Book review: ‘Thomas Killigrew and the Seventeenth-Century English Stage: New Perspectives’

From SHARP News 24.2 (2015), 23-4.

KilligrewBook

Philip Major (ed.). Thomas Killigrew and the Seventeenth-Century English Stage: New Perspectives. Farnham, UK & Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013. xii, 228 p. ill. ISBN 9781409466680. £60 (hardback).

This collection is better appreciated as offering new perspectives on Killigrew’s life and various occupations, rather than a reappraisal of his work in relation to theatrical production, as the title suggests. As such, it succeeds in its aim of fleshing out our understanding of a significant but elusive individual who tends to be characterised in negative one-dimensional terms, variously as a venal minor courtier, an incompetent theatre manager, a writer of prolix closet plays, or a licensed buffoon. The eight chapters in this book demonstrate the shallowness of these judgements and add not only to our knowledge of the man but also to our understanding of the complex web of commerce, politics, patronage and social networking that constituted the workings of the Stuart courts in which he was immersed.

The book approaches its subject from several different angles: theatre and theatre production, drama and genre, patronage, and Killigrew as exile and courtier. For the most part these approaches intersect engagingly, though there is inevitably some repetition, and the collection succeeds in its aim of generating a welcome feeling of unpredictability as one moves from chapter to chapter. Some may view this as a lack of focus, but this would be to discount the detailed and persuasive arguments permeating this collection that work collectively to shed new light on its shadowy (and inherently ill-focused) subject.

The first chapter, by Eleanor Collins, which examines pre-Restoration production of two of Killigrew’s plays, exemplifies these attributes and offers fresh insights from the perspective of Repertoire Studies. Similar attention to detail is evidenced in David Roberts’s chapter, which sets out a refreshing counterargument to the traditional view of Killigrew as a bad theatre manager. In a highly engaging and eloquent chapter on autobiographical aspects of the two-part play Thomaso, Jean-Piere Vander Motten conveys a felt sense of the experience of exile for Royalists like Killigrew during the 1640s and ’50s. Vander Motten’s essay makes us see Thomaso in a new light as a subtle, rich work in its own right, rather than as merely the source play for Behn’s more renowned adaptation. Marcus Nevitt similarly focuses on Thomaso, inviting us to view the play as two separate, theatrically viable five-act plays rather than as a single ten-act closet play. Nevitt provides an excellent account of Thomaso’s structure and of Killigrew’s subsequent editing of the play, which points, he argues, to a likely post-Restoration production. In this case the overall discussion of the play, with its helpful comparison to Davenant’s The Siege of Rhodes and its fascinating pointing up of the play’s meta-theatricality, proves more intriguing than the argument, but both these chapters achieve the laudable goal of making readers wish to (re)take up the plays for themselves.

Despite a significant number of typographical and similar errors that mar the reading experience at several points (an inadvertent exchange of captions to Figs. 4.1 and 4.2 being the most disconcerting), all the chapters offer new insights into Killigrew’s work and milieu. In reading this fascinating and diverse collection one is forced to reconsider received opinion of Killigrew’s work and character. The man re-emerges not necessarily as a more likeable or significant figure, but as one more human, more rounded, more explicable actually as an adept survivor. In short, this book suggests possible answers to the question it asks in its introduction about who might be the “real” Thomas Killigrew.

Tim Keenan

University of Queensland, Australia

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John Webb: scene designs for ‘The Siege of Rhodes’ (1656)

Click on images to enlarge

John Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes': frontispiece and wings

‘The Siege of Rhodes’: frontispiece and wings

Johnn Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes': shutter, prospect of Rhodes

‘The Siege of Rhodes’: shutter, prospect of Rhodes

John Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes': shutter, Rhodes besieged

‘The Siege of Rhodes’: shutter, Rhodes besieged

John Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes;': relieve, Solyman’s throne and camp

‘The Siege of Rhodes’: relieve, Solyman’s throne and camp

John Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes': relieve, Mt. Philermus

‘The Siege of Rhodes’: relieve, Mt. Philermus

John Webb: 'The Siege of Rhodes;: shutter, the general assault

‘The Siege of Rhodes;: shutter, the general assault

The Rivals (staging)

by William Davenant (September 1664; pub.1668)

