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scene of the play was framed with equal elaborate


Pepys's comment on The Tempest, when he first witnessed its production in such magnificent conditions, runs thus:—“The play has no great wit but yet good above ordinary plays.” Pepys subsequently, however, saw the piece no less than five times, and the effect of the music, dancing, and scenery, steadily grew upon him. On his second visit he wrote:-“Saw The Tempest again, which is very pleasant, and full of so good variety, that I cannot be more pleased almost in a comedy. Only the seamen's part a little too tedious.” Finally, Pepys praised the richly-embellished Tempest without any sort of reserve, and took “pleasure to learn the tune of the seamen's dance."

Other adaptations of Shakespeare, which followed somewhat less spectacular methods of barbarism, roused in Pepys smaller enthusiasm. The Rivals, a version by D'Avenant of The Two Noble Kinsmen (the joint production of Fletcher and Shakespeare), ( was judged by Pepys to be “no excellent piece," though he appreciated the new songs, which included the familiar “My lodging is on the cold ground," with music by Matthew Locke. Pepys formed a higher opinion of D'Avenant's liberally-altered version of Measure for Measure, which the adapter called The Law against Lovers, and into which he introduced, with grotesque effect, the characters of Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado about Nothing. But it is more to Pepys's credit that he bestowed a very qualified approval on an execrable adaptation by the actor Lacy of The Taming of the Shrew. Here the hero, Petruchio, is overshadowed



by a new character, Sawney, his Scottish servant, who speaks an unintelligible patois. “It hath some very good pieces in it,” writes Pepys, “but generally is but a mean play, and the best part, Sawny, done by Lacy, hath not half its life by reason of the words, I suppose, not being understood, at least by me.”


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It might be profitable to compare Pepys's experiences as a spectator of Shakespeare's plays on the stage with the opportunities open to playgoers at the present moment. Modern managers have been producing Shakespearean drama of late with great liberality, and usually in much splendour. Neither the points of resemblance between the modern and the Pepysian methods, nor the points of difference, are flattering to the esteem of ourselves as a literature-loving people. It is true that we no longer garble our acting versions of Shakespeare. We are content with abbreviations of the text, some of which are essential, but many of which injure the dramatic perspective, and with inversion of scenes which may or may not be justifiable. But, to my mind, it is in our large dependence on scenery that we are following too closely that tradition of the Restoration which won the wholehearted approval of Pepys. The musico-scenic method of producing Shakespeare can always count on the applause of the average multitude of playgoers, of which Pepys is the ever-living spokesman. It is Shakespeare with scenic machinery, Shakespeare with new songs, Shakespeare with incidental music, Shakespeare with interpolated ballets, that reaches

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the heart of the British public. If the average British playgoer were gifted with Pepys's frankness, I have little doubt that he would echo the diarist's condemnation of Shakespeare in his poetic purity, of Shakespeare as the mere interpreter of human nature, of Shakespeare without flying machines, of Shakespeare without song and dance; he would characterise undiluted Shakespearean drama as “a mean thing,” or the most tedious entertainment that ever he was at in his life.

But the situation in Pepys's day had, despite all the perils that menaced it, a saving grace. Great acting, inspired acting, is an essential condition to any general appreciation in the theatre of Shakespeare's dramatic genius. However seductive may be the musico - scenic ornamentation, Shakespeare will never justly affect the mind of the average playgoer unless great or inspired actors are at hand to interpret him. Luckily for Pepys, he was the contemporary of at least one inspired Shakespearean actor. The exaltation of spirit to which he confesses, when he witnessed Betterton in the rôle of Hamlet, is proof that the prosaic multitude for whom he speaks will always respond to Shakespeare's magic touch when genius wields the actor's wand. One could wish nothing better for the playgoing public of to-day than that the spirit of Betterton, Shakespeare's guardian angel in the theatre of the Restoration, might renew its earthly career in our own time in the person of some contemporary actor.






DRAMATIC criticism in the daily press of London often resembles that method of conversation of which Bacon wrote that it seeks "rather commendation of wit, in being able to hold argument, than of judgment, in discerning what is true.” For four-andtwenty years, Mr F. R. Benson has directed an acting company which has achieved a reputation in English provincial cities, in Ireland, and in Scotland, by its exclusive devotion to Shakespearean and classical drama. Mr Benson's visits to London have been rare. There he has too often made sport for the journalistic censors who aim at “commendation of wit.”

Even the best-intentioned of Mr Benson's critics in London have fallen into the habit of concentrating attention on unquestionable defects in Mr Benson's practice, to the neglect of the vital principles which are the justification of his policy. Mr Benson's principles have been largely ignored by the news papers; but they are not wisely disregarded. They are matters of urgent public interest. They point

1 This paper was first printed in the Cornhill Magazine, May, 1900.

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the right road to the salvation of Shakespearean drama on the modern stage. They cannot be too often pressed on public notice.

These, in my view, are the five points of the charter which Mr Benson is and has long been championing with a persistency which claims national recognition.

Firstly, it is to the benefit of the nation that Shakespeare's plays should be acted constantly and in their variety.

Secondly, a theatrical manager who undertakes to produce Shakespearean drama should change his programme at frequent intervals, and should permit no long continuous run of any single play.

Thirdly, all the parts, whatever their significance, should be entrusted to exponents who have been trained in the delivery of blank verse, and have gained some knowledge and experience of the range of Shakespearean drama.

Fourthly, no play should be adapted by the manager so as to give greater prominence than the text invites to any single rôle.

Fifthly, the scenic embellishments should be simple and inexpensive, and should be subordinated to the dramatic interest.

There is no novelty in these principles. The majority of them were accepted unhesitatingly in the past by Betterton, Garrick, Edmund Kean, the Kembles, and notably by Phelps. They are recognised principles to-day in the leading theatres of France and Germany. But by some vagary of fate or public taste they have been reckoned in London, for a generation at any rate, to be out of date.

In the interest of the manager, the actor, and

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