The Amorous Prince (staging)

By Aphra Behn (February 1671; pub. 1671)

Behn’s second LIF play may have been written before The Forc’d Marriage. The prologue to The Amorous Prince says of the play, “T’was born before its time, and such a whelp,/ As all the after-lickings could not help”.1 This is the view taken by Dawn Lewcock who suggests that the play, “was written before Behn was familiar with the technical possibilities of the theatre”.2 This may well be the case, but there is no doubt that despite the prologue’s modest protestations this play has been very well licked into shape for a scenic stage.

As a glance at the scene plot will confirm, Behn’s second LIF play is scenically more economical and efficient than her first. Compared to the 28 scenes of the earlier play with its 14 or so fictional locations, the corresponding figures for the later are 20 and 11, and Behn makes do with a single discovery rather than the three called for in The Forc’d Marriage.3 The resulting plot maintains scenic variety, but makes less work for the scene handlers. Again, Behn numbers all her scenes but supplies few scene headings: in this case six out of a possible 20. It would seem that once she has indicated a scenic setting it is not restated. Behn’s headings do not cover all the fictional locations, there are at least three others; however, these are implied by the dialogue, as are most of the other unheaded locations. In his Behn edition, Summers supplies all the implicit headings and makes sensible suggestions for the others. I follow Summers here and the scene plot.

The play works perfectly in the LIF model; one might even suggest it seems designed for it! Even with a maximal production – a setting for every location – no act exceeds the model’s static maximum of three shutters and no mid-act scene replacement is required. It might also be argued that the purpose of the discovery scene is to make the most efficient use of theatrical facilities. It serves no obvious dramatic purpose, other than a slight speeding up of the action, but it efficiently and smoothly exploits available scenic resources. Scenically, a maximal production would call for 11 different settings, but such a number is dramatically superfluous. There is no dramatic need to differentiate the grove of 1.2 & 5.2 and the wood of 3.3; either setting would serve all three (a grove is chosen in the scene plot). Similarly, the six or so fine chamber shutters (as opposed to the rustic setting for Cloris in Act 1) that are either stated or implied may be boiled down to two.

In a minimal production one would probably suffice, but it is interesting to note in this play that Behn never calls for more than two such chamber shutters in any act. This point, which stands out in the scenery plot but otherwise might be missed, contributes to the argument I make in other commentaries that in many cases it was probably considered desirable or necessary only to differentiate between similar locations in an act, rather than to provide a separate scenic setting for each fictional location in the play. Here using just two shutter pairs we may differentiate the chambers of Frederick and Antonio in Acts 2 & 4, and Laura and Curtius in Act 5. Again, following earlier arguments, such differentiation need only be provided by the shutters; one wing setting of a fine chamber setting would stand for all, thus reducing backstage manoeuvrings (and subsequent noises-off). Such a solution maintains scenic variety and plot readability, whilst boosting theatrical efficiency and economy.

As in her previous LIF play, Behn often provides surprisingly detailed stage directions. These may not only explicate stage action, as in the description of a dance scene in act 5, but several specify (or describe) acting details, these include: “Looks on him, he gazes with a half smile”, “Comes up to him and tells him so in a menacing tone”, “He advances sowerly looking”.4 Elsewhere, the scenic area is exploited in the wood scene (3.3) when Cloris (and presumably Guilliam) “Goes behind a Bush”: as in earlier plays, the bush was almost certainly painted on a wing flat.5 The architectural solidity of one of the balconies is exploited in Act 4 when Lorenzo needs to effect a surreptitious escape. Behn directs, “Isab[ella] this while fastens the sheets, which are supposed from the bed, to the Balcone” and “Lor. gets down by the sheets”.

  1. London: Thomas Dring, 1671, front matter.
  2. Thesis, op cit p.170.
  3. As Behn provides fewer headings than fictional locations, it is difficult to state the exact number of locations in either play. Generally, locations may be inferred from dialogue, but not in all cases.
  4. Op cit p.36, 38, 53 respectively.
  5. Ibid. p.43.
  6. Ibid. p.62.

Cambyses (staging)

By Elkanah Settle (January 1671; pub. 1671)

Of all the plays in the first period of LIF production this is the most complex in terms of its demand on theatre resources. In comparison with his rival, Killigrew, Davenant appears to have been reluctant to use stage machinery: there is little recourse to it before Cambyses (Davenant died in 1668).[1] Aside from some special effects, the scenery in Cambyses is varied without demanding anything other than stock settings. The play is notable, however, for its use of spectacle. Despite Settle’s apparent heavy reliance on scenes and machines there was a production of this fashionable new play at a scenically impoverished university venue at Oxford in July, 1671. Settle’s prologue for this occasion, “Spoken by Betterton in a riding habit”, wittily draws attention to the lack of theatrical resources:

But then our House wants ornament and Scene,
Which the chief grandeur of a Play maintain,
But to excuse this want, we must confess,
We are but Travellers in a riding dress.[2]

Despite the lack of ‘ornaments’ on this occasion, it would seem that the play was still the thing for a university audience.

