LIF Model

 LIF model Schematic Click to enlarge

LIF model Schematic
Click to enlarge

The model of early Restoration staging referred to throughout this site, the LIF (Lincoln’s Inn Fields) model, is based on John Webb’s 1665 Hall stage at Whitehall. Graham Barlow’s research has demonstrated that the original building (Lisle’s tennis court) which was converted into William Davenant’s LIF theatre was larger than had previously been thought and that the scenic arrangement shown by Webb could fit into the LIF space.[1] I am not proposing a duplication of the Hall stage in these pages (in any case it would be the other way round as LIF was converted in 1661), I am arguing only for a similar scenic arrangement. Accordingly, the LIF model (see illustration) has four wing positions per side with a maximum of three wing shutters per position (in a three-grooved frame), three pairs of lower backshutters at a single upstage position, and behind them a discovery space capable of revealing a scene of relief, actors, props, or a combination of all three if required. Upstage of the discovery space is a changeable backcloth. Downstage of the frontispiece (proscenium arch) I add to Webb’s stage and provide a forestage at least 15 feet deep, and on each side of the forestage a physical door of entrance and its associated balcony (rather than the generally assumed two per side). It is not possible to infer information about borders (aka soffits) from the stage directions of early Restoration plays and their presence or absence does not affect the operation of the model.

[1] Graham Barlow, ‘From tennis court to opera house’, unpublished PhD thesis, Glasgow University, 1983.


John Webb: scene designs for ‘The Siege of Rhodes’ (1656)

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John Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes': frontispiece and wings

‘The Siege of Rhodes’: frontispiece and wings

Johnn Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes': shutter, prospect of Rhodes

‘The Siege of Rhodes’: shutter, prospect of Rhodes

John Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes': shutter, Rhodes besieged

‘The Siege of Rhodes’: shutter, Rhodes besieged

John Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes;': relieve, Solyman’s throne and camp

‘The Siege of Rhodes’: relieve, Solyman’s throne and camp

John Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes': relieve, Mt. Philermus

‘The Siege of Rhodes’: relieve, Mt. Philermus

John Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes;: shutter, the general assault

‘The Siege of Rhodes;: shutter, the general assault

John Webb: Mustapha (1665) scene drawings

John Webb: 'Mustapha' Scene 1 (a)

John Webb: ‘Mustapha’: Relieve, Scene 1 (a): ‘The Turkish camp’

John Webb: 'Mustapha' Scene 1 (b)

John Webb: ‘Mustapha’: Relieve, Scene 1 (b): ‘The Turkish camp and Solyman’s pavillion’

John Webb: ‘Mustapha’: Shutter, ‘Buda beleaguered’

John Webb: ‘Mustapha’: Relieve, Solyman’s tent

John Webb: ‘Mustapha’: Shutter, Queen of Hungary’s tent

The Tragedy of Mustapha (staging)

by Roger Boyle (April 1665; pub.1668)

In my PhD thesis I relate the LIF production of this play to John Webb’s surviving scene drawings that are marked up for production on his Tudor Hall stage at Whitehall. Assuming these designs best represent the type of scenery actually used in the LIF production, one would think that the evidence they provide would simplify the task of constructing a possible scenery plot for the play and clarify some vexed questions about early Restoration staging along the way. Unfortunately they do not; they raise as many questions as they answer; a situation not helped by the fact that Boyle provides only one scene heading in the play – “Solyman’s Camp and his pavillion” – at the start of Act 1.[1] The extant drawings do not record fully the scenery needed by any production of the play; there are no wing designs and Webb’s number sequence – 1, 3, 5 & 6 – is incomplete. There are two versions of the scene Webb has marked “1. Sceane”. The first (1a) shows the Turkish camp and army outside the walls of Buda: “In Releive/ The Turkish/ Camp Drawne/ up in Battalia”. A small flap covering the centre of this drawing may be lifted to reveal the alternative design (1b), which features Solyman’s pavilion. Another view of the camp and city walls is recorded as Webb’s scene 3: “A Shutter/ Buda beleagured/ the Common”. There is no point in the play that specifies or implies this particular scene, but Webb may have intended to represent the camp using both relieve and shutter scenes and this shutter design could be used wherever a general camp scene is implied. Webb’s scenes 5 and 6 are pavilion designs for Solyman and the Queen of Hungary respectively: “In Releive/ Solymans Tent” and “A Shutter/ The Queen of/ Hungaria’s Tent”.

