23 Annotations

First Reading

steve h  •  Link

A good online source is The Cambridge History of English and American Literature(1907-1921), Volume VIII: The Age of Dryden, at:


steve h  •  Link

Restoration Theatre

The great source of all (hardbound) is The London Stage 1660-1800. Part 1, 1660-1700, ed. W. Van Lennep, El. L. Avery, and A. H. Scouten. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960-68. It gives a day-by-day calendar of what happened in the theatres (including dance and some music). It reproduces playbills when available, cast lists, and any other related writings to specific performances. Pepys is often cited.

KVK  •  Link

The Long Parliament banned the performance of plays in London in 1642. Several theatre companies began staging plays openly again in the late 1640s, but Parliamentary authorities cracked down for the last time in January 1649. Some players did continue to give clandestine performances throughout the 1650s, but were subject to police raids. The Red Bull Theatre, which Parliament failed to have destroyed in 1649, is the scene for many of these performances.

There were exceptions to the Parliamentary ban, however. Schools were not affected, and they were centers where new plays and masques could be performed. More importantly, operas, because they were sung rather than spoken, were not considered stage plays and were not subject to the ban.

William Davenant, who had been a successful playwright before the Civil Wars wrote and staged a number of operas in the later 1650s. One of these operas, 'The Siege of Rhodes', turns up in many anthologies of Restoration plays and was the source of the heroic verse drama that would dominate Restoration theatre. Some of his operas would be staged at the Cockpit Theatre.

When Pepys began in diary in January 1660 the ban remained in place, but its enforcement was somewhat relaxed. There were not yet, however, any theatres or companies license for regular performances.

steve h  •  Link

The Puitans on Entertainment (from Macaulay's History of England)


"Public amusements, from the masques which were exhibited at the mansions of the great down to the wrestling matches and grinning matches on village greens, were vigorously attacked. One ordinance directed that all the Maypoles in England should forthwith be hewn down. Another proscribed all theatrical diversions. The playhouses were to be dismantled, the spectators fined, the actors whipped at the cart's tail. Rope-dancing, puppet-shows, bowls, horse-racing, were regarded with no friendly eye. But bearbaiting, then a favourite diversion of high and low, was the abomination which most strongly stirred the wrath of the austere sectaries. It is to be remarked that their antipathy to this sport had nothing in common with the feeling which has, in our own time, induced the legislature to interfere for the purpose of protecting beasts against the wanton cruelty of men. The Puritan hated bearbaiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. Indeed, he generally contrived to enjoy the double pleasure of tormenting both spectators and bear."

vincent  •  Link

another snippet:
Restoration Michael Mohun's portrayal of Iago was extremely popular. One performance of Othello, produced in 1660, starred an actress by the name of Margaret Hughes in the role of Desdemona. This production is of particular importance because it marked the first time a woman was accepted on the English stage. Before this, all the characters, whether male or female, were played exclusively by men.

Emilio  •  Link

Oops, note that in Vincent's summary above, Killigrew actually received his patent first, and opened with the King's Men at Gibbon's Tennis Court in Nov. 1660. He did go on to open the Theatre Royal in 1663, though. Likewise, Davenant led the Duke's Men, who opened at a tennis court butting into Lincoln's Inn Fields in June 1661.

More information can be found at the page on the two companies from the St. Andrews site above,
and at the Background pages for Thomas Killigrew:
and William Davenant:

Emilio  •  Link

Women in theatre

L&M have a lengthy footnote to the 3 Jan. 1661 entry, which recounts the first time Sam ever saw women on the stage:

