Plays and Players.
I. 9. Letter from the Lord Mayor to the Lord Chancellor,
informing him that great disorder had been committed at the
Theatre on Sunday last. He had taken measures to investigate
the same, but understanding that his lordship, with other members
of the Privy Council, had taken the matter in hand, he had stayed
further proceedings. He thought it his duty to inform him that the
players of plays, used at the Theatre and other such places, and
tumblers and such like, were a very superfluous sort of men, and of
such faculty as the laws had disallowed; that the exercise of the
plays was not only a great hindrance to the service of God, but also
a great corruption of youth, with unchaste and wicked matters, the
occasion of much incontinence, practices of many frays, quarrels, and
other disorders, within the City. He therefore begged that order
might be taken to prevent such plays, not only within the City, but
also in the liberties.
12th April, 1580.
I. 295. Letter from the Lords of the Council to the Lord Mayor,
Mr. Serjeant Flcetwood, Recorder, and the Aldermen, stating that,
for avoiding the increase of infection within the City last summer,
orders were sent to them for restraining of plays until Michaelmas
last. As the sickness had almost ceased, and was not likely to increase
at this time of the year, in order to relieve the poor players, and to
encourage their being in readiness with convenient matters for Her
Highness's solace this next Christmas, they required them forthwith
to suffer the players to practice such plays, in such sort, and in the
usual places, as they had been accustomed, having careful regard for
the continuance of such quiet order as had been before observed.
18th November, 1581.
I. 317. Letter from the Lords of the Council to the Lord,
Mayor. For sundry good causes and considerations they had
oftentimes given order for the restraint of plays in and about the
City; nevertheless of late, for honest recreation sake, in respect that
Her Majesty sometimes took delight in those pastimes, it had been
thought not unfit, having regard to the season of the year and the
clearance of the City from infection, to allow of certain companies of
players in London, partly that they might thereby attain more
dexterity and perfection in that profession, the better to content Her
Majesty, the said players being restrained from playing on the
Sabbath, and only permitted on the ordinary holidays after evening
prayer, as long as the season of the year would permit, without
danger of the infection. They requested the City to appoint some
proper person to consider and allow such plays only as were fitted to
yield honest recreation and no example of evil. For this purpose
the Lord Mayor should withdraw his late prohibition against their
playing on holidays, only forbearing the Sabbath-day. If the exercise
of the same should increase the sickness and infection, then he
should communicate to the Council.
11th April, 1582.
I. 319. Letter from the Lord Mayor to the Lords of the Council.
acknowledging the foregoing letter. Although the players began
not their plays till after evening service, yet all the afternoon
they took in hearers, and filled the placed with such as were
thereby absent from Church, and attended to serve God's enemies
in an inn. If they were restrained from letting in the people till
after service it would delay the action of their plays to a very inconvenient time of night, specially for servants and children. Further,
the plague had increased, and the season being not and perilous, and
term time and the meeting of Parliament near, the renewing and
continuance of their exercises would be most dangerous. He therefore requested the Council to continue their restraint of such plays.
As touching the orders prescribed for the matter and manner of their
plays, steps should be taken to appoint some grave and discreet
persons to peruse them and obey the caution of the Council.
12th April, 1582.
I. 359. Letter from Ambrose, Earl of Warwick, to the Lord
Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs, requesting them to grant a licence to
his servant, John David, to play his provest prize in his science and
profession of defence, at the Bull, in Bishopsgate, or in some other
convenient place to be assigned within the liberties of the City of
1st July, 1582.
I. 383. Letter from Ambrose, Earl of Warwick, to the Lord
Mayor, complaining of the treatment and disgrace put upon his
servant in not being allowed to play prizes, after the publication of
his bills, wherein his (the writer's) name had been used, although
others had been so permitted.
23rd July, 1582.
I. 384. Letter from the Lord Mayor to the Earl of Warwick, in
reply. He had not refused permission for his servant to play his
prizes, but had granted him a licence, only restraining him from
playing in an inn for fear of infection, and had appointed him to play in
an open place at the Leadenhall. Not having availed himself of the
permission for fourteen days, and the infection increasing, it became
necessary to prohibit and assembling of the people to his play within
the City, but permission had been given to him to perform in the
open fields. No permission had been granted to any others. With the
man's own consent he had appointed Monday next, and had allowed
him liberty to pass openly through the City with his company, drums,
24th July, 1582.
