Interludes. Stage Plays. 248

Interludes. Stage Plays.

Council regulated these Plays; left the People, upon God's gracious withdrawing of the Sickness, should with sudden forgetting of the Visitation, without fear of God's Wrath, and without some respect of those good and politick Means (as the Words of the Act ran) that he had ordained for the Preservation of the Commonwealth and People in Health and good Order, return to the undue Use of such Enormities. Therefore for the lawful, honest, comely Use of Plays, Pastimes and Recreations in good sort permitted, by the Authority of the Common Council, it was enacted, That no Play should be openly played within the Liberty of the City, wherein should be uttered any Words, Examples, or Doings of any Unchastity, Sedition, or such like unfit and uncomely Matter, upon pain of Imprisonment by the space of 14 Days, and 5l. for every such Offence. And that no Innkeeper, Tavernkeeper, or other Person whatsoever, within the Liberties of the City, shew or play, or cause to be shewed or played within his House or Yard, any Play, which shall not first be perused and allowed by the Lord Maior and Court of Aldermens Order. And no Person shall suffer any Plays to be played in his House or Yard, whereof he then shall have Rule, but only such Persons, and in such Places as upon good Consideration, shall be thereunto permitted and allowed by the Lord Maior and Aldermen. Nor shall take and use any such Benefit or Advantage of such Permission, until such Person be bound to the Chamberlain of London in certain Sums, for the keeping of good Order, and avoiding of Discords and Inconveniences. Neither shall use or exercise such Licence or Permission at any Time, in which the same shall be by the Lord Maior and Aldermen restrained, or commanded to stay and cease, in any usual Time of Divine Service on the Sunday or Holiday, or receive any to that Purpose in Time of Service, to the same, upon Pain to forfeit for every Offence 5l. And every Person to be licensed, shall, during the Time of such Continuance of such License, pay to the Use of the Poor in Hospitals of the City, or of the Poor visited with Sickness, such Sums and Payments, as between the Maior and Aldermen and the Person to be licensed shall be agreed upon; upon pain that on the Want of every such Payment, such Licence shall be utterly Void. All Sums and Forfeitures to be incurred for any Offence against this Act, and all Forfeitures of Bonds, shall be employed to the Relief of the Poor of the Hospitals, or of the Poor infected or diseased in the City. And the Chamberlain in his own Name shall have and recover the same to the Purposes aforesaid, in the Court of the Utter Chamber of Guildhall London, called the Maiors Court.

Plays regulated by Common Council.

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Provided, that this Act shall not extend to Plays shewed in private Houses, Lodgings of a Nobleman, Citizen or Gentleman, which shall have the same then played in his Presence, for the Festivity of any Marriage, Assembly of Friends, or other like Cause, without publick, or common Collection of Mony of the Auditors or Beholders.

But these good Laws and Orders concerning Players were not so well observed as they should have been. For after this, the lewd Matters of Plays increased: And in the Hands of them were found many Dangers for Religion, the State, Honesty of Manners, Unthriftiness of the Poor, for Infection, &c. And the Preachers daily exclaimed against them to the Maior and Aldermen. Therefore in an Act of Common Council for Relief of the Poor, no Interludes were allowed in London, in open spectacle, but in private Houses only, at Marriages, or such like. And Suit was made, that they might be likewise banished from all Places adjoining to the City.

Another Act of common Council puts down Plays.

Since which Time, and upon the Ruin at Paris-Garden, Suit was made to the Lords, to banish Plays wholly in the Places near London. And Letters were obtained of the Lords to banish them on the Sabbath Days.

The Lords forbid them on Sundays.

Upon these Orders against the Players, the Queen's Players petitioned the Lords of the Council, That whereas the Time of their Service drew very near, so that of necessity they must needs have Exercise to enable them the better for the same, and also for their better help and relief in their poor Livings, the Season of the Year being past to play at any of the Houses without the City; Their humble Petition was, that the Lords would vouchsafe to read a few Articles annexed to their Supplication, and in Consideration, the Matters contained the very Stay and State of their Living, to grant unto them the Confirmation of the same; or of as many as should be to their Honours good liking; and withal, their favourable Letters to the Lord Maior, to permit them to Exercise within the City; and that their Letters might contain some Orders to the Justices of Middlesex in their Behalf. But there were some that presently answered both their Supplication and Articles.

The Queen's Players Petition the Lords for playing in London.

In fine, the Business of the Players at last came to this Issue: and they were permitted on these Conditions; which were so many Remedies of their former Exorbitancies, viz. That they hold them content with playing in private Houses at Weddings, &c. without publick Assemblies. That if it were thought good they should be tolerated, that, then they be restrained to the Order in the Act of Common Council made in the Time of Hawes Maior. That they play not openly till the whole Deaths have been by twenty Days under 50 a Week, nor longer than shall so continue. That no Plays be on the Sabbath. That no Plays be on Holydays but after Evening Prayer; nor any received into the Auditory, till after Evening Prayer. That no Playing be in the Dark, nor continue any such Time, but as any of the Auditors may return to their dwellings in London before Sun set, or at least before it be dark. That the Queen's Players only be tolerated: and of them their Number and certain Names to be notified in the Lord Treasurer's Letters to the Lord Maior and to the Justices of Middlesex and Surrey: And those her Players not to divide themselves into several Companies. And that for breaking any of these Orders their Toleration cease.

Remedies for the Players.

But all these Prescriptions were not sufficient to keep them within due Order, but their Plays, so abusive oftentimes of Virtue; or particular Persons, gave great Offence, and occasioned Disturbanecs. Whence they were now and then stopt and prohibited. So in the Year 1589. Hart Maior, Complaint was made of them to the Lord Treasurer: who signified the same to the Maior. And he sent for all the Players in Town, (and there were some Companies of them then, as one belonging to the Lord Admiral, and another to the Lord Strange) and charged them to forbear till further Order.

Players often complained of, and restratned.

These Collections concerning the State of Stage Plays in former Times may not be amiss to be inserted here.

In short, the Citizens of later Times seemed mightily to be delighted with Interludes and Plays, acted upon the Stage, representing visibly the Histories of former Times, or the Manners of Men, so that as beforetime Stage Players used

Many Playhouses built.

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