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VOL. I. in former times as at present, our ancient theatres do not PROLEGO- appear to have laboured under any disadvantage in this re
spect; for the players printed and exposed accounts of the pieces that they intended to exhibit", which, however, did not contain a complete list of the characters, or the names of the actors by whom they were represented b.
The long and whimsical titles that are prefixed to the quarto copies of our author's plays, I suppose to have been transcribed from the play-bills of the time. They were equally calculated to attract the notice of the idle gazer in
NOT E S.
They use to set up their billes upon posts fome certaine dayes before, to admonith the people to make resorte to their theatres, that they may thereby be the better furnished, and the people prepared to fill their purses with their treasures." Treatije against Idlenes, vaine Playes and Interludes, bl, let. (no date).
The antiquity of this custom likewise appears from a story recorded by Taylor the water-poet, under the head of Wit and Mirth. 30. “ Master Field, the player, riding up Fleet Street a great pace, a gentleman called him, and asked him what play was played that day. He being angry to be staied on so frivolous a demand, answered that he might see what play was to be plaied upon every pofte. I cry you mercy, said the gentleman, I took you for a pofte, you rode so fast."''Taylor's Works, p. 183.
Ames, in his Hisory of Printing, p. 342, says, that James Roberts (who published some of our author's dramas) printed bills for the players.
It appears from the following entry on the Stationers' books, that even the right of printing play-bills was at one time made a subject of monopoly :
" Oct. 1587. John Charlewoode.] Lycensed to him by the whole consent of the affistants, the onlye ymprinting of all manner of billes for players. Provided that if any trouble arise herebye, then Charlewoode to beare the charges."
• This practice did not commence till the beginning of the present century. I have seen a play-bill printed in the year 1697, which expressed only the titles of the two pieces that were to be exhibited, and the time when they were to be represented. Notices of plays to be performed on a future day, fimilar to those now daily published, are found in the original edition of the Spectators in 1711. In these early theatrical advertisements, our author is always styled the immortal Shakspeare. Hence Pope :
“ Shakespeare, whom you and every play-house bill
the walks at St. Paul's, or to draw a crowd about some vo- VOL. I. ciferous Autolycus, who perhaps was bired by the players PROLEGOthus to raise the expectations of the multitude. It is indeed MENA. highly improbable that the modest Shakspeare, who has more than once apologized for his untutored lines, should in his manuscripts have entitled any of his dramas most excellent and pleasant performances. A contemporary writer has pre
The most excellent
Chamberlaine his Servants.
M. William Shak-speare:
Tom of Bedlam :
S. Stephen's Night in Chriftmass Hollidayes.
on the Bank-side.
Vol. I. ferved fomething like a play-bill of those days, which PROLEGO- seems to corroborate this observation ; for if it were di
and Corporal Nym.
By William Shakespeare.
laine's Servants ;
spur of the North.
Fested of rime, it would bear no very distant resem- Vol. I. biance to the title pages that stand before some of our au- PROLEGOthor's dramas:
Prithee, what's the play?
They say- A new invented boy of Purle,
-Now hang me if I did not look at first
With the true Relation of the whole Historie,
MAR I ANA.
• Rotes from Black.fryars, 1619.
VOL. I. had his benefit on the second day. As it was a general Prolego- practice, in the time of Shakspeare, to sell the copy of the
play to the theatre, I imagine, in such cases, an author derived no other advantage from his piece, than what arole from the sale of it. Sometimes, however, he found it more beneficial to retain the copy-right in his own hands; and when he did so, I suppose he had a benefit. It is certain that the giving authors the profits of the third exhibition of their play, which seems to have been the usual mode during almost the whole of the last century, was an established custom in the year 1612; for Decker, in the prologue to one of his comedies, printed in that year, speaks of the poet's thira' day. The unfortunate Otway had no more than one
N O T E s.
There is an old tradition,
66 Poet. I'll take my venture ; 'tis agreed.”
Though dropp'd from greasy-apron'd audience.
gaze " On Pallas' shield, not caring, so he gains
" A cram'd third day, what filth drops from his brains !” Prologue to If this be not a good Play tbe Devil's in't, 1612.
Yet the following passages intimate, that the poet at a sublequent period bad fome interest in the second day's exhibition :
" Whether their sold scenes be dislikid or hit,
“ An empty second day, or a thin share."
So, in the prologue to The Sophy, by Sir John Denhain, acted at Blackfryars in 1642:
Gentlemen, if you diflike the play,
money.” In other cases, then, it may be presumed, the loss, either o the fecond or third day, did affect the author.