Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

Ham. Do they hold the same estimation they did when
I was in the city? Are they so follow'd ?

Ref. No, indeed, they are not.
Ham. How comes it? Do they grow rusty?

Rof. Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace:
But there is, fir, an aiery of children', little eyales, that

cry There will fill, however, remain some difficulty. The statute 39 Eliz.ch. 4. which seems to be alluded to by the words-their inbibia tion, was not made to inhibit the players from acting any longer at an established tbeatre, but to probibic them from frolling. “ All fencers (rays the act) bearwards, common players of enterludes, and minstrels, wandering abroad, (other than players of enterludes, belonging to any baron of this realm or any other honourable personage of greater degree, to be authorized to play under the hand and seal of arms of fuch baron or personage,) shall be taken, adjudged and deemed, rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars, and shall sustain such pain and punithments as by this act is in that behalf appointed."

This statute, if alluded to, is repugnant to Dr. Johnson's transpo. Sition of the text, and to Mr. Steevens's explanation of it as it now ftands. Yet Mr. Steevens's explanation may be right : Shakspeare might not have thought of the act of Elizabeth. He could not however, mean to charge his friends the old tragedians with the netu cuftom of introducing personal abuse; but must rather have meant, that the old tragedians were inhibited from performing in the city, and obliged to travel, on account of the misconduct of the younger compaay. See n. 7. MALONE.

6' How comes it ? &c.] From here to Hercules and bis load tos, in. clusively, is only found in the folio. MALONE.

1- an aiery of children, &c.] Relating to the play houses then con. tending, the Bankside, the Fortune, &c. played by the children of his majesty's chapel. Pope.

It relates to the young finging men of St. Paul's, concerning whore performances and success in attracting the best company, I find the following passage in Jack Drum's Entertainment, or Pajquil and Kaiberine, 1601 :

" I saw the cbildren of Powles last night;
“ And troth they pleas'd me pretty, pretty well,
“ The apes, in time, will do it handsomely,
- I like the audience that frequenteth there
With much applause: a man shall not be choak'd
With the stench of garlick, nor be pasted
“ To the barmy jacket of a beer-brewer ;

— 'Tis a good gentle audience, &c."
It is said in Richard Flecknoe's Sbort Discourse of the English
Stage, 1664, that “ both the children of the chappel and St. Paul's,
acted playes, the one in White-Friers, the other behinde the Con-
qocation-house in Paul's; till people growing more precise, and playes

more

cry out on the top of question, and are most tyranni. cally clapp'd for't: these are now the fashion; and fo

berattle more licentious, the theatre of Paul's was quite supprest, and that of the children of the chappel converted tothe use of the children of the revels." STE È VENS.

The suppression to which Fleckno alludes took place in the year 1583-4; but afterwards both the children of the chapel and of the Revels played at our authour's playhouse in Blackfriars, and elsewhere : and the choir-boys of St. Paul's at their own house. See the Atesatt of our old beatres in Vol. I. Part II. A certain number of the children of the Revels, I believe, belonged to each of the principal theatres.

Our authour cannot be supposed to dire& any satire at those young men who played occasionally at his own theatre. Ben Jonson's Cyrtbia's Revels, and his Poetaster, were performed there by the children of Queen Elizabeth's chapel, in 1600 and 1601; and Eaftward Hoe by the children of the revels, in 1604 or 1605. I have no doubt therefore that the dialogue before us was pointed at the choir-boys of St. Paul's, who in 1601 acted two of Marston's plays, Antenis and Mellida, and Antonio's Revenge. Many of Lily's plays were reprefented by them about the same time; and in 1607 Chapman's Busy Ambris was performed by them with great applause. It was probably in this and some other noisy tragedies of the same kind, that they cry'd out on tbe top of question, and were most tyrannically clapped for't.

