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HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH STAGE.
LONDON: PRINTED BY H. BALDWIN,
For J. Rivington and Sons, L. Davis, B. White and Son, T. Longman,
B. Law, H. S. Woodfall, C. Dilly, J. Robson, J. Johnson, T. Vernor,
M DCC XC.
HE drama before the time of Shakspeare was so
little cultivated, or so ill understood, that to many it may appear unnecessary to carry our theatrical researches higher than that period. Dryden has truly observed, that he “ found not, but created first the stage;' of which no one can doubt, who considers, that of all the plays iffued from the press antecedent to the year 1592, when there is reason to believe he commenced a dramatick writer, the titles are scarcely known, except to antiquaries; nor is there one of them that will bear a second perural. Yet these, contemptible and few as they are, we may suppose to have been the most popular productions of the time, and the best that had been exhibited before the appearance of Shakspeare'.
* There are but thirty-eight plays, (exclusive of mysteries, moralities, interludes, and translated pieces,) now extant, written antecedent to, or in, the year 1592. Their titles are as follows: Acclaftus
1540 Appius and Virginia Ferrex and Porrex Damon and Pyrbias 1562 Promos and Cofandra 1578 Tancred and Gismund 1568 Arraignment of Paris Cambyses, no date, but pro Sappbo and Pbao
1584 bably written before
Alexander and Campaspe
Misfortunes of Aribur, 1587 Vol. I, Part II.
;} 1591 Dr. Fauftum
A minute investigation, therefore, of the origin and progress of the drama in England, will scarcely repay the labour of the inquiry. However, as the best introduction to an account of the internal economy and usages of the English theatres in the time of Shakspeare, (the principal object of this dissertation,) 1 shall take a cursory view of our most ancient dramatick exhibitions, though Í fear I can add but little to the researches which have already been made on that subject. Feronimo
(Orlando Furioso Spanish Tragedy, or
1588 Alpbonjus king of Arta. Hieronimo is mad again
James IV. king of Scoto Titus Andronicus
land King Henry V. in or before 1589 A Lookinglass for Contention between ibe
London and England
before Houses of Yorke and Lan. Friar Bacon and Friar
1592 cafter, in or before 1590 Bungay King Jobu, in two parts, }
Few of Malta
Luf's Dominion Galathea
Majacre of Paris Arden of Feversham
Between the years 1592 and 1600, the following plays were printed or exhibited; the greater part of which, probably, were written before our author commenced play-wright. Cleopatra
Woman in the Moon
1597 Edward I. Battle of Alcazar
Tbe virtuous Ostavia Wounds of Civil War
Blind Beggar of Alex
1598 Selymus, Emperor of tbe
Every Manin bis Humour, Cornelia
Pinner of Wakefield
Warning for fair Women
Two angry women of A.
Tbe Case is altered
1599 An old wires Tale
Every Man out of bis
'The Trial of Chevalry Pedler's Prophecy
Humorous day's mirib Antonius
Summer's loft Will and Edward Ill.
1595| Teftament Wily Beguiled
} 1593 Mucedorus
Mr. Warton in his elegant and ingenious History of English Poetry has given so accurate an account of our earliest dramatick performances, that I shall make no apology for extracting from various parts of his valuable work, such particulars as suit my present purpose.
The earliest dramatick entertainments exhibited in England, as well as every other part of Europe, were of a religious kind. So early as in the beginning of the twelfth century, it was customary in England on holy festivals to represent, in or near the churches, either the lives and miracles of saints, or the most important stories of Scripture. From the subject of these spectacles, which, as has been observed, were either the miracles of saints, or the more mysterious parts of holy writ, such as the incarnation, paflion, and resurrection of Christ, these scriptural plays were denominated Miracles, or Mysteries. At what period of time they were first exhibited in this country, I am unable to ascertain. Undoubtedly, however, they are of very great antiquity; and Riccoboni, who has contended that the Italian theatre is the most ancient in Europe, has claimed for his country an honour to which it is not entitled. The era of the earliest representation in Italy 2, founded on holy writ, he has placed in the year 1264, when the fraternity del Gonfalone was established; but we had fimilar exhibitions in England above 150 years before that time. In the year i110, as Dr. Percy and Mr. Warton have observed, the Miracle-play of Saint CathaTine, written by Geoffrey, a learned Norman, (afterwards Abbot of St. Alban's,) was acted, probably by his scholars, in the abbey of Dunstable; perhaps the first spectacle of this kind exhibited in England 3. William Fitz-Stephen, a monk of Canterbury, who according
2 The French theatre cannot be traced higher than the year 1398, when the Myftery of the Passion was represented at St. Maur.
3“ Apud Dunestapliam-quendam ludum de lancta Katerina (quem M12ACULA vulgariter appellamus) fecit. Ad quæ decoranda, peciic a sacrifta sancti Albani, ut fibi capæ chorales accommodarentur, et obtinuit." Vitæ Abbat, ad calc. Hift. Mat, Paris, folio, 1639. p. 56. # B 2