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those of the actor, who is lost amid the marvellous effects of light and shade on our gigantic stages.

From Henslowe's Memoranda, and from passages in old writers, it is manifest that the best theatrical wardrobes were of a costly kind; * but the dresses were of course less elegant and appropriate at some theatres than at others. The performers of male characters occasionally wore periwigs. Female parts were played solely by boys or young men, who sometimes used vizards. The person who spoke the Prologue, and who entered immediately after the third sounding, was usually dressed in a black velvet cloak. An Epilogue does not appear to have been a regular appendage to a play.


During the performance, the clown would break forth into extemporaneous buffoonery; there was dancing and singing between the acts; and at the end of the piece was a song, or a jig,—a farcical rhyming composition of considerable length, sung or said by the clown, and accompanied with dancing and playing on the pipe and tabor A prayer for the queen, offered by the actors on their knees, concluded the whole.

["Sometimes more than 20 were given for a cloak, an enormous price, when it is recollected that money was then five or six times as valuable as at present" Collier.]

87 Mr Collier thinks that many epilogues which were spoken have not come down to us, the printer having chosen to omit them, rather than give an additional leaf to the play. Hist. of English Dram. Poet iii. 444.

The price of admission appears to have varied according to the rank and estimation of the theatres; a shilling was charged for a place in the best boxes; the entrance money to the pit and galleries was the same,―sixpence, twopence, and a penny. The performance commenced at three o'clock. During the reign of Elizabeth, plays were acted on Sundays, as well as on other days of the week; 39 but during that of her successor, dramatic exhibitions on the Sabbath appear to have been tolerated only at court.

Of the immediate predecessors of Shakespeare, the following dramatists were the most distinguished.-Lyly, Peele, Greene, Kyd, Nash, Lodge, and Marlowe. The comedies of Lyly 40 are cold, mythological, conceited productions, presenting occasional glimpses of a better style. In the dramas of Peele," especially in David and Bethsabe, there is no inconsiderable portion of poetic beauty; and he must be allowed the honour of having suggested hints to Milton for the composition of Comus, till chance has discovered to us

88 See Collier's Hist. of English Dram. Poet. iii. 377. 89 In 1580, the magistrates of the city of London obtained from the Queen a prohibition against plays on the Sabbath, which seems to have continued in force but a short time.

40 Nine plays by Lyly have come down to us.

41 See his [six] extant plays in my edition of his Dramatic Works and Poems, 2 vols. 1829. [A third volume was published in 1839.]

some common original of that lovely Masque, and of the Old Wives Tale. In richness of fancy Greene 42 is inferior to Peele; and with the exception of his amusing comedy, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, there is, perhaps, but little to admire in his dramatic productions: he was far happier in some of those lyric pieces, scattered through the vast variety of prose pamphlets, which he poured forth with surprising facility. The Spanish Tragedy of Kyd 43 excited much contemporary applause; and long after its first appearance, it continued to be remembered from the parodies of its more ridiculous passages, in which a host of succeeding dramatists loved to indulge. Doubtless, it is full of absurdities; but though less poetical than the plays of Peele and Greene, it excels them in touches of passion and in power of thought. To the three dramatists last mentioned, Nash was in every respect inferior. As a prose satirist he was justly celebrated, and the pamphlets which he published during his famous controversy with Gabriel Harvey, exhibit such specimens of coarse wit and violent invective, as may, perhaps, have been


42 See his six extant plays in my edition of his Dramatic Works and Poems, 2 vols. 1831.

43 Jeronimo, the Spanish Tragedy, and Cornelia, (from the French of Garnier) are the only remaining dramas of Kyd.

44 Of Nash's dramatic works two have survived; Summer's Last Will and Testament, and Dido. Of the latter Marlowe wrote a portion.

equalled, but certainly have never been surpassed, in any language. Lodge, like Nash, was more distinguished in other walks of literature than in the drama. His satirical poetry is of no mean rank; and several copies of verses interspersed among his different prose tracts are picturesque and graceful. In his tragedy, entitled,45 The Wounds of Civil War, I cannot see the merit which some critics have discovered; its more praiseworthy passages appear to me rather rhetorical than poetical. Marlowe 46 possessed a genius of a far higher order, an intellect far more vigorous than any of these playwrights. In delineating character, he reaches a degree of truth, to which they make but slight approaches, and in scenes of Faustus and Edward the Second, he attains to real grandeur and pathos. He too often mistakes the horrible for the sublime, and indulges in flights of splendid bombast; but perhaps such faults are to be attributed more to his desire of pleasing an audience accustomed to exaggeration both of incident and style, than to his want of

45 This play, and part of A Looking Glass for London, written in conjunction with Greene, are the only remaining plays of Lodge.

46 There are extant seven plays by Marlowe, (one of them partly by Nash,) which will be found [in Dyce's edition of his works, 3 vols. 1850.] Marlowe, Peele, Greene, and Kyd, were probably the authors of some of the early anonymous dramas which have come down to us.


He was the first great improver of blank verse, to which he gave a happy variety of pause. The lines in which Drayton describes him have been often quoted:

"Next Marlowe, bathed in the Thespian springs,
Had in him those brave translunary things

That your first poets had: his raptures were
All air and fire, which made his verses clear;
For that fine madness still he did retain,
Which rightly should possess a poet's brain."

To the list of dramatic poets, preceding Shakespeare, may be added the names of Chettle, Munday, and Wilson, who also continued to write, when his reputation as an author was established. Plays are still extant by the two first, containing scenes of considerable merit; but from what remains of Wilson's productions, we cannot entertain a very favourable opinion of his talents.

It was usual in those days for dramatists to alter, and make additions to, the plays of preceding writers; and that Shakespeare commenced his career as an author by adapting the works of others to the stage, and not by any original composition, there is every reason to believe. Even at a later period, as most readers are aware, he occasionally availed himself,-in Lear and King John, for instance-of the labours of his predecessors, awaking, by his magic touch, their dead and cold creations to breathing and passionate beauty. Among the numerous dramas, manuscript as well

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