History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Caroline

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During the Caroline period, named after the reign of King Charles I (1625-1642), the main tragedian of note is John Ford (1586–1640), author of "'Tis pity she's a whore" (1633) and "The broken heart" (1633). Although sounding like the name of a possible comedy, "'Tis pity she's a whore" is a fatal piece of brother-sister incest. The whore is no whore but a fatally comprised victim of circumstance. Another major tragic play of this period is James Shirley (1596-1666)'s "The cardinal" (1641). Though less complex than Jacobean tragedies, these three also feature powerful scenes rife with spilled blood.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) continued his mastery from the previous reign with "A tale of a tub" (1633). Other main comedies include "A new way to pay old debts" (c. 1625) by Philip Massinger (1583-1640), and "A mad couple well matched" (c. 1639) by Richard Brome (c. 1590-1653).

"'Tis pity she's a whore"[edit]

"'Tis pity she's a whore". Time: 1630s. Place: Parma, Italy.

"'Tis pity she's a whore" text at http://www.archive.org/details/dramaticworksjo01fordgoog

Putana sees nothing wrong in facilitating brother-sister incest. Portrait by Gerard van Honthorst (1590–1656)

Friar Bonaventura is horrified on learning that his pupil, Giovanni, intends to mate with his own sister. "These are no school points; nice philosophy/May tolerate unlikely arguments,/But heaven admits no jest," he remonstrates. Nevertheless, Giovanni declares he loves his sister, Annabella, at first abashed. "If this be true, 'twere fitter I were dead," she asserts. He attempts to persuade her of the legitimacy of his feelings. "Nearness in birth and blood, doth but persuade/A nearer nearness in affection," he says. After some hesitation, she accepts him as a lover. "Live; thou hast won/The field and never fought: what thou hast urged/My captive heart had long ago resolved." They kiss and later join as one. "Come, Annabella, no more sister now,/But love, a name more gracious; do not blush,/Beauty's sweet wonder, but be proud to know/That yielding thou hast conquered, and inflamed/A heart, whose tribute is thy brother's life." Meanwhile, Hippolita seeks revenge of her former lover, Soranzo, who dismisses her after hearing of her husband's death, Richardetto, but, unknown to everyone, the latter is alive. He returns disguised as a doctor, also seeking vengeance on Soranzo, a suitor for Annabella's hand. Richardetto tells Grimaldi, another rival for Annabella's love: "I'll find a time when he and she do meet,/Of which I'll give you notice; and, to be sure/He shall not scape you, I'll provide a poison/To dip your rapier's point in." Richardetto discovers Annabella is pregnant, so that her father, Florio, feels it urgent that she marry at once his choice for her husband: Soranzo. After hearing of Soranzo's love and Bonaventura's pleadings and threats, and reflecting on her condition, Annabella feels cornered to accept Soranzo. At night, instead of his intended victim, Soranzo, Grimaldi by mistake stabs to death a suitor to Richardetto's niece, Philotis, the foolish Bergetto. Protected by a cardinal, Grimaldi is not to be arraigned by anyone in Parma. During the wedding ceremony, Hippolita poisons Soranzo's cup, but, his servant, Vasques, poisons hers instead. She dies cursing both. On his wedding night, a furious Soranzo discovers Annabella's pregnancy and drags her about by the hair: "Now I must be the dad/To all that gallimaufry that is stuffed/In thy corrupted bastard-bearing womb!" he exclaims. He insists to know the father, but, while he hales her about, she sings, until, begged to withhold by Vasques, he at last desists. To help his master, Vasques interrogates her guardian, Putana, who names Giovanni as the culprit. Aghast, Vasques commands his bandit cronies to put out Putana's eyes for having passively allowed in moral blindness such horrid incest. Meanwhile, Giovanni and Annabella continue their secret relations. "Let poring book-men dream of other worlds;/My world, and all of happiness, is here,/And I'd not change it for the best to come:/A life of pleasure is Elysium," he swears. But then he receives Annabella's letter stating that her husband has discovered their secret. Suspecting a trap, Giovanni nevertheless dares to present himself at Sorenzo's birthday-feast, where, invited by Soranzo to see his sister, he stabs her to death, then heads towards the feast with her heart on his dagger, the sight of which kills his father. Giovanni fights with Soranzo and stabs him to death, then challenges Vasques, who, with the help of his bandits, surrounds Giovanni and stabs him to death in turn. The cardinal commands Putana to be burnt alive and banishes Vasques. He concludes thus on Annabella's case: "Of one so young, so rich in nature's store,/Who could not say 'tis pity she's a whore?"