After noting their incompleteness, the first point to make about these drawings is that aside from ‘scene 1’ Webb’s numbers do not correspond with Boyle’s play. Boyle does not number his scenes, but they are implied by stage directions calling for a cleared stage; the method William Smith Clark II uses in his Boyle edition.[2] We cannot expect a direct correlation between Webb’s numbers and unnumbered scenes in the play, but, unlike his designs for The Siege of Rhodes, there appears to be no correspondence whatsoever between Webb’s numbers and the play after the first scene. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that so many of the play’s scenes are set in various pavilions in the Turkish camp, and the number of individual backscenes depends on the extent to which these locations are differentiated scenically. The best fit between drawings and play is provided by a maximal production that allocates individual scenery to each location. In this example Webb’s scenes 1, 5, and 6 match corresponding scene numbers in the play, but we are still left with the problem of Webb’s scene 3 (Buda beleaguered), which has no possible match with the play’s third location, Mustapha’s pavilion. The best option in drawing up a potential scenery plot is probably to ignore Webb’s numbers. It is also possible that none of the drawings represents final scene designs,[3] but for the purposes of this analysis, I assume there is a close relation.

Webb shows two pavilions, one is a relieve and the other a shutter. The relieve design, Solyman’s Tent, is, unsurprisingly, remarkably similar to his relieve design for Solyman’s pavilion in the Siege of Rhodes. These designs represent Solyman’s imperial power. Both display that principal symbol of the monarch, the royal throne, and significantly both place the seat of power publicly on view; as Davenant puts it in Rhodes: “a Royal Pavilion appears display’d; Representing Solyman’s Imperial Throne; and about it are discern’d the Quarters of his Bassas, and Inferiour Officers”.[4] Such a setting is an appropriate choice to symbolise the public, imperial side of Solyman, but it cannot also represent Solyman’s private “inner tent” in which the bodies of Mustapha and Zanger are discovered in Act 5. The published text omits a stage direction that explicitly calls for this discovery, though the implication is clear enough. We know the direction has been omitted because it is present in several manuscript versions of the play, all of which offer slight variants of the British Library MS that states, “The scene opens and shows Mustapha sitting dead on a Couch: At wch sight Zanger starts back”.[5] The exterior view shown in Webb’s scene 5 does not permit an interior ‘inner tent’, but more importantly it is impossible for a relieve on the Hall stage – for which Webb drew his designs – to open up any further. Hence, two scenes are needed to represent Solyman’s tent. The second scene must also be a relieve to permit the discovery. A pair of rich hangings coupled with tent wings would be a neat method of satisfying the technical requirements. As I suggest in my commentary on Elvira, the hangings could be affixed to the rear of the backshutter frame and would draw open to reveal the inner tent and the dead bodies.

The scenic solution I suggest in the scenery plot is a near-maximal production that consolidates various locations in Solyman’s camp using a single relieve setting. It calls for four shutters: chamber, and three pavilions; one hanging for the inner tent: three wings: chamber, camp, pavilion/tent; and three relieves, two for Solyman’s pavilion plus the general camp setting indicated by Webb’s scene 1. The only technical issue concerning the use of relieves occurs in Act 4 where two separate relieves are specified. However, there are 122 lines between 4.2 and 4.4, which allow about five and a half minutes to replace the setting, so the operation is feasible. There is actually no reason why the general camp scene needs to be a relieve, though the scene Webb shows would provide the audience with an instant understanding of the situation at the start of the play, with the design immediately communicating Solyman’s power. Wing settings are simplified as usual to avoid mid-act replacements. Three are suggested: camp, chamber, and pavilion.

The use of the scenic area is self-evident when the dead brothers are discovered. However, other stage directions show that Boyle does not confine the action to the forestage. In Act 2 we find, “Enter Zanger, and Achmat, at distance from him”, where the context suggests an upstage position for Achmat rather than one to the side. In Act 5 a direction referring to Solyman’s mutes states, “They retire to the further end of the Stage”. [6] There is also another brief instance in Act 5 of the forestage representing a transit location different from that showing in the scenic area, as in Elvira. The grisly display of the ‘inner tent’ scene is in view when Roxolana enters with Haly on the forestage, but the dialogue makes it clear that she has not yet arrived at Solyman’s tent: “Haly! are you certain that my Son Is to the Sultan‘s Great Pavilion gone?”.[7] The ‘anomaly’ lasts just 14 lines, after which Boyle directs, “Roxolana goes towards the Scene, where she sees Mustapha, and Zanger with his Dagger in his hand, and then she starts back”.[8] As for doors, all three mentions in stage directions use the oppositional pattern exemplified by, “Exeunt Queen and Cleora one way, the Cardinal and Lords at the other door”.[9]

[1]London: Herringman, 1668, p.55.
[2] Clark, Dramatic Works, op cit.
[3] A conclusion reached by Clark (op cit p.781).
[4] Siege of Rhodes 1, London: Herringman, 1663, p.16.
[5] BL Add. MS 29280. Reproduced in Clark, Dramatic Works, op cit p.858.
[6] Op cit p.69.
[7] Ibid. p.116.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid. p.109.

