Mr. Anthony (scenery)

CLICK TO ENLARGE

CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key

c = comedy, t = tragedy, tc = tragicomedy
s = backshutters, w = wings, r = relieves

 

Advertisements

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.

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.

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 History of Henry the Fifth (staging)

by Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery (Aug. 1664; pub.1668)

Modern opinion of this play is likely to side with the Rev. John Genest (1832), “absurd to the last degree”, rather than Pepys, “the whole play the most full of height and raptures of wit and sense, that ever I heard”.[1] Irrespective of its literary merits the LIF prompter John Downes reported it a hit: “This Play was Splendidly Cloath’d: The King, in the Duke of York’s Coronation Suit; Owen Tudor, in King Charle[s’]: Duke of Burgundy, in the Lord of Oxford’s, and the rest all New. It was excellently Perform’d, and Acted 10 Days Successively”.[2] The production was not only a great success, it was, as we may infer from Downes, another spectacular social occasion. It may have been the last of a troika of fashionable productions in a season where Davenant pulled out all the stops to establish LIF as the premiere theatrical venue. The first of these extravagant productions was a revival of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII (December 1663), the second may have been Etherege’s Love in a Tub, and the third was Boyle’s play. What Downes says of Davenant’s personal involvement in Henry VIII – “Every part by the great Care of Sir William, being exactly perform’d” – was probably true of all major LIF productions at this time; indeed Downes repeats his praise of his manager’s attention to detail in relation to Boyle’s next play, Mustapha (April, 1665).[3] Downes’s information tells us that Henry V was an important production with a budget that was probably at least on par with other major productions. This is an important consideration as Boyle’s play like Etherege’s makes considerable scenic demands. Whereas Etherege states his demands explicitly, Boyle, unfortunately, supplies very little scenic information. Nevertheless, it is clear from his text that a large number of scenic locations are implied. It is interesting that in their next plays both Etherege and Boyle tone down their scenic demands, and Boyle in his later plays becomes adept at mobilising scenic resources. The implication is not only that both playwrights learned from their first theatrical experience, but also that whoever was responsible for allocating scenery to LIF plays was probably obliged to simplify some of the scenic demands in these plays. Although the budget was less of an issue with major productions, this task undoubtedly concerned balancing technical factors such as the manoeuvring of scenery, the number of men required to do it, and the rehearsing and managing of those men.

Unusually for its period (the 1930s), the last edition of Boyle’s complete works, by William Smith Clark II, considers matters of practical staging. Boyle supplies no scene heading or numbering in this play, so Clark applies the cleared stage principle to number the scenes and allocate fictional locations inferred from the dialogue. Clark’s scene headings represent a maximal scenic production in which each location is matched by an individual item of scenery. I reproduce them here to indicate the technical challenge posed by a production adopting this approach. The first column shows Clark’s scene numbers, the second his location, and in the third I provide a generic description of the scenery matching his locations.

1.1 The Royal Pavilion in the English Camp at Agincourt Pavilion 1
1.2 Dauphin’s Residence in a ProvincialTown Chamber 1
1.3 Audience Chamber in the RoyalPalace at Paris Stateroom 1
2.1 The Royal Pavilion in the English Camp at Agincourt Pavilion 1
2.2 Audience Chamber in the RoyalPalace at Paris Stateroom 1
2.3 Princess Katherine’s Chamber in the RoyalPalace Chamber 2
3.1 The Royal Pavilion in the English Camp at Agincourt Pavilion 1
3.2 A Lobby in the RoyalPalace at Paris Lobby 1
3.3 The Dauphin’s Chamber in the RoyalPalace at Paris Chamber 3
3.4 The Queen’s Chamber in the RoyalPalace at Paris Chamber 4
3.5 Princess Katherine’s Chamber in the Royal Palace Chamber 2
3.6 A Lobby in the RoyalPalace at Paris Lobby 1
(3.7  A Lobby in the Royal Palace at Paris Lobby 1)
3.8 Princess Katherine’s Chamber in the RoyalPalace Chamber 2
    Curtain falls
4.1 A Council Pavilion Pavilion 2
4.2 Audience Chamber in the RoyalPalace at Paris Stateroom 1
4.3 Princess Katherine’s Chamber in the RoyalPalace Chamber 2
4.4 Tudor’s Pavilion in the English Camp Pavilion 3
5.1 The Royal Pavilion in the English Camp at Agincourt Pavilion 1
5.2 Audience Chamber in the RoyalPalace at Troyes Stateroom 2
5.3 A Lobby in the Palace of the States General at Paris Lobby 2
5.4 Audience Chamber in the RoyalPalace at Troyes Stateroom 2
5.5 The Dauphin’s Pavilion in his Camp Pavilion 4
5.6 The Gates of the Royal Palace at Troyes Dropped curtain
5.7 The Hall of State in the RoyalPalace at Troyes Hall

