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he, whom the most tailors' bills do make room for, when he comes should not be basely (like a viol) cased up in a


Whether therefore the gatherers of the public or private play-house stand to receive the afternoon's rent, let our gallant, having paid it, presently advance himself up to the throne of the stage. I mean not into the lords' room, which is now but the stage's suburbs-no, those boxes, by the iniquity of custom, conspiracy of waiting-women and gentlemen-ushers that there sweat together, and the covetousness of sharers, are contemptibly thrust into the rear; and much new satin is there damned, by being smothered to death in darkness—but on the very rushes where the comedy is to dance, yea, and under the state of Cambyses himself, must our feathered ostrich, like a piece of ordnance, be planted valiantly, because impudently, beating down the mews and hisses of the opposed rascality.

For do but cast up a reckoning; what large comings-inare pursed up by sitting on the stage? First a conspicuous eminence is gotten, by which means the best and most essential parts of a gallant (good clothes, a proportionable leg, white hand, the Persian lock and a tolerable beard) are perfectly revealed.

By sitting on the stage you have a signed patent to engross the whole commodity of censure, may lawfully presume to be a girder, and stand at the helm to steer the passage of scenes; yet no man shall once offer to hinder you from obtaining the title of an insolent overweening coxcomb.

By sitting on the stage you may, without travelling for it, at the very next door ask whose play it is; and by that quest of inquiry the law warrants you to avoid much mistaking. you know not the author, you may rail against him, and peradventure so behave yourself, that you may enforce the author to know you.


By sitting on the stage, if you be a knight, you may happily get you a mistress; if a mere Fleet-street gentleman, a wife: but assure yourself, by continual residence, you are the first and principal man in election to begin the number of "We three."

By spreading your body on the stage, and by being a justice in examining of plays, you shall put yourself into such true scenical

authority, that some poet shall not dare to present his muse rudely upon your eyes, without having first unmasked her, rifled her, and discovered all her bare and most mystical parts before you at a tavern; when you most knightly shall, for his pains, for both their suppers.


By sitting on the stage you may, with small cost, purchase the dear acquaintance of the boys; have a good stool for sixpence; at any time know what particular part any of the infants present; get your match lighted; examine the play-suits' lace, and perhaps win wagers upon laying it is copper, &c. And to conclude, whether you be a fool or a justice of peace; a cuckold or a captain; a lord-mayor's son or a dawcock; a knave or an undersheriff, of what stamp soever you be, current or counterfeit, the stage, like time, will bring you to most perfect light, and lay you open. Neither are you to be hunted from thence, though the scarecrows in the yard hoot at you, hiss at you, spit at you, yea throw dirt even in your teeth: 'tis most gentlemanlike patience to endure all this and to laugh at the silly animals. But if the rabble with a full throat cry: "Away with the fool!" you were worse than a madman to tarry by it; for the gentleman and the fool should never sit on the stage together.

Marry; let this observation go hand in hand with the rest; or rather like a country serving-man some five yards before them. Present not yourself on the stage, especially at a new play, until the quaking Prologue hath by rubbing got colour into his cheeks, and is ready to give the trumpets their cue that he is upon point to enter; for then it is time, as though you were one of the properties, or that you dropped out of the hangings, to creep from behind the arras, with your tripos or threefooted stool in one hand and a teston mounted between a fore-finger and a thumb in the other; for, if you should bestow your person upon the vulgar, when the belly of the house is but half full, your apparel is quite eaten up, the fashion lost, and the proportion of your body in more danger to be devoured than if it were served up in the Counter amongst the poultry: avoid that as you would the bastone. It shall crown you with rich commendation to laugh aloud in the midst of the most serious and saddest scene of the terriblest tragedy; and to let that clapper, your tongue, be tossed so high, that all the house may

ring of it. Your lords use it; your knights are apes to the lords, and do so too; your Inn-a-court man is zany to the knights, and (many very scurvily) comes likewise limping after it. Be thou a beagle to them all, and never lin snuffing till you have scented them for by talking and laughing, like a ploughman in a morris, you heap Pelion upon Ossa, glory upon glory. As first, all the eyes in the galleries will leave walking after the players, and only follow you; the simplest dolt in the house snatches up your name, and, when he meets you in the streets, or that you fall into his hands in the middle of a watch, his word shall be taken for you; he'll cry "He's such a gallant," and you pass. Secondly, you publish your temperance to the world, in that you seem not to resort thither to taste vain pleasures with a hungry appetite, but only as a gentleman to spend a foolish hour or two, because you can do nothing else. Thirdly, you mightily disrelish the audience, and disgrace the author: marry, you take up, though it be at the worst hand, a strong opinion of your own judgment, and enforce the poet to take pity of your weakness, and by some dedicated sonnet to bring you into a better paradise, only to stop your mouth.

