Reference > Cambridge History > The Drama to 1642, Part Two > The Puritan Attack upon the Stage > Systematic persecution of Actors
  Attitude of the Civic Authorities in London Royal Patronage  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

XIV. The Puritan Attack upon the Stage.

§ 5. Systematic persecution of Actors.

The city merchant had reasons, other than those already mentioned, for hating the player. The customary processions through the streets, before playing, interfered with traffic. Public performances were a possible source of disturbance. As for the actor himself, he and his like, as the lord mayor informed the privy council upon one occasion, were “a very superfluous sort of men.” 19  He was either the retainer of some nobleman, in which case he was supported by his master, instead of being left to make his living at the public expense, 20  or he was by a rogue and a vagabond and ought to be dealt with accordingly. He lived for and by pleasure alone, grew rich by beguiling the simple poor of their money and, hereupon, aped the manners and habits of gentlefolk, swaggering about the city in dress so extravagant and costly as to be positively offensive to the eye. 21  In short, his profession, as it seemed to the civic mind, represented a definite and constant drain on the national resources. In the language of the day, he was a “caterpillar of the commonwealth.”   8

Note 19Malone Society Collections, part I, p. 46. [ back ]
Note 20A Second and Third Blast, Hazlitt, op. cit. p. 133. [ back ]
Note 21School of Abuse, Arber, p. 39. Anatomy of Abuses, Furnivall, p. I. 16. [ back ]

  Attitude of the Civic Authorities in London Royal Patronage  

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