"These were not the first professional actresses to appear on the English stage. In 1629 actresses in a French troupe performed at the Blackfriars, Red Bull and Fortune theatres, but were hooted off the boards. In 1656, Mrs Edward Coleman, who visited Pepys on 31 October 1665, sang the part of Ianthe in Sir William Davenant's opera, The Siege of Rhodes, at Rutland House in Charterhouse Yard. The articles of agreement which Davenant made when he formed the Duke of York's company on 5 November 1660 show that he had decided to employ actresses. But the King's company, under the management of Thomas Killigrew, probably preceded him in the use of actresses. A woman evidently played the part of Desdemona in Killigrew's production of Othello at the Theatre Royal, Vere St on 8 December 1660, for Thomas Jordan wrote a special prologue for it 'to introduce the first Woman that came to act on the Stage'. Her identity is not known; Anne Marshall, Margaret Hughes and Katherine Corey have been suggested."

vincent  •  Link

Women on stage did cause a problem for the Catholic Priests, I do beleive. They could not attend live theatre. The when : at what date this came to being and if was, was it true or just rumour?

helena murphy  •  Link

I believe what you say is true and may have been enforced up to quite recent times, that is until perhaps the convening of the first Vatican Council when many such restrictions were relaxed.Could a man of the cloth come forward to verify such matters?On the other hand a certain Father O'Flynn in Cork City had his own theatre called The Loft and a troupe of players solely for the performance of Shakespearean drama way back in the 1940's!

vincent  •  Link

For a taste of Beaumont and Fletcher choose drama then selected plays or the faithful sheperdress or Bonducas or or wild goose chase
De Ga. Sirrah, you know I have rid hard; stir my horse well, And let him want no litter.
Boy. I am sure I have run hard;

vincent  •  Link

Early Modern Plays Presented in London pre 1642
Alphabetical by Title [you can change sel:]
for example SP may have met some of the actors when a play was put on in 1640...by Middleton
Mad World, My Masters, A
CC[city comedy] [actors] Queen Henrietta

Chauncey  •  Link

Vincent, I'm sorry to say that chart is unreliable. It gives production dates for plays that scholars have agreed cannot be dated (Ben Jonson's 'The Case is Altered, for example). Some of the dates are just wrong (Shakespeare's 'Timon of Athens' was never acted - he never finished writing it!

I ran into that site a few years ago and noticed the problems.

vincent  •  Link

Get your own copy from Gutttenburg press: The Works of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher in Ten Volumes _ Volume I.
by Beaumont and Fletcher
Released: Jan 2004 Philaster _ Love Lies a Bleeding
by Beaumont, Francis and John Fletcher
Released: Jan 2004 The Maids Tragedy
by Beaumont, Francis and John Fletcher
Released: Jan 2004 :
The Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher:
for purchase


The Bishop  •  Link

John Dryden on Beaumont and Fletcher

These quotations are taken from Dryden's Essay of Dramatick poetry, which was published in 1668. They describe the general opinion of Beaumont/Fletcher in the 1660s. The complete essay is available at

Beaumont and Fletcher of whom I am next to speak, had with the advantage of Shakespeare's wit, which was their precedent, great natural gifts, improv'd by study...

Their Plots were generally more regular then Shakespeare's, especially those which were made before Beaumont's death; and they understood and imitated the conversation of Gentlemen much better; whose wilde debaucheries, and quickness of wit in reparties, no Poet can ever paint as they have done...

I am apt to believe the English Language in them arriv'd to its highest perfection; what words have since been taken in, are rather superfluous then necessary.

Their Playes are now the most pleasant and frequent entertainments of the Stage; two of theirs being acted through the year for one of Shakespeare's or Johnsons: the reason is, because there is a certain gayety in their Comedies, and Pathos in their more serious Playes, which suits generally with all mens humours. Shakespeares language is likewise a little obsolete, and Ben. Johnson's wit comes short of theirs.

The Bishop  •  Link

Dryden's remarks on Shakespeare

From the same source as above. This is the most important piece of Shakespearean criticism in the entire 17th century.