I. 498. Letter from the Lord Mayor to Mr. Young, stating that
the Court of Aldermen had lately received letters from the Lords of
the Council for avoiding of all perils of infection. Certain fencers
had set up bills and intended to play a prize at the Theatre on
May Day next, which would cause great inconvenience and danger,
especially as they desired to pass through the City with pomp. Fearing
disorder, and considering the late disaster at Paris Gardens, (fn. 1) licence
had been refused, and also permission to pass through the City. He
requested the Justices of the county to assist them in preventing the
27th April, 1583.
I. 553. Letter from Sir Francis Walsingham, Knight, to the
Lord Mayor. With regard to the letter of the Council on behalf
of Her Majesty's players, which the Lord Mayor had interpreted
to extend only to holidays and not to other week-days, the
Council, considering that without frequent exercise of such plays
as were to be presented before Her Majesty her servants could not
conveniently satisfy her recreation and their own duty, desired that
they should be licensed to perform upon week-days and work-days,
at convenient times, between this and Shrovetide (Sundays only
1st December, 1583.
I. 554. Letter from the Lords of the Council to the Lord Mayor.
As the infection within the City had ceased, they desired that Her
Majesty's players might be suffered to play as heretofore, more
especially as they were shortly to present some of their doings
26th November, 1583.
I. 635. Letter from the Court of Aldermen to the Archishop of
Canterbury (Whitgif), informing him of the daily disorderly exercise
of a number of players and playing-houses erected within the City,
whereby the youths of the City were greatly corrupted, and their
manners infected with many evils and ungodly qualities, by reason
of the wanton and profane devices represented on the stages. The
apprentices and servants were withdrawn from their work, to the
great hindrance of the trades and traders of the City, and the
propagation of religion. Besides, to these places resorted the light
and lewd disposed persons, as harlots, cutpurses, cozeners, pilferers,
&c., who, under colour of hearing plays, devised divers evil and
ungodly matches, confederacies, and conspiracies, which could not
be prevented. They besought his favour for reforming the same.
Further, because Her Majesty must be served at certain times by
this sort of people, she had granted her Letters Patent to Mr.
Tilney, her Master of the Revels, by virtue whereof he had authority
to reform, exercise, or suppress all manner of players, plays, and
playhouses, and he had licensed the said houses which before had
been open to the Statutes for the punishing of such disorders. They
requested his grace to call the Master of the Revels before him and
treat with him as to the measures to be devised, that Her Majesty
might be served with these recreations as she had been accustomed,
which might easily be done by the private exercise of Her Majesty's
own players in convenient places, and the City freed from these
25th February, 1592.
I. 646. Letter from the Lord Mayor to the Archbishop of
Canterbury, thanking him, in the name of the Court of Aldermen,
for the trouble he had taken for removing the great inconvenience
suffered by the City through the increase of plays and players. As
touching the consideration to be made to Mr. Tilney for the better
effecting the restraint of plays in and about the City, a certain
number of Aldermen had been appointed to confer with him thereon.
6th March, 1592.
II. 6. Letter from the Lords of the Council to the Lord Mayor, requiring him to restrain until further order all public plays and interludes
within five miles of the City of London, on account of the plague.
3rd February, 1593.
II. 33. Letter from Lord Hunsdon to the Lord Mayor,
requesting permission for the new company of players to be permitted
to perform at the Cross Keys in Gracious Street (Gracechurch Street)
"now that the sickness hath departed from the City."
Dated from Nonsuch, 8th October, 1594.
II. 73. Letter from the Lord Mayor to the Lord Treasurer,
informing him that Frances Langley, one of the Alnagers for the
sealing of cloth, intended to erect a new stage or theatre on the
Bankside, and praying that the same might be prevented on
account of the evils arising therefrom.
3rd November, 1594.
II. 103. Letter from the Lord Mayor to the Lords of the
Council, requesting them to issue their letters to the justices of
Surrey and Middlesex for the suppressing of stage plays on the
Bankside, as being the cause of the increase of crime within the City.
13th September, 1595.
II. 171. Letter from the Lord Mayor to the Lords of the
Council, recommending the suppression of stage plays as well at
the Theatre, (fn. 2) at the Curtain, and Bankside, as in all other places
in and about the City, accompanied by reasons for the same.
28th July, 1597.
II. 187. Letter from the Lords of the Council to the Lord
Mayor, renewing their Orders to the justices of Middlesex and
Surrey for the prohibition of any more playhouses than the two
mentioned (Golden Lane and the Bankside), and for the punishment
of all who transgressed the Orders.
31st December, 1601.
