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Although the initial celebrity of Eastward Ho! necessitated three print editions within six months of its publication, it has had a somewhat fitful stage history. Banned from the stage shortly after its opening performances, it was acted again in 1613 but there is no other evidence of its performance before the closing of the theatres in 1642. It was revised by Nahum Tate for the taste of Restoration audiences in 1685, presented in a moralistic version by Garrick in 1751, and given a more sentimental tone by Charlotte Lennox some twenty-five years later, but from the late eighteenth through the end of the nineteenth century it seems to have been neglected. Given occasional performances by college theatre groups or by radio theatre in England and America throughout most of the twentieth century, it was acted professionally only by Bernard Miles’ Mermaid Theatre, which produced it three times from 1953 through 1981. Nevertheless, it received a cluster of performances by university theatre groups at the turn of the twenty-first century, and a well-staged production by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2002 has raised its visibility even further.
Beginnings to 1900
Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s play was first performed at the second Blackfriars Theatre in the summer of 1605 by the Children of the Queen’s Revels, which had previously presented Cynthia’s Revels and Poetaster and in which Marston owned a minor share (see print edition, Introduction). If, as is likely, the play was put on sometime between 16 July and 31 August when the court was on progress to Oxford, and if, as the Epilogue implies (line 8), the Blackfriars children performed only once a week, it must have had a relatively short run before the controversy aroused by its satire on the King and his Scots courtiers led to the authors’ imprisonment and, presumably, to its closure. Yet it seems not to have been permanently banned from the stage. Jacobean records of court performances indicate that it was played again before the king himself – no doubt in a modified version – on 25 January 1614 by the Lady Elizabeth’s Men, an adult company which included some of the former Queens Revels actors, including Nathan Field, who almost certainly had a role in the original production since he was a member of the Blackfriars company from 1600 on (see Chambers, ES, 4.182; Gurr, 1996 , 348, 397-400). The payment notice in the Treasurer of the Chamber’s accounts reads: ‘To Joseph Taylor for himselfe and the reste of his fellows servauntes to the Lady Eliz her grace upon the Councells Warraunt dated at Whitehall 21 June 1614 for presenting before his Maty a Comedy called Eastward Howe on the xxvth of January last past — vjli. xiijs. iiijd. and by way of his Mats reward lxvjs. viijd’ (H&S, 9.193) . Despite its division into a fee of £6 13s 4d and a ‘reward’ of 66s 8d, the total of £10 was in fact the customary payment for most court performances, but the inclusion of the ‘reward’ indicates that the King was at least not displeased by the performance.
However, the topicality of the play’s satire, its apparent celebration of citizen virtue, and its prodigal hero’s ambiguous repentance made its performance in later periods problematic, so much so that until recently it would be more proper to speak of the history of its adaptation rather than the record of its revival. Elite Restoration audiences, accustomed to the presentation of citizens as figures of ridicule, saw it only in Nahum Tate’s version, Cuckolds Haven: or, An Alderman No Conjurer , licensed for publication on 14 August 1685 and possibly presented by the United Company at the Queens Theatre in Dorset Garden in July (Van Lennep, 1965, 338). The quarto identified the following cast members: Touchstone – Percivall; Golding – Baker; Quicksilver – Jevon; Security – Lee; Sir Petronel – Williams; Seagull – Gillow; Bramble – Hains; Mrs. Touchstone – Mrs. Corye; Gertrude – Mrs. Percivall; Mildred – Mrs. Twiford; Winifred – Mrs. Price.
Tate’s version is presented as a farce set in the unfashionable city. The prologue acknowledges that by Restoration standards of polite repartee the play therefore lacks wit, but offers a back-handed compliment to the audience, and particularly to ‘the Ladies’, for the ‘improvement’ of its characterization of vanity and vice:
We own, nor to confess it are asham’d,
That from tough Ben’s Remains, this Piece was fram’d.
But if Embellishments of Vanity
And Vice, are here improv’d to a degree
Beyond the Characters that Master drew,
We must the Ladies thank for that, and you,
So far above what Johnson’s Age e’er knew.
Our Scene’s compact, and if it be not witty,
You must consider, Sirs, ’tis laid i’th’ City.
Where yet we shall present one Sparkish Citt,
Who Drinks, Whores, Dresses, which I think is Wit;
Or, Mercy on three parts of this good Pit.