To begin then with Shakespeare; he was the man who of all Modern, and perhaps Ancient Poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the Images of Nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily: when he describes any thing, you more than see it, you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation: he was naturally learn'd; he needed not the spectacles of Books to read Nature; he look'd inwards, and found her there. I cannot say he is every where alike; were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of Mankind. He is many times flat, insipid; his Comick wit degenerating into clenches; his serious swelling into Bombast. But he is alwayes great, when some great occasion is presented to him: no man can say he ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not then raise himself as high above the rest of the Poets, "Quantum lenta solent, inter viberna cupressi."

The consideration of this made Mr. Hales of Eaton say, That there was no subject of which any Poet ever writ, but he would produce it much better treated of in Shakespeare; and however others are now generally prefer'd before him, yet the Age wherein he liv'd, which had contemporaries with him, Fletcher and Johnson never equall'd them to him in their esteem: And in the last Kings Court [i.e. 1625-1640], when Ben's reputation was at highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the greater part of the Courtiers, set our Shakespeare far above him.

The Bishop  •  Link

About Beaumont and Fletcher's canon

52 plays were attributed to the pair.

8 or 9 of them are collaborations; Beaumont taking, usually, the leading part in the combination.

1 is the work of Beaumont alone.

About 15 are the work of Fletcher alone.

About 22 of them are collaborations between Fletcher and someone other than Beaumont.

5 or 6 do not contain the work of either Beaumont or Fletcher.

To the general total may be added:
1- Henry VIII, by Shakespeare and Fletcher.
2 - A Very Woman, which passes under the name of Massinger, but in which Fletcher, probably, had a share.
3 - Sir John van Olden Barnavelt, by Fletcher and Massinger, which remained unprinted till quite recently.

tony t.  •  Link

The Changeling. This play by Middleton and Rowley, which Pepys saw on 23rd February 1660/1, is currently being performed by the 'Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory' company at the Tobacco Factory theatre, Bedminster, Bristol (last performance 24th April 2004). The 'Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory' company was founded about five years by a group of (mostly) young professional actors and has established a high reputation. This is its first non-Shakespeare production,

The production is transferring to The Barbican, London, as part of a five week season beginning 25th September 2004.

vicente  •  Link

Bonduca (Additional MS. 36758, F1)
Henry VIII, or All is True (F1, 1623)
Maid's Tragedy, The (Q1, Q2)
Mask of the Inner Temple and Grays Inn (Q, c.1613; F1, 1647)
Philaster: or, Love Lies a Bleeding (F2)
Poetry by/to Beaumont
Salmacis and Hermaphroditus (1602 Quarto)
Two Noble Kinsmen, The (1634 Quarto)
Woman's Prize, The (1st Folio, 1647)

DiPhi  •  Link

On July 31, 1661, our Sam watched the Tamer Tamed, a play by John Fletcher, Shakespeare's contemporary.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz just performed this play, and did a great job with it. Very funny and amusing, and much more palatable than Taming of the Shrew.

Here is their website with info on the play and photos of the production.


David Quidnunc  •  Link

Shakespeare in Restoration Theatre

From a December 17, 1970 letter from William Matthews (the "M" of "L&M") to the New York Review of Books, responding to Matthew Hodgart's October 8 review of the first three volumes of L&M's version of the diary:

"[W]hat the Professor forgets, and in this he is like almost every other scholar, is that Pepys was commenting on a Restoration version. Many Elizabethan and Jacobean plays were set to music on the Restoration stage, and in the process they were sea-changed into something strange and not always rich. So it was with The Tempest, which was most famous for its Echo song."

For all of Matthew's letter go here:

Here's Hodgart's review:

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Restoration Comedy Project

"The Restoration Comedy Project has two main research goals, namely, the elaboration of a catalogue of all the comedies written during the Restoration and the critical edition of significant comedies of that period."
The database will include plot summaries as well as standard bibliographic information, cast lists, descriptions of prologues and epilogues, and information about allusions to contemporary events. The project does not encompass the online publication of the full-texts of the plays, although where full-texts have been made available elsewhere on the Internet a link is provided.

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