Guzman (staging)

By Roger Boyle (April 1669; pub.1693)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Royal Shepherdess (staging)

by Thomas Shadwell (February 1669; & pub.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tempest; or, The Enchanted Island (staging)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sir Martin Mar-All (staging)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Ex. Millisent, Rose.

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

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

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

The 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.

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).

The Slighted Maid (staging)

by Robert Stapylton (February 1663; pub. 1663)

Dryden’s jibe – “there is no Scene in the first Act, which might not by as good reason be in the fifth” – is more witty than true, but it must be admitted The Slighted Maid is at times confusing to read.[1] Despite Dryden, however, and despite Pepys’s judgement – “not very excellent” – it probably played better than it reads.[2] The plot may be overly intricate, but at its best the play is theatrically diverting and makes intriguing use of stock romance devices; not the least being that the eponymous heroine (believed dead) should spend so much of the play in a position of some power disguised as her vengeful and apparently vicious brother. The text numbers acts but not scenes (my numbers below) and Stapylton provides little explicit scenic information; however, he consistently uses a cleared stage to mark scene divisions, there are ample stage directions, and for the majority of scenes the dialogue provides clear indication of locale. This clarity enables a fairly confident reconstruction of the scenery plot.

A notable feature of the play is the interjection of three, brief masque scenes. These generate most of the explicit scenic information in the play, though only the third is integral to the drama. The first in 3.1 is set probably in a garden or grove as the directions following the Act 3 heading indicate: “Enter Decio and Arviedo./ By a Lawrel-Tree is set a Shepheards Hook, a Pipe, and a Wreath of Lawrel”.[3] The tree is not practical and was likely painted on a wing; the props, though, are probably practical as a little later Decio – the heroine Ericina in disguise – refers to them in concrete terms. Decio is rehearsing a theatrical scene and has invited Arviedo to view “The sweetest Prospect Naples has”. Stage directions and dialogue merge at this point and are best given in full:

The Scene is discovered, over which in Capital Letters is writ CAMPI ELYSII.

Decio describes it thus.

Th’Elysian Fields my Hyacinthus sees,
Those Walks are Jessamine and Orange-trees,
Beneath, a Chrystal River cuts the Plain,
Wherein you see those fair Trees o’re again,
Close by the Flow’ry Bank, a Flock of Sheep
Feeds in a Mead; the Shepheards fast asleep;
The Shepheardesses lying arm in arm.[4]

As several commentators have noted, it is difficult to decide what exactly is being shown here: a painted shutter, a relieve scene, or a relieve scene with live actors?  Indeed, given the flickering, uncertain quality of the original lighting Arviedo probably speaks for the LIF audience when he asks, “Is’t Life? Or Art”.[5] The answer appears to be both, for two lines later Decio commands, “Rise, dull Sleepers” and the bucolic lovers, “dance and go off”.[6] Almost certainly then, the scene is a composite of painted relieve elements and reclining actors, exploiting, as in the Caroline masque, the discovery’s potential for charm. On cue the actors then arise, dance on the main scenic stage, and exit through the wings. More puzzling is the position of the scenic surtitle. It obviously cannot be painted on the backshutters, because the surtitle appears at the same time as the scene is discovered. There are four possibilities: it might have been painted on the backcloth, on a relieve element, on an upper backshutter, or on a border. Visibility is the limiting factor here. Although any legend painted on the backcloth probably could be illuminated by lights offstage or fixed to the closest relieve element, the text would perhaps be too distant to make the impact implied by the stage direction. The term ‘over which’ implies separation and this certainly could be achieved by changing the final border for one bearing the legend (at the same time as the discovery). However, visibility would again be an issue, as borders cannot be seen by all; as Richard Southern puts it, they exist “only for the benefit of the spectators in the lower and nearer parts of the house”.[7] In addition, there is no evidence for changeable borders in this period. The same difficulty arises with upper shutters, as the only LIF play where the use of upper shutters may be a possibility is the much later Cambyses (1671). Moreover, using upper shutters to reveal a surtitle smacks of the sledgehammer approach to a nut, which leaves the possibility of a sign in the relieve area. This seems the best solution as there would be plenty of time to get it into position and it could be attached to the top of the first relieve, or if, as seems likely here, that was not possible, it could simply hang from an attachment at or above the rear of the backshutter frame.