At a later period indeed, after our poet's death, the Children of tbe Revels had an established theatre of their own, and fome dispute seems to have arisen between them and the king's company. They performed regularly in 1623, and for eight years afterwards, at the Red Bull in St. John's Street; and in 1627, Shakspeare's company obtained an inhibition from the Master of the Revels to prevent their performing any of his plays at their house: as appears from the following entry in Sir Henry Herbert's Office-book, already mentioned:

From Mr. Heminge, in their company's name, to forbid the playinge of any of Shakspeare's playes to the Red-Bull company, this sith of Aprill, 1627, - 5 0 0." From other passages in the same book, it appears that the Children of the Revels composed the Red Bull company.

We learn from Heywood's Apology for Affors, that the little cyafes here mentioned were the persons who were guilty of the late innovation, or practice of introducing personal abuse on the stage, and per. haps for their particular fault the players in general suffered ; and the older and more decent comedians, as well as the children, had on some recent occafion been inbibired from acting in London, and compelled to turn strollers. This suppofition will make the words, concerning which a difficulty has been ftated, (see n. 6.) perfectly clear. Heywood's Apology for Aktors was published in 1612; the passage therefore which is found in the folio, and not in the quarto, was probably added not very long before that time.

“ Now to speake (says Heywood,) of some abuse lately crept ints the quality, as ar invrigbing against be ftare, ibe court, sbe law, tbe

berattle the common stages, (so they call them) that many, wearing rapiers, are afraid of goose quills, and dare scarce come thither.

Ham. What, are they children: Who maintains them? how are they escoted? Will they pursue the quality no longer than they can fing' will they not say

afterwards, citty, and their governments, with the particularizing of private mens bumours, yet alive, noblemen and orbers, I know it diftaftes many ; neither do I any way approve it, nor dare I by any means excuse it. The liberty which fome arrogate to themselves, committing their bite terness and liberal invectives against all estates to the moutbes of obildren, fuppofing their juniority to be a priviledge for any rayling, be it never so violent, I could advise all such to curbe, and limit this prefumed liberty within the bands of discretion and government. But wife and judicial censurers before whom such complaints shall at any time hereafter come, will not, I hope, impute these abuses to any trans. gression in us, who have ever been carefull and provident to thun the like."

Prynne in his Hifriomafiix, speaking of the state of the stage, about the year 1620, has this passage : “ Not to particularise those late new scandalous invective playes, wherein fundry persons of place and emia nence [Gundemore, the late lord admiral, lord treasurer, and others,] have been particularly personated, jeared, abused in a gross and scurrilous manner," &c.

The folio, 1623, has-beratsled. The correction was made by the editor of the second folio. MALONI.

- little cyafes, that cry out on obe top of question,) Little eyajes ; i. e. young neftlings, creatures just out of the egg. THEOBALD. From

cy, Teut. ovum, q. d. qui recens ex ovo emersit. Skinneri Etymol. An aiery or eyerie, as it ought rather to be written, is derived from the same root, and signifies both a young brood of hawks, and the neft itself in which they are produced.

An eyas hawk is sometimes written a nyas hawk, perhaps from a corruption that has happened in many words in our language, from the letter n palling from the end of one word to the beginning of another. However, some etymologists think nyas a legitimate word.

MALONE. The meaning seems to be, they ask a common question in the highest notes of the voice. JOHNSON.

I believe question, in this place, as in many others, fignifies conversation, dialogue. So, in The Merchant of Venice: “

think, you question with the Jew." The meaning of the passage may therefore bom Children obat perpetually recite in the gbeft notes of voice ibat can be uttered. STEEVENS.

9-escored? ] Paid, from the French escot, a shot or reckoning.Johns.

I Will they pursue tbe quality no longer than ibey can fing > ] Will they follow the profession of players no longer than they keep the voices

of

8

afterwards, if they should grow themselves to commoa players, (as it is most like?, if their means are no bet. ter,) their writers do them wrong, to make them exclaim against their own succession 3 ?

Rof. 'Faith, there has been much to do on both sides ; and the nation holds it no fin, to tarre them on to controversyt : there was, for a while, no money bid for argument, unless the poet and the player went to cuffs ia the question.

