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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: July ::
Re: Theatre Outside London
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1681  Tuesday, 23 July 2002

[1]     From:   Lisa Hopkins <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Jul 2002 15:20:52 -0700
        Subj:   Theatre Resistance

[2]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Jul 2002 17:52:02 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 13.1675 Theatre Outside London

[3]     From:   Dave Kathman <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Jul 2002 23:32:14 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1675 Theatre Outside London


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lisa Hopkins <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Jul 2002 15:20:52 -0700
Subject:        Theatre Resistance

In partial answer to one of Mike Jensen's questions, I think I remember
a plaque on a building in Richmond, North Yorkshire, recording that a
clandestine theatre performance was interrupted there during the Civil
War.  It's a couple of years ago that I was there and I am not entirely
sure that I'm remembering correctly, but it might be worth looking
into.  There's also Jane Cavendish and Elizabeth Brackley's play The
Concealed Fancies, written during the Civil War with a private household
performance in mind, though probably not in fact performed.

Lisa Hopkins
Sheffield Hallam University

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[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Jul 2002 17:52:02 +0100
Subject: Theatre Outside London
Comment:        SHK 13.1675 Theatre Outside London

Just some off the cuff suggestions:

Would it be useful to contact the archivist / librarians at some of the
leading public schools: e.g. Eton, Winchester, Westminster in which
there was certainly a tradition of internal theatrical performance.
Whether this survived the closure might be interesting to discover, and
if so whether their customary diet of 'improving' Latin / Greek plays
was ever supplemented by other pieces?

Oxford and Cambridge colleges?

Did some coaching inns still go on providing venues in York, Chester,
Durham perhaps - sufficiently distant from London to make checking
trickier?

Just a thought.

Stuart Manger

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dave Kathman <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Jul 2002 23:32:14 -0600
Subject: 13.1675 Theatre Outside London
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1675 Theatre Outside London

Mike Jensen wrote:

>I shall be grateful for two answers and a reference.
>
>It is well known that during the days of the Parliamentary republic
>between Charles I and II, that the theaters in London were closed,
>though there were some clandestine performances.

Actually, all of the theaters in London were *not* closed between 1642
and 1660, contrary to popular perception.  What was banned was the
performing of plays, and even that ban was very far from uniform.  There
weren't any significant public theatrical performances that I know of in
London during the height of hostilities in the Civil War, between 1642
and 1646.  However, the King's Men continued as a corporate entity until
at least the latter year, when they petitioned Parliament on 24 March
for back pay owed to them for the previous three and a half years; also,
numerous plays were acted before King Charles after he had moved his
base of power to Oxford, though these were not necessarily performed by
the King's Men.  Around the same time, Prince Charles (the future
Charles II) maintained a company of players in his exile in France,
though he was forced to dissolve the troupe in November 1646 because he
could no longer pay them.

In the late 1640s, when the worst of the fighting had ceased but
Cromwell had not yet seized full power, there was a burst of renewed
theatrical activity in London.  During most of 1647, plays were
regularly and openly performed at Salisbury Court, the Cockpit, the
Fortune, and probably the Red Bull, to the repeated annoyance of
Parliament, which on 16 July passed an ordinance banning stage plays
until the following 1 January.  But the players continued, and in the
fall the authorities began to crack down, raiding a performance of
Beaumont and Fletcher's *A King and No King* at Salisbury Court on 6
October 1647, and issuing a more severe proclamation against stage plays
on 16 October.

After 1 January 1648, the players began to perform more openly again, in
the belief that the ordinance of the previous July had expired.  They
apparently played fairly regularly, advertising their performances by
tossing playbills into the windows of passing coaches, though their
existence was much more financially precarious than before.  The King's
Men re-formed around this time, with seven sharers (John Lowin, Richard
Robinson, Robert Benfield, Thomas Pollard, Hugh Clarke, Stephen
Hammerton, and Theophilus Bird, all of whom had been with the company
before 1642) signing a contract on 28 January.  (All seven of these
players plus Eyllaerdt Swanston, Joseph Taylor, and William Allen signed
the dedication to the Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1647, as the King's
Men.)

This particular company folded in July 1648 when they couldn't make a
payment, but playing in general continued more or less regularly
throughout the year, at several different playhouses.  In the winter of
1648-49, a new version of the King's Men was formed with 16 members,
most of them younger men than those in the January version, including
some (such as Charles Hart and Walter Clun) who had been boy players
with the King's Men before 1642.  On 27 December 1648, this company
signed a contract with Walter Conway, an upholsterer who was providing
their financing; the 10 sharers who signed this contract were Richard
Baxter, William Hart, William Hall, Robert Cox, George Kettleby, Walter
Clun, Charles Hart, Nicholas Burt, Nicholas Blagden, and Thomas
Loveday.  This revived King's Men began performing at the Cockpit, but
on 1 January 1649 (new style), the Puritan authorities cracked down one
last time, raiding all four active playhouses at the same time.  They
arrested the players at the Cockpit and Salisbury Court, and a
rope-dancer they found performing at the Fortune, but the players at the
Red Bull managed to escape.