(lines 1-12, italics reversed)
Tate cannibalized his piece from ‘tough Ben’s remains’ by combining sections of Eastward Ho! with elements of The Devil Is an Ass, Volpone, and Every Man in His Humour. These borrowings heighten the negative characterization of its citizen figures and expand the Winifred-Security subplot by casting Security as an oppressively jealous husband on the model of Corvino, Kitely, and Fitzdottrel. Like Fitzdottrel’s servant-devil Pug, Security’s man Clog unsuccessfully propositions Winifred, only to receive a beating from his master. Winifred, however, consummates her relationship with Sir Petronel before they embark on their ill-fated trip down the Thames, and Tate doubles the cuckoldry by having Quicksilver abscond with lawyer Bramble’s wife as well. Thereafter Bramble wavers between helping to prosecute the rogues and supporting them, depending on who offers him the highest fees at the moment. Master Wolf is metamorphosed from kindly jailor to fellow conspirator, aiding Quicksilver and his fellows to feign repentance and, as in The Devil Is an Ass, to fake a spirit-possession when Security claims to have been bewitched by Touchstone. However, whereas Satan’s explosive rescue of the bumbling Pug from prison startles Fitzdottrel into ending his false pretence in The Devil Is an Ass, the chicanery in Tate’s farce is exposed by the tricksters’ own ineptitude as they collide awkwardly while running about in fear and reveal the properties with which they have achieved their effects. Tate’s piece ends not with Quicksilver’s conversion, but with Touchstone’s good-humoured forgiveness of the unrepentant prodigals, stimulated in part by his wife’s discovery of a letter from one Dorothy Jerk, who claims to have had three bastard children by him.
Although Tate wonders in his epistle dedicatory ‘if the Plot be not too regular for Farce, and ought not rather to have been call’d Comedy’ (A1v), his changes add much superfluous slapstick and undercut the satiric characterizations of the original. Tate had designed the part of Touchstone for James Nokes, whose clownery had won him celebrity in the role of Alderman Doodle, the sensible but comically awkward foil to Alderman Wiseacre in Ravenscroft’s The London Cuckolds. Nokes was unable to take the part, leading Tate to revise the play, but plenty of low comic business remains. Security is literally ‘blown up’ in 2.2. when Sindefy places a firecracker under his chair. Quicksilver ‘dodges about’ his master in the opening scene, mischievously puts Touchstone’s coat and periwig on backwards in 2.1, and adds to the mockery by first embracing him as a woman while drunkenly quoting play scraps and then menacing him, leading Touchstone to shriek ‘Help! Murder, murder’ as the scene ends (C4). The comical deflation of Touchstone’s dignity and authority thus offsets his elevation in status to that of ‘Goldsmith and Alderman of London’ (B1v), while reductions in his dialogue and Golding’s weaken their echoes of civic rhetoric and the literature of thrift. Touchstone’s initial reproof of Quicksilver’s prodigality is also undercut by an approving aside, ‘Nay, the Rogue has Wit; that’s certain; the Rogue has Wit’ (B2), which prepares for Touchstone’s clemency at play’s end: ‘Well, it was a witty Practice, and I forgive them all’ (G2v). Together with the omission of Quicksilver’s ‘Farewell’ or song of repentance, Tate’s changes effectively destroy Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s subtle parody of the prodigal-son genre and bring the play’s social judgements in line with the Restoration audience’s preference for aristocratic wits over bourgeois ‘cits’.
Similar changes take place in Tate’s characterization of Sir Petronel, Gertrude, and Security, for as Christopher Spencer (1972, 107) notes, ‘Certainly, it would hardly do in a Restoration comedy to have a merchant’s values triumphant over those of a money-seeking aristocrat, the proud daughter who wants a title, and the overly-restricted wife’. Though still engaged in deceiving Gertrude out of her land, Tate’s Sir Petronel makes fewer empty boasts at his first appearance, and his cynical excuses for deceiving Gertrude, like his aphorism about how ‘a man in the course of this world should be like a surgeon’s instrument: work in the wounds of others and feel nothing himself’ (3.2.163-5) have been cut from the original. He is also more dependent on Quicksilver’s wit in his abduction of Winifred, and by having her slip him a letter asking to be delivered ‘from this Enchanted Castle [i.e., Security’s house], as you are a true Knight Errant’ (D3), Tate both compensates for Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s failure to adequately prepare for Winifred and Sir Petronel’s elopement and also gives a more romantic colouring to their relationship.
