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ANNALS OF THE STAGE,
FROM THE YEAR 1625 TO THE YEAR 1635.
CHARLES succeeded his father on the 27th of March,
* It was followed by the 3 Car. I. c. 2, to prevent the profanation of Vol. II.
Notwithstanding this inauspicious commencement, which, in truth, was only enforcing the previous orders of the Privy Council by the authority of an Act of Parliament, Charles showed himself in the outset of his reign well disposed to encourage plays and players. The plague made its appearance in London in June, with so much malignity, that on the 19th of that month it was deemed expedient to adjourn Trinity Term : nevertheless, on the 24th of June, Charles renewed to his company of comedians the royal licence which had been conceded by his father, including the clause, first introduced in March, 1619-20, providing that they should not perform in the metropolis until the number of persons infected should not exceed forty in the week. I add the names of the players as they stand in the patent, to shew by comparison, those who had died or retired or had been added in the interval between 1620 and 1625: they were in the latter year:
the Lord's-day by carriers, waggoners, carters, wainmen, butchers, and drovers, who had hitherto travelled on Sunday without molestation,
The principal names wanting in this list are those of Richard Burbage, who was dead, and Nathaniel Field, who had, probably, quitted the stage, as we find no later trace of him. Hemmings and Condell, who had jointly published the first folio of Shakespeare's plays in 1623, had both ceased to act in 1625, but they were still considered members of the company, although Joseph Taylor, whose name comes fourth in the list, was, in one instance at least, looked upon by persons in authority as the head of the King's servants. The patent of Charles, from the original in the Rolls, is inserted in a note *
* It is also in Rymer's Foedera, xviii. p. 120.
• De Concessione specialis Licentiæ Johanni Hemings et aliis. . Charles by the grace of God, &c. To all Justices, Maiors, Sherriffes, Constables, Headboroughes, and other our officers and loving subjects greeting. Know ye that Wee of our especiall grace, certayne knowledge, and meere motion have licensed and authorized, and by these presents do licence and authorize, our welbeloved servants John Hemings, Henry Condall, John Lowen, Joseph Taylor,
Richard Robinson, Robert Benefeild, John Shanck, William Rowley, John Rice, Elliart Swanston, George Birch, Richard Sharpe, and Thomas Pollard, and the rest of their associates, freely to use and 6 exercise the art and facultye of playing Comedies, Tragedies, Histories, • Enterludes, Morralls, Pastoralls, Stage Playes and such other like as • they have already studied, or hereafter shall use or study, as well for 'the recreation of our loving subjects, as for our solace and pleasure • when we shall think good to see them, during our pleasure; and the said Comedies, Tragedies, Histories, Enterludes, Moralls, Pastoralls, Stage Playes and such like to shew and exercise publiquely, or otherwise, to the best comoditie when the infection of the Plague shall not ' weekely exceede the nomber of forty, by the Certificate of the Lord Mayor of London for the time being, as well within these two theire
As it was out of the question that either the King's servants, or any other company, should play in London
, at this date, in consequence of the extent and virulence of the infectious malady, (which first made its appearance in Whitechapel, and continued to rage with unabated fury during the summer and autumn,) most of the performers departed to exercise their art and faculty’ in the country, which, it will be perceived, the King's servants were permitted to do by the patent they had just obtained: on the 1st of July they also procured the licence of the Master of the Revels for the same purpose* a course that would seem alto
most usuall houses, called the Globe within our County of Surrey, and • their private House scituate within the precinct of the Black Fryers within our Citty of London, as also within any Townehalls, or Moute. halls, or other convenient places within the Liberties and Freedome of any other Citty, university, town, or Borough whatsoever within our said Realmes and Dominions: willing and commanding you any every of you, and all other our loving subjects, as you tender our pleasure, not onely to permit and suffre them herein without any your letts, hinderances, or molestations, dureing our said pleasure, but alsoe to be aydeing and assisting to them, if any wrong be to them offered, 6 and to allow them such former courtesies as have been given to men
of their place and quality; and also, what further favour you shall shew to these our servants, and the rest of their associates for our sakes, Wee shall take kindly at your hands. In witness, &c. Witnes our selfe at Westmynster, the foure and twentęth day of June,
Per breve de privato sigillo.' * Chalmers (Supp. Apol. p. 185), alluding to this circumstance, and not recollecting the cause of the departure of the players from the metropolis, observes upon it, 'It is a curious fact, that at this epoch (1625), the established companies of London strolled often into the country,' and he attributes it to the then 'multiplicity of associated
gether unnecessary. Hemmings, no doubt, did not accompany them, and we know that Condell then resided at Fulham, having completely relinquished the stage as a profession *.
The pestilence did not abate its violence until the end of January, 1625-6ť, and during the whole interval between that month and the preceding June, the actors, who were accustomed to exhibit in London, were driven to procure a scanty and uncertain subsistence in the provinces, where they were not unfrequently ill received, because it was thought that they might be the bearers of infection. As the King's servants were usually required to attend the Court at Christmas, it is probable that they returned to Lon
players and the paucity of attractive plays. The fact is, that the
established companies of London,' at all times were in the habit of going into the country to perform, especially whenever there was such a degree of sickness in the capital, as induced the public authorities to suspend theatrical representations.
* A printed tract, incidentally connected with the drama, was published by him in 1625, which has hitherto been unnoticed. It is called The Run-aways Answer to a book called A Rod for Run-aways, justifying those who had fled from the capital in consequence of the plague, and among the rest the players. He was not the author of it, but it was sent to him with a letter, addressed by persons signo. ing themselves by their initials, B. V., S. O., T. O., A. L., and V. S., to our much-respected and worthy friend, Mr. H. Condell, at his country-house in Fulham,' in order that he might procure it to be printed: the letter is dated 'from Oxford and elsewhere, Sept. 10, 1625, and the body of the tract alludes to the Blackfriars and the Cock.pit playhouses, but it contains no distinct intelligence regarding the then condition of the stage.
+ On the 29th January, a general thanksgiving was offered up, because at that date the number of deaths was considerably decreased.