 and, as noted above, it seems sensible to use the same setting for 1.2 and 1.3. A bed in 4.6 provides theatrical difference between the two discovery scenes 4.4 & 4.6, which represent rooms in Erminia’s apartments;[8] thus, fictionally, we understand Erminia and Philander to have moved from one room to another following Erminia’s request to her lover that he “retire into this inner room”.[9]

Behn’s use of discovery scenes is a distinctive feature of the play’s dramaturgy. It is the first LIF play to make more than an isolated use of discoveries as a means of speeding up the stage action. An excellent example of this occurs in 2.6: “Draws off, discovers Phillander and Alcander with Musick at the Chamber door of Erminia, to them Pisaro who listens whilst the Song is sung”.[10] In the preceding scene Pisaro has announced his intention to gather intelligence about the night’s comings and goings at Court. He exits and the immediate discovery allows the onstage music to begin straight away, rather than having to pause while the musicians get into position (they may even be playing before the end of 2.5).

The only difficulty is that this discovery tends to stretch perceived spatial locations. Erminia’s chamber door would seem to be located by the 2.6 discovery as being within the relieve area (note the door does not need to be practical, in fact it need not even be represented at this stage; the song need only be directed offstage to the side of the relieve area). However, at the start of 4.3 Philander returns to the same fictional location – “Calls at the Lodgings of Erminia” – and although a forestage door is not stated it would clearly help to signify place.[11] Later, a practical door for the same location is evidently called for when Erminia’s husband Alcippus arrives (4.5): “he knocks./ Alcander looks out at the door”. Unless the musicians at the start of 2.6 immediately rush into position in front of the designated forestage door before they start playing, it looks like Behn was not shy of invoking a little spatial anomaly for the sake of fluid staging. However, with the temporal separation between 2.6 and 4.3/5, it is doubtful that an audience would register this as anomalous. It seems to me that this is a highly effective theatrical cheat of a type similar to those encountered in Elvira, Mustapha, and Juliana.

The implied use of doors in this play does not present a problem for the two-door model. Specifically, the multiple use of practical doors – the key contra-indicator – is never implied.

The final scene heading in the play is unusual: “Discovers a room hung with Black, a Herse standing in it with Tapers round about it”.[12] Perhaps this was an opportunity to make use of that curious black scene used in Guzman, albeit with its astrological symbols painted over.

[1] Martin, ‘A Study of Restoration Staging Techniques’, Theatre Survey, vol.4, 1963, pp.3-28; Lewcock, Aphra Behn Stages the Social Scene, Cambria2008, 198-201, and Thesis, op cit pp.97-103. Also, Derek Hughes’s perceptive account of the play makes an interesting point about the staging (English Drama 1660-1700, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996, p.164-5).
[2] Op cit p.24.
[3] See, Lewcock, Thesis, op cit pp.97-103.
[4] London: J. Magnus, 1671, p.63, 78.
[5] The general setting is found in its usual position at the foot of the dramatis personae page: “Scene within the Court of FRANCE”.
[6] Op cit p.18.
[7] The Works of Aphra Behn, New York: Phaeton Press, 1967 (reprint of 1915 ed.)
[8] The stage directions/ headings for these scenes are consecutively: “Draws off
, discovers Erminia sitting in a dishabit to her Phillander, who falls at her feet on his knees”, “They go into the Scene which draws over
” (4.4, p.58 & 59); “The Court Gallery” (4.5, p.59); “a Bed Chamber./ Discovers Erminia, Phillander sitting on the Bed, to them Isillia, a Sword and Hat on the Table” (4.6, p.60)
[9] Op cit p.59.
[10] Ibid. p.33.
[11] Ibid. p.68.
[12] Ibid. p.82.

Guzman (staging)

By Roger Boyle (April 1669; pub.1693)

 

As already noted elsewhere on this site, this play is unique for including so much promptbook annotation in the published text. As such, it provides an invaluable resource for the student of Restoration staging. Most modern theatre historians have discussed the play and its additions to some extent, but no coherent account of the original staging has been offered. The tantalising nature of the promptbook information militates against definitive statements, but with this text above all others it must be possible to offer a more satisfactory account of the scenic staging than has so far been provided, and that is what I attempt here. As with the other commentaries in this study it is best read with the scenery plot to hand. We do not know who added the extra notation, but for convenience, I will refer to the annotator as the prompter.

The play may be read as an attempt by Boyle to combine elements of two of the most successful plays of the 1660s: the farce of Sir Martin Mar-all with the Spanish plot of The Adventures of Five Hours. Boyle’s volte-face from heroic tragicomedy to farce did not go unremarked. Samuel Pepys was astonished to be told by Thomas Shadwell that Boyle was responsible for the “mean” entertainment he had just seen, an attempt, according to Shadwell, to try, “what he could do in comedy, since his heroique plays could do no more wonders”.[1] On the same day, the actor Henry Harris told the diarist that the play “will not take”. The LIF prompter, John Downes, however, records the play “took very well”, and the visiting Lorenzo Magalotti seems to have been impressed by the whole experience of seeing Guzman at LIF.[2] Whoever was right, the play does not seem to have lived beyond its initial run, although the London Stage suggests a revival may be associated with the first printing in 1693.[3]

Of the play’s 19 scenes, 11 are conventionally noted by either author or prompter. Of these, nine have standard scene headings – ‘The scene X’ or ‘the scene is X’ – one (2.2) uses the older ‘Enter in X’ format, and another (2.4) is preceded by a promptbook note calling it, “The new Black Scene”. The remaining eight scenes are all headed by promptbook notes referring to five items of scenery used in the original LIF production: “The scene with the Chimny in it” (and the presumably identical, “The Chamber with the Chimney in’t”), “The Queen of Hungary’s Chamber”, “A flat Scene of a Chamber’, “The New Flat Scene”, and “The Garden in Tryphon as a Back Scene”. The references to two items of scenery used in previous Boyle productions at LIF are unlikely to be coincidental and suggest that by this time Boyle may have been working more closely with the theatre in the staging of his plays. Despite the level of staging information available in the printed text it is not clear why the prompter called for Guzman’s house to be represented by two settings – ‘the scene with the chimney’ and ‘a flat scene of a chamber’ – whilst also calling for both items of scenery to represent, respectively, the houses of Francisco and Piracco. Interestingly, this use combines the two instances of ‘double duty’ already identified, namely ‘two scenes for one location’ and ‘one scene for two locations’.

Were it not for these promptbook additions I would follow the methods adopted elsewhere on this site and allocate one item of scenery to Guzman’s house and, citing reasons of theatrical and financial economy, allow another to represent the houses of both Piracco and Francisco. It is also likely that I would not have sought to combine the requested field and grove settings, and had I done so I would have chosen either grove or field and not ‘forest’ as the prompter does. This highlights the fact that no matter how methodical and attentive to detail, any discussion of Restoration scenic practice is at best approximate. We can only draw conclusions about general working practices. We can only speculate about the LIF scene stock, the exact arrangement for most individual plays will probably always elude us. However, given the level of extra information available in this text we should be able to make a better stab at it for Guzman than with other plays.