This play is an adaptation of The Two Noble Kinsmen by Fletcher & Shakespeare first published in 1668. There is no evidence, bibliographical or otherwise, of it having been written or performed before the Restoration. Dawn Lewcock excludes it from her Theatre Notebook survey, presumably because it is an adaptation, but it is largely, if diffusely, scenically conceived. The scenes are unnumbered and only three from a minimum of six possible scenic locations are stated. However, only one scene, the very first, is difficult to locate. The stage direction – “Enter Arcon, Polynices, and Souldiers as from Victory” – and the ensuing dialogue would arguably best fit an exterior location, but there is very little to go on. Hence, to avoid a location that cannot be inferred anywhere else in the play, I set this scene in a stateroom in Arcon’s palace; a location I infer at three other points in the play.[1] This economy results in a proposed staging with five shutter scenes: Arcon’s palace, the citadel terrace (stated by Davenant), Heraclia’s chamber in Arcon’s palace, the palace garden (stated), and a wood (stated). There is sufficient suggestion in the text to indicate that the rustic theatricals that start Act 4 should be allocated scenery different from the general wood setting that is stated to precede it. Arcon and his fellow hunters have just witnessed a country-dance and the party is invited to see more:

1. Coun[try man].
If that your Highness Worship think it good
To saunter but a little in the Wood.
Good Sir, be pleas’d to raise your self and go forth
To hear the Horns, then see the Hunt, and so forth.

Arcon.
Since you are Master of the Hunt, we’l take
Our stand, where you appoint us: lead the way.
We’le change the Scene a while to see your Sports:
Princes for pleasure may remove their Courts.
[Ex. Omnes.

The Fourth Act.

Enter Arcon, Polyn. Herac. Attendants and Countrey-Poet.

Poet.
Let man of might sit down in dainty Arbor,
Where trees are trim’d as Perriwig is by Barbor;
[…].
[Ex. Poet.
Arcon.
Well! we will be directed:
This Wood has various places of delight,
It can afford both privacy and pleasure.[2]

In the scenery plot I assume that the “dainty Arbor” that affords Arcon such delight justifies the use of a relieve scene. It is also possible that Arcon’s party follow the implied stage directions and “sit down” on preset benches in the relieve area to witness the country entertainment on the main scenic stage; the inverse of the arrangement I infer for The Slighted Maid. The arbour setting continues with the same tree wings, which are also used to furnish the garden scene. Other wing settings match the three remaining shutter scenes: stateroom, chamber, and terrace. Following my argument for Henry V, I differentiate between the public and private environments within Arcon’s palace with complete scene changes. My scene numbers follow the cleared stage pattern as used elsewhere and may be seen in the scenery plot.

If 1.1 is difficult to locate fictionally, this is as nothing compared to one of the most puzzling stage directions in the LIF repertoire: “Enter Philander, and Theocles, (as in the Balcone, walking in the Palace-Garden)” (2.3.14). The parenthetical phrases appear mutually incompatible, but it seems to me that there are two viable solutions to this puzzle: (i) we consider the balcony to be related to the garden (a building in the garden), or to be a part of the citadel that overlooks the garden; [3] (ii) there is a printing error and the second phrase anticipates the next stage direction, “Enter Heraclia, and Cleone, in the Garden”; indeed, if we omit the second phrase everything is explicable. The two men are in a balcony and at the next direction the women enter in the scenic area. From the dialogue it is clear that Theocles cannot see the women. After several exchanges in which Theocles becomes aware that his friend is not attending to their conversation he exclaims:

Theo.
Cosin! Cosin? How d’ye?

Phil.
Never till now was I a pris’ner.

Theo.
Why, What’s the matter?

Phil.
Behold and Wonder! She is not mortal sure!