"The broken heart"[edit]

"The broken heart". Time: Antiquity. Place: Sparta, Greece.

"The broken heart" text at http://www.archive.org/details/dramaticworksjo01fordgoog

Three deaths conveyed in quick succession cause Calantha to die of a broken heart

Orgilus asks permission of his father, Crotolon, to go to Athens. He has lost his love, Penthea, to Bassanes, because her brother, Ithocles, a worthy soldier, forced her into the marriage. Before Orgilus leaves, he extorts an oath from his sister, Euphranea, not to marry before his return: "It shall be my first care to see thee matched/As may become thy choice and our contents." But, to spy on "Penthea's usage and Euphranea's faith", Orgilus returns disguised as a scholar under the guidance of Tecnicus, a philosopher, and, to his grief, sees Euphranea walking arm in arm with Prophilus, a friend to Ithocles, and whispering. Not recognizing him, Prophilus proposes Orgilus to act as a go-between between himself and her. Orgilus readily accepts. He next turns his attention to Penthea: "No horror should deface that precious figure/Sealed with the lively stamp of equal souls," he pronounces and then throws off his disguise, but she discourages him from ever approaching her again and, resigned, follows her husband: "In vain we labour in this course of life/To piece our journey out at length, or crave/Respite of breath; our home is in the grave," she says. Penthea goes to Ithocles' sick-bed, who pines for Calantha, daughter to King Amyclas and promised to Nearchus, prince of Argos. They are interrupted by a raging jealous Bassanes with his dagger out, accusing him of incest with his sister. Penthea appeases him with the help of Prophilus. Ithocles will keep her for a time, telling the husband: "I dare not trust her to your fury." Because the king favors Orgilus' sister's marriage to Prophilus, he is forced to accept it: "Sister,/Thou pawnest to me an oath, of which engagement/I never will release thee, if thou aimst/At any other choice than this," to which she happily submits. Despite the planned marriage with Argos, Penthea speaks on Ithocles' behalf to Calantha, who answers: "Lady,/Your check lies in my silence." Nearchus asks for a ring of Calatha's, but she, considering it too cheap, throws it away, picked up by Ithocles, the former two both angry at this gesture. Acting as a soothsayer, Tecnicus warns the affronter: "Ithocles,/When youth is ripe, and age from time doth part,/The lifeless trunk shall wed the broken heart." To Orgilus he warns: "Let craft with courtesy a while confer;/Revenge proves its own executioner." Meanwhile, Penthea's melancholy makes her grow distracted: "No falsehood/Equals a broken faith; there's not a hair/Sticks on my head but, like a leaden plummet,/It sinks me to the grave: I must creep thither;/The journey is not long." Amyclas sickens. To him, Calantha at last reveals her mind, preferring Ithocles' love to Nearchus'. The king grants her wish and commands court revels for the marriage of Prophilus with Euphranea. Penthea dies, with Orgilus and Ithocles in mourning vigil until the latter notices his chair enclosing him, ripe for Orgilus' vengeance, who stabs him to death. While the court dances, a series of awful news succeed each other: the king her father's death, yet Calantha commands that the dance continue, Penthea's death, yet Calantha commands that the dance continue, Ithocles' death, yet Calantha commands that the dance continue. She asks by whose hand was Ithocles murdered. "By mine," reveals Orgilus, who chooses to bleed to death. He bleeds one arm while Bassanes opens the other, sinking contentedly: "Welcome, thou ice, that sitest about my heart,/No heat can ever thaw thee." Calantha places a wedding ring on Ithocles's dead finger, proclaiming: "Oh, my lords,/I but deceived your eyes with antic gesture,/When one news straight came huddling on another,/Of death! and death! and death! still I danced forward;/But it struck home, and here, and in an instant./Be such mere women, who, with shrieks and outcries,/Can vow a present end to all their sorrows,/Yet live to court new pleasures, and outlive them:/They are the silent griefs which cut the heartstrings;/Let me die smiling." Tecnicus' prophecies are fulfilled: the lifeless trunk of Ithocles has wed Calantha's broken heart and Orgilus' revenge has become its own executioner. Nearchus becomes the new king of Sparta.

James Shirley's cardinal is caught in his own trap. Painting of James Shirley by William Henry Worthington after a drawing by J. Thurston

"The cardinal"[edit]

"The cardinal". Time: 1640s. Place: Navarre and fields of war.