In this respect critical commentary is disappointing. Richard Southern is over-concerned with his idea of pierced or ‘cut-scenes’. Edward Langhans does little more than summarise the facts and problems in his dissertation discussion, and his later conjectural reconstruction in Restoration Promptbooks evades full engagement with the text.[4] He assumes all the scenes are shutters, thinks the double use of scenery is a result of textual errors, and relies on a two-backshutter-position stage, a hypothesis that is contraindicated by evidence from LIF plays (see ‘Boyle’s Guzman at Lincoln’s Inn Fields 1669’, Theatre Notebook, 60.2, 2006, pp.76-93). Peter Holland describes the double use of scenery in Guzman, but his discussion of the prompter’s reasons for allocating two settings to Guzman’s house is misleading.[5] It is also unlikely that the seven settings demanded by the play “obviously stretched the Lincoln’s Inn Field’s resources” as he believes.[6] Dawn Lewcock’s suggestion that the ‘forest’ setting may have been a relieve scene follows Boyle’s editor W. S. Clark who thought that all settings not stated to be ‘flat’ must be relieves.[7] Clark’s analysis of the staging of Guzman is the fullest we have. It is detailed and perceptive, but superseded by later scholarship: like all commentators before Southern, Clark is foxed by the nature and use of relieve scenes. He and other commentators are right, however, to consider the balance of shutter and relieve scenes in the original production.

The only scene we can say with some confidence is likely to be a relieve scene is Alcanzar’s cabinet. This is one of two apparently new scenes for the première, the other being the piazza scene. The cabinet, or ‘new black Scene’, is specified three times: in 2.4, 3.1, and 4.8. The stage directions associated with these scenes are revealing. The opening direction in 2.4 reads: “The Scene opens, and Francisco appears in a Magical Habit (with his Closet painted about with Mathematical Instruments and Grotesque Figures)”.[8] This is the last scene in Act 2 and Act 3 starts with the same setting specified. After the heading, the first direction of 3.1 reads, “Enter Alcanzar in his Conjuring-habit, with Maria and Lucia drest like Good Spirits”.[9] In 4.8 the heading specifies the cabinet and the following direction reads: “Francisco in it, with his Conjuring habit, and Julia richly drest”.[10]

 The fact that the cabinet setting remains in view during the break between Acts 2 and 3 obviously means it cannot be discovered at the start of Act 3. Accordingly, the 3.1 stage direction simply calls for a standard entrance onto the stage. The other two directions, however, strongly imply that the actors are already in position and are revealed when the scene starts. The obvious way of satisfying these directions is for the actors in each sceneto be discovered by the withdrawal of a shutter pair. This looks most likely as the piazza setting that precedes 4.7 is specifically called the ‘new flat scene’, and as both Clark and Southern note this must refer to flat shutters, as opposed to layered scenes of relieve. We also know from Mustapha that there is no reason to suppose that the prompter’s setting for 2.3 (Leonora’s house) – ‘The Q. of Hungary’s chamber’ – was anything other than a shutter scene (it appears to follow a relieve in Mustapha). In sum, the case for Alcanzar’s cabinet being a relieve scene is particularly strong.

Along with this relieve we have also identified two probable shutter scenes: the piazza and Leonora’s house. By the same reasoning two more settings must also be shutters. Piracco’s house in 2.2 is represented by a “A flat Scene of a Chamber”, and the garden that is called for in 4.6 is “The Garden in Tryphon as a Back Scene” (see my discussion of Tryphon above). The prompter’s designation confirms that the shutters that comprised the backscene in Tryphon turn up with different boscage wings to form the garden setting in Guzman. We now have enough clues to suggest a possible interpretation of the prompter’s scenic notes in the play.

Act 4 has eight scenes with the prompter specifying six different settings. Assuming Alcanzar’s cabinet is a relieve there is no decisive reason why the remaining five should not all be shutters. It would simply require two shutter replacements during Act 4, not an ideal solution but workable. However, the scenic congestion could be eased by making at least one of these settings a relieve scene. Turning again to the prompter’s notes, we see he has designated three chamber scenes: a ‘flat’ one, the Queen of Hungary’s, and the scene with the chimney. The last two are specifically described and may have been specified by Boyle, whereas the designation ‘a flat scene of a chamber’ suggests that its exact composition was not important, that the point was merely to differentiate it from the other two. If all these settings were shutters it might be possible to confuse, say, the chimney chamber and the ‘flat’ one, but if one of the three were a relieve setting then the nondescript ‘flat’ chamber would simply be the shutter to be used when the other was not. This line of reasoning leads us to the possibility that the chimney chamber, the only setting whose nature has not so far been determined, might be a relieve setting. If we now re-examine the prompter’s double use of scenery with this possibility in mind it becomes more explicable.

Guzman’s house in 3.2 cannot be the chimney scene because that would mean two successive relieve settings (3.1 being Alcanzar’s cabinet), so the prompter specified the flat chamber. He could have used the Hungary chamber but that setting appears three times in the play always to represent Leonora’s house. Nominating it for this scene offers no advantage and evidently, irrespective of the present conjecture, the prompter thought it better to reserve this setting for this exclusively female household. The nondescript ‘flat’ scene was previously used to represent Piracco’s chamber (2.2), but that location is not specified again, and although the prompter may have felt he had little choice there is no reason why the house of the rich Guzman should not be represented by another setting. It may not be standard practice, but Tryphon, also by Boyle, seems to furnish a precedent (see above). When it came to Act 4, the prompter would probably have been grateful for an interior relieve setting to alleviate the scenic congestion. This would explain, therefore, why the chimney chamber is specified for Francisco’s house (4.3). If this were a relieve setting only one mid-act shutter replacement would have been needed during Act 4 instead of two.

Lewcock suggests that the forest setting may have been a relieve.[11] The prompter has allocated this setting to two headings: “a Field with Trees” and “a Grove of Trees”. A grove relieve would seem to be demanded in Tryphon, but interestingly it does not seem to have been reused here. If the prompter had specified ‘the grove from Tryphon’ or similar there would be little doubt that this was indeed a relieve setting. The lack of such designation may be significant. However, if the ‘Forest’ were a relieve setting it would also help to alleviate scenic congestion. Indeed if both the chimney chamber and the forest were relieves there would be no need for any mid-act shutter replacements; though, as there is only about 2 min. 20 sec. between 4.3 and 4.5, backstage staff would need to move quickly to set three separate relieve scenes. This is a quick change but not impossible.[12] A relieve setting for the ‘Forest’ remains a possibility, but three relieve settings within a single act of a conventional comedy seems excessive. While grove scenes are often relieves, fields are just as often shutters, and this is the option I prefer. The considerable advantage of the solution shown in the scenery plot is that it is the first to comply with and explicate the prompter’s notes.

The scenery for this play might, therefore, have comprised five shutter settings, two relieves, and three wing settings. All the houses belong to characters of a similar social class and there is no need to differentiate the wings used to represent them, we need only add a set of boscage wings for garden and forest, and wings for the piazza or street setting. We know from one of the opening lines of the play that Alcanzar’s cabinet is located within Francisco’s house, so if this is a relieve setting, it need only be represented upstage in the relieve space with the house wings in view. A full set of special wings would have been expensive and of little value as a stock item. However, Boyle may have insisted and there is no doubt that black wings would add to the impact of Alcanzar’s cabinet.

Most of the prompter’s notes relate primarily to the business of getting actors and props on and off stage. However, there is an interesting sequence at the end of Act 2 that contributes to the forestage door debate (see ‘“Scaenes with Four Doors”: Real and Virtual Doors on Early Restoration Stages’, Theatre Notebook, 65.2, 2011, pp.62-81).At the first appearance of Alcanzar’s cabinet in 2.4, when Francisco is discovered in his ‘magical habit’, the direction ends: “[Francisco] Knocks with his Foot, and four Boys appear within the Scene”.[13] On their next summoning by Francisco, however, Boyle directs: “the Boys appear at several Doors in hideous Dresses…”.[14] As there is every reason for the boys to repeat their first manoeuvre on their second entrance and appear from wing passages, it is highly interesting to note Boyle’s equivalence between ‘doors’ and ‘within the scene’.