Likewise, Gertrude’s ambition to be a lady of fashion is updated by making her affect all things French, but she faces less dramatic judgement for her folly. When she first appears in 1.3 she complains that her sister Mildred’s ‘mechanic soul’ will not be able to understand ‘Mien or bon Grace, the Brillian and Negligence of a Court Carriage, the belle conceit of a Fan, and the Esprit of a Fontnage [i.e. ‘fontange’, an elaborate hairpiece]’ (B4v). Poldavy has acquired a French accent and enters with ‘a French Mantoa under his arm’, and Gertrude requests that she be entertained with a French song as she dresses. In a change that makes Sir Petronel’s infidelity more excusable, she tells him: ‘I must have you very lewd; ’tis Alamode and great. Well, there is nothing can spoil our Happiness, but your being too fond of me; fondness in a Husband is a mechanick thing. I hope therefore you’ll prove wild, to justifie your Quality’ (C1v). Anticipating but reversing Millamant’s preconditions about the first month of marriage in Congreve’s The Way of the World, she also later promises that ‘I’ll take notice of you in Company now, because it is within our Month; but hereafter, as I am a Lady, you must not expect it; it is not Alamode for Persons of our Quality’ (D2). Gertrude’s desire to be ‘quality’, however, seems to be viewed as more excusable, for Tate softens her pride and spares her many of the humiliations she experiences in Eastward Ho!. Mrs. Touchstone’s revelation in 3.3 of Cuckold’s Haven that ‘I have found an Intrigue of his [Touchstone’s], to mortifie him with All’ (F3v) substitutes the threat of blackmail for her original recommendation that Gertrude humble herself to seek assistance from Mildred, whose part is much reduced. Tate cuts Gertrude’s scornful confrontation with Touchstone in Eastward Ho! 4.2, as well as its confessional counterpart at 5.5.147-54, when she finally kneels to ask his forgiveness. Instead, Gertrude declares that she will not ask Touchstone’s blessing ‘unless he desires it’, to which Touchstone now replies admiringly, ‘She has Spirit for an Empress’ (G2v).
Tate’s greatest change in characterization, however, is his amplification of Security’s role by conflating it with traits of Jonson’s other jealous husbands and of Pinchwife from Wycherley’s The Country Wife, a change that also gains sympathy for Winifred as an unfairly restricted spouse like Margery Pinchwife, Celia, or Lady Fitzdottrel. Security keeps her in a darkened back room away from the street, refuses to allow her to enjoy company at fashionable card-games like basset, and denies her requests to go to the music-house or the theatre. Instead he offers sitting-room theatricals like Pyramus and Thisbe, The Knight of the Burning Pestle, and Punch, in which he, like Bottom, would play all the parts. More ‘nincompoop’, as Clog calls him (B2v), than cunning usurer, he is reduced at the end to wearing an ox hide with horns and pretending to be possessed by spirits who accuse his wife of whoring. His mistrust of Winifred, like Bramble’s possessive jealousy, is condemned at the end by Mistress Touchstone, who attempts to reconcile them with their unfaithful wives by declaring, ‘Gentleman, it is your Interest; for as you came to be Cuckolds by locking your Wives up: for ought I know, you may be Uncuckolded by giving them their freedom’ (G2v).
Tate might thus seem to be siding with the ladies in his audience, but he is no thorough-going feminist, and he is far less concerned about preserving Winifred’s chastity than are Jonson, Chapman, and Marston, who make her guilty only of the intent to be unfaithful, not the fact. Moreover, some of his additions to the dialogue involve misogynistic jokes. Thus Touchstone remarks in 2.1 that one of his two daughters ‘has Grace, and no Wit; the other Wit, and no Grace; There’s my Wife has neither’, and a few lines later, in commenting on the noise of Gertrude’s wedding celebration, he tells Mildred, ‘thy Mother, Mil, has us’d me to Noise, I thank her’ (C3). Tate also changes the context of Touchstone’s original joke about his wife having been ‘my cross these thirty years, and now I’ll keep her to fright away sprites’ (East. Ho!, 4.2.20-1) by having him speak it directly to her so that it seems less a witty, but accepting observation than a direct insult to which Mistress Touchstone replies, ‘O, Insensible Monster!’ (E4v). Tate seems not to notice the contradiction between misogynistic joking of this sort and his advocacy of greater trust in and freedom for wives, as he seems not to notice other minor contradictions created by his changes. In the final analysis, his version of Eastward Ho! does not rise higher than a farcical treatment of infidelity that takes citizens as its main target.
There is no record of Eastward Ho!’s performance again on the London stage until 1751, when David Garrick presented it at Drury Lane on Lord Mayor’s Day, 29 October, ‘by way of compliment to the city’ and as an alternative to the customary offering, The London Cuckolds (G. W. Stone, 1962, 1.269) . Company records identify the cast: Touchstone – Yates; Quicksilver – Woodward; Golding – Mattocks; Sir Petronel – Palmer; Security – Shuter; Seagull – Blakes; Bramble – Simson; Spendall – Mozeen; Scapethrift – W. Vaughan; Wolf – Burton; Holdfast – Atkins; Constable – H. Vaughan; Drawer – Ackman; Page – Master Cross; Mrs. Touchstone – Mrs. Cross; Gertrude – Mrs. Clive; Mildred – Miss Minors; Winifred – Mrs. Toogood; Sindefy – Mrs. Bennet.