The second masque episode is non-scenic. It largely comprises a dance involving Jack-a-Lantern and a group of reapers and is discussed in my article  “Scaenes with four Doors”: Real and Virtual Doors on Early Restoration Stages. The third episode is the most interesting: it is dramatically integral and inverts the fatal consequences of the Jacobean masque-in-a-play trope. Scenically it begins with another surtitle, this time less puzzling as the legend can be painted on the backshutters: “The Scene Vulcan’s Court, over it is writ, Foro del Volcane”.[8] The discovery occurs several pages later: “Iberio and Pyramena discover’d lying on a Bed, at the Bed’s feet sits Cupid weeping”; again this is a carefully composed static, indeed emblematic, picture.[9] This is a tragicomedy, however, and the couple are merely drugged. They wake up, are unbound, and bidden to witness the final discovery, that of the Slighted Maid herself: “Decio puts of his Night-gown, & discovers himself to be a Woman”.[10] ‘Follow that!’ might be a contemporary response to such a direction, but there is one final scenic point to be made. In 3.2 occurs the following dialogue and stage direction: “Diacelia: Patience, Madam,/ I may mistake, believe your eyes,/ That Pillar will obscure you./ Menanthe: Good, good Girl./ Menanthe stands behind the Pillar and Peeps”.[11] As with the tree in the previous scene, a wing is almost certainly being used here. Unlike on some earlier stages, the Globe being the obvious example, there were no stage pillars supporting the heavens to hide behind at LIF. Again, there is no need here for a practical pillar to bear weight, and thrusting on scenic prop pillars in the brief interval of a cleared stage between 3.1 and 3.2 would be ludicrous. The setting is the con-woman Menanthe’s house, which seems unusual, as Menanthe is not of the social class habituated to pillars in its domestic arrangements; however, the point is explicitly made early in the play that Menanthe is not only vicious, she is a social climber. When asked by old Filomarini where his son met her, his friend Gioseppe replies, “At Church, with the Greek Cheater cursed Mother,/ That passes here for an illustrious Lady;/ The Vice-Roy heard she was a Grecian Princess”.[12] The pillar/wing not only furnishes a handy place from which to peep, it also signifies Menanthe’s would-be status; note also the use of the scenic stage for acting purposes. The quality of furniture and fittings in Menanthe’s house is emphasized by a stage direction whose import may escape modern readers: “Wax Lights on the Table”.[13] Wax lights offered the clearest and highest quality light and were considerably more expensive than other forms of lighting.[14]

[1] Preface to Troilus and Cressida (Swedenberg H. T., et al (eds.), The Works of John Dryden, (20 vols.), Berkeley: California UP, 1956-90, vol.13, p.230). [Hereafter, California Dryden.]
[2] Diary, Feb. 29, 1663. On July 28, 1668 Pepys saw it again and thought it “but a mean play”, but he was troubled with his eyes at this time and not disposed to much enjoyment.
[3]London: Thomas Dring, 1663, p.33.
[4] Ibid. p.34.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Changeable Scenery, London: Faber & Faber, 1952, p.155.
[8] Op cit p.80.
[9] Ibid. p.85.
[10] Ibid. p.88.
[11] Ibid. p.41.
[12] Ibid. p.2.
[13] Ibid. p.56.
[14] A little later in the play these wax lights (probably white wax, the highest quality) are used as an index of social status when one character compares them to the taper she holds: “The Taper better suits my Fortune, Sir” (Ibid. p.58). Eleanor Boswell reproduces a Lord Steward’s account (The Restoration Court Stage, New York: Benjamin Blom, 1965 [1932], p.97, n.3) that shows how lighting was apportioned in a Court theatre production. The King’s Presence and Privy chambers receive white wax lights, a privilege also accorded the branches and sconces in the auditorium, the ‘scenes’ and musicians receive yellow wax, while the Gentlemen Ushers, Yeomen of the Guard, grooms, and porters make do with torches and tallow.