The Siege of Rhodes and scenic staging

The two parts of Davenant’s The Siege of Rhodes launched the new theatre at LIF in June 1661. The first part had been published and performed as one of Davenant’s recitative ‘operas’ in the 1650s, but part two may have been receiving its premiere. Part two was first published in 1663 along with a revised version of part one; however, it appeared on the Stationers’ Register on May 30, 1659, and the published text may have no LIF connection.[1] Nevertheless, it is instructive to compare the scenic demands of this text not only with those in the first part of Rhodes, but also with those in at least two of Thomas Killigrew’s pre-Restoration plays, Bellamira and Thomaso. Both future patent holders are visualising potential production on a scenic stage. Davenant’s vision in Rhodes 2 is conservative, there are no major advances in staging over Rhodes 1, but there are suggestions in the text that Davenant is thinking of a scenic stage with more flexible arrangements than those available for the Commonwealth productions of Rhodes 1. In general, though, the scenic resources called for in Rhodes 2 are of the same type, if not dimensions, as those supplied by Inigo Jones and his assistant John Webb for Davenant’s masque Salmacida Spolia in 1640. In Bellamira 2, however, we encounter something new. This play was written in Venice in the early 1650s during Killigrew’s exile, perhaps with little thought of realisation, but its stage directions suggest sophisticated, Italian scenic arrangements, rather than anything that would be found on simpler English stages in the 1660s. For example, the discovery scene in 3.1 implies an area upstage of the backshutters deeper than that available in the limited relieve spaces of any stage design by Jones or Webb. The associated stage direction reads:

The Scene opens and discovers a Prison, where Pollidor and Phillora appear next the Stage chained to a Ring fastned to the ground [;] upon the other side of the Prison, and in a darker part of the Scene lies Palantus chained behinde them in the dark, Bellamira chained, and afar off in prospective other Prisoners and dead Carcases.[2]

This direction with its assumed depth, layered arrangement of actors, and perspective scenery would be difficult to accommodate in either the 7 feet 7½ inches behind the Hall shutters, or in the 8 feet 2½ inches of Graham Barlow’s LIF model, but it would present fewer problems on the highly flexible stage of the Teatro SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice (1639).[3] A plan of this theatre, with its several shutters dispersed along the length of the stage, may be found in Allardyce Nicoll’s The Development of the Theatre.[4] Looking at the plan with Bellamira in mind it is surprising that Killigrew, who presumably had ample opportunity to visit this theatre, did not become the greater scenic innovator of the two patent holders.[5] Bellamira may have been written as a closet drama, but its scenic implications anticipate Restoration staging of the 1670s, rather than anything Killigrew achieved in the 1660s. By contrast, Davenant’s The Siege of Rhodes 2 anticipates exactly the kind of scenic staging he was to produce in 1661. While the text cannot be used to infer resources at LIF, it does not call for anything that could not be realised on a basic scenic stage. However, two stage directions in particular suggest an advance on the Rutland House production: “Enter Ianthe and her two women at the other Door”, and:

The Scene is Chang’d./ Being wholly fill’d with ROXOLANA’S Rich Pavilion, wherein is discern’d at distance, IANTHE sleeping on a Couch; ROXOLANA at one End of it, and HALY at the other; Guards of Eunuchs are Discover’d at the wings of the Pavilion; ROXOLANA having a Turkish Embroidered Handkerchief in her left hand, and a naked Ponyard in her right.[6]

Taken in relation to the earlier play, which makes no reference to doors in the stage directions, and which was staged throughout with fixed wings, the first of these directions may imply forestage doors, and “wholly fill’d” in the second hints at the use of changeable wings. As Ann-Mari Hedbäck suggests, the two references to doors in part two may indicate that the printer’s copy was a manuscript connected with a pre-Restoration performance (albeit one for which no record exists).[7] However, they may also suggest that by 1659, or thereabouts, Davenant had already decided on the form of his future scenic stage (if he had not done so already for his aborted Fleet Street theatre of 1639). If we accept that the second suggestion is plausible, these two directions may be seen as indicating the nature of the future LIF stage: a forestage with doors of entrance, fully changeable scenery, and a separate discovery or relieve space (Ianthe “discern’d at a distance”).