Garrick’s new subtitle, ‘The Prentices’, indicates that he read the play through the lens of didactic works like William Hogarth’s series of engravings, Industry and Idleness (1747), which pictures the progress to the gallows of a delinquent silk weaver while his virtuous counterpart, like Golding, marries his master’s daughter and rises through various city offices to sit in judgement on his fellow (See Paulson, 1970, 1.194, and plates 180-91) . However, Garrick’s edifying fare was ‘not lik’d at all’ according to Richard Cross, the company’s prompter (G. W. Stone, 1962, 1.269) . In part, this may have been due to a last-minute substitution: ‘Mr Ross being ill’, Cross explained, ‘Mr Mattocks [who played Golding] did his part at 2 Day’s Notice, wch at the end of the 4 Act Mr Woodward told the Audience, & tho Mr Mattocks was hiss’d before, when he next appear’d they gave him great Applause. Mattocks never play’d a principal part before in London’ (Stone, 1962, 1.269) . Still, a moralized reading of Eastward Ho! must have been very unwelcome to a holiday audience accustomed to the festive release provided by Ravenscroft’s bawdy piece. Despite receiving public endorsement in The Inspector, No. 206, for his attempt to improve city morals, Garrick did not repeat the experiment, though in the following year he chose The Merchant of Venice to present on Lord Mayor’s Day instead of The London Cuckolds (Stone, 1962, 1.xxii, 330) .
Since Garrick did not publish his version of Eastward Ho! as he did his adaptations of other Elizabethan plays, including Every Man in His Humour, it is not known how closely he followed Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s original. However, his influence is evident in Charlotte Lennox’s adaptation, Old City Manners, printed in 1775 as ‘Altered from the Original Eastward Hoe’ and with an ‘Advertisement’ declaring, ‘It is with great satisfaction that Mrs. Lennox, takes this opportunity to acknowledge her obligations to Mr. Garrick, for recommending to her the Alteration of Eastward Hoe, and for his very friendly assistance throughout this comedy’ (A3). Lennox’s version was supplied with a prologue by George Colman, which catches the audience’s attention by drawing a contrast between ‘Charles the Second’s gay and wanton days’, when ‘Gallants in quest of game, cried Eastward Hoe!’ as they pursued assignations in the City, and the era of George III, when ‘The modish citizen o’erleaps his ward, / And the gay Cit plants Horns upon My Lord’ (1, 7, 15-16). Colman’s main emphasis, however, is on the tradition of moral satire extending from Jonson through Hogarth:
Artists, who furnish’d pictures for the stage,
In good Queen Bess’s memorable age,
With a just pencil City-portraits drew,
Mark’d ev’ry vice, and mark’d each virtue too:
The City Madam’s vanities display’d,
Prais’d honest gains, but damn’d the tricks of trade.
Artists like these, (Old Ben the chief) to-night
Bring Idleness and Industry to light.
Their Sketch, by Time perhaps impair’d too much,
A female hand has ventur’d to retouch.
Hence too our Hogarth drew, nor scorn’d to glean
The Comick stubble of the Moral Scene;
Hence Fellow-Prentices he brought to life,
And shew’d their manners, and their fate, at strife;
Shew’d to what ends both Good and Evil stretch –
To Honour one, and t’other to Jack Ketch;
Turn’d ridicule ’gainst folly, fraud, and pride,
And fought with Humour’s lance on Virtue’s side.
Such be henceforth each Comick Artist’s aim,
Poets, or Painters, be their drift the same!
Such are the lessons which To-Night we read;
And may next sessions prove that we succeed!
Colman’s prologue neatly captures the balance of morality and comedy in Lennox’s adaptation, which emphasizes Gertrude’s folly more than Quicksilver’s and provides a happy ending by exposing Petronel as an impostor and bigamist whose marriage to Gertrude is therefore void.
