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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: April ::
Rushes on the Elizabethan Stage
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0323  Wednesday, 19 April 2006

From: 		Alan Dessen <
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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).

Alan Dessen

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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