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  Players and Plays after the Closing of the Theatres Relaxation of the Laws against Dramatic Entertainments towards the Close of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate; Sir William D’Avenant’s Entertainments: The Siege of Rhodes  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

V. The Restoration Drama.

§ 2. Drolls.


Amusements of the dramatic kind being now under the ban, various devices were employed to evade the letter of the law. 3  Interesting among these were the “drolls” or “droll-humours,” as they were called—farces or humorous scenes adapted from current plays and staged, for the most part, on extemporised scaffolds, at taverns and fairs, and sometimes, even, at regular theatres. 4  Thus, a “droll,” entitled Merry Conceits of Bottom the Weaver, was printed as early as 1646, and a dozen or so by Robert Cox, notable for his performance in them. A large collection entitled The Wits, or Sport upon Sport, collected by Francis Kirkman the bookseller, appeared in the early seventies, when the acting of these things had been superseded by the revival of the more regular drama. It may be remarked, in passing, that the application of the term “droll” to stage recitals in commonwealth days is alike distinguishable from its earlier employment to signify a puppet or a puppet-show and from the use of the word “drollery” which was applied to any piece of humour or ribaldry in verse. 5  Among “drolls” derived from well known plays may be named The Grave Diggers’ Colloquy from Hamlet; Falstaff, The Bouncing Knight from Henry IV; and The Buckbasket Mishap from The Merry Wives. Other scenes, like Cox’s Humours of Simpleton the Smith and John Swabber were inventions of the actors. All were contrived to please the vulgar and appeal to the least refined.   2

Note 3. Such was the masque of the Inner Temple, November, 1651, Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, vol. II, pp. II, 12. [ back ]
Note 4. Ward, History of English Dramatic Literature, vol. III, p. 280. [ back ]
Note 5. J. W. Ebsworth’s reprint of Westminster Drolleries, 1672, is a collection of humorous verse and non-dramatic. His introduction, sometimes cited in this connection, little concerns the dramatic “droll.” Halliwell-Phillipps reprinted several Shakespearean “drolls” in 1859. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Players and Plays after the Closing of the Theatres Relaxation of the Laws against Dramatic Entertainments towards the Close of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate; Sir William D’Avenant’s Entertainments: The Siege of Rhodes  
 
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