Lennox’s ‘retouching’ involved both removing references that might seem too dated and toning down the language so that Gertrude and Quicksilver, while still rash and disrespectful, do not venture quite so far beyond the bounds of eighteenth-century decorum. Although ‘An Account of an Altered Comedy called Old City Manners’ in The London Chronicle for 9-11 November 1775 (reprinted in The Westminster Magazine for November) reports that in performance ‘the characters were all new habited agreeable to the times in which the play was written’ (463), Lennox apparently did not expect her audience to adopt a completely historicist perspective, and she eliminated much of the original satire, either because it may have seemed dated or potentially controversial, or because it slowed down the action. Petronel’s destination is changed to the East Indies, and the discussion of the court’s hazards in 2.2, the satire on court corruption in Seagull’s Utopian description of Virginia in 3.3, and Gertrude’s description in 5.1 of the differences between ‘the knighthood nowadays’ and ‘the knighthood of olden time’ (26-27) are all omitted. Slitgut and his horn jokes disappear entirely from 4.1, replaced by a deferential Waterman somewhat like the Drawer who originally assisted Winifred. Also cut are the two amused gentlemen who inform Petronel and Seagull – in a Scots brogue like that of King James – that they have landed on the Isle of Dogs after their shipwreck. Although Quicksilver still boasts to Petronel of having ‘tricks’ in his brain that will recover their fortunes, his alchemical schemes are left out. The colloquial, bawdy language of Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s dialogue has been replaced by less offensive matter, but the gain in politeness is offset by a corresponding loss in comic energy. Quicksilver threatens only to throw dirt at Touchstone’s shop posts, rather than to piss on them (see East. Ho!, 2.1.115-16). Gertrude’s fantasies of marriage to Petronel now focus solely on her desire for higher status, signalled by a new song at the end of 3.2, which imagines the future deference that will be paid to her by others:
Your servant, my lady!
A chair for my lady!
I hope that your ladyship’s well!
However, her randy eagerness to ‘play at baboon’ with Petronel in the country, her habit of singing bawdy ballads like ‘Shoot home!’ (1.2.20), and the pervasive sexual double-meanings in her dialogue with Poldavy, her mother, and Quicksilver have all been suppressed, as have such blunt rebukes to Touchstone as her contemptuous exit lines at 4.2.109-10: ‘Come away, Sin, we shall as soon get a fart from a dead man as a farthing of court’sy here.’ In fact, her disdain for the City has been redirected away from Touchstone and Mildred towards a new suitor, Mr. Fig the grocer, whom she rejects in 1.2 with the scornful promise to patronize his business in the future: ‘My butler shall treat you to a glass of wine in the pantry, and my steward shall pay your bills without poundage . . . so farewell, sugar-plum!’ (B4v). In a touch of poetic justice, Lennox allows Fig to turn Gertrude’s remarks back upon her in 4.2 when she returns from the country in poverty.
Gertrude’s folly in preferring Petronel over Fig is heightened by Lennox’s characterization of Petronel as a smooth-talking imposter who flatters Gertrude with flowery speeches like his first greeting in 1.2: ‘My charming bride, may I presume to taste the hanging cherry of your lip? – Nectar! Ambrosia!’ (C1). More audacious than his original, Lennox’s Petronel boasts that the King speaks fondly to him as his familiar ‘Pet’ (C1v), and he plays his role as an aristocrat to the hilt, scorning Quicksilver for whimpering and flinching after his arrest in 4.2 and defying Golding’s authority as a reversal of the social hierarchy: ‘When such as you are sit in a chair of judgement and be called worshipful, and such as I . . . stand bareheaded before you – I may say with the poet, “Chaos is come again!”’ (H2). In the end, however, he is recognized by Wolf as a former footman who had previously pretended to be a captain, had married a young woman, and been imprisoned for robbing his wife’s uncle, though later released because of her pleas not to press charges. Petronel does not appear in act 5, but is reported to have been sent to York jail for robbing his late master and assuming his identity. The progressive announcement to Gertrude of his true identity and previous marriage in 5.1 creates a neat peripety as her reaction changes from distress at his low social class (‘Oh! My shame! The wife of a vile impostor!’) to relief that his bigamy invalidates her marriage, which never seems to have been consummated (‘Another wife! Then I am free – Oh!’ [H4]). Though Gertrude is not paired off at play’s end, she is reconciled to her father and relieved of the distress that a valid marriage would have produced.