Scenically the most distinctive feature of the play is the use of the relieve space. There are no less that six discoveries in the play, more than any production by either company until 1673 (one uses the front curtain).[3] Three of these are for special effect, revealing, in order, a dead body, a spectacular dream sequence (curtain), and the descent of flying spirits. This use of discoveries and special effects marks a change from standard LIF practice and points to future spectacle at Dorset Garden. Demanding as it is, however, the play does not require anything qualitatively different from resources demanded by other LIF plays.

Although calling for a minimum of seven different settings the scenery plot is relatively straightforward. Indeed, although Settle’s stage directions are ample and descriptive, they reveal an economy of means. Only Act 3 calls for more than three shutter settings. In the LIF model all this requires is for the palace of 3.1 to be replaced with the walk or garden of 3.3 while the camp shutters of 3.2 are in view. Similarly, the discovery in 2.2 moves the action swiftly on (like a film edit), allowing Settle to reveal a well populated stage without having to wait for the actors to get into position: “The Scene open’d appears Smerdis seated on a Throne, attended by Guards, and other Attendants”.[4]

Perhaps, though, the best example of this theatrical acumen has previously been misread. Settle directs the curtain to fall at the end of Act 3, but there is no corresponding direction for it to be raised at the start of Act 4. Langhans suggests that Settle made an error in including this curtain direction, but if we consider the disposition of the stage at this point a likely solution emerges. What the scenery plot makes very clear is that Act 3 ends with a discovery scene in view and Act 4 starts with another. The sequence of events is as follows. The 3.4 discovery reads, “The Scene opens, and on a Table appears the Body of Osiris, beheaded; & an Executioner with the suppos’d head in a vessel of blood”.[5] There then follows sixty or so lines of dialogue and the act ends with the direction, “The Curtain Falls”.[6]

Act 4 starts as follows. The Scene drawn, Cambyses is discover’d seated in a Chair sleeping: The Scene representing a steep Rock, from the top of which descends a large Cloud, which opening, appear various shapes of Spirits seated in form of a Councel, to whom a more glorious Spirit descends half way, seated on a Throne; at which, the former Spirits rise and Dance: In the midst of the Dance arises a Woman with a Dagger in her hand; at which the Scene shuts.[7]

If we follow Langhans and assume the curtain direction is erroneous, two sets of shutter grooves become necessary because the next stage direction evidently still has Cambyses onstage: “Cambyses rises from his Chair, as newly waking, and seems disorder’d”.[8] This solution (two shutter positions) is precisely Langhans’s thesis, so he does not seek alternative explanations. However, the whole sequence is explicable in the LIF model if we take the playwright at his word.

In this simpler interpretation, the curtain falls at the end of 3.4 on an exposed discovery scene with the shutters still open. During the Act music, Cambyses gets into position sitting in his chair on the scenic stage but, crucially, downstage of the shutters. Meanwhile, the stagehands set a backcloth scene picturing the steep rock described in the stage direction (obviously, this is the final scenic element) and clear the rest of the space behind the shutters to allow freedom of movement for the descending machines in the dream sequence. Thus, at the start of Act 4 the curtain rises on Cambyses who is sitting downstage of the shutter line with the steep rock scenery far upstage in the relieve area, and the dream scene begins. At the end of the dream, the shutters close leaving Cambyses alone on stage. While this fully explains the general sequence of events, there are still some details to clear up.

First, as noted, the opening direction of Act 4 does not state that the front curtain rises. However, it may be that because it is so obvious that the curtain needs to rise at the start of the act it was omitted. There are such omissions of obvious stage directions elsewhere in LIF plays. In The Adventures of Five Hours, for example, Tuke omits a direction for actors to exit a balcony, providing only a direction for them to re-enter. There is a slight suggestion that “The Scene drawn” may refer to the front curtain, because in four of the six discoveries Settle refers to the scene ‘opening’. However, this is not true of 5.1, which also uses ‘draws’, and is unlikely to refer to a curtain. Either way, then, some kind of textual slip is implied. However, as the scene works so well on the much simpler LIF model, I would argue that a direction is more likely to have been omitted, rather than added in error.

The second detail is the question of where the spirits and the armed woman dance. Langhans thinks on the stage, but as no exit is provided for the dancers, I imagine that what was witnessed at LIF was more likely to have been stately gyrations on the flying machine. Although this may seem a surprising suggestion, the use of flying machines both here and in Act 5 is remarkably similar to the flying sequences in Davenant and Jones’s Caroline masque Salmacida Spolia. In that production, it will be recalled, no less than ten masquers descended on a great cloud. There does not need to be so many in Cambyses, and it would be perfectly possible for the council members to rise and start some gentle movements to music before a crouching actor rises in their midst.