Theo.
Ha![4]

From this I infer that the actor playing Philander is standing upstage of Theocles and is looking down into the scenic area. The actor playing Theocles is standing facing his fellow and the audience and does not see Heraclia until he is invited to turn around and gaze upon her. This is the most textual intervention I have suggested in the LIF plays considered up to this point, but I believe it is justified to reconcile the stage directions with the dialogue.[5]

The words ‘balcony’ and ‘window’ are used interchangeably in this play as in other LIF plays. This may be seen a little later in the balcony scene when Philander threatens Theocles: “Put thy head,/ Once more without this Window, and I’ll nail thy life”. A balcony in its ‘window’ incarnation is specified earlier in the play in 1.2: “Enter Celania and Leucippe as at a Window”.[6] In this scene, in which it is the men who are being overheard, it is clear that the balcony is also fitted with a curtain:

Leuc[ippe].
This Window, Madam, looks into the Tarras
Where they are walking, you may over-hear
All their discourse (the Curtain being clos’d)
Without discovery.[7]

Most commentators have used passages such as this to conjecture that the balconies were permanently fitted with windows and curtains. I suspect it is more likely that such features would be rigged according to production requirements.

I am interpreting the direction for Heraclia to enter ‘in’ the garden (above) as indicating use of the scenic area. On its own this would merely be slight suggestion, but in conjunction with the balcony directions and dialogue (Theocles not immediately seeing Heraclia) the supposition becomes firmer. Furthermore, this would not be the only example of acting within the scenic area in the play. When Philander is living rough in the forest there are two interesting directions concerning him: “Enter Philander out of a bush”, and “Enter Philander, (as from a Bush)”. As with similar directions in The Step-Mother, these are best explained by entrances from behind tree wings.


[1] William Cademen: London, 1668, p.1.
[2] Ibid. pp.36-7.
[3] Later in the scene (17) Philander states “This is the Palace-Garden”. The meaning of ‘this’ is of course dependent on gesture and could refer to balcony, scenic area, or conceivably both.
[4] Ibid.p.14.
[5] I think Langhans misinterprets the stage directions here; he believes they imply that both men and women are acting at stage level. His suggestion that the men might walk behind a low railing or balustrade inserted into one of the shutter grooves is ingenious but unnecessary (See Staging Practices in the Restoration Theatre 1660-1682, unpublished PhD thesis, Yale, 1955 p.308-9).
[6] Op cit p.7.
[7] Ibid. I note a similar concern with antithetical stage directions in Dryden and Davenant’s adaptation of The Tempest (‘Adapting the Adaptors: staging Davenant and Dryden’s Restoration Tempest’, 71-3)

The Play-house to be Let (staging)

by William Davenant (LIF, Aug. 1663; pub. 1673)

This ‘play’ is a composite entertainment of diverse pre-Restoration material presented off-season in late summer 1663. It comprises two of Davenant’s Commonwealth ‘operas’ – The History of Sir Francis Drake (pub. 1659) and The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru (pub. 1658) – topped and tailed respectively by a version of Molière’s Sganarelle, ou le Cocu Imaginaire and a parody “In Verse Burlesque” of Caesar and Cleopatra. This material is preceded by a first ‘act’ that introduces the meta-dramatic subject of the LIF management seeking to raise extra funds in the “dead Vacation” by letting the theatre to interested parties.[1] It is intriguing to theatre historians for the information it provides, albeit comically distorted, about the ordinary operations of a Restoration theatre, and because it seems designed by Davenant to show off the theatre’s resources (to a mainly citizen audience); thus providing a fairly clear statement of scenic and staging capacities in the first few years of the Restoration. Surprisingly, for a piece that seems to have had few performances and for which there are no eyewitness reports, it has garnered some favourable comment over the years. Langbaine thought it “handsomely tackt together”, Summers found it to be “an adroitly contrived and highly comical entertainment”, and more recently both Langhans and Lewcock have admired its theatrical versatility.[2] However, the play is rarely considered by non-historians, probably because its ad hoc mix of old and new is difficult to categorise. The only certain post-Restoration components are the first act, the inter-act linking dialogue and stage directions, and some directions in Act 5. However, the play raises interesting questions about early Restoration staging and scenic practice, although there is no published analysis of its staging requirements. Langhans’s analysis in his doctoral dissertation is the fullest but it lacks his usual clarity.[3] The following commentary not only details the play’s staging requirements, it also explicates the interpretive methods I apply elsewhere on this website.