Lennox’s changes, in fact, make Gertrude, rather than Quicksilver, the primary prodigal and turn the play into a sentimental comedy of moral reform. In contrast to Tate, who plays up the cuckoldry motif, Lennox carefully preserves the chastity of her female characters and emphasizes the lessons that each of the prodigals learns from their errors. When Winifred is washed ashore in 4.1 she blesses the storm because it ‘has preserved me from actual guilt’ and hopes that her companions will feel ‘the wholesome stings of conscience, and repent’ (G1v). Touchstone, Mildred, and Golding are less scornful or priggish and more willing to aid those who show signs of remorse for their folly. Thus Touchstone expresses confidence in Gertrude’s eventual reform in 4.2 despite her rejection of him, ‘My child would invert the order of nature, and instead of obeying would rule her father, but poverty is a great tamer of pride; she will be the better for it’ (G4v). In 5.1 Gertrude shows herself to be explicitly aware of her sister Mildred’s virtues and of the consequences of her own faults, acknowledging that ‘I am justly punished, I confess – I would be a Lady’ and asking, ‘Shall I sue humbly to my sister Golding for protection and live dependent upon her bounty? That sister whose decent manners and modest ambition I despised – Ah! Syn, Syn. Pride, as I just now read in a book, is ever producing its mortifying contrary’ (H3v). In turn, Mildred takes no satisfaction in Gertrude’s humiliation, but declares, ‘If your misfortunes have made you reasonable, I am come to comfort you’. Her announcement that Touchstone will forgive Gertrude leads the latter to promise that she will lead a new life thereafter: ‘Oh! Mildred! How does this goodness reproach me? Let me be once more sheltered under my father’s hospitable roof, and my future conduct shall convince him that calamity has not been thrown away upon me’ (H4). As in the original, Touchstone is at first reluctant to believe in Quicksilver’s reformation, but Gertrude pleads for him: ‘I sinned against a father, yet you forgave me’. Lennox reduces Quicksilver’s ballad of ‘Repentance’ to a few stanzas, eliminating the excesses that produce a distancing effect in the original and pointing the moral after Touchstone’s change of heart in an additional speech by Golding: ‘We should try and judge a criminal indeed with impartial strictness, but penitence, if it is sincere, though it ought not to alter the balance, may stop the sword of Justice’ (I4v-K1). At the end, Lennox directly addresses the possibility that Quicksilver’s offer to wear his prison garb homeward through the London streets may simply be a pose: ‘Let your penitence, friend Quicksilver, appear in your actions, resulting from inward conviction, and not from external appearance – a foul heart may be covered with tattered clothes, and a decent out-side is the best garment for a reclaimed prodigal – he who endeavours to show too much, may be suspected of repenting too little’ (K1r-v). In a new epilogue, Touchstone points the moral as he had in the play’s original closing speech, but without the parodic alliteration:
Though for a citizen ’tis not the vogue
To speak to such rare guests the epilogue,
For once permit an honest trading man
To change for moral truth the wanton plan.
Short I will be, and sweet I trust to some,
That city youths may go instructed home:
As in a glass, let citizens this day
Behold the plot and moral of our play:
See the two ways which lead to shame or state,
Choose ruin or fair fame – work upon that!
Lennox’s revision thus effectively eliminates the comic excess and ironic undertones that seem to make the original a subtle parody of the literature of reform and civic virtue.
In general, however, Lennox’s alterations seem to have appealed to the taste of the times, though her adaptation can only be described as a modest success. Paired with various afterpieces and dances, Old City Manners was performed at Drury Lane eight times between its opening on 9 November 1775 and 28 December 1776, bringing in an average of £148 per night, well below the receipts for most Shakespeare performances in the same period, though on a par with Garrick’s revival of Wycherley’s The Plain Dealer (see G. W. Stone, 1962, 3.1928-31, 1933, 1941, 1943; and Hogan, 1968, 1.35, 48). The cast included: Touchstone – Baddeley; Quicksilver – Dodd; Petronel – Palmer; Golding – Brereton; Security – Parsons; Bramble – Hurst; Capt. Seagull – Bannister; Fig – Whitfield; Waterman – Wright; Wolf – Wrighten; Holdfast – Griffith; Constable – Carpenter; Servant – Norris; Drawer – Garland; Footman – Everard; Scapethrift – Fawcett; Spendall – Cubitt; Coachman etc. – Kear, Legg; Mildred – Miss P. Hopkins; Winifred – Mrs. Whitfield; Sydney – Miss Platt; Mrs. Touchstone – Mrs. Johnston; Betty – Mrs. Millidge; Gertrude – Mrs. Wrighten. Hopkins noted in his diary on the first night, ‘it was well perform’d and had Applause – some hisses at the End it won’t do much’ (G. W. Stone, 1968, 3.1928). The reviewer for The London Chronicle was kinder:
Some of the Lady’s additions are characteristic; and a good imitation of the original style; in others she has introduced some modern patches which are not so fortunate in their effect: though she has judiciously cut many parts, there still remain some scenes that want a similar trimming; particularly the first, and one between Fig and Gertrude. However, upon the whole it was very favourably received, the audience expressing their approbation at different times by the warmest applause (463).