II. 188. Letter from the Lords of the Council to the Lord
Mayor upon the complaint of the great increase of playhouses,
and particularly of the playhouse in course of erection in Golden
Lane by Edward Allen. (fn. 3) As Allen's house was not intended to increase
the number of playhouses, but to be in lieu of the Curtain, he should
be permitted to complete it. There should be but two playhouses, one
in Middlesex, namely, the one in Golden Lane (fn. 4) above mentioned, and
one in Surrey, the Globe (fn. 5) on the Bankside, which had been selected
by the players from the numerous houses existing there. The
Letter also contains the further orders of the Council, forbidding
the performance of plays in common inns within the City, restricting
the performances in each house to two in a week, and restraining
the players from performing on the Sabbath Day or in Lent, or in
times of infection, and charges the Lord Mayor and Justices to
see the same duly executed.
22nd June, 1600.
II. 189. Letter from the Lords of the Council to the Lord
Mayor, granting permission to the servants of the Earl of Oxford
and the Earl or Worcester to play at the Boar's Head in Eastcheap. (fn. 6)
31st March, 1602.
V. 28. Petition of the Constables and other officers and inhabitants within the precinct of the Blackfriars to Sir Sebastian
Harvey, Knight, Lord Mayor, and the Court of Aldermen, stating
that in November, 1596, (fn. 7) the inhabitants had informed the Privy
Council of the inconveniences likely to fall upon them by a common
playhouse then intended to be erected, and the Council had thereupon
forbad the use of the house for plays. By Orders of the Privy
Council dated 22nd June, 1600, only two playhouses were to be
tolerated, one on the Bankside and the other in or near Golden
Lane, exempting thereby the Blackfriars, and a letter was at the same
time sent to the Lord Mayor and Justices requiring them to see the
Orders strictly put in execution and continued. The owner of the
said playhouse, under the name of a private house, converted it to
a public playhouse, to which there was daily such a resort of people
and such a multitude of coaches (many of them hackney coaches
bringing people of all sorts), that at times the streets could not
contain them, they clogged up Ludgate Hill also, so that they
endangered one another, broke down stalls, threw down goods, and
the inhabitants were unable to get to their houses, or bring in their
provisions, the trademen to utter their wares, of passengers to get
to the common water stairs without danger of life and limb; quarrels
and effusion of blood had followed, and other dangers might be
occasioned by the broils, plots, and practices of such an unruly
multitude. These inconveniences happening almost daily in the
winter time (not excepting Lent) from one or two o'clock till five at
night (the usual time for christenings, burials, and afternoon service),
the inhabitants were unable to get to the church, the ordinary passage
for a great part of the precinct being close by the playhouse door.
The petitioners therefore prayed that order might be taken in the
matter, and the owner of the playhouse required to satisfy the Court
of Aldermen for his presumption in breaking the aforesaid Orders,
and to put in sufficient surety for the time to come. If the inhabitants, by turnpikes, posts, chains, or otherwise, kept the coaches
outside their gates, grant inconvenience would ensue to Ludgate
and the streets thereabout, they therefore craved aid and direction
from the Court in all the premises.
The petition is signed by the minister, churchwardens, sidesmen,
constables, collectors, and scavengers of the precinct.
V. 29. Letter from divers honourable person and other
inhabiting the precinct of Blackfriars to the Lord Mayor and Court
of Aldermen in support of the foregoing petition.
VII. 101. Order of the Star Chamber, upon complaint of the
inconveniences occasioned by the stoppage of the streets by the
carriages of persons frequenting the playhouse of the Blackfriars,
"their lordships remembering that there is an easy passage by
water unto that playhouse without troubling the streets, and that
it is much more fit and reasonable that those which go thither
should go by water or else on foot," therefore, order that all coaches
shall leave as soon as they have set down, and not return till the play
is over, nor return further than the west end of Saint Paul's Churchyard
or Fleet Conduit. Coachmen disobeying this Order to be committed
to Newgate or Ludgate. Copies of the Order to be set up at Paul's
Chain, the west end of St. Paul's Churchyard, Ludgate, the Blackfriars, and Fleet Conduit.
22nd November, 1633.
VII. 106. Letter from the Lords of the Council to the Lord
Mayor, informing him that the gentlemen of the Inns of Court were
about to play a Masque before the King in the beginning of next
week, (fn. 8) and requesting him to see that the streets through which
they would pass, especially Aldersgate Street, were well cleansed by
Monday night at the latest, and a good and careful watch kept by
constables and the better sort of citizens themselves, in that part of
the City and Liberties that laid that way.
Star Chamber, 29th January, 1633.
VIII. 115. Same as No. 101, Vol. VII.