[1] Diary, April 16, 1669.
[2] Roscius Anglicanus, p.28; Magalotti: see London Stage, p.159.
[3] Ibid. p.412.
[4] ‘Staging Practices in the Restoration Theatre, 1660-1682’, unpublished doctoral thesis, Yale, 1955, p.312-9; Restoration Promptbooks, Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1981, pp.44-50.
[5] Holland says the use of two settings – one a “living-room” and the other a “bedchamber” – “keeps the scenery in more precise harmony with the action”, but his argument is tenuous as both settings are described in the text as ‘chambers’ (see Ornament of action, p.48).
[6] Ibid. pp.47-8.
[7] See Lewcock, Thesis, p.96; Clark, Dramatic Works, p.801.
[8] London: Herringman, 1693, p.13.
[9] Ibid. p.17.
[10] Ibid. p.43.
[11] Thesis, pp.95-6.
[12] Settle calls for a relieve change of around 1min. 20 sec. in Act 5 of Cambyses (LIF, 1671). However, Cambyses was a spectacular machine play rather than a run-of-the-mill comedy and one imagines the scene-handlers would have been working flat out to ensure success.
[13] Ibid. p.13.
[14] Ibid. p.15.

The Royal Shepherdess (staging)

by Thomas Shadwell (February 1669; & pub.)

Samuel Pepys attended the première on 25 February 1669 and thought Shadwell’s play to be, “the silliest for words and design, and everything that ever I saw in my whole life”.[1] Nevertheless, the première seems to have been another glittering occasion. Pepys had to get to the theatre before one o’clock to be sure of his seat as the house was “infinite full” and the performance was attended by “the King and Court”. It was still the main attraction the following day when Pepys went to see the King’s Company’s revival of John Fletcher’s The Faithful Shepherdess. However, this pastoral head to head proved a spectacular flop. Pepys reports of the revival: “But, Lord! what an empty house, there not being, as I could tell the people, so many as to make up above £10 in the whole house!”

Shadwell’s early plays reveal little interest in scenery, but he seems to have made efforts with this pastoral-tragicomedy, although the text is less than explicit. More than half the play seems to take place in some sort of palace garden, but this setting is not stated and must be inferred from various references in dialogue to ‘garden’, ‘grove’, and ‘grotto’, and a single stage direction in 1.1: “Enter Endymion from behind the Arbour”.[2] In the printed play’s preliminary material the general setting is stated to be Arcadia, suggesting that the garden scenery was possibly wilder than in other LIF productions, tending more perhaps to the “delightful Landskip” requested by Flecknoe in Love’s Kingdom.

The arbour from which Endymion steps was almost certainly represented by a wing or wings, rather than anything in the relieve area. This can be deduced from a stage direction/scene heading that effectively denotes 3.2: “Scene draws, and Shepherds and Shepherdesses are discovered lying under the Shades of Trees”.[3] As 3.2 is a relieve scene, 3.1 must be a shutter setting. The setting is not stated, but a clear ‘garden’ reference comes in 3.1, indicating that this is the same setting as used in 1.1. The reference occurs when Cleantha enters mid-scene; the King asks,What makes you abroad so early?”, and she replies, “To take the pleasant ayre of this Garden”.[4]

The recumbent shepherds and shepherdesses of 3.2 are discovered in a brief masque-like episode similar to those in Robert Stapylton’s plays (The Slighted Maid and The Step-mother). The King and Court have assembled onstage and the masque begins once the shutters have withdrawn. The sudden switch from the garden shutters as fictional setting to their reflexive revelation as theatrical apparatus is also found in Stapylton, but is absent in more realistic plays.

Shadwell supplies only two explicit statements of place out of a possible eleven: “The Scene changes to the Temple” in 4.2, and “Enter Neander, Geron, and Phronesia in Prison” in 5.3. Despite this lack of information the scenic structure of the play is clear. It requires five wing and shutter scenes – garden, temple, hall, prison, and courtyard – and one relieve scene of trees for the masque. With this arrangement one mid-act wing and shutter replacement would be needed in Act 5. This could be avoided by leaving the prison setting on for the execution, but a prison does not seem appropriate for a public execution in this period.

The execution is announced by a stage direction calling for a large prop: “There appears a Scaffold cover’d with Black, and Urania led between two Gentlemen in black: The King looks to see the Execution [above]”.[5] Since Urania is to be beheaded, rather than hanged, the height of the scaffold is less of an issue; it could either be discovered behind the prison shutters, or thrust on from the wings. As this is only Shadwell’s second play, the ambiguity might reflect some uncertainty about theatrical realisation. In his valuable study of Restoration action within the scenic area, Lee J. Martin assumes this to be a discovery, but a simple thrusting on looks the best fit with stage directions and dialogue.[6] The brackets in the stage direction indicate that the King would have been watching from a balcony.

There is only one mention of ‘door’ in the whole play. This occurs in a stage direction that follows the oppositional pattern: after a marked ‘exeunt’, several characters are directed to “Enter at the other door”.[7]


[1] Diary, Feb. 25, 1669.
[2]London: Herringman, 1669, p.6.
[3] Ibid. p.35.
[4] Ibid. p.31.
[5] Ibid. p.71, brackets in text.
[6] See, ‘Action Within The Scene On The English Restoration Stage’, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford, 1956, p.181. ‘There appears’/’appeares’ is a not an uncommon direction in pre-Restoration masques to indicate a discovery of some sort, but according to the LION database this is the only incidence of the term within the period of this study.
[7] Ibid. p.62.

Tryphon (staging)

by Roger Boyle (December, 1668; pub.1669)

After Mustapha, Boyle’s next play was The Black Prince produced by Killigrew’s company at Bridges Street in October 1667. Both The Black Prince and Tryphon demonstrate Boyle’s growing exploitation of the scenic stage. In contrast to most plays from this period, Tryphon provides complete scene headings, putting it in a select club with She Would If She Could and The Adventures of Five Hours. The scene headings and stage directions indicate a greater control over stage resources. For example, the 2.3 heading, “The Scene a Garden and a Grove of Trees” (discussed below), does not just indicate a fictional setting, it also signifies the theatrical means by which the setting is to be achieved: garden wings, together with a tree relieve. The fascination with tableaux continues, but this time Boyle pares down the effect in his single example and uses a shutter rather than the front curtain to reveal his static group. This is both slicker and more surprising, because an audience cannot predict the effect. In Act 5 the scene headings do not conform to the expected pattern. At first it seems there must be some mistake; Act 4 has played in front of a shutter scene of Nicanor’s Palace, but the opening heading and stage direction to Act 5 reads:

The Scene is Nicanors Pallace.

The Scene opens.

Tryphon Demetrius Stratonice and Irene. Demetrius from behind Tryphon fixes his Eyes on Stratonice, folds his Armes the one Within the other, Sighs and goes out still gazing on her.[1]

 

This is the tableau mentioned above, but if it is a shutter discovery, as the direction indicates, there must be another setting, a relieve, representing the same fictional location. We might postulate that the ‘scene opens’ merely states that the act begins – a variant of the opening stage direction in The Play-House to be Let – and that the actors should enter in dumb show. However, there are two manuscript copies of the play in the Bodleian Library, and one (Ms. Malone 11) clarifies the published direction. Following the scene heading the direction reads: “The Scene opens where is discover’d Triphon…”.[2] As Nicanor’s palace is already in view the new scene must, therefore, be a relieve representing the same location: the inverse of the one-scene-for-two-places use we have observed elsewhere. There is no need for the wings to change of course.