In the first years of the Restoration the allocation of old plays Davenant had the rights to perform was miserly: he even had to petition the King for the rights to perform his own pre-Restoration plays.[4] Given this and the general lack of new plays at this early date it is not surprising that Davenant sought to recycle older material. By 1663 he had already staged The Law Against Lovers (1662) – adapted from Measure For Measure and Much Ado About Nothing – and had made use of translations from various hands. The Play-House to be Let is a product of this general situation. The fact that it recycles old scenery as well as old material may well have been its raison d’être. The scenery in question was that for Davenant’s operas, Sir Francis Drake and The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru. These works together with the first part of The Siege of Rhodes were presented at the Cockpit, Drury Lane in the period 1658-9. The Play-House to be Let was first published in the 1673 Works edition of Davenant’s plays. There are some differences between the original editions of the operas (1658/9) and the versions in the Works, but they are not substantive. The later version omits some non-dramatic sideshows such as gymnastic ‘tricks of activity’. It also omits directions present in the original editions of the operas for the front curtain to rise at the start of the piece and fall at the end. However, we should recall that this sumptuous folio is very much a reading edition that strictly has no need for such theatrical indication. In the LIF performance, the curtain directions would have been retained to preserve Davenant’s intended effect of surprise and delight when the scenery is first revealed. These intentions are stated in his description cum stage direction at the start of the First Entry of Sir Francis Drake: “The preparation of the opening of the Scene is by a prelude and Corante. Afterwards the Curtain rises by degrees to an ascending Ayr, and a Harbour is discern’d”.[5] This direction is included in the Works edition and I think should be taken as indication of how these operas would be presented within the framework of The Play-House to be Let.

No scene drawings or designs for the operas are extant, but we are fortunate in that the texts provide copious scene descriptions and stage directions, to the extent that it is possible to recover much of the original staging with a fair degree of confidence. The original staging was of course at the Cockpit, this discussion assumes that the staging at LIF must have been largely the same, for any refashioning with its attendant expenses would have defeated the presumed object of cheaply recycling existing material for off-season presentation to an unfashionable, citizen audience.

As both operas were designed for the Siege of Rhodes stage they originally used that scenic arrangement, namely fixed wings, three changeable backshutters, and a relieve space five feet six inches deep. Examination of the scene descriptions for both operas shows that concern for theatrical economy is already evident, in that the later opera, Sir Francis Drake, recycles the earlier opera’s wings, their descriptions being almost identical. However, Davenant does not separate wing and shutter descriptions and it is possible to confuse the two. Davenant’s descriptions of the scenery are reproduced below; I have abbreviated description of the shutters while presenting that of the wings scenes in full:

The First ENTRY. [The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru]
…a Lantdchap of the West-Indies is discern’d […]
This Prospect is made through a Wood, differing from those of European Climats, by representing of Coco-Trees, Pines, and Palmitos; and on the boughs of other Trees are seen Munkies, Apes, and Parrots; and at farther distance, Vallies of Sugar-Canes.

The First ENTRY. [The History of Sir Francis Drake]
…a Harbour is discern’d, […] The narrowness to the entrance of the Harbour may be observ’d, with Rocks on either side; and out at Sea a ship towing a Prize […]
This Prospect is made through a Wood, differing from those of European Climats, by representing of Coco-Trees, Pines, and Palmitos. And on the Boughs of other Trees are seen Munkies, Apes, and Parrots.[6]

Looking at Sir Francis Drake in isolation it would be easy to fall into the error made by Langhans and suppose that wings are implied by the description “Rocks on either side”, but in each case above, description of the wing scenes begins with “This Prospect is made”.[7] When reading further scene descriptions for these operas it is important to recall these fixed tree wings. We also need to bear in mind that the backscene descriptions may refer to painted shutters or to scenes of relieve. Distinguishing scene type is not always straightforward. The use of the phrase ‘at a distance’ or similar may provide a clue to identifying a scene of relieve but, in the examples above, a case could be made for either being such a scene. At this point we can use the fact that it was impossible on Webb’s Rhodes stage (or Hall stage) to present successive relieve (discovery) scenes. If we can show that a particular scene is a relieve scene, then the scenes which immediately precede and follow it must be shutter scenes. We also need to think of the descriptions and directions in terms of practical stagecraft, even showmanship. For this reason alone I think that the examples above describe shutter scenes: in general it makes little theatrical sense to reveal the full scenic potential of the stage at the outset; better by far to delay and limit the use of relieve scenes, so adding to their impact.