Ham. Is it poslable ?
Guil. O, there has been much throwing about of brains.
Ham. Do the boys carry it away?
Roy.Ay, that they do, my lord; Hercules and his load toos.
Ham. It is not very Atrange: for my uncle is king of

Denmark; of boys ? So afterwards he says to the player, Come, give us a taste of your quality; come, a feffionate speecb. JOHNSON.

So, in the players' Dedication, preňxed to the first edition of Fletcher's plays in folio, 1647 : «-directed by the example of fome who once steered in our quality, and so fortunately aspired to chule your honour, joined with your now glorified brother, patrons to the flowing compositions of the then expired sweet lwan of Avon, Shakspeare." Again, in Goffon's Scbool of Abuse, 1579 : " I speak not of this, as though every one of the players) that professeth ihe qualirie, so abused himself, -,"

“ Than they can fing", does not merely mean, “ than they keep the voices of boys,” but is to be understood literally. He is speaking of the choir-boys of St. Paul's. MALONE.

2 — miji like, – The old copy reads,-like moft. STEEVENS. The coriection was made by Mr. Pope. MALONE.

3 -- their writers do ebem wrong, &c.] I thould have been very much surprized if I had not found Ben Jonson among the writers here alluded to. STEEVENS.

4 -to tarre ibem on to controversy :) To provoke any animal to rage, is to tarre bim. The word is said to come from the Greek gagásra. JOHNSON.

· Hercules and his load 800.] i. e. they not only carry away the world, but the world-bearer too : alluding to the story of Hercules's relieving Atlas. This is humorous. WARBURTON.

The allusion may be to the Globe playhouse on the Bankside, the sign of which was Hercules carrying ibe Globe. STEEVENS.

I suppose Shakspeare meant, that the boys drew greater audiences than the elder players of the Globe theatre. MALONE.

It is not very frange: for my uncle-] I do not wonder that the new players have so luddenly risen to reputation; my uncle supplies

anothes

[ocr errors]

Denmark; and those, that would make mouths at him while my father lived, give twenty, forty, fifty, an hundred ducats a-piece, for his picture in little i. 'Sblood there is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out. (Flourish of trumpets witbin. Guil. There are the players.

Ham. Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands. Come then: the appurtenance of welcome is fashion and ceremony: let me comply with you in this garb; left my extent to the players, which, I tell you, muft shew fairly outward, should more appear like en. tertainment than yours. You are welcome : but my uncle-father, and aunt-mother, are deceived.

Guil. In what, my dear lord ?

Ham. I am but mad north-north west: when the wind is southerly', I know a hawk from a hand-saw!

Enter

3

another example of the facility with which honour is conferred upon new claimants. JOHNSON.

It is not very frange, &c. was originally Hamlet's observation, on being informed that the old tragedians of the city were not so followed as they used to be: (see p. 265, n. 6.] but Dr. Johnson's explanation is certainly just, and this passage connects sufficiently well with that which now immediately precedes it.

MALONE. 1- in little.] i. e. in miniature. So, in Drayton's Sbepberd's Sirene :

« Paradise in litrle done."
Again, in Maslinger's New way to pay old debts :

« His father's picture in litrle." STIEVENS.
let me comply-] Hanmer reads, Let me compliment with you.

JOHNSON 9 Wben tbe wind is foutherly, &c.] So, in Damon and Pyıbias, 1582:

“ But I perceive now, either the winde is at ibe fouth,
« Or else your tunge cleaveth to the rooffe of your mouth.”

STEEVENS. 1- I know a bawk from a band-law.] This was a common proverbial speech. The Oxford Editor alters it to, I know a bawk from en berujbew, as if the other had been a corruption of the players; whereas the poet found the proverb thus corrupted in the mouths of the people : so that this critic's alteration only serves to hew us the original of the expression. WARBURTON.

Similarity of found is the source of many literary corruptions. In Holborn we have ftill the sign of the Bull'and Gare, which exhibits but an odd combination of images. It was originally (as I learn from

the

« PreviousContinue »