For the garden scene 2.3, the shutters representing Nicanor’s Palace withdraw to reveal a grove of trees, while simultaneously the palace wings are changed for those of the garden, last seen in 2.1. We may infer from its position between two relieve scenes in Act 5 that the garden setting must be a shutter scene, but there is also supporting evidence. The printed text of Boyle’s Guzman, which includes promptbook annotation, adds “The garden in Tryphon as a Back Scene” to the 4.6 scene heading “The Scene a Garden”.[3]

There are two other matters of note in Act 5. A stage direction in the last scene set in Tryphon’s Palace seems to indicate that the actor should retire into the relieve area: “Tryphon goes to an elevated place like a Throne, seats himself in it, then draws a Ponyard…”.[4] After a speech Tryphon stabs himself, then his faithful servant Arcas “runs to Tryphon, takes the Bloody Poniard which lay by him, and with it stabs himself”, and, “He fals dead at Tryphons feet”[5]. This is essentially a repeat of the Mustapha/Zanger suicides in Mustapha. In that play, however, the bodies are carefully positioned in the relieve area, here that is unlikely. If Boyle had intended the deaths to take place behind the shutter line he could have removed the bodies from sight simply by directing that a shutter should close at that point. Instead, after everyone on stage has followed the direction “They all goe towards the dead Body” (of Tryphon), Stratonice asks the Captain of the Guards, Sir, let his Body be from hence convey’d”, a request that would be redundant if the corpses could be hidden by the shutters.

Thanks to Dryden’s witty epilogue to Tyrannick Love, written for Nell Gwyn, we know that ‘dead’ bodies in Restoration tragedies could be removed by employing bearers to carry them off, and that might have been the case in the original LIF production.[6] However, an additional stage direction in both Bodleian MSS suggests another solution: “A Curtaine is drawne afore the dead bodyes”.[7] This is an interesting piece of evidence in the light of my suggestions elsewhere for the use of a traverse curtain in other LIF productions. Although, we do not know whether such a method was used in production, it was clearly considered a potential solution at the time, most probably by Boyle if the source text for these MSS is authorial, as W. S. Clark believes.[8]

The concern to minimise wing changes indicated by Boyle’s 2.3 heading, and implied by the use of two different backscenes (but not wing settings) to represent Nicanor’s Palace, adds weight to the hypothesis that the LIF scenic system had only three wing grooves at each position. Conservatism regarding wing groove replacements is inevitable given the wholly manual system of scenery changes employed in England at this date. It is for this reason that I believe a maximal scenic production is contraindicated. Although such a production would call for only seven separate settings, it would necessitate awkward wing and shutter groove replacements in Acts 3 and 4, as can be seen in the scenery plot. A fully minimal production might differentiate between categories of interior scenes rather than between the fictional owners of the rooms. This was probably the case for She Would If She Could. In such an arrangement ‘palace’ and ‘apartment’ shutters would serve all scenes where those interiors were required. Using one apartment shutter scene makes sense as ‘Demetrius’s apartment’ is specified only once, but allowing separate shutters for the two palaces would aid clarity.

A diegetic reading of the text would allow different wing settings for the garden and the ‘obscure grove’, but shared wings are probably the best theatrical interpretation of the scene headings. As with Nicanor’s palace, differentiation is provided by the contrast between shutter and relieve settings. These compromises eliminate awkward groove shuffling – only one mid-act replacement is required – but maintains the differentiation and novelty expected of a socially significant production by an aristocratic author.


[1]London: Herringman, 1669.
[2] My italics. See, Clark, Dramatic Works, p.886.
[3] Guzman, London: Francis Saunders, 1693, p.37. For 17th century use of ‘backscene’ see Timothy Keenan, Thesis, London, p.4, n.9, and Lewcock, Thesis, op cit pp.95-6.
[4] Op cit p.53.
[5] Ibid. p.54.
[6] “Epilogue Spoken by Mrs. Ellen, when she was to be/ carried off dead by the Bearers” (London: Herringman, 1670).
[7] Mal. 11 & Ms. Rawl. poet. 39 substitutes, “…before Tryphon & Arcas” (Clark, Dramatic Works, op cit p.890).
[8] See Ibid. p.872.

The Sullen Lovers (staging)

by Thomas Shadwell (May 1668; pub.1671)

Shadwell’s argumentative preface makes a virtue out of the play’s lack of scene divisions, and hence scene headings: “I have here, as often as I could naturally, kept the Scenes unbroken”.[1] Indeed there is only one explicit item of scenic information in the play, but that is very definite: “The place of the SCENE LONDON. The Time, In the Moneth of March, 1667/8”.[2] Despite, the lack of scenic information The Sullen Lovers is theatrically straightforward and well constructed. Six fictional locations may be inferred: the separate lodgings of the eponymous lovers, Stanford and Emilia, a field, a street, a hall (the “great Roome” at Oxford Kate’s), and a house in Covent Garden. [3] The last is the abode and shop of a fashionable dress maker and should not be considered humble.[4] The maximum scene allocation of six individual settings presents no problems to the LIF model. A minimal production would require four settings (by combining all house interiors), but I prefer to distinguish between the houses of the principals and propose five: Emilia’s, Stanford’s (doubling as the Covent Garden house), field, street, and hall. Four wing settings are required by this solution, which entails one wing setting – street, or field – being replaced in either of the intervals between Acts 3/4 or 4/5.

Of more interest in terms of the model is the pattern of exits and entrances in this play. The word ‘door’ features 19 times and there are some significant stage directions relating to the use of doors. Oppositional staging features again, though not as pronounced as in The Tempest, the best example being the stage direction: “Emil. and Stanf. run out at several doors, the Impertinents divided follow ’em”.[5] The ‘other door’ format occurs only once – “Enter Emilia and her Maid at one Door, Ninny and Woodcock at t’other”, but there is a pointed reference in the dialogue that confirms that fictionally at least the play admits of only two entrance points: “Heaven knows this door’s lock’d, and there’s no escaping at the other”.[6] As this line suggests, Shadwell makes great play of locking up characters in The Sullen Lovers: cognates of the word ‘lock’ occur nine times in the text in relation to an onstage door. At the start of Act 2 Emilia has locked herself in her chamber; in Act 3 she is locked in the same room against her will with her ‘sullen’ counterpart Stanford; the couple find themselves trapped by another locked door in Act 4; and in Act 5 they help lock up the idiotic Sir Positive At-all.

In the LIF model, locking a forestage door places greater emphasis on entrances and exits. Often, a case may be made for wing entrances, but the fictional restriction in Emily’s line above means that this play becomes a real test. With one door out of action the remaining forestage door must function as the sole entrance/exit point. If this cannot be demonstrated the model fails. Emily’s statement comes in Act 4, which is wholly set in her lodgings (strictly her father’s house but he is a minor character). The act is a maelstrom of activity as the text records that 14 of the play’s 17 named characters troop through Emily’s house in 42 entrances and exits. Nevertheless, the whole pattern of movements in the act is contained by the established fiction that the room has only two doors of entrance. The act is almost wholly concerned with the baiting of the over-serious pair, Emilia and Stanford, by the normative couple, Lovell and Carolina. This baiting reaches a climax when the sullen couple find themselves trapped by the whole gang of “Impertinents” led by Sir Positive who are between them and their escape route.

It is at this point that Emily tells us that the nearer door is locked. Unfortunately, Shadwell has not made it clear who locks the door and when. However, as the situation has been stage managed by Lovell and Carolina, who are also responsible for locking the couple together in the previous act, we may safely infer that they repeat the trick in this. There is ample opportunity for either to do so, and the action could be simply and effectively signalled to an audience in performance. This oversight does not affect the integrity of the model; rather this long scene in a single location confirms that two forestage doors are sufficient to cope with a complex plot with a plethora of entrances and exits. Equally important it demonstrates that when Shadwell, one of the first professional dramatists of the Restoration, came to write this satirical London comedy there is every indication that he was thinking in terms of a two-door LIF forestage.