In The Playhouse the order of presentation is Sir Francis Drake (Act 3) followed by The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru (Act 4). I have edited Davenant’s prolix descriptions to focus on the scenic information; the comments after each description enable a tentative scenery plot to be constructed.

The Second ENTRY [Sir Francis Drake]
The SCENE is chang’d. In which is discern’d a Rockie Country […] A Sea is discover’d, and Ships at distance, with Boats rowing to the shore, and Symerons upon the Rocks.
The Prospect having continu’d a while, this Song is sung by a Steersman in the foreostm [sic] Boat, and the Chorus by Marriners rowing in it.[8]

This is one of the more problematic scenic descriptions to decipher. As with other analyses on this website, it is best to start by taking scene headings and stage directions at face value until otherwise indicated. The presence of singing mariners, the fact that the sea is “discover’d”, and the information that the ships are “at distance” points strongly to this being a scene of relieve. This also fits my contention that the first scene is a shutter scene. The difficulty is the mariners: five and a half feet maximum depth is a snug fit for the steersman and his crew, irrespective of all the other elements that create the full picture. The scene is brief: after the song there are only 50 lines of dialogue, a dance, and a final offstage chorus of mariners (marked “within”). Might then the author or printer have simply omitted an earlier instruction ‘within’, thus allowing everything to be painted on a shutter?  Such an instruction would certainly make this scene easier to stage, but again I believe we should accept what is in front of us.[9] Langhans thinks at least one actual boat would have been required. The difficulty is in fitting a real or prop boat within the confines of the relieve space. More room would have been available at LIF but the Drake text refers to the original Rhodes stage whose relieve space is a maximum of 7ft wide x 5½ft deep. This depth comprises a gap of 2ft 6in between shutter grooves and first relieve, and two gaps of 1ft 6in between first and second relieves and second relieve and backcloth. The size of a three-dimensional boat depends on how many rowing sailors are required for the chorus, I would suggest a minimum of four (two per side) and a maximum of six. A steersman and three pairs of sailors rowing in unison could just about fit into a stage boat five feet long (assuming smaller body sizes in the 17th century). The width of the boat depends on the disposition of the relieve scenes, which could be cut and layered in a variety of ways. However, assuming a boat is presented side-on to the audience and that relieve scenery is used in the positions stated by Webb’s drawings, the only possible place the boat could fit according to the drawings is in the gap between shutters and first relieve. In realisation, however, we would have to modify the stated scenery; otherwise, the boat would not appear to be on the sea. A ground row could be attached to the boat, or waves could be painted on its side. The second suggestion seems weak and I am ruling out the first suggestion because it modifies the disposition of the stage as we know it. Similarly, positioning the boat on a diagonal might make it difficult to integrate it scenically with the end-on planes of relieves and backcloth. These problems would be alleviated with a fully scenic staging that works with rather than against the flat scenic planes. A possible solution, therefore, would be to use a ground row in the first relieve position (foreground) depicting a painted boat breasting the waves. Behind this the mariners would sit on benches at right-angles to the relieve plane. The second relieve position (middle distance) would feature rocks and Symerons on one side, and a seascape with perhaps a painted boat or two on the other. The backcloth would depict the remaining elements of the description: the sea, distant ships, and remaining boats. More space would have been available at LIF, but I think it is clear that the room required by the actors militates against the use of a wave machine in the original production, an idea suggested by Arthur Nethercot and taken up recently by David Thomas.[10]

In sum, the second entry is most likely to be a scene of relieve; therefore the first and the third must use shutter scenes. This is nothing about the description of the third entry to suggest otherwise:

The Third ENTRY.
…the Scene changes, and represents a Peruvian Town, pleasantly scituated, with Palmeto-Trees, Guavas, and Cypresses, growing about it, whilst English Land-Souldiers and Sea-men seem to be drawn up towards the West end; whilst the Peruvians are feasting their Guests, and Two of their Boys bearing Fruit towards the Strangers.[11]

The fourth entry might demand a relieve scene, but either is possible:

The Fourth ENTRY.
…the Scene is chang’d; wherein is discern’d upon a Hill, a Wood, and in it a Tree […] English Souldiers and Marriners are reposing themselves under it. At distance the Natives are discern’d in their hunting of Boars; and at nearer view, two Peruvians are killing a Stagg.[12]

