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.

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:

Warn.
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.
[…]

Rose.
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.