The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1198  Tuesday, 30 April 2002

From:           Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 29 Apr 2002 17:19:05 -0400
Subject:        Tailors and Stage-Plays

Somehow the reply I wrote for Clifford Stetner got lost in cyberspace.
I'm sorry about the delay.

Clifford Stetner asked me below about the use of "first cut" and
"breaking-up" further below in a quote from Middleton's "The Ant and the
Nightingale." I have not reflected on those terms before, and I, too,
would like suggestions especially about "breaking-up." Is that a
tailoring term?

I quit the quotation at the point of the mention of the Blackfriars
theater, but if one reads more of this pamphlet, what happens is that a
naive country youth is being advised in the best sights of London. If he
goes to the Blackfriars, he will find a nest of boys able to ravish a
man (with all the homoerotic connotations that implies). Immediately
after this advice is a given, a tailor ingratiates himself to the youth,
working on the fall of his breeches. I wish that I had been more alert
to the "first cut" of the tragedy because in Middleton's epistle to The
Roaring Girl, he uses an extended metaphor of tailoring for the creation
of plays in what is one of his most homoerotic comedies. And Michaelmas
Term, with another homoerotic situation, features a cloth merchant as
the villain.

I hope that comes close to addressing the question. I'd welcome other
comments on tailors and the theater.

Jack Heller

>Jack Heller:
>I'm curious how you would translate "breaking-up" and "first cut" in
>this quote. The latter seems to me to imply that plays (particularly
>tragedies?) were customarily revised like a suit of clothes by a tailor.
>Would playgoers then follow the tailoring process, returning to the same
>play periodically, or would they prefer just to wait for the finished
>product? Does "breaking-up" mean breaking down the set after a final
>performance, or does it refer to revelry?
>> Then after dinner he must venture beyond sea, that is, in a choice pair
>> of nobelmen's oars, to the Bankside, where he must sit out the
>> breaking-up of a comedy, or the first cut of a tragedy, or rather, if
>> his humour so serve him, to call in at the Blackfriars . . .

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