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PEPYS'S VISITS TO THEATRES
"This," he added, The last reference
would give £10 to the poor. "I hope in God will bind me." that he makes to his vows is when, in contravention of them, he went with his wife to the Duke of York's House, and found the place full, and himself unable to obtain seats. He makes a final record of "the saving of his vow, to his great content."
All self-imposed restrictions notwithstanding, Pepys contrived to visit the theatre no less than three hundred and fifty-one times during the nine years and five months that he kept his diary. It has to be borne in mind that, for more than twelve months of that period, the London playhouses were for the most part closed, owing to the Great Plague and the Fire. Had Pepys gone at regular intervals, when the theatres were open, he would have been a playgoer at least once a week. But, owing to his vows, his visits fell at most irregular intervals. Sometimes he went three or four times a week, or even twice in one day. Then there would follow eight or nine weeks of abstinence. If a piece especially took his fancy, he would see it six or seven times in fairly quick succession. Long runs were unknown to the theatre of Pepys's day, but a successful piece was frequently revived. Occasionally, Pepys would put himself to the trouble of attending a first night. But this was an indulgence that he practised sparingly. He resented the manager's habit of doubling the price of the seats, and he was irritated by the frequent want of adequate rehearsal.
Pepys's theatrical experience began with the reopening of theatres after the severe penalty of sup
pression, which the Civil Wars and the Commonwealth imposed on them for nearly eighteen years. His playgoing diary thus became an invaluable record of a new birth of theatrical life in London. When, in the summer of 1660, General Monk occupied London for the restored King, Charles II., three of the old theatres were still standing empty. These were soon put into repair, and applied anew to theatrical uses, although only two of them seem to have been open at any one time. The three houses were the Red Bull, dating from Elizabeth's reign, in St John's Street, Clerkenwell, where Pepys saw Marlowe's Faustus; Salisbury Court, Whitefriars, off Fleet Street; and the Old Cockpit in Drury Lane, both of which were of more recent origin. To all these theatres Pepys paid early visits. But the Cockpit in Drury Lane, was the scene of some of his most stirring experiences. There he saw his first play, Beaumont and Fletcher's Loyal Subject; and there, too, he saw his first play by Shakespeare, Othello.
But these three theatres were in decay, and new and sumptuous buildings soon took their places. One of the new playhouses was in Portugal Row, Lincoln's Inn Fields; the other, on the site of the present Drury Lane Theatre, was the first of the many playhouses that sprang up there. It is to these two theatres-Lincoln's Inn Fields and Drury Lane that Pepys in his diary most often refers. He calls each of them by many different names, and the unwary reader might infer that London was very richly supplied with playhouses in Pepys's day. But public theatres in active work at this period of our history were not permitted by the authorities to exceed two. "The Opera" and "the
LONDON THEATRES AT THE RESTORATION
Duke's House" are merely Pepys's alternative designations of the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre; while "the Theatre," "Theatre Royal," and "the King's House," are the varying titles which he bestows on the Drury Lane Theatre.1
Besides these two public theatres there was, in the final constitution of the theatrical world in Pepys's London, a third, which stood on a different footing. A theatre was attached to the King's Court at Whitehall, and there performances were given at the King's command by actors from the two public houses.2 The private Whitehall theatre was open to the public on payment, and Pepys was frequently there.
At one period of his life Pepys held that his vows did not apply to the Court theatre, which was mainly distinguished from the other houses by the circumstances that the performances were given at night. At Lincoln's Inn Fields or Drury Lane it was only permitted to perform in the afternoon. Half-past three was the usual hour for opening the proceed
1At the restoration of King Charles II., no more than two companies of actors received licenses to perform in public. One of these companies was directed by Sir William D'Avenant, Shakespeare's reputed godson, and was under the patronage of the King's brother, the Duke of York. The other was directed by Tom Killigrew, one of Charles II.'s boon companions, and was under the patronage of the King himself. In due time the Duke's, or D'Avenant's, company occupied the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and the King's, or Killigrew's, company occupied the new building in Drury Lane.
2 Charles. II. formed this private theatre out of a detached building in St. James's Park, known as the "Cockpit," and to be carefully distinguished from the Cockpit of Drury Lane. Part of the edifice was occupied by courtiers by favour of the King. General Monk had lodgings there. At a much later date, cabinet councils were often held there.
ings. At Whitehall the play began about eight, and often lasted till near midnight.
The general organisation of Pepys's auditorium was much as it is to-day. It had improved in many particulars since Shakespeare died. The pit was the most popular part of the house; it covered the floor of the building, and was provided with seats; the price of admission was 2s. 6d. The company there seems to have been extremely mixed; men and women of fashion often rubbed elbows with City shopkeepers, their wives, and apprentices. The first gallery was wholly occupied by boxes, in which seats could be hired separately at 4s. apiece. Above the boxes was the middle gallery, the central part of which was filled with benches, where the seats cost 1s. 6d. each, while boxes lined the sides. The highest tier was the 1s. gallery, where footmen soon held sway. As Pepys's fortune improved, he spent more on his place in the theatre. From the 1s. gallery he descended to the 1s. 6d., and thence came down to the pit, occasionally ascending to the boxes on the first tier.
In the methods of representation, Pepys's period of play-going was coeval with many most important innovations, which seriously affected the presentation of Shakespeare on the stage. The chief was the desirable substitution of women for boys in the female rôles. During the first few months of Pepys's theatrical experience, boys were still taking the women's parts. That the practice survived in the first days of Charles II.'s reign we know from the well-worn anecdote that when the King sent behind the scenes to inquire why the play of Hamlet, which he had come to see, was so late in commencing, he
INNOVATIONS IN THE PLAYHOUSE
was answered that the Queen was not yet shaved. But in the opening month of 1661, within five months of Pepys's first visit to a theatre, the reign of the boys ended. On January 3rd of that year, Pepys writes that he "first saw women come upon the stage." Next night he makes entry of a boy's performance of a woman's part, and that was the final record of boys masquerading as women in the English theatre. I believe the practice now survives nowhere except in Japan. This mode of representation has always been a great puzzle to students of Elizabethan drama.1 Before, however, Pepys saw Shakespeare's work on the stage, the usurpation of the boys was over.
It was after the Restoration, too, that scenery, rich costume, and scenic machinery became, to Pepys's delight, regular features of the theatre. When the diarist saw Hamlet "done with scenes' for the first time, he was most favourably impressed. Musical accompaniment was known to pre-Restoration days; but the orchestra was now for the first time placed on the floor of the house in front of the stage, instead of in a side gallery, or on the stage itself. The musical accompaniment of plays developed very rapidly, and the methods of opera were soon applied to many of Shakespeare's pieces, notably to The Tempest and Macbeth.
Yet at the side of these innovations, one very important feature of the old playhouses, which gravely concerned both actors and auditors, survived throughout Pepys's lifetime. The stage still projected far into the pit in front of the curtain. The actors and actresses spoke in the centre of the house,
1 For a fuller description of this theatrical practice see pages 41-43 supra.