The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0323 Wednesday, 19 April 2006
From: Alan Dessen <
Date: Tuesday, 18 Apr 2006 12:41:47 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 17.0287 Rushes on the Elizabethan Stage
Comment: Re: SHK 17.0287 Rushes on the Elizabethan Stage
I was hoping someone else would respond to Mary Coy's query, largely
because I don't have readily at hand the requested evidence (which,
according to my unreliable memory, *is* there). The best I can do for
now is provide our entry below from *A Dictionary of Stage Directions in
English Drama, 1580-1642* (Cambridge UP, 1999) and a few citations from
Shak.'s plays. The one really pertinent item from the entry is from a
late (c. 1638) Caroline play by Davenant.
E.g., the call for "more rushes, more rushes" in *2H4*, 5.5 for a
coronation procession is typical of general usage, as is the preparation
for Petruchio and Kate's arrival in *Shrew*, 4.1 ("the house trimm'd,
rushes strew'd, cobwebs swept"). More to the point may be Glendower's
translation of his daughter's words to Mortimer: "she bids you on the
wanton rushes lay you down" (*1H4*, 3.1.211). The term usually turns up
in the plural, but (to move into the inventive or theatrical mode),
Othello's lament about the lapse of his heroic stature that includes
"man but a rush against Othello's breast" (5.2.270) *could* be
accompanied by a picking up of a rush from the stage floor (i.e., you no
longer need a sword to defeat me, just a straw will do).
rush, rushes: either 1) a verb used with in for sudden entrances or 2)
the stem of a grass-like plant used as a floor covering or strewn on the
ground for processions; for figures who enter rushing in see Downfall of
Huntingdon, 1624; Richard II, K1r, 5.5.104; Volpone, 5.4.61; Turk, 1446;
Country Girl, E2v; Wizard, 2290; variations include "suddenly rush in"
(Christian Turned Turk, H1v), "Break open door; rush in" (No Wit,
5.1.150), "rush in with their swords drawn, and seize upon the Ladies"
(Conspiracy, K2v), "Those in ambush rusheth forth and take him" (Dutch
Courtesan, 5.1.49); non-entrances are "rush upon them" (Prophetess,
363), "rush from the table" (Devil's Charter, L1v), "rush at the Tower
Gates" (1 Henry VI, 374, 1.3.14); such use of rushing in along with the
absence of rustling in any other direction suggests that "Enter the
Guard rustling in" (Antony and Cleopatra, 3574, 5.2.319) may be an
error; references to the floor covering include a signal for "strewers
of rushes" (2 Henry IV, K4r, 5.5.0), a figure who "sits on the rushes,
and takes out a book to read" (Fair Favourite, 251); Gentleman Usher
provides "servants with Rushes, and a carpet," a Rush-wench, a Rush-maid
(2.1.71, 2.1.153, 2.2.47).
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