If you can either for love or money, provide yourself a lodging by the water-side; for, above the convenience it brings to shun shoulder-clapping, and to ship away your cockatrice betimes in the morning, it adds a kind of state unto you to be carried from thence to the stairs of your playhouse. Hate a sculler, remember that, worse than to be acquainted with one o' th' scullery. No, your oars are your only sea-crabs, board them, and take heed you never go twice together with one pair; often shifting is a great credit to gentlemen, and that dividing of your fare will make the poor water-snakes be ready to pull you in pieces to enjoy your custom. No matter whether, upon landing, you have money, or no; you may swim in twenty of their boats over the river upon ticket: marry, when silver comes in, remember to pay treble their fare; and it will make your flounder-catchers to send more thanks after you when you do not draw, than when you do: for they know it will be their own another day.

Before the play begins, fall to cards; you may win or lose, as fencers do in a prize, and beat one another by confederacy, yet share the money when you meet at supper. Notwithstanding,

to gull the ragamuffins that stand aloof gaping at you, throw the cards, having first torn four or five of them, round about the stage, just upon the third sound, as though you had lost. It skills not if the four knaves lie on their backs, and outface the audience; there's none such fools as dare take exceptions at them, because, ere the play go off, better knaves than they will fall into the company.

Now, sir; if the writer be a fellow that hath either epigrammed you, or hath had a flirt at your mistress, or hath brought either your feather, or your red beard, or your little legs, &c., on the stage; you shall disgrace him worse than by tossing him in a blanket, or giving him the bastinado in a tavern, if, in the middle of his play, be it pastoral or comedy, moral or tragedy, you rise with a screwed and discontented face from your stool to be gone. No matter whether the scenes be good, or no; the better they are, the worse do you distaste them. And, being on your feet, sneak not away like a coward; but salute all your gentle acquaintance, that are spread either on the rushes, or on stools about you; and draw what troop you can from the stage after you. The mimics are beholden to you for allowing them elbow-room: their poet cries perhaps, "A pox go with you"; but care not for that; there's no music without frets.

Marry; if either the company or indisposition of the weather bind you to sit it out, my counsel is then that you turn plain ape. Take up a rush, and tickle the earnest ears of your fellow gallants, to make other fools fall a laughing; mew at passionate speeches; blare at merry; find fault with the music; whew at the children's action; whistle at the songs; and, above all, curse the sharers, that whereas the same day you had bestowed forty shillings on an embroidered felt and feather, Scotch fashion, for your mistress in the court, or your punk in the city, within two hours after you encounter with the very same block on the stage, when the haberdasher swore to you the impression was extant but that morning.

To conclude. Hoard up the finest play-scraps you can get; upon which your lean wit may most savourly feed, for want of other stuff, when the Arcadian and Euphuized gentlewomen have their tongues sharpened to set upon you: that quality (next to your shuttlecock) is the only furniture to a courtier that's but a new beginner, and is but in his A B C of compliment.

The next places that are filled, after the play-houses be emptied, are, or ought to be, taverns; into a tavern then let us next march, where the brains of one hogshead must be beaten out to make up another.

THOMAS DEKKER, The Gulls Horne-booke 1609

§4. The Actor and his craft

...A strutting player, whose conceit

Lies in his hamstring, and doth think it rich

To hear the wooden dialogue and sound

"Twixt his stretch'd footing and the scaffoldage.

Troilus and Cressida, 1. iii. 153-156

Shakespeare's opinion

Hamlet. Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus; but use all gently for in the very torrent, tempest, and—as I may say whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance, that may give it smoothness. O! it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise: I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant; it out-herods Herod : pray you, avoid it. First Player. I warrant your honour.

Hamlet. Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor : suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature; for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now, this overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure of which one must in your allowance o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O! there be players that I have seen play, and heard

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