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freely,' or the blank verse shall halt for it. What players are they?
Ros. Even those you were wont to take such delight in, the tragedians of the city.
Ham. How chances it, they travel?" their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.
Ros. I think, their inhibition comes by the means of the late innovation."
tion has happened in another place, where we find scare for scene.
Malone. the lady shall say her mind &c.] The lady shall have no obstruction, unless from the lameness of the verse. Johnson.
I think, the meaning is,-The lady shall mar the measure of the verse, rather than not express herself freely or fully. Henderson.
4 How chances it, they travel?). To travel in Shakspeare's time was the technical word, for which we have substituted to stroll. So, in the Office-book of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels to King Charles the First: “ 1622, Feb. 17, for a certificate for the Palsgrave's servants to travel into the country for six weeks, 10s.” Again, in Ben Jonson's Poetaster, 1601:“ If he pen for thee once, thou shalt not need to travell, with thy pumps full of gravell, any more, after a blinde jade and a hamper, and stalk upon boords and barrel-heads to an old crackt trumpet.” These words are addressed to a player. Malone.
5 I think, their inhibition &c.] I fancy this is transposed: Hamlet enquires not about an inhibition, but an innovation: the answer therefore probably was,-I think, their innovation, that is, their new practice of strolling, comes by means of the late inhibition.
Johnson. The drift of Hamlet's question appears to be this,-How chances it they travel ?-i. e. How happens it that they are become strollers ?_Their residence both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.-i. e. to have remained in a settled theatre, was the more honourable as well as the more lucrative situation. To this, Rosencrantz replies, -Their inhibition comes by means of the late innovation.-. e. their permission to act any longer at an established house is taken away, in consequence of the new custom of introducing personal abuse into their comedies. Several companies of actors in the time of our author were silenced on account of this licentious practice. Among these (as appears from a passage in Have with you to Saffron Walder, or Gabriel Harve, 's hunt is up, &c 1596,) even the children of St. Paul's: “ Troth, would he might for mee (that's all the harme I wish him) for then we neede never wishe the playes at Puwles up againe,” &c. See a dialogue between Comey and Envy at the conclusion of Mucedorus, 1598, as well as the preludnim to Aristippus, or the Jovial Philosopher, 1630, from whence the following passage is taken: “ Shews having been long intermitted and forbidden by authority
Ham. Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? Are they so followed ?
Ros. No, indeed, they are not.
Ros. Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace: But there is, sir, an aiery of children,? little eyases, that
for their abuses, could not be raised but by conjuring." Shew enters, whipped by two furies, and the prologue says to her:
with tears wash off that guilty sin,
spare the persons,” &c. Alteration, therefore, in the order of the words, seems to be quite unnecessary.
Steevens. There will still, however, reinain some difficulty. statute 39 Eliz. ch. 4, which seems to be alluded to by the words-theit inhibition, was not made to inhihit the players from acting any longer at an established theatre, but to prohibit them from strolling “ All fencers, (says the act,) bearwards, common players of en. terludes, and minstrels, wandering abroad, (other thian players of enterludes, belonging to any baron of this realm or any other ho. nourable personage of greater degree, to be authorized to play under the hand and seal of arms of such baron or personage,) shall be taken, adjudged, and deemed rogues, vagabonds, and şturdy beggars, and shall sustain such pain and punishments as by this act is in that behalf appointed.”
This statute, if alluded to, is repugnant to Dr. Johnson's transposition of the text, and to Mr. Steevens's explanation of it as it now stands. Yet Mr. Steevens's explanation may be right: Shaks. peare might not have thought of the act of Elizabeth. He could not, however, mean to charge his friends the old tragedians with the new custom of introducing personal abuse; but must rather have meant, that the old tragedians were inhibited from performing in the city, and obliged to travel, on account of the misconduct of the younger company. See note 7. Malone.
By the late innovation, it is probable that Rosencrantz means, the late change of government. The word innovation is used in the same sense in The Triumph of Love, in Fletcher's Four moral Representations in One, where Cornelia says to Rinaldo:
and in poor habits clad. “ (You fled, and the innovation laid aside).” And in Fletcher's (Shirley's] play of The Coronation, after Leonatus is proclaimed king, Lysander says to Philocles:
“What dost thou think of this innovation 2” M1. Mason. 0[Ham. How comes it? &c.] The lines enclosed in croichets are in the folio of 1623, but not in any of the quartos. Johnson.
an aiery of children, &c.] Relating to the play diouse
cry out on the top of question, and are most tyrannically
then contending, the Bankside, the Fortune, &c. played by the children of his majesty's chapel. Pope.
It relates to the young singing men of the chapel royal, or St. Paul's, of the former of whom perhaps the earliest mention oc. curs in an anonymous puritanical pamphlet, 1569, entitled The Children of the Chapel stript and whipt: “ Plaies will neuer be supprest, while her maiesties unfiedged minions flaunt it in silkes and sattens. They had as well be at their popish seruice in the deuils garments,” &c.-Again, ibid: “ Euen in her ma. jesties chapel do these pretty upstart youthes profane the Lordes day by the lasciuious writhing of their tender limbes, and gorgeous decking of their apparell, in feigning bawdie fables gathered froin the idolatrous heathen poets,” &c.
Concerning the performances and success of the latter in attracting the best company, I also find the following passage in Fack Drum's Entertainment, or Pasquil and Katherine, 1601:
“ I saw the children of Powles last night;
- I like the audience that frequenteth there
Tis a good gentle audience,” &c. It is said in Richard Flecknoe's Short Discourse of the English Stage, 1664, that “ both the children of the chappel and St. Paul's, acted playes, the one in White-Friers, the other behinde the Convocation-house in Paul's; till people growing more precise, and playes more licentious, the theatre of Paul's was quite supprest, and that of the children of the chappel converted to the use of the children of the revels." Steevens.