Samuel Pepys and the ‘altered’ stage at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

On October 21, 1661 four months after the opening of Sir William Davenant’s theatre at Lincoln’s Inn Fields (hereafter LIF), Samuel Pepys notes in his diary that the scenic arrangement at the theatre had changed: “To the Opera which is now newly begun to act again, after some alteracion of their scene, which do make it very much worse; but the play ‘Love and Honour’ […] well done”. Pepys’s entry suggests that any model of the LIF stage derived from analysis of post-‘alteration’ LIF plays, my own included, may not be applicable to the first LIF productions. Discussion of this first period of production must, therefore, consider a possible earlier version of the LIF stage arrangement. Edward Langhans speculates that the alteration was the addition of additional grooves upstage “for the benefit of deep vistas”.[1] My analysis of LIF plays reveals no clear indication of demand for such vistas; however, Langhans is almost certainly correct in thinking that Davenant made a structural change of some kind to the LIF stage.[2] The exact nature of this change will remain a mystery unless new evidence is found, but I believe it is possible to glean more from the evidence that we do have. The following is, as far as I know, the first attempt to examine this evidence with the aim of inferring the first scenic arrangement at LIF.

Langhans makes some interesting speculations about the nature of the changes, but it is possibly more productive to begin by asking why the changes were made at this particular time, rather than suggesting a possible form. It is curious that the alterations arrive when they do. Although records are by no means complete the London Stage has no record of any LIF performances between September 11 and October 21, a gap of 40 days. There was also a hiatus of 35 days after the initial off-season run of The Siege of Rhodes. However, it is easier to view the earlier production as a special case – Rhodes generated much needed cash and put LIF on the map ready for its first season after the summer holiday.[3] The stutter in LIF’s post-alteration production might suggest teething problems at the new theatre, but there is no indication of this in either Pepys’s dairy or in John Downes’s account of Restoration theatre production, Roscius Anglicanus. Admittedly, Downes, who was the prompter at LIF and later with Betterton throughout his career (he retired in 1706), was writing retrospectively, but while his dates may be occasionally faulty, his memory of events at this exciting time in his life is particularly vivid.[4] Pepys has nothing but praise for Rhodes and two out of three other productions that he attended before the alterations[5]. Of Rhodes he says, “the scene opened; which indeed is very fine and magnificent” (July 2); The Wits he pronounces, “a most excellent play, and admirable scenes” (August 15); similarly Hamlet was “done with scenes very well” (August 24); we do not know what he thought of Twelfth Night because he was so conscience-struck for attending that he “took no pleasure at all in it” (September 11). Not only was Davenant’s new venture artistically successful it was evidently making money: Pepys reports that he saw a King’s company production during the initial run of Rhodes and remarked how strange it was to find the Vere Street theatre “that used to be so thronged, now empty since the Opera begun” (July 4). Downes gleefully reports that Rhodes “continu’d Acting 12 days without interruption with great applause”; that The Wits was performed eight days successively; that Hamlet was the company’s most profitable tragedy; and that Twelfth Night “had mighty Success”.[6] None of these reports suggests a theatre with technical problems. The closure and subsequent alterations may, therefore, have been planned. Davenant was a careful and patient manager, he did not rush his actresses into performance before they had been properly trained, and he did not convert Lisle’s tennis court hastily. He first leased the court in March 1660 and by January 1661, deciding, as he put it, “there wanted room for the depth of scenes in the ground belonging to the said Tennis Court”, he leased further ground to build a scene store, which he had already started building by March.[7] If in January 1661 he had a fair idea of how big his scene store should be it seems out of character that he would miscalculate so badly the size of his scenic stage, especially as he seems to have given himself ample time in which to make the conversion. It is beginning to look likely that a closure at some point was planned by Davenant. Lack of cash could well be the reason why he opened with what he did, and excellent box-office receipts the reason why he closed when he did. He might have planned to make the final alterations when he had the cash, and the financial success of his opening productions enabled him to make the necessary alterations at an earlier date. Alternatively, he might have planned the closure date from the start. Either way, Davenant’s financial situation may well have been the determining factor. Cash flow is a problem at the start of any venture, and then as now the building of a theatre is a risky and costly investment. Hotson records Davenant’s underhanded attempt to secure the position (hence, revenues) of Master of the Revels in Ireland, his persistent evasion of the license-fee claims of the English Master, Sir Henry Herbert, and his selling of a number of Duke’s Company shares.[8] All these activities suggest that finances were tight, and in the matter of the shares Nicoll concludes that Davenant’s hand was forced: “Within a few months expenses were accumulating so steadily that in June further shares were disposed of and some more followed the following year”.[9] Given this financial situation, and the fact that he already had in store scenery for The Siege of Rhodes and for his Commonwealth ‘operas’ The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru and The History of Sir Francis Drake (plus, perhaps, some pre-Civil War items), it would make sense if Davenant had planned to open his new theatre with a production for which he already had scenery, and with old plays that made few scenic demands, while he slowly built up a new scenery stock and improved his cash flow. [10] By opening his new theatre with both parts of The Siege of Rhodes he was not only making a personal artistic statement he was also extracting further use from old scenery, and thereby saving money.

