Juliana, or The Princess of Poland (staging)

By John Crown (June 1671; pub. 1671)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Ibid. p.49.

[4] Ibid. p.20.

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

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


A Witty Combat (staging)

by T.P. (Thomas Porter) (premiere 1663? pub.1663)

If this curious dramatic sketch is by Thomas Porter he did well partially to disguise his name for it shows every sign of being a hastily written piece. The provenance and performance date are problematic. The London Stage notes a copy with a manuscript cast list indicating Duke’s Company actors, but a later authority, Pierre Danchin, gives the place of production (if any) as “private”.[1] Irrespective of the quality of the play, there are some interesting stage directions not the least of which is the only one I know of with first-person content: “Mr. King and his Wife go off and bring Young Carleton and his mother in, the sence of his gross error did transport me”.[2] Ernest Bernbaum has suggested that the play was co-authored by Mary Moders, the real life subject of the play, in which case the second clause of the direction may be an authorial note that crept into the printer’s copy.[3] On April 15, 1664, Pepys reports going to see a play on the same subject, and indeed acted by Moders herself, called The German Princess. Genest had “no doubt” this was the same play as The Witty Combat, but Milhous and Hume are dismissive.[4] This mystery aside, the play has only one explicit scenic direction: “The Scaene of a Cellar is discovered, wherein sits the Cellarman, by him a little Table, with a lighted Candle, and several sorts of Pots about it”.[5] No other settings are stated, though the play makes several uses of the ‘enter as from X’ format familiar from the pre-Civil War stage. The scenes are numbered and the action skips among various locations. A minimal scenic staging that sought to differentiate these locations would need five different settings, namely: a tavern, King’s house (used for different rooms in that house), Carleton’s house, a street, and a cellar (relieve). However, no individual act requires more than three settings and the stated discovery scene is easily accommodated in the model’s relieve space.

The 1.2 dialogue initially seems to place the entering characters, the Parson and Moders, outside the tavern used for 1.1 (scene divisions mine). The Parson has suggested a “Glass of Malligo” and he then seems to notice the tavern, “look ye yonder,/ there is a door open to Comers surely”.[6] No subsequent exit or re-entrance is marked but the pair apparently enter and hail the landlord. This brief episode may exemplify the use of the forestage as a scenically neutral area unrelated to the background. There is the possibility of other two such uses, in 5.4 and 5.9. In the former, a group of clerks act as a crude choric device, they have no connection with the plot, and their brief appearance is fictionally and theatrically unlocated. In 5.9 two Gentlemen perform a similar plot function. In this case there is a stage direction marking their entrance that provides locational information, albeit couched in pre-Restoration usage: “Enter two Gentlemen as from the Sessions house”.[7] If scenery is intended here, the “as from” direction makes a street setting a logical choice. This would also work well for 5.4, but one must doubt whether this play was conceived with scenic production in mind. There are rare instances in other plays where the forestage may have been used as a transitory, utopic bridge (see staging analyses for Elvira, Mustapha and Juliana). In these cases, however, the point that should be stressed is that spatial anomaly solves a specific staging problem, and lasts only for a few lines. The possible use in Witty Combat is less convincing. If, as I suspect, the play was not written with scenic production in mind, the single scenic stage direction would have been added as an afterthought.

Returning to the tavern scene, Moders and the Parson enter without an accompanying stage direction, the Parson asks for a private room, and surprisingly a stage direction is supplied to the effect that the pair “Exeunt./ And enter again at the other end of the Stage, where there is a Table and Stooles set forth”.[8] This direction and the subsequent dialogue may imply that the scene shifts to the relieve area: “A very pretty close convenient Roome this is assuredly”.[9]This would be a logical supposition, but the need for free access for four actors and the setting props and more importantly the length of the scene inclines me to suggest that it be positioned on the opposite side to the previous tavern scene, possibly further upstage in the scenic area, but downstage of the shutters. It is unlikely in this period that a whole scene would take place in the relieve area. The only other LIF play where this is possibly indicated is another where there are strong doubts about the LIF provenance of the text, namely The Marriage Night (LIF 1667?).

[1] (i) See Restoration Promptbooks William Van Lennep (et al, eds.), The London Stage 1660-1800: A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments, and Afterpieces, five parts, Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1960-68, Part 1, p.55; (ii) Pierre Danchin, The prologues and epilogues of the Restoration 1660-1700, Nancy: Publications Université de Nancy, 1981-88, Part 1, vol.1, p.133.
[2]London: Thomas Roberts, 1663, sig.E3v.
[3] Bernbaum, The Mary Carleton Narratives 1663-1673, Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1914, p.26. Bernbaum’s theory is supported by Mary Jo Kietzman in ‘Defoe Masters the Serial Subject’, English Literary History, 1999, vol.66, no.3, pp.677-705.
[4] Rev. John Genest, Some Account of The English Stage, From The Restoration In 1660 To 1830 (10 vols.), vol.1, Bath: H. E. Carrington, 1832, p.51. Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, ‘Attribution Problems in English Drama, 1660-1700’, Harvard Library Bulletin 31 (1983), 38.
[5] Op cit sig.D3r.
[6] Ibid. sig.B3v.
[7] Ibid. sig.F2v.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.