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read the title, and then, if further explanation be necessary, I will give it: it is called “ A Godly exhortation by occasion of the late iudgement of God shewed at Paris-garden, the thirteenth day of lanvarie: where were assembled by estimation aboue a thousand persons, whereof some were slaine and of that number at the least, as is credibly reported, the thirde person maimed and hurt. Giuen to all estates for their instruction concerning the keeping of the Sabboth day.” It is by “ John Field, Minister of the Word of God," and was printed in 1583. There are many accounts of the catastrophe to which the tract relates. Paris Garden, you know, was a place where bears were baited, and the greatest number of spectators was obtained on Sundays.
MORTON. The fact is mentioned at some length in Pennant's London.
Bourne. And elsewhere, so that we need not go over the shocking picture this pious preacher draws of the calamity.
Elliot. I do not see the pertinency of this “Godly exhortation” to our present inquiry, unless something be said about theatrical representations.
BOURNE. Supposing nothing more were said, you would not have much right to complain, considering that bear-baiting and stage-plays were generally coupled by the puritans; but if you had waited, I should have finished by this time the following paragraph in the tract, which is curious, as alluding to the abolition of theatrical performances on Sunday, previous to 1583. Field is exhorting the Lord Mayor, &c. of London to use their influence to abolish bear-baiting, “ And as” (he observes) “ they haue with good commendation so far preuailed, that vpon Saboath dayes these Heathenishe Enterludes and playes are banished, so it wyll please them to followe the matter still, that they may be vtterly rid and taken away. For surely it is to be feared, besides the destruction bothe of bodye and soule, that many are brought vnto by frequenting the Theater, the Curtin and such like, that one day those places will likewise be cast downe by God himselfe.” That, I fancy, you will consider to the point.
Elliot. Certainly; but I thought, from what you read from Whetstone just now under date of 1584, that stage-plays on Sundays were then acted.
BOURNE. If you refer to his words again, you will perceive that they are ambiguous, and that he is only expressing an opinion in favour of what had already been decided by the higher powers. Besides, it is clear that they were abolished when Field wrote in 1583, and that they were not abolished when the tract I have now in my hand was printed, viz. 1580.
Morton. So that you fix the period between 1580 and 1583. This is important, because our stage historians have not hitherto settled the date with any precision: one of the most learned says, with extreme. laxity, “ During a great part of Queen Elizabeth's reign the play-houses were only licenced to be opened on that day (i. e. Sunday); but before the end of her reign, or soon after, this abuse was probably removed."
BOURNE. I am not sure that it would not be possible to come even nearer the precise date than we have at present arrived. I am not aware, however, of any intermediate work, between 1580 and 1583, where the fact is noticed. I may add, that Mr. Chalmers (Sup. Apol. 185.) states, incorrectly certainly, that the exhibition of plays on Sunday was not forbidden until 1587.
Elliot. From Field's “ Exhortation" you find that in 1583 stage-plays were “ banished" on the Sabbath : where then do you learn that they were not banished in 1530 ?
BOURNE. From this little piece, by Arthur Golding, the translator of Ovid's Metamorphoses, and who, you may recollect, was enumerated by Abraham Fleming among the writers upon the same earthquake that employed his pen. This is the tract he. published on that occasion. · Morton. The title I see is this: “A discourse vpon the Earthquake that happened through this realme of Englande and other places of Christendom, the sixt of Aprill, 1580," &c. “ Written by Arthur Golding, Gentleman.” It seems wholly religious.
BOURNE. It is : the date, 1580, and the printer's name, Henry Binneman, are to be found at the end;
but if you will give me the book, I can save trouble by pointing out the particular paragraph that relates to this subject : the rest is a mere dull discourse, principally to show that earthquakes are to be looked upon as the judgments of God, and not as proceeding from natural causes. Morton. There is no occasion, as I have it here.
Elliot. Read it, then, but no more than is to our purpose: we can very well omit all the rest.
Morton. It is not long. “ The Saboth dayes and holy dayes urdayned for the hearing of Gods word to the reformation of our lyues, for the administration and receiuing of the Sacramentes to our comfort, for the seeking of all things behouefull for bodye or soule at Gods hande by prayer, for the mynding of his benefites, and to yeelde praise and thankes vnto him for the same, and finally for the speciall occupying of our selves in all spirituall exercises”
Elliot. I am sure you must be reading more than is necessary: Golding is a long time coming to the point.
Morton. These are only ambages to give the more effect to what follows: he adds, that the Sabbath, instead of being employed as he has described, “ is spent full heathenishly, in tauerning, tipling, gaming, playing and beholding of Bearebaytings and stage-playes to the vtter dyshonor of, God, impeachment of all godlynesse and vnnecessarie consuming of mennes substances which ought to be better employed."
BOURNE. That is all we need read; but I will just add, upon this point, that Stephen Gosson, in 1579, in his “ School of Abuse,” bears wrathful testimony to the performance of plays on Sunday.
Elliot. The point (an important one, I allow) being thus settled by the testimony of Golding, what do you next offer us ?
BOURNE. We will now examine the work of a man, whom I mentioned some days ago as a satirist, as author of a sonnet before Bodenham's Belvedere, 1600, but principally as the writer of the tract which now comes under our review, called “A Mirour of Monsters: Wherein is plainely described the manifold vices and spotted enormities that are caused by the infectious sight of Playes, with the description of the subtile slights of Sathan making them his instruments.” London, 1587. It is by Wil. Rankin or Rankins, and is one of the pamphlets against the stage that is most rarely met with. One singularity in it is a description (though not a very intelligible one), of a sort of mask or pageant on the marriage of Fastus and Luxuria, two of the prime favourites of Sathan, and favourers of Actors. The personages who perform are six, viz. Idleness, Flattery, Ingratitude, Ugly Dissension, Blasphemy, and Impudence. As this description is inserted late, I will first read a sentence or two against stage-players in Terralbon, to which country the author states he had travelled: “When first these monsters came into Terralbon such was their proud