[1]London: Herringman, 1668, front matter.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid. p.81.
[4] Emilia’s sister Caroline says, “go to my Tyre-woman in Coven-Garden, who has some Excellent new Patterns of Lace for me” (ibid. p.77). Covent Garden was also a brothel area, but Etherege allows the respectable Widow Rich to live there in Love in a Tub, and Sir John Swallow has no qualms about his fiancée Millisent lodging there in Sir Martin Mar-all.
[5] Op cit p.31.
[6] Ibid. p.47, 73.

The Tempest; or, The Enchanted Island (staging)

by William Davenant & John Dryden (November 1667; pub.1670)

This play has generated much comment from a range of critics, and been much confused with a later operatic version in the process, but what has not been widely recognised is just how superbly crafted for the theatre it is. Economical and precise, Davenant and Dryden exploit the LIF resources so that the staging becomes a physical embodiment of the play’s themes. Viewed from this perspective, the much-abused symmetries in the plot are complemented by a lucid, oppositional staging that reveals the play as a machine to anatomize 17th century ideas of the ‘natural man’.

Oppositional symmetry runs through the stage directions. A prime example of this is the terrifying of Alonzo’s shipwrecked party by Prospero’s spirits early in Act 2. First, the men hear a disembodied antiphon from each side of the stage – “A Dialogue within sung in parts” – that confronts the usurping duke – “Do you hear, Sir, how they lay our Crimes before us?” – then, “Enter the two that sung, in the shape of Devils, placing themselves at two corners of the Stage”.[1] Clearly the devils are on the corners of the forestage with Alonzo’s party in between, and judging by Antonio’s exclamation – “Sure Hell is open’d to devour us quick” – the men are probably backing away. The devils now summon more aid from behind the retreating men: “We’ll muster then their crimes on either side: Appear! appear! their first begotten, Pride. [Enter Pride”. Then alternately appear Fraud, Rapine, and Murther who then “fall into a round encompassing the Duke, &c. Singing”. After terrifying the men, “All the spirits vanish”.

The implied staging involved here exploits the whole stage space except for the relieve area. It could be argued that the spirits might enter alternately through four forestage doors, instead of through wing passageways as I propose. However, this solution limits the staging solely to the forestage and offends realism by leaving an obvious escape route through the scenic area. Not only does it lack the dynamism of a staging involving the whole stage area, it does not address the difficulty involved with the last stage direction: the requirement for the spirits to vanish. Speed is obviously of the essence here. There is very little evidence relating to trapdoors at LIF and it is unlikely that it had four that could accommodate the spirits’ vanishing. It is more likely that the spirits simply ran offstage; in which case running through the nearest wing passageways is far simpler than arranging for forestage doors to be opened and closed by stagehands at the correct time (‘spirits’ opening and closing doors themselves is hardly conducive to the effect required).

The implied action in this example emphasises symmetry. This emphasis occurs throughout the play, usually in the form of oppositional staging, to the extent that the text might be seen as an ideal advertisement for the two-door argument. Opposition is evident in exits and entrances. There are three instances of ‘the other door’ format and five instances where two characters or groups are directed to ‘enter/exit severally’; one of these even forms the stage picture: “Exeunt severally, looking discontentedly on one another”.[2] Furthermore, a passage near the end of Act 4 seems to make a virtue of forestage binary opposition. Earlier in the play the forestage doors were established as leading to different caves near Prospero’s cell. During Act 4 Hippolito is grievously wounded in a sword fight with his rival Ferdinand. The furious Prospero exercises his ducal powers and has condemned Ferdinand to die the next day. He obviously meets resistance to this judgement for he calls on supernatural assistance:

Do you refuse! help Ariel with your fellows
To drive ’em in; Alonzo and his Son bestow in
Yonder Cave, and here Gonzalo shall with
Antonio lodge.
[Spirits drive ’em in, as they are appointed.[3]

Of course, in both this passage and the one cited above other staging solutions are perfectly possible, but none it seems to me offers the same degree of visual coherence and congruence with the play’s themes. Scenically the implied staging is economical and straightforward. A seascape of some kind is an obvious requirement for 1.1. Shadwell’s later operatic version specifies, “a thick Cloudy Sky, a very Rocky Coast, and a tempestuous Sea in perpetual Agitation”.[4] The reference to “perpetual Agitation” suggests a wave machine may have been used at Dorset Garden and since the next scene in the play does not need a relieve setting this might also have been a possibility at LIF. However, the scenic relationship between the two versions is difficult to determine. The opera certainly suggests the type of scenery thought appropriate to the scene nearly seven years later, and Shadwell may be asking for embellished versions of existing scenery, but the question we need to ask is how appropriate to a straight play at the smaller LIF is a scene heading to an opera at Dorset Garden?  The answer is not necessarily appropriate at all. Restoration operas were usually lavish affairs with large budgets and spectacular effects, and illustration of the LIF production by reference to the opera is missing the point. It was the lavish novelty of the Dorset Garden opera that was the thrill for Restoration audiences. This is clear from a comment by the prompter John Downes: “The Tempest…made into an Opera by Mr. Shadwell, having all New in it; as Scenes, Machines; particularly one Scene Painted with Myriads of Ariel Spirits; and another flying away…all was things perform’d in it so Admirably well…”.[5]

Despite Davenant’s intimate connection with LIF (or perhaps because of it), there are only three scene headings in the play, only two of which are descriptive: “The Scene changes, and discovers Hippolito in a Cave walking, his face from the Audience” (2.5), “Scene changes, and discovers Prospero and Miranda”, “Scene, a Cave” (3.6).[6] In the dialogue Prospero also refers to his cell, but the terms are not differentiated in the text and there is no reason why the cave setting should not also serve as Prospero’s cell. In the three scenes with stated discoveries the dialogue strongly suggest that the cave setting is a relieve. In 2.4, a page before Hippolito is discovered walking in his cave, Prospero tells us that he has removed Hippolito from his usual lodging “And here have brought him home to my own Cell”.[7] In order for Hippolito to be discovered, the scenery showing prior to the discovery must, therefore, be a shutter representing the cell. Thus, two cave/cell settings are likely to have been available. The shutter may have been used with the palm tree wings suggested for the island setting to show the front of the cave, and the relieve would have its own rock wings to form a deep cave scene. This is the solution shown in the scenery plot. The full scenic requirement is only four settings: seascape (shutter or relieve), cave/cell (shutter and relieve), and the island. The various parts of the island may be represented by one setting.

The stated discoveries in the scene headings indicate the extent to which acting in the relieve area is implied by this play. The first (2.5) demonstrates that by the mid-late 1660s the relieve space was beginning to be seen as a viable acting area. Contrary to received opinion, when Hippolito is discovered in 2.5 he does not immediately advance onto the main stage.[8] In fact, the point of this scene is that two separate areas are being used; the upstage Hippolito is being observed and anatomised by Miranda and Dorinda downstage. The text directs: “Enter Miranda and Dorinda peeping”. The best position from which to satisfy this direction is from behind one of the forestage doors. A position in the scenic area from behind the wings is possible, of course, but not only does this reduce the dramatic potential inherent in a positioning that uses the full length of the stage, but it fails to exploit fully the dramatic potential in the direction for peeping. The direction to peep usually implies that it is important for the actors involved to be shown to be peeping; in effect it must be demonstrated to an audience. The physical attitude adopted signifies a secretive or illicit activity that enhances the drama of the scene. Of course, it would be possible to peep from behind a wing, but the demonstration would probably be clearer from behind a door on the brighter forestage.