It is clear from both flying sequences that two lifting machines were used. Langhans finds evidence in Bridges Street plays for two types of machine, heavy and light, or as Dryden’s The Rival Ladies (BS, 1664) puts it: “Venus and Ceres descend in the slow Machines; Ceres drawn by Dragons, Venus by Swans. After them Phoebus and Mercury descend in swift Motion.” [9]

That LIF had a heavy/slow machine is evident from stage directions in The Humerous Lovers (1667), including, “Venus and Cupid descending while the Song is singing”.[10] Significantly, three verses are needed to cover this action and later four verses while they ascend. Langhans observes that Bridges Street was a step ahead of LIF in terms of machines. The only other possible uses of lifting/flying machines at LIF before The Humerous Lovers are not certain and could be scenic effects – a rising sun in The Play-house to be Let, and a rising moon in The Adventures of Five Hours – or might not have been performed as stated in the text: Venus speaking the prologue “from the Clouds” in Love’s Kingdom. Compared to Killigrew, Davenant seems to have eschewed spectacle and machines, and it is perhaps significant that Cambyses, the most spectacular of LIF plays, was not produced until three years after Davenant’s death. With Cambyses the new LIF management seems to have been determined to trounce Killigrew on his own ground.

Applying the heavy/light machine hypothesis to Cambyses it would make sense in Act 4 for the council members to be flown on a heavy lifting machine, and the glorious spirit on a lighter machine behind the plane of the first. A similar arrangement of heavy and light machines is indicated later. In Act 5 a solitary spirit first descends and speaks, there is passage of covering dialogue and music while the spirit ascends, then two more spirits appear: “Here two glorious Spirits descend in Clouds”. The interval between the appearances of these two sets of spirits may suggest that the same machine was used, but it would not allow much time for the new spirits to get into position, nor crucially for the clouds (presumably lacking in the first sequence) to be affixed. Instead, I suggest that the first spirit is flown in on the light machine. The covering dialogue is then for the heavy machine, which is presumably slower and takes time to descend. In a further display of spectacle, a bloody cloud is flown down to mask these two spirits, while actors representing two ghosts take their places:

The Song ended, the Musick turns into an Alarm, at which a bloody Cloud interposes between the Audience and the Spirits; and being immediately remov’d, the Ghosts of Cambyses, and the true Smerdis appear in the seats of the former Spirits.[11]

This play pushes LIF facilities to the limits and the space behind the shutters must have been quite cramped. The whole spirits sequence starts with a discovery scene (5.3): “The Scene open’d, appears a Temple of the Sun, uncover’d according to the Antient Custome, with an Altar in the middle, bearing two large burning Tapers; and on each side a Priest standing”. Some lines later we get the descending spirit sequence discussed above. This means that we may divide the relieve area into at least three planes: first, nearest the shutters, the altar and priests, next the plane of the light flying machine, then the heavy machine plane nearest the backcloth. The cloud is simply a scenic item and would be flown in using the light machine for it to interpose between altar and spirits. Alternatively, there is a possibility that it could have been a drop curtain, which would make this the first example of such on the public stage.

Two final points remain. It is likely that the ‘private walk’ called for at 3.3 also doubled as the garden in 4.3 and 4.4, there being no need to differentiate theatrically between the two settings. This play is notable for the number of times acting is specifically directed in the scenic area. This raises the probability of lights affixed to available positions within the scenic area, such as to sconces on the rear of wing frames.

[1] See Langhans, ‘Notes on the Reconstruction of the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre’, Theatre Notebook, vol.10, no.4, 1956, p.114; and Lewcock, Computer Analysis 1, op cit pp.26-7.
[2] Ibid. pp.418-19.
[3] In 1673 Settle outdoes himself by offering no less than eight discoveries in his Dorset Garden play The Empress of Morocco. As this play includes one of the first examples of a double, or successive, discovery, one longs to know whether it was performed in its published state at its première at Court on the Hall stage. It was probably simplified as the Oxford prologue to the earlier play suggests.
[4] London: William Cademan, 1671, p.18.
[5] Ibid. p.47.
[6] Ibid. p.48.
[7] Ibid p.49.
[8] Ibid.
[9] See Langhans, Thesis, op cit pp.77-8; Rival Ladies, London: Herringman, 1664, p.34.
[10] London: Herringman, 1677, p.28.
[11] Ibid. p.75.

The Indian Emperor (shutters)

The 'Indian Emperour' reused scenery from 'The Indian Queen'

CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read this diagram in conjunction with the associated scenery plot.

The Indian Emperor was designed to reuse scenery from The Indian Queen

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.