The reviewer also notes approvingly Lennox’s three new songs, which he reports ‘met with general applause’.
The applause for Lennox’s work, however, was not resounding enough to warrant its production beyond its initial run, and there is no record of her adaptation’s performance thereafter. Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s original version also seems to have disappeared from the stage throughout the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, though there is an intriguingly cryptic announcement in The Times of London for 15 and 16 September 1859 that ‘EASTWARD HO! is at the Town-hall, Scarborough’. However, it seems not to have been until the twentieth century that Eastward Ho! was staged at regular intervals, and then primarily because of the academic interest in drama by Shakespeare’s contemporaries.
College and University Productions, 1900-1960
Surprisingly, the revival of Eastward Ho! began not in England, but in America with a production by the Delta Upsilon fraternity of Harvard University in 1903. Originally an exclusively social fraternity, Delta Upsilon began in 1896 to produce annually, with occasional skips, a specimen of early English drama, a practice apparently encouraged by Harvard faculty member George Pierce Baker, an enthusiastic advocate of the older repertory. Baker’s enthusiasm for drama was apparently not shared by the Harvard authorities, who would later turn down a donor’s offer of a theatre building, leading Baker (and the theatre) to transfer to Yale, but the Delta Upsilon productions were influential in introducing Elizabethan drama to an American audience. Eastward Ho! was the sixth in the series, and it would be followed by productions of Jonson’s The Alchemist (1904), Epicene (1905), Bartholomew Fair (1908), and Chapman’s All Fools (1909), among others. An unidentified newspaper clipping in the Harvard Theatre Collection, intended as advance publicity and sounding suspiciously as if it were written by Baker himself, links the Delta Upsilon revivals of Elizabethan drama to those at Oxford and Cambridge colleges, to the efforts of William Poel’s Elizabethan Stage Society in London, and to ‘the appearance of fresh texts of the plays exhibiting them in all their brilliancy of dialogue, subtlety of humour and keenness of insight into life’. Performance of ‘these classics of the past’, the anonymous author argues, not only provide ‘matchless records of the times’ and a compelling resource for historians, but could also serve as ‘a stimulus and standard to our own playwrights’, who might learn useful lessons from ‘the highly developed powers of observation, the fidelity to manners and times and the careful abidance by the laws of the drama which mark the productions of Jonson, Dekker, Marston, Chapman and the rest’. Performances of their works, he continues, ‘will bring it home to us more speedily than a dozen sermons that the modern dramatist, like a ship without a compass, runs his course of playwriting quite as oblivious to any sound guide as is his average auditor to any suitable standard’ (quoted by permission of the Harvard Theatre Collection).
Inspired by such missionary rhetoric, Delta Upsilon members worked hard on the production under the guidance of John T. Malone, a professional actor and member of the Players Club, brought down from New York for the occasion. A notice on page 22 of the Sunday supplement to The Boston Globe on 12 April reports that ‘rehearsals have been held every week for over a month’, that ‘in order to have as much atmosphere and color as possible in the performances the prologue and epilogue . . . will be spoken from the stage’ in order to reproduce exactly ‘the peculiar manner of ending plays in the 17th century’, and that ‘the costumes are careful copies of those worn in the times of Elizabeth and King James’. An earlier notice in The Harvard Crimson on 21 March announced that ‘the original text, “as it was played in The Black-friers by the Children of her Majestie’s Revels” will be adhered to with even closer fidelity than in previous revivals’ (that is, those by Tate and Lennox), and though it was not noted as a feature of the production’s authenticity, all female roles were played by males. Performances were held on 13, 14, and 16 April at Brattle Hall, Cambridge, MA, and on 17 April at the Bijou Theatre, Boston. No programme seems to have survived from this production, but that for The Alchemist in 1904, now in the Harvard Archives, contains a picture of the assembled Eastward Ho! cast in full costume. Gertrude, played by E. F. Breed, and Sir Petronel Flash, played by S. H. Hall are front and centre, dressed in elaborate outfits designed to contrast with the sombre clothing of the virtuous characters, who might have come from Hawthorne’s New England. Gertrude is in a white gown with a high standing collar and embroidered diamond shaped panes in her puffed sleeves, the front of her bodice, and the forepart of her gown. Sir Petronel is costumed to match in white tights and ruff, a white doublet with embroidered stripes, and a hat with a white ostrich feather over the brim.