Instead of immediately advancing from his position, Hippolito stays there ruminating and presumably ‘walking’, until 33 lines of dialogue later there is the direction: “Hip. Seeing her”. At this point Hippolito and Dorinda warily move to meet in the scenic area or upper forestage, perhaps circling each other before he “Takes her hand”. The pattern of this staging is inverted in the second discovery: “Scene changes, and discovers Prospero and Miranda”. Note that two scenic actions are implied here: the wings change from, say, palm trees to rock wings representing the cave/cell, and the island shutters withdraw to reveal the cave/cell relieve. In this scene instead of the impetuous Dorinda and the ‘natural man’ Hippolito, we see the more mature Miranda and the civilised Ferdinand, and this time the woman starts from the relieve area and the man from the forestage door. We know Ferdinand enters from the forestage, because by now he has become associated with a particular door that marks the entrance to his ‘cave’: earlier Prospero had split the pair saying to his daughter, “Go in that way…/ I’le separate you”, and to Ferdinand, “That Door/ Shews you your Lodging”.[9] Thus the staging in these matched discovery scenes wittily counterpoints the mirrored structure of the plot. In many of these play commentaries I bemoan the lack of scenic headings, with this play it is astonishing that out of 18 inferred scenes so much can be decoded from the three supplied headings.

 


[1] London: Herringman, 1670, p.16.
[2] Ibid. p.72.
[3] Ibid. p.70.
[4]London: Herringman, 1674, p.1.
[5] Roscius Anglicanus, pp.34-5.
[6] Op cit p.28, 44, 48.
[7] Ibid. p.26.
[8] See, for example, Styan: “An actor might be ‘discovered’ by opening such shutters, upon which he would come forward without breaking the flow of the action” (Restoration Comedy, p.27).
[9] Op cit p.46.

Tarugo’s Wiles (staging)

by Thomas St. Serfe (October 1667; pub.1668)

This play is essentially a ‘Spanish plot’ play – though lighter in tone than either The Adventures of Five Hours or Elvira – with a topical satire of London coffee-house denizens inserted as its third act. It is weaker dramatically than either of its predecessors and drew from Pepys a characteristic rebuff: “the most ridiculous, insipid play that ever I saw in my life”.[1] The first four acts are easily accommodated by the LIF model, with no more than three scenic locations being implied in any. This situation changes in Act 5, which, like parts of Elvira, is in need of simplification. Throughout the play, St. Serfe supplies some scene headings and numbers, but both are erratic. Using the usual method of designating a new scene after a cleared stage, we may infer no more than five scenes in any of the first four acts, but Act 5 records a frenzied 15 of which only two are stated. Although Pepys reports he could not see the play on October 5, “the house so full”, and that the King and the Duke of York attended on October 15, Downes lists it as a play that “Expir’d the third Day”.[2]

Whatever St. Serfe’s standing with LIF, it is unlikely that the scene keepers/theatre manager would have afforded this production the luxury of the three separate ‘street’ settings called for in Act 5: “Piatza”, “the corner of Toledo-street”, and “Sophrania’s back Gate”.[3] One setting would surely have served all. St. Serfe specifies two settings in Patricio’s house – Tarugo’s chamber (5.2 scene heading), and a hall (5.6 stage direction) – another, Lavinia’s chamber, is mentioned several times in dialogue. The way the play is structured suggests that these three locations would have been individuated scenically, but it is not a straightforward matter to allocate scenery. Act 5 blurs locations in a manner that seems confused compared even to Tuke or to the brief moments of spatial fluidity in Elvira and Mustapha that seem designed to facilitate the drama. The most appropriate fictional location for 5.1a (my subdivision, see scenery plot) is Tarugo’s chamber.

Horatio has been trapped in his rival’s house, if Patricio discovers him there will be a fight. Owing to convoluted circumstances, Horatio has had to spend the night (chastly) in Liviana’s rooms (Liviana is Patricio’s sister and Horatio’s intended bride). Early that morning, Horatio was able to sneak into Tarugo’s chamber, and in 5.1a he is conversing with his friend. Mid-scene, however, Liviana is directed to enter “above”. (This is another instance of an internal balcony, as seen in The Adventures of five Hours.)  Liviana warns the men that her brother is searching the house for a reported intruder. Tarugo tells Horatio, “Get upon my bed” and “counterfeit a sound sleep”[4]. Horatio exits (fictionally to the bed) and the audience hears the offstage Patricio instructing his servants to secure all rooms. Tarugo exits and there is a momentary cleared stage, then, “Enter Patricio in a hurry, with two Servants towards Tarugo’s Chamber, where Tar. In his Gown meets ’em with his sword drawn” (5.1b)[5]. It is not entirely clear from this direction whether Tarugo meets Patricio inside or outside his chamber.

The action after this encounter, however, must take place within Tarugo’s rooms, because Horatio makes a speech from Tarugo’s bed. It is probably best, therefore, to assume that Tarugo meets Patricio outside his chamber, using the hall setting that is specified later in 5.6. Tarugo satisfies Patricio about the night’s adventures and he invites his host to have a look at Horatio on his bed: “He’s fast asleep, but that you may have a full view of his Face; I pray let’s step in quietly and satisfie my impatience./ {They both go in and peep[6]. From this point until the end of the scene the text is opaque about stage action. It is unclear where the men peep, at which point and how the bed and its occupant become visible, and what happens to the servants who started the scene (important if we are assuming cleared stages to precede scene changes).

The following explication is offered as a relatively simple solution that makes the most efficient use of available resources. First, we should assume that as there are no further directions or dialogue concerning the servants, Patricio has dismissed them a little before he exits with Tarugo to view Horatio. On the direction “They both go in and peep” the two men exit through the forestage door that Tarugo entered from and by association an audience will assign as leading to his chamber. An explicit exit is not marked, but this is a straightforward interpretation of the direction. The stage has now cleared and the chamber shutters open to discover a relieve setting representing a different part of Tarugo’s rooms (5.1c). Horatio lies on a bed set in the relieve area. The two men re-enter, either through the same forestage door, or through a wing entrance. They stay near their point of entrance, as the direction ‘peeps’ suggests, then another stage direction instructs, “Hor. Awakes, and stares about”[7]. Tarugo invites Patricio to “withdraw a little” so that Horatio is not disturbed. It is impossible to determine exactly what is meant by this implicit direction. If they are peeping by a forestage door, they might exit and re-enter after Horatio’s speech, but it would also make sense if, standing close by the wings, the men come downstage to observe from the forestage. Horatio now begins a monologue for the benefit of Patricio, whom he knows is overhearing[8]. After his speech, Horatio “puts himself to sleep agen.” and the two men confer briefly then exit.

With regards to the bed, we have no way of knowing whether St. Serfe was thinking scenically or in terms of the platform stage where the bed would simply be thrust on. Either way would work, but a discovery would be the self-recommending choice on the LIF stage. Having had to intervene to negotiate the staging of 5.1 – and intervention of some kind is imperative whatever staging is imagined – it is frustrating to see the next scene blithely advertised as “SCENE, Tarugo’s Chamber”. Of course, it makes perfect sense within this interpretation: the shutters close over the relieve and we are back in the same location I suggested for 5.1a. However, given that this heading is the only intra-act location stated in conventional format in the play, it is difficult to be entirely confident that this is also St. Serfe’s logic.