"The cardinal" text at http://www.archive.org/details/dramaticworksan06dycegoog

Rosaura, a widowed duchess, wishes to marry Alvarez, not Columbo, the king's choice and the cardinal's nephew. Before he has a chance to win her, Columbo must go fight as a general in their war against the kingdom of Aragon. Away from Navarre, Columbo receives a letter from the duchess: "She writes, and counsels/Under my hand, to send her back a free/Resign of all my interest to her person,/Promise, or love; that there's no other way,/With safety of my honour, to revisit her." He sends a letter back in apparent submission to her will, with which the duchess goes to the king and asks permission to take Alvarez as her husband, which he now condones. The cardinal is displeased, but unable to shake her resolution. Columbo becomes a successful general during the battles, but in the cardinal's mind: "He has not won so much upon the Aragon/As he has lost at home; and his neglect/Of what my studies had contrived, to add/More lustre to our family by the access/Of the great duchess' fortune, shoots his triumph/And makes me wild." During the wedding celebration, a disguised Columbo dances along with other masquers, then speaks to Alvarez apart. Alvarez returns with Columbo's dead body. The king calls his guards to seize the masquers, who have escaped. Columbo says he can justify the act: "I have but took his life,/And punished her with mercy, who had both /Conspired to kill the soul of all my fame." He shows the king the duchess' letter and says his submission was feigned, only meant to test her. Despite these explanations, the king is affronted by such a bloody act and commands Columbo's arrest, a decision which makes the duchess conclude: "This shows like justice." However, the courtiers soon discover: "This is the age of wonders," for, influenced by the cardinal, the murder becomes forgotten and only the general's deeds remembered. But Columbo's revenges have not ended. He warns the duchess thus: "Live, but never presume again to marry;/I'll kill the next at the altar, and quench all/The smiling tapers with his blood-" Another rival steps forth in the shape of Hernando, seeking vengeance on Columbo for an insult and pitying the dead Alvarez . Hernando offers to the duchess to kill Columbo, whereby she promises him her hand in marriage. She also considers herself safer by pretending madness. Hernando challenges Columbo and kills his second during the duel, while Columbo kills his. Hernando then kills Columbo and escapes. Since the duchess appears mad, the king names the cardinal as her guardian. Angered at being impeded of his will, the cardinal "spreads his nets" to capture the missing Hernando. The duchess' servant, Antonio, pities her case, stating: "Some pleasure would do well: the truth is, I/Am weary of my life, and I would have/One fit of mirth before I leave the world." Hernando returns in a disguise to deliver a letter to the duchess. He is recognized by the approving Antonio, and thankfully received by the duchess. Later, the cardinal invites the duchess to supper and entertains her, but not with church music. While Hernando hides nearby, the cardinal attempts to seduce her. Angered at this affront, Hernando stabs him and then thinking he cannot escape, stabs himself to death. Believing himself near death, the cardinal confesses he gave her poison to drink, but offers her the antidote, tasting it first. The duchess gladly drinks what she thinks is the antidote but is actually the poison and dies from it. When told his wounds were not mortal as he thought and that he poisoned himself for nothing, the cardinal concludes: "I have caught myself with my own engine."

"A tale of a tub"[edit]

"A tale of a tub". Time: late 16th century. Place: London, England.

"A tale of a tub" text at http://www.onread.com/fbreader/1363148

Canon Hugh informs Squire Tub that Constable Turf has agreed to marry his daughter, Audrey, with John Clay, a tilemaker. The canon receives money from Tub for this information, but, instead of helping, he informs Justice Preamble of Tub's desire to marry her himself and receives money from him, too. Hugh arranges that Tub's servant, Hilts, interrupt the wedding march towards church by pretending that Clay is guilty of robbing Captain Thums and enjoins Turf to arrest Clay. As Tub takes her away, Preamble shows up with his clerk, Metaphor, presented as a poursuivant, to arrest him in the name of the queen's council. Preamble takes Audry away before Hilts has a chance of frightening Metaphor into confessing he is no poursuivant and therefore has no authority to arrest Tub, who runs off to find Turf and prevent his rival's marriage. Frightened that he may be arrested at any moment, Clay runs away to hide while Tub informs Turf of Preamble's plot to marry his daughter. Alarmed at these news, Turf runs off and prevents the marriage. Nonplussed, Hugh disguises himself as Captain Thums and insists on receiving money from Turf to compensate for his slackness at finding the supposed robber, Clay. Afraid of the legal consequences, Turf is forced to agree. He sends Metaphor off to his wife to hand over the money. Keen for more knavery, Hugh enjoins Metaphor to say to Audrey that Clay is found and that he is altogether ready to marry her to him. However, Metaphor, confronted wth Hilts' threats with a drawn sword, reveals Hugh's splot to Tub, who requests him to bring the girl to him instead and share the money with Hilts. Metaphor agrees and achieves his ends, but before Tub can carry her away, his mother, Lady Tub, who does not desire the love-match, insists on his following her and so the girl is left with her servant, Pol. Walking with his mother along with Turf's wife, Tub finds Clay hiding in a barn and thereby Turf's wife discovers Metaphor cheated her of her money while absconding with her daughter. Preamble and Hugh worry that Metaphor escaped with the money and more so when told that Clay is found. But worse than all this, thinking them to be strangers, Hugh married Audrey to Pol, and so Clay and Tub are left without a wife.