In isolation the fifth scene might be thought to be a relieve, even one employing a rising sun machine:

The Fifth ENTRY.
…the Scene is chang’d, in which is discover’d the rising of the Sun through a thick Wood, and Venta-Cruz at great distance on the South side.[13]

However, the description of the next scene change (within the Entry) complicates matters:

The Scene is suddenly changed into the former prospect of the rising of the Morning, and Venta Cruz; but about the Middle, it is vary’d with the discov’ry of a Beautiful Lady ty’d to a Tree, adorn’d with the Ornaments of a Bride, with her hair dishevel’d, and complaining, with her hands towards Heaven: About her are likewise discern’d the Symerons who took her prisoner.[14]

The question here is whether the lady is real or painted? If the former holds it should be recalled that at the Cockpit in 1659 she must have been represented by a male actor. The fact that that no other female character makes an appearance of any kind in either of the two operas considered here inclines me to agree with Summers and Harbage that Davenant intended a painted lady.[15] Visser and Thomas suggest to varying degrees that an actor was used.[16] Visser is short on detail but he makes the interesting suggestion that the stage direction for the lady to be revealed could have been satisfied by partially opening the backshutters. There is no evidence in the period of this study for such an operation, but neither is there any objection to it on technical grounds. Visser does not elaborate on the scenic environment within which the lady is discovered, nor how partial the opening would need to be – quite wide one imagines, as the audience must be able to see the captors as well as the lady – nor does he explore this idea in any detail. However, theatrical issues aside, this solution does not sit that happily with the text. Davenant was well versed in scenic matters and he is not shy of technical descriptions in any of his operas. If Visser is correct, I think the scene description would simply have stated that the lady is discovered, omitting the preamble. What it says is that there is a sudden change from the Venta-Cruz “prospect” to another that has a different subject in the middle. The most literal explanation is that two shutters were employed: the original Venta-Cruz shutter was withdrawn to reveal the lady and her captors painted against the same background. This would not necessarily have been a more expensive solution, since if we follow Visser and Thomas an actor or a manikin would have to be discovered in a painted scenic environment of some kind even with partially opened shutters. The literal interpretation may seem odd to modern perceptions, but it provides a better match to the stage direction, the descriptive phrasing, and the subsequent action. Unlike the mariners and their boat in the second entry, there is no specific indication of a relieve scene being required in the fifth entry description, so the distant view of Santa-Cruz with its rising sun is probably part of a shutter painting. However, when the scene changes to reveal the lady there is nothing to suggest any qualitative difference about the new scene. The language used by Davenant to describe the bride and her captors is the same as for the third entry, which we know must be a shutter scene. These detailed descriptions have a painterly quality quite unlike the matter-of-fact tone of the second entry, which simply tells us there are boats rowing to shore and a group of sailors sing a song. However, this is slight suggestion not evidence; evidence against an actor being used is the fact that the lady never makes an entrance even when Davenant creates the perfect opportunity for her to do so. On the next page she is rescued by Drake’s men. Her father and bridegroom – characters making their first and only appearance – are invited to join in the celebrations but the lady never appears:

Enter the Father of the Bride, and her Bridegroom; the Bridegroom dancing with Castanietos, to express the joy he receives for his liberty, whilst the Father moves to his measures, denoting the fright he had receiv’d from the Symerons, when he was surpriz’d at his nuptial Entertainment.[17]

Had Davenant intended the lady to be represented by an actor he would surely have directed her to enter here. The sight of the distressed beauty relieved would have provided a more satisfying end to the episode than the virtually anonymous dancing men. The piece was originally written for a simple stage and for a scenically inexperienced audience. The effect of suddenly revealing and covering two similar paintings might have made quite a theatrical effect. Davenant might even have been demonstrating how scenery could be used on its own to develop a narrative.