The suppression to which Flecknoe alludes took place in the year 1583-4; but afterwards both the children of the chapel and of the Revels played at our author's play-house in Blackfriars, and elsewhere: and the choir-boys of St. Paul's at their own house. A certain number of the children of the Revels, I believe, belonged to each of the principal theatres.
Our author cannot be supposed to direct any satire at those young men who played occasionally at his own theatre. Ben Jonson’s Cynthia's Revels, and his Poetaster, were performed there by the children of Queen Elizabeth's chapel, in 1600 and 1601; and Eastward Hoe by the children of the revels, in 1604 or 1605. I have no doubt therefore, that the dialogue before us was pointed at the choir-boys of St. Paul's, who in 1601 acted two of Marston's plays, Antonio and Mellido, and Antonio's Revenge. Many of Lyly's plays were represented by them about the same time; and in 1607, Chapman's Bussy d'Ambois was performed by them with great applause. It was probably in this and some
clapped for 't: these are now the fashion; and so berattle
other noisy tragedies of the same kind, that they cry'd out on the top of question, and were most tyrannically clapp'd for 't.
At a later period indeed, after our poet's death, the Children of the Revels had an established theatre of their own, and some dispute seems to have arisen between them and the king's company. They performed regularly in 1623, and for eight years afterwards, at the Red Bull in St. John's street; and in 1627, Shakspeare's company obtained an inhibition from the Master of the Revels to prevent their performing any of his plays at their house: as appears from the following entry in Sir Henry Herbert's Office-book, already mentioned : “From Mr. Heminge, in their company's name, to forbid the playinge of any of Shakspeare's playes in the Red Bull company, this 11th of April, 1627,450 0.” From other passages in the same book it appears that the Children of the Revels composed the Red-Bull company.
We learn from Heywood's Apology for Actors, that the little eyases here mentioned were the persons who were guilty of the late innovation, or practice of introducing personal abuse on the stage, and perhaps for their particular fault the players in general suffered; and the older and more decent comedians, as well as the children, had on some recent occasion been inhibited from acting in London, and compelled to turn strollers. This supposition will make the words, concerning which a difficulty has been stated, (see n. 5,) perfectly clear. Heywood's Apology for Actors, was published in 1612; the passage therefore which is found in the folio, and not in the quarto, was probably added not very long before that time.
“ Now to speake (says Heywood,) of some abuse lately crept into the quality, as an inveighing against the state, the court, the law, the citty, and their governments, with the particularizing of pridate mens humours, yet alive, noblemen and others, I know it distastes many; neither do I any way approve it, nor dare I by any means excuse it. The liberty which some arrogate to themselves, committing their bitterness and liberal invectives against all estates to the mouthes of children, supposing their juniority to be a priviledge for any rayling, be it never so violent, I could advise all such to curbe, and limit this presumed liberty within the bands of discretion and government. But wise and judicial censurers before whom such complaints shall at any time hereafter come, will not, I hope, impute these abuses to any transgression in us, who have ever been carefull and provident to shun the like."
Prynne in bis Histriomastix, speaking of the state of the stage, about the year 1620, has this passage : “Not to particularise those late new scandalous invective playes, wherein sundry persons of place and eminence [Gundemore, the late lord admiral, lord treasurer, and others,] have been particularly personated, jeared, abused in a gross and scurrilous manner," &c.
the common stages, (so they call them) that many, wearing rapiers, are afraid of goose quills, and dare scarce come thither.
Ham. What, are they children? who maintains them? how are they escoted ?! Will they pursue the quality no
The folio, 1623, has-berattled. The correction was made by the editor of the second folio.
Since this note was written, I have met with a passage in a letter from Mr. Samuel Calvert to Mr. Winwood, dated March 28, 1605, which might lead us to suppose that the words found only in the folio were added at that time:
66 The plays do not forbear to present upon the stage the whole course of this present time, not sparing the king, state, or religion, in so great absurdity, and with such liberty that any would be afraid to hear them.” Memorials, Vol. II, p. 54.
Malone. 8 little eyases, that cry ou on the top of question,] Little eyases ; i. e. young nestlings, creatures just out of the egg.
Theobald. The Booke of Haułying, &c. bl. 1. no date, seems to offer another etymology: “ And so bycause the best knowledge is by the eye, they be called eyessed. Ye may also know an evesse by the paleness of the seres of her legges, or the sere over the beake.”
Steevens. From ey, Teut. ovum, q. d. qui recens ex ovo emersit. Skinner, Etymol. An aiery or eyrie, as it ought rather to be written, is derived from the same root, and signifies both a young brood of hawks, and the nest itself in which they are produced.
An eyas hawk is sometimes written a nyas hawk, perhaps from a corruption that has happened in many words in our language, from the latter n passing from the end of one word to the beginning of another. However, some etymologists think nyas a legitimate word. Malone.
- cry out on the top of question,] The meaning seems to be, they ask a common question in the highest note of the voice.
Fohnson. I believe question, in this place, as in many others, signifies conversation, dialogue. So, in The Merchant of Venice: “ Think, you question with a Jew.” The meaning of the passage may therefore be—Children that perpetually recite in the highest notes of voice that can be uttered. Steevens.
When we ask a question, we generally end the sentence with a high note. I believe, therefore, that what Rosencrantz means to say is, that these children declaim, through the whole of their parts, in the high note commonly used at the end of a question, and are applauded for it. M. Mason.
- escoted?] Paid. From the French escot, a shot or reckoning. Fohnson.