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§3. The Audience
If the tag-rag people did not clap him and hiss him, according as he
These are the youths that thunder at a playhouse, and fight for bitten apples. Henry VIII., v. iv. 65
In our assemblies at plays in London, you shall see such heaving, and shoving, such itching and shouldering to sit by women: such care for their garments, that they be not trod on such eyes to their laps, that no chips light in them: such pillows to their backs, that they take no hurt: such masking in their ears, I know not what such giving them pippins to pass the time such playing at foot-saunt without cards: such tickling, such toying, such smiling, such winking, and such manning them home, when the sports are ended, that it is a right comedy to mark their behaviour, to watch their conceits, as the cat for the mouse, and as good as a course at the game itself, to dog them a little, or follow aloof by the print of their feet, and so discover by slot where the deer taketh soil. If this were as well noted as ill seen, or as openly punished as secretly practised, I have no doubt but the cause would be seared to dry up the effect, and these pretty rabbits very cunningly ferreted from their burrows. For they that lack customers all the week, either because their haunt is unknown, or the constables and officers of their parish watch them so narrowly that they dare not quetch, to celebrate the sabbath flock to theatres, and there keep a general market of bawdry. Not that any filthiness in deed is committed within the compass of that ground, as was done in Rome, but that every wanton and his paramour, every man and his mistress, every John and his Joan, every knave and his quean, are there first acquainted and cheapen the merchandise in that place, which they pay for elsewhere as they can agree.
STEPHEN GOSSON, The Schoole of Abuse 1579
In Rome it was the fashion of wanton young men to place themselves as nigh as they could to the courtezans, to present them pomegranates, to play with their garments, and wait on them home, when the sport was done. In the playhouses at London it is the fashion of youths to go first into the yard, and to carry their eye through every gallery, then like unto ravens where they spy the carrion thither they fly, and press as near to the fairest as they can. Instead of pomegranates they give them pippins, they dally with their garments to pass the time, they minister talk upon all occasions, and either bring them home to their houses on small acquaintance, or slip into taverns when the plays are done. He thinketh best of his painted sheath, and taketh himself for a jolly fellow, that is noted of most to be busiest with women in all such places. This open corruption is a prick in the eyes of them that see it, and a thorn in the sides of the godly, when they hear it. This is a poison to beholders, and a nursery of idleness to the players.
STEPHEN GOSSON, Playes Confuted in five Actions 1582
How a gallant should behave himself in a play-house The theatre is your poets' Royal Exchange, upon which their muses (that are now turned to merchants) meeting, barter away that light commodity of words for a lighter ware than words-plaudities and the breath of the great beast, which, like the threatenings of two cowards, vanish all into air. Players and their factors, who put away the stuff, and make the best of it they possibly can (as indeed 'tis their parts so to do) your gallant, your courtier and your captain had wont to be the soundest paymasters, and, I think, are still the surest chapmen: and these, by means that their heads are well stocked, deal upon this comical freight by the gross; when your groundling and gallery-commoner buys his sport by the penny; and, like a haggler, is glad to utter it again by retailing.
Sithence then the place is so free in entertainment, allowing a stool as well to the farmer's son as to your Templar; that your stinkard has the selfsame liberty to be there in his tobaccofumes, which your sweet courtier hath; and that your carman and tinker claim as strong a voice in their suffrage, and sit to give judgment on the play's life and death, as well as the proudest Momus among the tribe of critic: it is fit that
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-in are 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. If 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, pay 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 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,