"A new way to pay old debts"[edit]

‎ "A new way to pay old debts". Time: 1620s. Place: London, England.

"A new way to pay old debts" text at http://www.archive.org/details/newwaytopayoldde00massuoft https://archive.org/details/philipmassinger01massgoog https://archive.org/details/britishdramaaco03unkngoog https://archive.org/details/plays00massgoog

Giles Overreach, played by Edmund Kean, intends to use his daughter to obtain more money, 1816

Wellborn, a gentleman, is scolded for leading a riotous life by Tapwell, an alehouse keeper. He had been supported awhile by Sir Giles Overreach, an extortioner, and then abandoned. In frustration, Wellborn beats the keeper. In desperate straits, he visits Lady Allworth, but, before seeing her, is mistreated by her servants. He reminds the rich widow how he once helped her husband. She acknowledges the good deed by promising to help him regain his good fortune. Overreach tells Marrall, his term-driver, about the extent of his ambition: "I must have all men sellers,/And I the only purchaser." Hearing of a recalcitrant neighbor, he threatens his very livelihood: "I'll make my men break ope his fences,/Ride o'er his standing corn, and in the night/Set fire on his barns, or break his cattle's legs." Marrall visits Lady Allworth's house and is astounded on seeing Wellborn so well treated there. Willing to get on the good side of one who may marry her, Marrall tells Overreach he gave Wellborn money and a horse. In disgust, Overreach knocks him down. Overreach next fixes his attention on Margaret, his daughter, for the purpose of ensnaring Lovell, a lord, in marriage, advising her against all modesty: "If his blood go hot, suppose he offer/Beyond this, do not stay till it cool/But meet his ardor; if a couch be near/Sit down on't, and invite him." But when Lovell arrives as a suitor, she points out the unevenness of their social positions. Overreach's plot regarding Margaret is failing: "She neglects my lord/And all her complements applied to Wellborn!" But yet, confident to be able to extort money from his son-in-law to be, he pays to get rich clothes out of pawn. Thanks to Overreach, Wellborn summons his creditors by drum-roll and pays them all at once, a new way to pay old debts. Lovell tells Lady Allworth that Margaret is right: he should indeed keep to his own social sphere, which she is glad to hear of. Unlike what her father thinks, Margaret does not love Wellborn but his friend, Lady Allworth's son and page to Lovell. Overreach is led to believe a marriage with Lovell is still possible, but Allworth tricks him into signing a paper whereby he himself becomes the groom, while Lovell marries Lady Allworth. Although his debts are paid, Wellborn still needs money to live. When Overreach demands securities in exchange for lending him money, Wellborn accuses him of having extorted his father's lands. As Overreach looks for the deeds, he finds all the writings blotted out, the result of Marrall's revenge against his cruelties. Another unhappy surprise awaits him: Margaret kneels for her father's blessing regarding her marriage with Allworth. He is so incensed that he tries to kill her, but is prevented by Lovell. Overreach spits on him and promises to turn his house into "a heap of ashes", or else he adds" may "hell add to my afflictions". He then thrashes about with his sword, acting wildly. "How he foams!" remarks Lovell. "And bites the earth!" remarks Wellborn. A parson commands his servants to carry him as a madman inside a dark room.

Richard Brome described confusions that arise even when couples are well matched. Engraved portrait published in Five New Plays, 1653

"A mad couple well matched"[edit]

"A mad couple well matched". Time: 1630s. Place: London, England.