Clark allocates a total of fourteen individual locations, comprising three main types: pavilion, public stateroom, and private chamber (his 5.6 is a special case and is discussed below). A scenically maximal production following these headings might run into technical difficulties. Act 3 has five different locations only one of which is repeated in Act 4, and none of the locations in Act 4 occurs in Act 5. In this arrangement two mid-act shutter replacements would be needed (3.1, 4.1), and all scenes would have to be replaced at the end of Acts 3 and 4. Theoretically, the LIF model could cope by employing some deft scene shuffling, but in production it might cause problems. On the other hand, a minimal production aiming to avoid the need for mid-act replacements might employ the generic scene types noted above to stage the play with just three shutter settings: pavilion, stateroom, chamber; two relieves: lobby and hall; and four wings (lobby/stateroom wings may be combined). Such a minimal production would make few technical demands, but might be difficult to follow spatially; nor does it sit that happily with Downes’s comments. Given the production’s status, a mid position between these poles would achieve a balance among implied location, visual aid to narrative, spectacle, and technical capacity. There are several arrangements that might achieve this balance; one such is shown in the scenery plot.

I have argued elsewhere that in terms of the staging of Tuke’s The Adventures of Five Hours it was important to discriminate house from house, but not necessarily rooms within a particular house. Applying that formula to Boyle’s play would reduce the scenic demand, but it might affect an audience’s ability to follow the play; there are, for example, seven scenes set in five different rooms in the Royal Palace in Paris. It is probably impracticable to match each to an individual setting, but some distinction among these rooms would aid an audience’s comprehension. Distinguishing public and private rooms within the palace is consonant with Boyle’s narrative, which exploits the public duty/ private feelings dichotomy typical of serious drama at this time. I therefore suggest the use of different shutter and wing settings for staterooms and chambers. We can immediately reduce scenic demand by combining similar locations to eliminate five. Clark’s 5.3 is brief, makes one appearance, and can usefully be combined with the other Paris ‘lobby’ scenes (3.2 & 3.6) in one item of scenery. We might also distinguish the pavilions on partisan lines – French, English – the problem is that there is only one definite French pavilion, the Dauphin’s in Act 5; it is not clear to which party Clark’s Council Pavilion belongs, maybe it is neutral, as the Duke of Burgundy is acting as negotiator. We might use a separate pavilion setting for each, but if we follow this logic we should also include another to distinguish Tudor’s from Henry’s in the English camp. In Restoration terms a pavilion setting immediately signifies a military camp. If the actors themselves do not provide sufficient indication of place, signification may be reinforced by costumes or props: actors wearing the livery of a particular character or bringing on portable properties such as flags or other insignia. Accordingly, only one pavilion setting is proposed. Finally, as the play moves among three main geographical locations – Agincourt, Paris, and Troyes – some delineation along geographical lines might assist the narrative. This is acknowledged in the simplified scenery plot, which combines geographical distinction and generic scenes to arrive at the following solution: five shutters: pavilion, chamber 1 (provincial town), chamber 2 (Paris), stateroom 1 (Paris), stateroom 2 (Troyes); four wings: pavilion, chamber, stateroom/lobby, hall; and two relieves: lobby, hall. I have used a relieve for Clark’s ‘lobby’ scenes to ensure that no mid-act shutter replacement is required (I believe this was also a period concern), and I also make the final scene in the play a relieve to match the grand effect obviously intended by Boyle: “The Curtain is drawn up./ The Curtain being lifted up, there appear the King, Princess Katherine, Queen Mother, Princess Ann, Chareloys, and all the English, and the French Nobility and Officers of State; and others according to their places”.[4]

