Category Archives: Shakespeareana

The Laddie Doth Protest Too Much: A 1583 Rant on the Depravity of Playgoers

Do they not maintain bawdry,

insinuate foolery,

and renew the remembrance of heathen idolatry?

Do they not induce whoredom and uncleanness?

Nay, are they not rather plain devourers of maidenly virginity and chastity?

For proof whereof but mark the flocking and running to Theaters and Curtains,

daily and hourly, night and day, time and tide,

to see plays and interludes where such wanton gestures,

such bawdy speeches,

laughing

fleering,

kissing

bussing,

clipping

culling,

winking, and

glancing

of wanton eyes,

is wonderful to behold.

Then these goodly pageants being ended,

every mate sorts to his mate,

brings another homeward of their way very friendly,

and in their secret conclaves (covertly)

they play the sodomites, or worse.

And these be the fruits of plays and interludes.

And whereas, you say, there are good examples to be learnt in them:

Truly, so there are;

if you will learn falsehood and cozenage,

to deceive; to play the hypocrite,

to cog, to lie and falsify;

if you will learn to jest, laugh and fleer,

to grin, to nod and mow;

if you will learn to play the Vice,

to swear, tear and blaspheme both heaven and earth;

if you will learn to become a bawd, unclean,

and to devirginate maids, to deflower honest wives;

if you will learn to murder, flay, kill, pick, steal, rob and rove;

if you will learn to rebel against princes,

to commit treasons,

to consume treasures,

to practice idleness,

to sing and talk of bawdy love and venery;

if you will learn to deride, scoff, mock and flout,

to flatter and smooth;

if you will learn to play the whoremaster,

the glutton, drunkard, or incestuous person;

if you will learn to become proud, haughty and arrogant;

if you will learn to condemn God and all His laws,

to care neither for Heaven nor Hell,

and to commit all kinds of sin and mischief,

you need go to no other school,

for all these good examples may you see painted before your eyes in interludes and plays.

~ Philip Stubbes, The Anatomie of Abuses (1583).

Antonio Arrives in London (1592)

23 April 1592

London.

My English tutor, Thomas Watson, calls it a growling, hungry, leviathan that will swallow a man the moment he sets his boots down in Thames Street. And yet, in some ways, ’tis not so different from Venice with regard to the river Thames—which runs through the city from east to west. I wonder if the citizens revere the river in the same way that Venetians revere their canals.

“Londoners rely on its currents to transport them to and fro throughout the city,” Watson says, as if hearing my thoughts. “And to many other places besides.”

“Your gondolas are not so narrow as ours,” I say. “I also notice they lack the curved prow and stern as our boats and they are moved along with oars rather than a pole.”

“True,” Watson says. “And they are called wherries, not gondolas, and their captains are known as boatmen or watermen. Some have more than one boatman, which makes for speedy travel, and these men must be highly skilled to ply their trade—serving no less than a two-year apprenticeship before they are allowed to solo. This is a great comfort to the citizens of the town as London Bridge is the only foot bridge that spans across the river.”

I watch the continual flow of wherries crossing from one side to the other as other craft traverse up and down the length of the river and it seems like utter chaos.

Even so, Watson says the watermen are so skilled there are few mishaps.

“Moreover, the public wherries are considerably more comfortable than the common gondola because of the soft embroidered cushions on the seats. Ample room to stretch out your legs. Most are covered for protection from the rain.

And best of all, there is no haggling over the fare. It is a penny to cross from one bank side to the other. All other fares are fixed depending on distance and whether you are going with or against the tide.”

***

Excerpt from Shakespeare’s Apprentice, a  novel written by Richard La Rosa.