Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

To the Audience. I come, kind gentlemen, strange news to tell ye; I am the ghost of poor departed Nelly. Sweet ladies, be not frighten'd, I'll be civil; I'm what I was—a little harmless devil ; For, after death, we squires have just such natures We had, for all the world, when human creatures : And therefore I, that was an actress here, Play all my tricks in hell, a goblin there. Gallants, look to it; you say, there are no sprites; But I'll come dance about

your

beds at nights ; And, 'faith, you'll be in a sweet kind of taking, When I surprise you between sleep and waking : To tell you true, I walk because I die Out of my calling, in a tragedy. O poet, d-d dull poet, who could prove So senseless, to make Nelly die for love; Nay, what's yet worse, to kill me in my prime, Of Easter-term, in tart and cheese-cake time! I'll fit the fop; for I'll not one word say, T excuse his godly out-of-fashion play; A play, which, if you dare but twice sit out, You'll all be slander'd, and be thought devout. But farewell, gentlemen! make haste to me; I'm sure, 'ere long, to have your company.

As for my epitaph, when I am gone,
I'll trust no poet, but will write my own:
Here Nelly lies, who, though she liv'd a slattern,
Yet died a princess, acting in St. Cath'rine.”

CHARACTERS IN THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES.

As these profane spectacles were, for the most part, founded on the characters and events of Sacred Writ, or on the superstitions with which the fair form of religion was defaced, the introduction upon the stage of the most holy as well as of the most unholy personifications, followed as a matter of course. On the personification of the Deity, and of each of the Personages of the Trinity, in particular, and on the representation of the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection, and Ascension, it would be needless to offer any comment; neither is the appearance on the stage of Adam and Eve, naked and not ashamed, a very tempting subject for criticism. The Devil, a personage with whose character our ancestors thought proper to make very free, was a particular favourite with the audience; he was usually represented with horns, a very wide mouth, large eyes and nose, a flame-coloured beard, a

cloven foot, and a tail. The Vice, his uniform attendant, was also in high favour, and never failed to call forth roars of laughter, by the practical jokes which he inflicted upon the poor Devil, who was, on all occasions, the scape-goat of the piece. His wit consisted in jumping on the Devil's back, and in the buffoonery of chastising him with a wooden sword, till his satanic Majesty bellowed lustily under the infliction, to the no small amusement of the spectators. Of the treatment which sacred subjects underwent, in their metamorphosis into Mysteries, the following portion of a dialogue, between Noah and his wife, affords a tolerable specimen.

“Welcome, wife, into this boat," exclaims the affectionate husband, as he politely hands his lady into the ark.

“ Take thou that for thy note," retorts the amiable mother of the postdiluvian world, suiting the action to the word, and accompanying the latter by a dutiful box on the ear. Wretched and impious as these productions appear to us, at the present day, they were then deemed serviceable to the cause of religion. Festivals and Saints' days were selected for their

performance; and such was the importance attached to them, that a pardon of 1000 days was granted by the Pope, and 40 additional days by the Bishop of the Diocese, to all who should resort to the representation of the series of Mysteries at Chester; “beginning with the Creation and Fall of Lucifer, and ending with the General Judgment of the World," of which we have given a fuller account elsewhere.

GARRICK AND BARRY.

When Garrick and Barry became declared rivals, “ Romeo and Juliet” was performed at both houses, till the town was thoroughly tired; and loud complaints were made, that no theatrical entertainment could be procured, except “ Romeo and Juliet." Garrick, wishing, himself, to put an end to a contest which was become absurd, wrote the following epigram :

“ Well, what's to night?" says angry Ned,

As up from bed he rouses :
“ Romeo again ! and shakes his head :

A plague o' both your houses !" On the rival Lears, by the same performers, the two following were written :

The town has found out different ways,

To praise the different Lears ;
To Barry, they give loud huzzas ;.

To Garrick,-only tears.

ANOTHER.

A king! Aye, ev'ry inch a king !

Such Barry doth appear :
But Garrick's quite a different thing-

He's, ev'ry inch, King Lear.

SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER." When Goldsmith's comedy of “She Stoops to Conquer” was to be brought out on the stage, he was at a loss what name to give it till the very last moment, and then, in great haste, called it,“ She Stoops to Conquer, or the Mistakes of a Night.” Sir Joshua Reynolds, who disliked this name for a play, offered a much better to him, saying, “ You ought to call it, • The Belle's Stratagem,' and if you do not, I will d-n it." However, Goldsmith chose to name it himself as above, and Mrs. Cowley has since given that name to one of her comedies.

Goldsmith was in great anxiety about its success; he was much distressed in his finances at the time, and all his hopes hung on the event; at the dinner preceding the representation of his play, his mouth became so parched and

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »