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A seventeenth-century playwright had many difficulties. The manager who generally paid badly, the magistrates who might any day close the theatre, the audience who might call for the Clown if they thought the piece too solemn-all made his work harder. But Shakespeare won his way in spite of them, and we read of his plays being popular. Leonard Digges wrote in 1640 :
When Caesar would appear And on the stage at half-sword parley were Brutus and Cassius, oh how the audience Were ravished, with what wonder they went thence. He tells us, too, of the success of Shakespeare's comedies when other writers' work did not pay the expenses of the performance :
Let but Falstaff come, Hal, Poins, the rest, you scarce shall have a room, All is so pestered. These peeps into Shakespeare's playhouse are delightful. Imagine the crowd flocking in to see Julius Caesar or Henry IV, and look out gratefully for one playgoer who has had an early dinner that he may come in time; in a few minutes the trumpeter will come out on the roof, but you have time to glance round the galleries ; from the best seat in the house there looks down upon you the keen and happy face of Master Leonard Digges.
I. CARATACH AND HENGO
BY JOHN FLETCHER An episode in the wars of the early Britons with the Romans.
Queen Bonduca (or Boadicea) is fighting against Suetonius Paulinus. Her bravest and ablest warrior is her brotherin-law Caratach.
SCENE I. THE LESSON OF VICTORY, Enter Boadicea and her Daughters, her nephew Hengo,
Nennius, and soldiers ; all rejoicing. Bonduca has a captured eagle, and the soldiers have Roman spoils.
Bonduca. The hardy Romans!-Oye gods of Britain !The rust of arms, the blushing shame of soldiers ! Are these the men that conquer by inheritance ? The fortune-makers ? [Caratach enters quietly behind.]
These the Julians, That with the sun measure the end of nature, 5 Making the world but one Rome and one Caesar ? Shame, how they flee! Caesar's soft soul dwells in 'em, These Roman girls !-dare they send these to seek us ? Twice we have beat 'em, Nennius, scattered 'em : A woman beat 'em, Nennius ; a weak woman, A woman beat these Romans ! Caratach.
So it seems ;
Bonduca [turning angrily). Who's that ?
No, Bonduca; If I grieve, 'tis the bearing of your fortunes ; You put too much wind to your sail. [Bonduca stamps her foot impatiently.) Discretion
15 And hardy valour are the twins of honour, And, nursed together, make a conqueror; Divided, but a talker. 'Tis a truth That Rome has fled before us twice, and routed ; A truth we ought to thank the gods for, lady, And not our tongues.
Bonduca. My valiant cousin, is it foul to say
No, Bonduca ;
25 You call the Romans 'fearful, fleeing Romans', And ‘Roman girls '-does this become a doer?
Bonduca. They are no more.
Where is your conquest, then ? Why are your altars crowned with wreaths of flowers ? The beasts with gilt horns waiting for the fire ?
30 The holy Druidés composing songs Of everlasting life to victory? Why are these triumphs, lady? for a May-game ? For hunting a poor herd of wretched Romans ? Is it no more ? Shut up your temples, Britons, 35 And let the husbandman redeem his heifers; Put out our holy fires; no timbrel ring ; Let's home and sleep. For such great overthrows A candle burns too bright a sacrifice, A glow-worm's tail too full a flame. O Nennius, 40 Thou hadst a noble uncle knew a Roman, And how to speak him, how to give him weight In both his fortunes ! Bonduca
By the gods, I think You dote upon these Romans, Caratach. Caratach. Witness these wounds, I do; they were fairly given :
45 I love an enemy. I was born a soldier, And he that in the head on 's troop defies me, Bending my manly body with his sword, I make a mistress ; yellow-tressèd Hymen Ne'er tied a loving virgin with more joy
50 Than I am married to the man that wounds me. And are not all these Roman? [He shows his wounds.]
Ten struck battles I sucked these honoured scars from, and all Roman; Ten years of bitter nights and heavy marches (When many a frozen storm sung through my cuirass, 55 And made it doubtful whether that or I Were the more stubborn metal) have I wrought through, And still to try these Romans, whom I found As ready, and as full of that I brought
(Which was not fear or flight), as valiant,
бо As vigilant, as wise, to do and suffer, Ever advanced as forward as the Britons, Their sleeps as short, their hopes as high as ours, Aye, and as subtle, lady. 'Tis dishonour, And, followed, will be impudence, Bonduca,
65 And grow to no belief, to taint these Romans. Have not I seen the BritonsBonduca.
What ! Caratach.
Dishearted Run-run, Bonduca ; not the quick rack swifter ! A flight drawn home, a round stone from a sling, Ne'er made that haste that they have! By the gods, I have seen these Britons that you magnify, 71 Run as they would have outrun time, and roaring, Basely for mercy roaring! The light shadows That in a thought scur o'er the fields of corn, Halted on crutches to 'em. Bonduca,
O ye powers,
75 What scandals do I suffer ! Caratach.
Nennius. And what did you then, Caratach ?
I fled too;
90 Took him, and with my tough belt to my back I buckled him; behind him my sure shield ; And then I followed. [Hengo runs to Caratach and clings
to his arm.] If I say I fought Five times in bringing off this bud of Britain, I lie not, Nennius. Neither had you heard Me speak this, or ever seen the child more, 95
But that the son of virtue, Poenius,
Go, Briton, bear thy lion's whelp off safely ;
105 From what a flight of honour hast thou checked me! What wouldst thou make me, Caratach? Caratach.
See, lady, The noble use of others in our losses. Does this afflict ye? Bonduca.
Let me think we conquered. Caratach. Do; but so think as we may be con
quered ; And where we have found virtue, though in those That came to make us slaves, let 's cherish it. There's not a blow we gave, since Julius landed, That was of strength and worth, but, like recòrds, They file to after-ages : our registers
115 The Romans are, for noble deeds of honour ; And shall we burn their mentions with upbraidings ? Bonduca. No more; I see myself. Thou hast made
me, cousin, More than my fortunes durst, for they abused me. As thou hast nobly spoken, shall be done ; And Hengo to thy charge I here deliver : The Romans shall have worthy wars. Caratach.
They shall : And, little sir, when your young bones grow stiffer, And when I see ye able in a morning To beat a dozen boys, and then to breakfast,
125 I'll tie ye to a sword. Hengo.
And what then, uncle ? Caratach. Then ye must kill, sir, the next valiant
And must I kill but one ?
I hope, five hundred.