Having considered the question of Davenant’s timing, we may now turn to the form of the alterations. There is an obvious observation to make about the idea of using old scenery from Rhodes 1 on the LIF stage – it was designed for a smaller stage, was therefore smaller in dimensions, and made use of only three pairs of fixed wings. This very fact, however, might explain Davenant’s need to alter his scenic arrangement at some point. As John Orrell has shown, John Webb’s design for the Rhodes frontispiece records two sets of dimensions (ink and lead) that correspond to the original production at Rutland House and subsequent production at the Cockpit, Drury Lane.[11] The scenic opening is constant in height, about nine feet, but Orrell shows that the width, 18ft 4in in the elevation, was later modified to 16ft 10in.[12] The proscenium opening at LIF was certainly larger, Graham Barlow proposes an opening roughly 25ft square.[13] If the original Rhodes frontispiece was used at LIF, the stage must have been dressed with large amounts of curtain ruches to the top and sides to render it visually acceptable. Acceptable, but not perfect, as the prologue to Rhodes 2 suggests. The prologue apologises for the stage’s “narrow Place” that compared to Continental examples must seem like a mere “Chess-board”.[14] Here, I think Peter Holland is only half right when he states, “None of the editions [of The Siege of Rhodes] in 1663 or later provide any evidence of the staging of The Siege at Lincoln’s Inn Fields”.[15] This may well apply to the play proper, but Davenant’s prologue refers to backstage actresses – “our Women” – quivering with “bashfull fear” of the wits in the audience.[16] As no women would have acted in any pre-Restoration performance of this play it seems likely that the prologue is directly connected to the LIF production. In which case, the prologue’s references to “this narrow Place” make perfect sense. It must have embarrassed Davenant that he was not yet in a position to exploit the available height and width of his new theatre. Far from being ‘unnecessary’ as Holland believes, Davenant’s comments may refer to the temporary stage set up for Rhodes on the larger LIF stage but not to the LIF stage itself.

There is another dimension to consider – the stage depth. The Rhodes stage at The Cockpit, Drury Lane was approximately 16 feet deep, measured from backcloth to frontispiece.[17] The corresponding figure for Barlow’s LIF model is 28 feet, a difference of 12 feet. If Davenant was using old scenery to save money it is unlikely that he would have added to his costs by requesting another wing position to make use of the extra stage depth. Even had he wanted to do so it is difficult to see where the additional wings would have been positioned. An extra rear or mid pair would have distorted perspectives; an extra front pair would have required a new frontispiece. To maintain visual coherence, use of the old scenery would have demanded use of the original positioning and perspectives. However, as noted above, Rhodes 2 implies changeable wings, a flexibility that appears to question my suggestion of a limited staging for the opening LIF productions. Adding just one more wing pair in each position would have near doubled the original scenery costs. Davenant may not have been able to afford changeable wings at this time, but on the other hand he may have felt such expenditure was artistically necessary. Either way, it would not have affected the adaptation of the old scenery to the LIF stage; this modification would not have altered the original scale and perspective. There is little doubt that Davenant was financially hard pressed at the opening of his new theatre. In this respect the appeal for money in the Rhodes 2 prologue may be more specific to future developments at LIF than has so far been recognised:

Oh Money! Money! If the WITTS would dress,
With Ornaments, the present face of Peace;
And to our Poet half the Treasure spare,
Which Faction gets from Fools to nourish Warr;
Then his contracted Scenes should wider be,
And move by greater Engines…[18]

I suggest that the success of the opening productions enabled Davenant to be as good as his word and that once he had made his modifications, LIF scenes were indeed ‘wider’ and moved in necessarily ‘greater’ grooves. Significantly, there are no records of the first part of Rhodes being performed after the alterations, but the London Stage lists several subsequent performances of the second part, the last being at Dorset Garden on March 24, 1677.[19] It may not have been technically difficult to accommodate Rhodes 1 on the altered LIF stage, but reverting to the cramped staging necessitated by the old scenery would certainly have looked odd and it may no longer have been considered appropriate for the fashionable venue that LIF had become by the mid-1660s. In contrast, post-alteration revivals of Rhodes 2 may well have been presented with the fuller staging suggested by the text. Whatever changes were made by Davenant to the LIF stage it is important to recall that they did not affect Pepys’s enjoyment of the play and he makes no further mention of it in his diary (even though he attended three performances of Love and Honour in October 1661).