The last entry follows immediately and could be either a shutter or a relieve scene:

The Sixth ENTRY.
…the Scene is chang’d; wherein is discover’d the Prospect of a hilly Country, with the Town Panamah at a distance, and Recoes of Mules, in a long train, loaden with Wedges of Silver and Ingots of Gold, and travelling in several Roads down a Mountain. There likewise may be discern’d their Drivers and Guards.[18]

We thus have a total of seven distinct scenes intended originally for a stage – as in the LIF model – that could accommodate only three backshutters and one scene of relieve. It is inevitable, therefore, that some scenes would have to be loaded during performance, as discussed in earlier chapters. However, as long as we avoid the solecism of successive relieve scenes, load new shutters at the ends of entries, and prepare new relieves behind shutters in view, a possible scenery plot for either production of Sir Francis Drake is easily made. The scenes in order are:

 1. Harbour
2. Landscape with sea view (relieve)
3. Peruvian town
4. Landscape (relieve)
5. (i)  Landscape with sunrise
5. (ii) Landscape with sunrise and bride
5. (i)  Landscape with sunrise
6. Landscape with mules

I have indicated two relieves, though more could be accommodated. The only other theatrical constraint to be noted concerning the allocation of relieve scenes is that there should be sufficient time to strike the old scene and replace it before the next relieve scene is specified. This operation is bound to take more time than a change of shutter scene. How long is difficult to say for certain, as it depends on the scene in question, but in this case there are around 40 lines of text, a dance, and a three verse song in between the two relieve scenes of entries 2 and 4. All told, this would provide sufficient time for the scene shift. It should also be noted that all ‘entries’ (in both operas) are preceded by music, and typically an entry does not start until the music has “continu’d a while”. The music also allows time to complete any necessary scenery adjustments prior to the next stage action. A possible LIF staging of The Play-house to be Let is provided in the accompanying scenery plot.

The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru comprises Act 4 of The Play-house to be Let. The required staging is of a similar kind and presents similar problems to those rehearsed above and needs little additional comment. The main difficulty is the original one, namely how these scenes intended for the small Cockpit theatre were presented on the later, post-alteration LIF stage. A brief inspection of the scenic requirements of the rest of The Play-house reveals that Act 1 has no scenic requirements, Act 2 requires a single setting of a street, and Act 5 accommodates a royal canopy and a parade ground. In fact the problem of what to show in Act 5 is reflexively made the subject of the dialogue:

The Fifth ACT.
Enter House-Keeper, and Player.

Play.
Now we must have one voyage more from
Peru to Alexandria (which in good troth,
Is but a step to swift imagination)
And then we may sleep in our empty Inn
Until next Term.

Hous. K.
We have no Scene of Alexandria.

Play.
A Canopy of State to shew the Majesty
Of those who are presented will serve turn.[19]

The two actors remain onstage to act as chorus to a dumb show of Caesar and Cleopatra entering with their trains. No sooner are they arranged onstage than a gypsy dance begins. The stage direction reads, “The Dance being ended, the Gypsies depart, and the Scene changes into a Parrad or Court du Guard”. There are no further scene changes after this. The fact that the scene changes are discussed and that the canopy of state is on for such a short time, suggests that they were not technically challenging items. Indeed, Alan Dessen & Leslie Thomson’s A Dictionary of Stage Directions in English Drama, 1580-1642 states that a canopy in pre-Restoration plays might be carried onstage by bearers and held in position until the end of the scene.[20] The scene handlers in The Play-house would have been kept busy with the multiple backscene changes in the two operas, but they would not have been troubled by the wing shutters. Allowing for two sets of wings in Act 5 the whole play needs only four sets, the others being a street setting in Act 2, and tree wings in Acts 3 & 4. Nothing is required for Act 1 because it is set in a supposedly empty LIF at the time of representation in summer 1663. The novelty would have been to present a bare stage with no scenery showing, though wings and shutters for other acts would have been loaded in their frames in the offstage position. The opening stage direction plays on this conceit: “The SCENE opens, and upon two Stools are discover’d the Tire-woman and Chair-woman, one shelling of Beans, and the other Sowing./ Enter Player and House-Keeper”.[21] The ‘scene opens’ here refers to the whole scenic stage which was uncovered when the curtain was raised. The same locution is used by Pepys when he reports on seeing The Siege of Rhodes for the first time (July 2, 1661): “The King being come, the scene opened; which indeed is very fine and magnificent”.