After this famous raid, the authorities finally demolished the interiors
of the Cockpit, Fortune, and Salisbury Court in March 1649, ending their
use as playhouses.  The "Actors of the Blacke-Friers and the Cock-Pit"
made one last appeal to Parliament in 1650, offering to no contribute
part of their takings to the government if they were allowed to play.
When this petition was denied, the players took a lower profile for the
next decade, mostly retreating to private homes on the outskirts of
London where play-lovers would gather and contribute money for the
players.  Even so, there were still play performances in London at
Gibbons' Tennis Court (where a performance of Thomas Killigrew's
*Claracilla* was raided in March 1653) and especially at the Red Bull,
which had somehow escaped destruction by Parliament in 1649.

Despite regular raids by the authorities, playing continued at the Red
Bull throughout the 1650s, especially the first half of the decade.
There was a raid on 20 December 1649, and a month later, on 22 January
1650, the authorities raided a performance of a play at the Red Bull and
arrested eight players, including Andrew Cane, who had been a leader of
several companies in the 1620s and 1630s.  There was another major raid
on 29 December 1654 during a performance of Fletcher's *Wit Without
Money*, and a raid on 14 September 1655 became violent, with many
"broken crowns".  This latter raid involved tiremen and musicians as
well as actors, and the costumes confiscated by the soldiers were "very
rich".

In addition to plays, many other kinds of performance took place
regularly at the Red Bull.  Robert Cox, who had been a sharer in the
December 1648 version of the King's Men, became famous as a performer of
quasi-theatrical "drolls" until his death in 1655.  Rope-dancing, which
had been popular before 1642, thrived in the 1650s at the Red Bull; one
of these, a black man known as The Turk, became quite famous in the
mid-to-late 1650s.  When the players began performing more openly again
in 1659-60 as the Protectorate crumbled, the Red Bull was one of the
venues they used, though only until more modern indoor playhouses could
be constructed.

In 1656, Sir William Davenant managed to get permission to put on
operas, which were not considered stage plays because all the dialogue
was sung.  These became rather popular, and were the precursors of the
Restoration plays which became openly legal a few years later.

>What about the rest of
>the country?  Were there pockets of resistance theater elsewhere?

Sure.  In Yorkshire on 20 January 1652, "four men, apprehended at Well
acting an Interlude, [were ordered] to be carried to Well and there
whipt till their bodies be bloody."  On 9 January 1654, five men were
arrested in Kirbymooreside, Yorkshire, for playing an interlude.  On 12
January 1656 eight men were whipped, "being, on their own confession,
convict for being common Players of Interludes, and rogues by the
Statute."  In January 1657, two players were "stript from the middle
upward and whipt, in the markett place of Hemsley."  These examples from
Yorkshire are all given by Hyder Rollins in "A Contribution to the
History of the English Commonwealth Drama", *Studies in Philology* 18
(1921), 267-333, which gives many details of stage activity in England
between 1642 and 1660.  Presumably other areas of the country had
similar transgressions during the 1640s and 1650s, but the only other
one noted by Rollins is a case in Newcastle upon Tyne on 10 January
1656, in which eight named players were whipped as rogues and vagabonds.

>It is well known that only two London theaters were given licenses to
>operate in 1662,

1660, actually.

>though there were some clandestine performances as
>well.  Were there any theaters in other parts of the country?

I'm sure there were, but, alas, my research only goes up to 1660, after
which the info is sketchier.  However, looking through Judith Milhous
and Robert D. Hume's *Register of English Theatrical Documets
1660-1737*, I find some from outside London.  For example, on 11 July
1663, Charles II authorized the authorities of Norwich to restrict
"Lotteries Puppet playes & other showes... whereby the meaner sort of
people are diverted from their labors" (p. 52), and on 19 August of the
same year, the player George Jolly contributed three pounds to the poor
of Norwich.

>I'd be grateful for a couple of quick answers, but even more grateful
>for a reference where I can learn more about this on my own.

Mike, I realize that this answer has hardly been "quick", and includes
quite a bit that you didn't really ask about, but I hope you'll forgive
me.  It's just that I've gathered quite a bit of material on this stuff
for my Biographical Dictionary, which goes up to 1660, and when I
started to answer I got carried away.

The Rollins article from 1921, cited above, has lots of details about
the English stage between 1642 and 1660, as does Rollins' follow-up
article, "The Commonwealth Drama: Miscellaneous Notes", *Studies in
Philology* 20 (1923), 52-69.  Leslie Hotson's *The Commonwealth and
Restoration Stage* (1928), especially Chapter One, also has lots of info
about the period.  More recently, Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume,
"New Light on English Acting Companies in 1646, 1648, and 1660", *Review
of English Studies* 42 (1991), 487-509, has much valuable additional
information about the King's Men of the late 1640s, including details
from newly-discovered lawsuits.

Dave Kathman

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