An intriguing stage direction in Act 5 refers to stage windows: “Tarugo comes to Liviana’s Chamber-window, and knocks. Enter Locura at the Window”[9]. So far in this study we have only encountered one undisputable reference to a window at standing height: the ‘blaze of light’ scene in The Adventures of Five Hours. At first sight, another low-level window is required here. That LIF had such windows is the view of many commentators, Lewcock being one of the most recent. In her Theatre Notebook survey she records six new LIF plays (but only three at Bridges St.) requiring a low-level window: The Villain, The Adventures of Five Hours, A Witty Combat, Love in a Tub, Sir Martin Mar-all, and Tarugo’s Wiles[10]. The window in The Villain turned out to be a balcony; indeed, up till now the only play where a balcony-window is definitely contraindicated is The Adventures. With regards to Tarugo’s Wiles, we saw Liviana appearing in a balcony early in Act 5. No textual explanation is offered as to the location of that balcony, and in internal scenes it is best considered as a theatrical convention. Here the street setting “in Piatza” (5.7) continues and the chamber window again looks like it refers to a balcony. This being the case, and the text not specifying upon what Tarugo knocks, there is no reason why he should not knock on the balcony railing, perhaps using his sword hilt[11].

The confusion over scenes and locations in Act 5 make it difficult to be certain, but if we follow the cleared stage principle and St. Serfe’s limited information, the act demands something like 11 changes of nine individual settings. This is close to Elvira standards and almost certainly needs simplification. However, the scenery plot shows a near maximal production with the only consolidations being that of three exterior locations in a single street setting, and the combining of Liviana’s chamber with Tarugo’s in the single scene when it is not a relieve (5.1). This solution requires a total of six shutters, five wings, and one relieve. However, even with this requirement only two mid-act backshutter replacements and one wing setting replacement (in Act 5) is required.


[1] Diary, October 15, 1677.
[2] Diary, October 5 & 15, 1677; Roscius Anglicanus, p.31.
[3]London: Herringman, 1668, p.49, 51, 52.
[4] Ibid. p.41.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid. p.43.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Op cit p.49.
[10] Computer Analysis 1, p.24.
[11] In 5.5, Patricio is said to be ‘rapping’ on a door, so perhaps there is a difference in usage between ‘knocking’ (generic) and ‘rapping’ (specific to a door).

Sir Martin Mar-All (staging)

by John Dryden and  William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle  (August 1667; pub.1668)

This play was hugely popular with LIF audiences – Pepys saw it at least seven times – and it was chosen by the Duke’s Company to open their new theatre at Dorset Garden in 1671. The first quarto of 1668 was revised by Dryden as it was going through the press and some copies include a scene at the end of Act 1 that Dryden cut.[1] Otherwise, there are no changes affecting the staging. The staging is as masterful as the plot and, while supremely economical, makes brilliant use of the LIF resources. This is exemplified by the most memorable scene in the play in which the foolish Martin, who cannot play a note, mimes a serenade in one balcony to Millisent in the opposite. Martin silently grimaces and fumbles while his man Warner does the playing and singing behind him; the joke, of course, is that Martin who always ‘mars all’ soon gets out of synchronization and ruins the effect. The stage directions and dialogue for this scene are particularly interesting and give a clear picture of the original staging:

Warn.
Go to, you are an invincible Fool I see; get up into/ your Window, and set two Candles by you, take my Land-lords/ Lute in your hand, and fumble on’t, and make grimmaces with/ your mouth, as if you sung; in the mean time. I’ll play in the/ next: Room in the dark, and consequently your Mistress, who will/ come to her Balcone over against you, will think it to be you;/ and at the end of every Tune, I’ll ring the Bell that hangs between/  your Chamber and mine, that you may know what to / have done.
[…]

Rose.
And see, Madam, where your true Knight Sir Martin is/ plac’d yonder like Apollo, with his Lute in his hand and his Rays/ about his head. Sir Martin appears at the adverse Window, a Tune play’d; when it is done, Warner rings, and Sir Martin holds.
[…]

The Song being done, Warner rings agen; but Sir Martin continues fumbling, and gazing on his Mistress.[2]

There is no doubt that the whole point of this staging is its wonderful symmetry, with the cross-stage opposition of the balconies being fully exploited: “over against” and “adverse” both being Restoration terms for ‘opposite’.[3] Montague Summers thought three balconies were needed for this scene, but typically he does not say why.[4] One can only assume that he took Warner’s reference to “the next room” to imply another balcony. It would indeed be possible to stage the scene using three balconies, and this may have been done at Dorset Garden, but there is nothing to be gained by having Warner in view and the LIF-related text emphasises Warner’s obscurity.

We can turn to a non-theatre-related diary entry from Pepys to clear up another misconception about Restoration theatre balconies. References in play texts to balconies and windows often appear to be undifferentiated. For example, in the scene reproduced above Warner tells Martin to “get up into your Window”, while in the same speech he says that Millisent will “come to her Balcone”. On 19 May 1661, Pepys and his friend Captain Ferrers having visited a local inn made their way to Lord Sandwich’s house, where they “sat talking and laughing in the drawing room”. Ferrers tells Pepys that he dearly wants to go to sea again and the diarist (who worked in the Navy office) gives him “some hopes”, whereupon:

he grew so mad with joy that he fell a-dancing and leaping like a madman. Now it fell out that the balcone windows were open, and he went to the rayle and make an offer to leap over…I shut the doors, and W. Howe hindered him all we could; yet he opened them again, and, with a vault, leaps down into the garden.

This entry, which reads like an episode from a LIF play, should finally put the matter to rest. It is clearly the case that a drawing room of a fashionable Restoration London house might well have had large, probably shuttered (“the doors”), windows that led onto a railed balcony. It seems perfectly logical, therefore, that Restoration theatres should reflect this arrangement. The last word on this should go to the aptly named Thomas Blount whose Glossographia of 1661 states: “balcone: a bay window, much used in our new buildings, and therefore needs no further explanation”.[5]

Although Dryden provides no scene headings beyond the general setting of Covent Garden given at the end of the character list, the scenic locations are simple to infer, switching as they do between a Covent Garden street setting (as in Love in a Tub and The Humorous Lovers) and a fashionable room setting representing the house of Lady Dupe. This said, one or two scenes appear to be topographically neutral, and in these cases care needs to be taken to draw the correct inference. An example of this is 4.1, which at first sight could be set indoors or out, but a close reading reveals that the line “we are just below the Window” only makes sense if Warner and Martin are conferring on the street under Millisent’s balcony.

The oppositional stage picture brilliantly exploited by Dryden in the balcony scene is used again in 2.2, which is set in Dupe’s house. Warner is secretly conveying a message to Millisent when Martin’s rival Sir John is unexpectedly heard returning. In true farce style Millisent ushers Warner behind the opposite stage door. Of course, Sir John needs something from behind that door, but Millisent quick-wittedly comes to the rescue with a clever fib and Sir John leaves on a fool’s errand. After peeping from behind the door, Warner makes a tentative re-entrance and the pair resumes plotting only for Sir John to return on the instant having forgotten something. Pure farce plotting, but neither here nor anywhere else in the play are more than two practicable doors to be inferred. However, a street setting allows wing entrances/exits to be used in a convincingly realistic fashion – characters entering/exiting from other ‘streets’ – and Dryden appears to make full use of this at several points in the play. The clearest example comes at the end of the balcony scene quoted above. There is a “Noise within” and Millisent in the balcony with her maid asks Rose to see what the matter is. Rose replies:

’Tis Sir John Swallow pursu’d by the Bailiffs, Madam,/ according to our Plot; it seems they have dogg’d him thus late/ to his Lodging.
[…]

(Ex. Millisent, Rose.