"A mad couple well matched" text at http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/brome/viewTranscripts.jsp?play=MC&act=1&type=BOTH

Careless is at his wit's end because he can no longer count on his uncle, Lord Thrivewell, to defray his debaucheries. His servant, Wat, suggests he may open a male-brothel, but this is dismissed as being too low an occupation for a gentleman. His uncle's friend, Saveall, arrives to say that all may yet be saved, since the uncle has yet to engender an heir. Careless' mistress, Phoebe, complains to Wat of Careless' conduct, a man who first promised marriage and then ignores her. Her cousin, Saleware, defends her point of view. Meanwhile, Thrivewell has something bothersome on his mind and his wife must know it. He confesses having lain with Mistress Saleware, a shopkeeper, for the price of 100 pounds. His wife laughs away this information. Thrivewell and his nephew become reconciled, the former exclaiming: "George, here’s a lodging for you in this house, and my table has a place for you." Lady Thrivewell goes over to Mistress Saleware's shop and buys from her over 100 pounds-worth of cloth, pretending that the 100 pounds her husband gave her was merely a loan and adding this warning: "Take heed you do not by your sullenness make me suspect another kind of good turn, or that you did my husband any to my injury, nor deny the receipt of his money, lest I take up a violence that will not become me, nor you be able to bear." After Lady Thrivewell leaves, Bellamy enters the shop, a pander to Lord Lovely but hopeful to land Mistress Saleware for his own bed. She agrees to this, provided he lies first in Lady Thrivewell's arms. As Master Saleware enters, she complains of her shopkeeping duties, but calms herself after being promised money to buy fancier clothes. She tells him she sold material for over 100 pounds, but already bought clothes with the money. Meanwhile, Careless is getting comfortable at his uncle's house. Willing to convince his uncle he intends to lead a settled life with marriage, he conveys via Saveall's hands a letter to a rich widow, Crostill, but it is a letter of abuse, not love. When Saveall confronts him for having misled him, Careless explains that he gave him the wrong letter, meant for a whore named Phoebe. When Lady Thrivewell arrives, Careless tries to seduce her, to which she recoils, he being her husband's nephew. He shrugs off any thought of impropriety in this case: "No man living, madam, can do it for him more naturally and less sinfully. I am of the same flesh and blood, and bring his youth to your pleasure." To convince her further, he says that Saveall has pimped for her husband more often than she ever slept with him. She does not believe him, crying out: "Was this the best construction you could make of my love to you, or a fit requital, to make me an incestuous whore?" After sending him off on an errand, Lady Thrivewell meets Saveall with the weeping Phoebe, who received Careless' letter but then sent it back, as if meant for another. Lady Thrivewell promises to help her. Mistress Saleware hears a rumor whereby Bellamy is supposed to have been successful in regard to Lady Thrivewell. That lady appears to be thankful to Mistress Saleware for sending Bellamy to her, promising to send her back the 100 pounds. Meanwhile, Lord Lovely recommends that Bellamy marry widow Crostill. To her, the lord boasts of Bellamy's sexual prowess: "He has no less than five old gentlemen’s/Young wives with child this moon, but got all in/One week." Saveall then enters with Careless, the latter still a viable suitor for the widow. Careless adopts a bold attitude towards her, Bellamy a bashful one. The widow appears to prefer the latter. Meanwhile, Lady Thrivewell renews her intention to help Phoebe regain Careless by placing her deceitfully in her own bed while being wooed by him. In another part of the city, Saleware has heard a rumor that his wife is inside one of Lovely's houses, but cannot believe this of her. He is led by Bellamy to her bed, where, despite obvious signs of her amorous feelings for Bellamy, he refuses to credit his own ears, considering all this a trick to make him jealous. Thinking to have lain with Lady Thrivewell, but actually with Phoebe, Careless wishes for one more bout with. When Phoebe refuses, he threatens to expose her. Suddenly, Thrivewell appears, but is eventually appeased after discovering his wife was not in her bed. To keep both Lord Lovely and Bellamy as her own, Mistress Saleware challenges her husband to prove to the lord she has been attempted by Bellamy, but to her surprise, the husband has found the letter she thought lost, warning him of his wife's adultery, written in Bellamy's hand. Meanwhile, Careless, angry at being bed-tricked, reveals to Thrivewell his wife's adulterous relation with Bellamy. Moreover, he admits that the reason he first entered in his uncle's good graces, namely preventing a robbery, was a trick plotted by himself and Wat. Lastly, he admits having injured Phoebe, and is prepared to make amends by marrying her, but this plan is thwarted by Crostill, who agrees to accept him as a husband and to give Phoebe 100 pounds, which she refuses, until Wat reveals he has lain with her as often as his master. Having been accused by Careless and Mistress Saleware of adultery with Bellamy, Lady Thrivewell is shown to be innocent when Bellamy is revealed to be a woman, in love with Lord Lovely to such an extent as to be willing to serve as his pander just to be with him, which the lord rewards with 200 pounds per year for her entire life.