Magnificence was not the intention of The Play-House to be Let. Davenant’s medley starts with a riddling prologue and ends with ‘Caesar’ inviting the audience to join him at the local tavern. It was presented off-season when the fashionable audience was out of town and was intended as robust citizen entertainment. The epilogue refers to the absence of “the severer Criticks” who might “hurt our play”, and indeed Pepys, who was something of a snob when it came to mixing with cits, was not tempted to break one of his periodical vows “against all plays”.[22] The production also provided an opportunity for Davenant to advertise the capacities of his new theatre to this important segment of his audience. As Orgel & Strong put it, the play is “an anthology of scenic possibilities”.[23] The tone of the play, the timing, and the audience composition suggest that the aim of the production was not to impress aesthetically, as Davenant would do with later productions (admired even by the cultured Evelyn), it was rather to impress with variety. For this reason I do not think it would have mattered how Davenant accommodated the old scenery designed for a smaller stage; this was a special production, outside the regular season. Some modifications must have been required, whether he decided to revert to a Cockpit-sized stage, or whether he made the old scenery fit the new arrangements. Either way he seems to have had plenty of time to recover from this interesting venture, possibly up to eight weeks, as there is no further recorded performance at LIF until October.

This discussion has focussed on the scenery because the staging of The Play-House to be Let is otherwise straightforward and presents no problems for the LIF model. Interestingly, there are nine references to ‘door’ in the play, all occurring in the post-Restoration Act 1. Three of these are in stage directions and make use of the oppositional ‘enter/exit at one door, enter at the other’ format. The use of a balcony is also implied in Act 2 when Davenant directs “Sganarelle’s Wife looks out of the Window”, she sees her husband apparently flirting and says “I will goe doone [and] surprise de villaine”.[24]


[1] Davenant, Works, 1673, p.67, p.71.
[2] Gerard Langbaine, An Account of the English Dramatic Poets, Oxford: 1691; Scolar Press reprint, 1971, p.109; MontagueSummers, The Playhouse Of Pepys, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1935 p.155; Edward Langhans, Staging Practices in the Restoration Theatre 1660-1682, unpublished PhD thesis, Yale, 1955, pp.299-307; Dawn Lewcock, ‘Aphra Behn On The Restoration Stage’, unpublished PhD thesis, Anglia Polytechnic University Cambridge, 1987, p.85.
[3] Op cit pp.299-307.
[4] See Robert D. Hume, ‘Securing A Repertory’, in A. Coleman & A. Hammond (eds.), Poetry & Drama 1570-1700, London: Methuen, 1981, pp.158-9.
[5] Works, op cit p.87.
[6] Ibid. p.103-4 & 87.
[7] See Langhans, Thesis, op cit p.301.
[8] Works, op cit p.90.
[9] There are oddities to modern readers, not the least being that the mariners maintain their rowing throughout the scene, and remain mute when their offstage mates are in full voice.
[10] Nethercot, Sir William D’Avenant: Poet Laureate and playwright-manager, University of Chicago Press, 1938, p.333; Thomas (ed.), Documentary History, op cit p.85, 96. Another of Nethercot’s suggestions followed by Thomas is the idea that the First Entry featured a model ship with moveable sails and a wind machine to match descriptions in the dialogue (Nethercott, ibid.; Thomas, ibid.). However, the dialogue is more likely to be describing offstage, diagetic events and Nethercot cites no authority for ideas that are at best optimistic given the staging conditions.
[11] Works, op cit. p.92.
[12] Ibid. p.94.
[13] Ibid. p.96.
[14] Ibid. p.98.
[15] Summers, Playhouse, op cit p.52. Harbage, Cavalier Drama, op cit p.212.
[16] Visser, ‘John Dryden’s Amboyna At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 1673’, Restoration and Eighteenth Century Theatre Research, vol.15, no.1, Loyola University of Chicago, May, 1976, p.4; Thomas (ed.), Documentary History, op cit p.85 & 99.
[17] Works, op cit pp.99-100.
[18] Ibid. p.100.
[19] Ibid. p.115.
[20]Cambridge: CUP, 1999, p.41.
[21] Works, op cit p.67.
[22] Ibid. p.119; Pepys: see entry for June 13.
[23] Inigo Jones 1, op cit p.9.
[24] Works, op cit p.78.

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).

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.

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