In conclusion, if Davenant was short of money after converting Lisle’s tennis court, as seems likely, it would have made sense for him to have opened the new theatre with a tried and tested production and a scenic arrangement that required minimal outlay. However, restaging the Cockpit production of The Siege of Rhodes for both parts of the play (with minor modifications) would not have exploited the full stage space available at LIF. Pairs of single, fixed-wing scenes at three wing positions would have positioned the backcloth around 12 feet closer to the audience in comparison to any likely future arrangement. Therefore, when in September-October, 1661 Davenant subsequently altered his scenic stage to allow the use, if I am correct, of new, custom-built scenery, the backscenes would have been positioned further upstage.[20] A more distant positioning of the backscenes might well explain Pepys’s initial and probably naïve aversion to Davenant’s alterations – the scenery had less initial impact because it was further off. This suggestion has the advantage of fitting the available evidence such that the nature of Davenant’s changes, their timing, and Pepys’s reaction may be seen as related and explicable.

[1] Langhans, ‘Staging Practices in the Restoration Theatre 1660-1682’, unpublished PhD thesis, Yale (1955 ) p.289.
[2] Keenan, ‘Early Restoration staging: play production at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 1661-1674’, unpublished PhD thesis, London (2006).
[3] The London Stage notes that the theatrical season remained fairly constant during the 40 years from 1660-1700: the “schedule prevailed from October to June, with less frequent acting from June through September” (op cit introduction lxvii).
[4] As well as being the Duke’s Company’s prompter, Downes made his acting debut at the premiere of  The Siege of Rhodes. Unfortunately, the presence of the King and his nobles had a debilitating effect: “the sight of that August presence, spoil’d me for an actor” (Roscius Anglicanus, op cit p.34).
[5] Although both parts of Rhodes were initially performed at LIF, most of Pepys’s references to Rhodes are to part two.
[6] Op cit pp.21-3. There is no evidence to show how scenery was allocated to these old plays, but it was likely  to have been minimal judging by a promptbook for a later LIF revival, Shirley’s The Witty Faire One, which was allocated only three settings (see Langhans, Restoration Promptbooks, op cit p.43).
[7] See Hotson, Commonwealth and Restoration Stage, op cit pp.124-5.
[8] Ibid. pp.220-1.
[9] History, op cit, p.301.
[10] John Freehafer refers to the possibility of pre-Restoration scenery in his ‘Perspective Scenery And The Caroline Playhouses’ (Theatre Notebook, 1973, vol.27, no.3, p.111), though it is doubtful that any such scenery could have been used at LIF without modification.
[11] See Theatres, op cit pp.68-74.
[12] Ibid. The height of the frontispiece is 11ft but this includes a 2ft architrave. Surprisingly the narrower opening was required to fit the otherwise larger Cockpit space.
[13] See Thesis, op cit vol.3, Fig. 16.  
[14] Danchin, Prologues 1.1, op cit p.67
[15] Holland, Ornament of action, op cit p.257, n.65.
[16] Danchin, Prologues 1.1, op cit p.67.
[17] Webb shows 18ft but this includes approximately 2ft behind the backcloth.
[18] Danchin, Prologues 1.1, op cit p.67.
[19] The London Stage editors list a performance of the first part in May 1667, their evidence being a Lord Chamberlain’s list of royal performances for this period (reproduced by Nicoll, History, op cit p.346),  but the LC entry records only the play title not the part and is therefore inconclusive.  Further alterations to the scenery must have been made for the DorsetGarden revivals.
[20] The London Stage calendar records no performance at LIF from September 11 to October 21, though records are by no means complete.  If this is anywhere near accurate, the theatre was closed for at least a month.  Judging by the Warrants for carpentry work at Court theatres (See Boswell, Restoration Court Stage, op cit p.236) this would have been more than enough time for some major restructuring, if required.