So far, this use of the front curtain has not been encountered in new LIF plays; although its use is implied to mark off the ‘opera’ sections of The Playhouse to be Let (the first entry of Sir Francis Drake reprints the original stage direction for the curtain to rise “by degrees”).[5] Boyle uses the curtain on two other occasions in the play. At the start of Act 4 he specifies another impressive tableau:

The Curtain being drawn up, The Duke of Burgundy, the Constable, Earl of Charaloys, and the Bishop of Arras are seen sitting at one side of a Table, attended by the French Officers of State; on the other side, are seated the Duke of Exeter, Duke of Bedford, the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, and the Earl of Warwick, attended by the English.[6]

This dramatic use of the curtain allows the actors to get into position around a large setting prop; although how the table is removed before the next scene is not indicated (probably carried off in sections), nor does Boyle mark a curtain drop at the end of the preceding scene. However, he does mark the drop before the final tableau: “The Curtain Falls. Two Heraulds appear opposite to each other in the Balconies near the Stage”.[7] The heralds then play out a curious scene from their balconies in front of the dropped curtain while the company gets into position behind it. The implication of balconies not “near the stage” in the heralds’ direction has attracted comment, but it is only a problem if one adheres to four-door theory. All commentators agree that balconies were positioned above stage doors. If we assume two forestage doors with attendant balconies, then these are self-evidently the balconies ‘near the stage’. The balconies further away from the stage are those available to the audience. From Pepys’s diary entries it is clear that there was little distinction at the time between balconies and what we would call boxes. On May 5, 1668, for example, he reports, “To the Duke of York’s playhouse; and there coming late he [Creed] and I up to the balcony-box, where we find my Lady Castlemayne and several great ladies; and there we sat with them”. From another entry it is clear that one of these ‘balcony-boxes’ close to the LIF stage, but not over it, housed the musicians. At the crowded first performance of Davenant and Dryden’s adaptation of The Tempest on November 7, 1667 he was, “forced to sit in the side balcone over against the musique-room at the Duke’s house, close by my Lady Dorset”.[8] The close relationship between Restoration audience and performers recorded in many of Pepys’s entries is demonstrated pictorially by a contemporary print of the coronation of James II that shows musicians in the ‘balcony-box’ nearest the throne of Mary of Modena, and musicians and audience mingling in the next.

Boyle’s stage direction and Pepys’s diary entries are easier to reconcile on a two-door rather than a four-door forestage. Support for this view is provided by the equivalent stage direction in several manuscript versions of the play: “A French and an English Herauld appeare in one of the Balconies without the stage or in both of them” (my italics).[9]


[1] Genest, Some Account of The English Stage, 1832, p.53; Pepys, Aug. 13, 1664.
[2] Roscius Anglicanus, p.28.
[3] “Sir William’s great Care of having it perfect and exactly perform’d, it produc’d to himself and Company vast Profit” (ibid. p.26).
[4] The History of Henry the Fifth, p.50.
[5] Davenant, Works, p.87.  The front curtain is specified to be used scenically in Robert Howard and Dryden’s The Indian Queen (Bridges St. 1664). A curtain is also called for in Howard’s The Surprisal (Vere St. 1662), but as this was produced on an essentially non-scenic stage it is highly doubtful that a front curtain is implied. Use of the curtain in this play marks the start and end of a masque and there is nothing in the text that demands anything other than a hanging across an entrance or central opening. Boyle’s use is more audacious than either of these examples.
[6] Op cit p.29.
[7] Ibid. p.49.
[8] ‘Over-against’ is common Restoration usage for ‘opposite’. See also diary entry for May 12, 1669.
[9] Clark (ed.), The Dramatic Works of Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery, (2 vols.), Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1937, vol. 2, p.848, n.480. There are five MSS, all have similar wording in this stage direction.