The contrast between the depths of Killigrew’s imagined discovery space and Davenant’s carefully delimited area – one actor on a couch and one at either end – suggests another index we may use to check the universality of the proposed LIF model. An exact measurement of the LIF relieve/discovery space is of course impossible, but figures for other stages may be used as a guide. To add to the figures noted above for the Hall stage and Barlow’s model, the relieve area on the larger Salmacida Spolia stage, for example, had a total depth of 8 feet 7 inches (in each case the relieve area is approximately one third the depth of the whole scenic stage).[8] Sightlines obviously determine the extent to which an audience member would be able to see into such a relieve area. At best, the view is a rectangle bounded by the rearmost wing edges and the background scenic element; at worst, in a side seat, one of the corners would be lopped off. For the purposes of this study I assume the optimal viewpoint. It is helpful at this point to recall the two other indices of universality for my LIF model: no more than two forestage doors in any one scene may be indicated as practical, and discovery/relieve scenes cannot occur successively; also to restate the main scenic specification, the model allows the loading of three wing settings and four backscenes (three backshutter pairs and one relieve), but additional settings may be accommodated by replacement (removal) during act breaks. Should more than three wing settings or four different backscenes be required mid-act, settings may be replaced at scene changes, but there are obvious practical limitations involved should multiple changes be demanded. The evidence from Restoration promptbooks is that while scene keepers may have simplified an author’s demands depending on their scene stock, it was standard practice to match as far as possible appropriate scenery to locations stated or implied in the play text[9].

[1] Alfred Harbage suggests part two may have been premiered during the Commonwealth, but the only evidence to support this is the entry in the Stationer’s Register for 1659 (see Cavalier Drama, New York: Russell & Russell, 1964 [1936], p.212). If it did receive a Commonwealth performance the two female roles may have presented a problem for there were few, if any, trained boy actors at the time, as the prologue to the King’s Company production of Othello (Vere St., 1660) testifies: “For (to speak truth) men act, that are between/ Forty and fifty, Wenches of fifteen” (Pierre Danchin, The prologues and epilogues of the Restoration 1660-1700, Nancy: Publications Université de Nancy, 1981-88, part 1, vol.1, p.56).
[2] Comedies and Tragedies, London: Henry Herringman, 1663, p.542. Act 2.1 of Killigrew’s Thomaso (p.326) calls for the backshutters to open and discover a piazza and several practical balconies.
[3] The Hall figure is stated on Webb’s plan (see Orrell, The Theatres of Inigo Jones and John Webb, p.174). Barlow places his backcloth approximately 10 feet 3 inches from the rear wall of the theatre, the relieve depth stated above is therefore the gap between the shutter frame and the backcloth. Barlow does not provide a specific reason for placing the backcloth where he does, but the relieve depth is in proportion both to this stage and to the other stages discussed here (see ‘From tennis court to opera house’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 1983, vol. 3, fig. 16).
[4] London: Harrap, 1966 (5th ed.), p.169.
[5] Killigrew had a semi-official position in Venice as Charles Stuart’s Resident, but as Alfred Harbage suggests he probably “found ample time for his own diversions”, including writing Bellamira (Thomas Killigrew, New York: Benjamin Blom, 1967 [1930], p.94).
[6] Hedbäck, ‘The Siege of Rhodes: A critical edition’, Studia Anglistica Upsaliensia, 14, Uppsala, 1973, p.56, 80.
[7] See ibid. p.xxiii.
[8] On the Salmacida plan Webb has marked two dimensions in the relieve area: 3ft 10in from the backshutters to the front of the vertical support for the cloud machine, and 3ft 9in from the rear of this support to the backcloth or board. He has also marked 1ft as the width of the support giving a total of 8ft 7in. This last figure may also be obtained by scaling from Webb’s stated measurements; hence Richard Southern errs when he states this space to be “nearly 7 ft. deep” (Changeable Scenery, London: Faber & Faber, 1952, p.69). The best reproductions of the Salmacida plan and section are to be found in Stephen Orgel & Roy Strong, Inigo Jones: The Theatre of the Stuart Court, 2 vols., London and Berkeley: Sotheby Parke Bernet and University of California Press, 1973, pp.738-41.
[9] See also my analysis of Guzman on this blog and Peter Holland’s discussion in The Ornament of action (Cambridge University Press, 1979, pp.45-6).