Enter Sir John pursu’d by three Bailiffs over the Stage. [6]

The balconies and their doors have just been used to represent the houses of Martin and Lady Dupe which face each other across the stage, and Sir John has been out to find a parson. His entrance, therefore, cannot be from anywhere but the scenic area – the London streets. The sudden switch from action in the two balconies across the empty space of the stage to the dramatic entrance in its middle exemplifies Dryden’s brilliant exploitation of the LIF stage.


[1] For a full account see the California Dryden, vol.9, p.356 & pp.432-6.
[2] London: Herringman, 1668, pp.53-6.
[3] For other examples see Pepys 17 & 28 May 1661, 7 Nov 1667, 12 May 1669.
[4] Restoration Theatre, p.129.  John Styan amplifies Summer’s misconception in Restoration Comedy in Performance,Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986, p.26.
[5] Glossographia, op cit.
[6] Op cit p.56.

The Humorous Lovers (staging)

by William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle (Mar. 1667; pub. 1677)

Dawn Lewcock omits this play from her analysis of Restoration plays, presumably on the grounds that there is a ten-year gap between the first performance and the first edition.[1] There are quibbles over authorship, with Dryden, Shadwell, or Shirley claimed by some commentators to have helped Cavendish, but as Judith Milhous & Robert Hume point out, a degree of collaboration in preparing a play for the stage was normal at the time.[2] After examining the play’s attribution, they conclude, “we are inclined to accept the title page attribution [to Cavendish] without question”.[3]

Confidence in the play’s provenance is important as The Humorous Lovers provides the first definite reference to a lifting machine at LIF. As noted elsewhere on this site, it is possible that the actress delivering the prologue for Flecknoe’s Love’s Kingdom was flown in, and that the rising sun and moon, respectively, in The Play-House to be Let and The Adventures of Five Hours were dynamic special effects, but in each case there are doubts about how the intended effect was achieved. There are no doubts about The Humorous Lovers, and Lewcock’s claim, “the Duke’s Company only used ‘flying’ once and then not until Cambyses on 10th January 1671”, looks a consequence of her limited remit.[4]

The lifting machine makes it appearance in 5.2, which is set intriguingly in “the Theatre”. Courtly has proposed to the foppish Sir Anthony Altalk that he gets up a private performance of a masque on the subject of Venus and Cupid to inflame the objects of their desire, the poetry loving Emilia and Lady Pleasant. All attend the theatre and after Sir Anthony has made his final arrangements the masque is performed. The stage directions concerning the stage machine are unequivocal and are worth reproducing in full: “The Mask begins, Venus and Cupid descending while the Song is singing”, “Venus and Cupid are landed on the Stage”, “A Song in the Musick Room. Venus and Cupid Ascending”.[5] Webb does not indicate the position for any lifting device in his Hall drawings, but the Salmacida Spolia plan and section, which he drew for Inigo Jones, show the cloud machine for that production positioned between the second and third wings with a winch under the stage. On the LIF stage the lifting machine for The Humorous Lovers would probably have been similarly positioned, that is, between the front curtain and the backshutters.

Another interesting feature of this play is the theatrical couching of the scene headings. Unlike the majority of headings encountered so far, interior scenes refer to stock items of scenery rather than to fictional locations. So, instead of Emilia’s house, or Furrs’s, or Hood’s we get, “A Dyning Room” or “A Chamber”, with these two settings serving the houses of all three characters. This is a form of the scenic doubling that is discussed in relation to promptbook notation in Boyle’s Guzman. In this case, however, the scenery is apparently distributed according to socio-economic status. The house of the fashionable Emilia and Lady Pleasant is represented by the dining room; the house of the well-to-do humours character, Furrs, gets two settings – the dining room and the more homely (presumably) chamber – while the house of the old school-mistress, Hood, is represented by the chamber.

Cavendish’s part digestion of scenic dramaturgy is evident in 3.1, 4.2, and 5.1 when the fictional setting evidently changes mid-scene but no scene change is called for. In 4.2 this might be seen as admirable economy, the scenic backing of a chamber is specified for both houses (Hood’s and Furrs’s) and, as on the platform stage, the entering characters simply bring their location with them. The inverse of this is in the other two scenes when we move from Hood’s to Emilia’s and a scene change is necessary to make sense of previous scene headings. The two other settings called for by Cavendish are “Covent Garden” and “The Mulberry Garden”.

Two of the play’s settings were almost certainly stock items. A chamber could have been supplied from any number of productions, and LIF audiences may well have encountered the Covent Garden setting in Love in a Tub. Surprisingly, though, the dining room was probably new. It may seem a typical stock item but no play, so far, has specifically called for it. Indeed, according to the LION database this is the first reference in English stage directions. The Mulberry Garden is almost certainly a new item. Interestingly, a Mulberry Garden scene is specified the following year in Etherege’s She Would If She Could. The ‘theatre’ setting is undoubtedly LIF itself, as in The Play-House to be Let. While the use of this setting in The Humorous Lovers is unavoidably reflexive to a certain extent, characters in Cavendish’s play never take on the jocular, knowing tone adopted in Davenant’s play.

How the theatre was represented is problematic. Either the audience would have been shown a bare scenic stage with all scenes withdrawn, as I suggest occurred in Davenant’s play, or scenery congruent with the theme of Venus and Cupid would have been arranged. On balance I prefer the latter: the play is very economical in its scenic demands and the addition of masque-type scenery from stock would not have stretched resources. The play can be staged with a total of five settings – street, park, dining room, chamber, ‘theatre’ – and no act needs more than three wing settings. In the scenery plot, however, I propose that the last scene in the play set in Emilia’s house (dining room) incorporates a discovery. This is not marked, but it offers the best solution to a staging demand not seen since The Adventures of Five Hours.

Cavendish’s play also requires that a sedan chair and its occupant be seen on stage, but the text does not state how the chair arrives. At the end of 5.2 (using cleared stages to mark scenes) Courtly announces that the love-sick Colonel had been “perswaded into the next Chamber”; after some short discussion all decide to go and visit him. After this marked exeunt appears the stage direction: “The Colonel in a Chair upon the Stage, and a Servant or two”.[6] Fictionally, Courtly’s party move from one room into another, but how is this staged?  In The Adventures there were clear directions for the chair to be carried on and off, here the chair just materialises. It would be perfectly possible, of course, for the chair to be carried on, as in the earlier play, but it seems to me that the most elegant method of satisfying this direction, and the fictional situation, is simply to arrange for the backshutters to open and reveal the chair; the extra requirement for a single relieve scene of a fashionable room is hardly an objection.

There are several stage directions involving doors and three of these are probably oppositional. Difficulties and ambiguities regarding ‘door’ stage directions are often resolved if one imagines a two-door forestage. From this perspective there is no ambiguity over a direction such as, “Enter the Widow at one door, Courtly at another”.[7] In a couple of scenes involving the draft-fearing Furrs, a door becomes a heated focus of stage action, but only one door is ever involved. A British Library manuscript copy of the play supplies a scene heading for 4.1 missing in the published text. This confirms that the ‘theatre’ setting from 3.2 remains in place for the new act[8].


[1] See, ‘Computer Analysis Of Restoration Staging, 1: 1661-1672’, Theatre Notebook, vol.47, no.1, p.25.
[2] Milhous & Hume, Attribution Problems, p.8.  Citing the example of Congreve’s The Old Bachelor, which Dryden is known to have ‘fixed up’, Milhous & Hume rightly state, “no one attributes that play to ‘Congreve and Dryden’” (ibid.).
[3] Ibid. p.20.
[4] Computer Analysis 1, p.26.
[5]London: Herringman, 1677, pp.28-31.
[6] Ibid. p.51.
[7] Ibid. p.50.
[8] BL Add. MSS 7367.