In general the production seems to have been well-received, though information about its tone is somewhat skimpy. A notice in The Harvard Crimson on 21 March described the play as ‘a comedy of manners’ in movement, ‘though its dialogue is informed with the keen wit and subtle humor of which these three Elizabethan poets were masters’. Another notice on 25 March summarizes the plot, indicating in the process that the ending was played straightforwardly as a comedy of moral reform: ‘Touchstone is apparently inflexible until Golding by a subterfuge conducts him to the prison where, seeing Quicksilver and the knight sincerely repentant, the old man relaxes and forgives all’. Touchstone was played by John Daniel Williams, whose experience in Delta Upsilon productions was the prelude to a career as a theatrical producer in New York, where he would stage plays by Galsworthy, Pinero, Shaw, Somerset Maugham, and others (see the Quindecennial Report of the Harvard class of 1903, Norwood, MA, 1920, 330-1). A review in the Crimson for 14 April singled him out for particular praise and indicates some added by-play that created humour in the staging:
J. D. Williams ’03 as Touchstone, was noteworthy both for his acting and the delivery of his lines, in a part that was perhaps the most satisfactory in the play. J. P. Hoguet ’04, as Quicksilver, handled intelligently a difficult part, although his acting was superior to his enunciation. The female roles were well done and the minor parts were without exception excellently taken. The tavern scene, in which R. S. Wallace ’04 as the sea captain [Seagull] terrifies the tapster [played by J. P. Leake] by smoking the newly-introduced Virginia tobacco, was especially amusing.
Other major parts were cast as follows: Golding – H. C. De Long; Security – F. E. Ames; Bramble – F. R. Fitzpatrick; Wolf – C. C. Lane; Mildred – D. C. Manning; Mrs. Touchstone – E. Swift. Winifred’s part was apparently cut from the play, thereby eliminating the subplot of her abduction and Security’s imagined cuckoldry.
The Harvard Delta Upsilon production was followed ten years later by one at University College, London, directed by P. V. Thomas and presented on 11 March, 1913 in honour of ‘Foundation Week’. Like the commentator in The Boston Globe quoted above, the anonymous reviewer for The Times on 12 March 1913 found the play interesting as a vivid piece of history, praising it as ‘another of those lively pictures of commercial life’ like Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday: ‘the rough jests, close detail, and allusive “actual” talk . . . bring the age very near to our understanding’. He noted its opposition between ‘the industrious (and rather priggish) Golding’ and ‘the idle Quicksilver, a dashing rogue’, and between city merchants and the aristocracy in general, though he observed that Sir Petronel was not characterized as a true aristocrat, but a pretender and ‘a fine flashing figure of farcical comedy’. He noted too that although the original plot offered ‘the usual mean elderly husbands and young straying wives’, ‘these wives and the intrigues and complications dependent on them were omitted’, as they had been in the Harvard production. Apparently cuckoldry, real or threatened, was seen as unsettling to the morals of early twentieth-century college youth and was therefore suppressed.
Response to the performance seems to have been positive, though the staging was criticized as slow – an effect, it would seem, of presenting the action while following current stage conventions. In a criticism curiously blind to the limitations of the proscenium-arch theatre as compared to the flexibility of the Elizabethan open stage, the Times reviewer complained that ‘It was a pity that one of the great advantages of a stage hung with curtains – that shortening of the intervals which immensely increases the vitality of a performance – was wholly flouted’ by long breaks between the scenes. A similar complaint was made by the reviewer for the University College Union Magazine, 6 (1913), 99-100, who objected that the play was defective because it contained ‘too many scenes’: ‘No sooner does one assume a dramatic character or begin to portray a dramatic situation than the inexorable green curtains sweep together and it gives place to another . . . There is no crisis corresponding to the third act of our modern plays. The play is too loosely strung together, too even, and too panoramic’. But despite complaints about the production’s lack of pace, the acting was generally approved. The Times reviewer remarked:
The playing was full of spirit and the speaking generally round and clear. Mr. C. E. W. Lockyer, as Touchstone, set a good example in this respect; Mr. P. V. Thomas was delicately droll as Security, the old usurer; and Mr. A. H. Pemberton as the idle and Mr. I. B. M. Hamilton as the industrious apprentice, Mr. N. T. Wright, the sea captain, with views on Scots, Mr. C. H. Cholmeley as Sir Petronel, Miss Dorothy M. Harris as his flaunting wife, Miss Muriel Starling as her demure sister, and others deserved the hearty applause they received.
Preferring the formal style of Golding and Mildred to the ‘modern’ impersonation of Quicksilver, the Union Magazine reviewer described them as having ‘stepped direct from “Osbourne’s Soliloquies”’ and praised the performances of Touchstone, Gertrude, and Mrs. Touchstone [Margaret Chick] as well. In fact, the success of the production led the Union Magazine reviewer to call for the establishment of ‘a permanent dramatic society’.
After these two early productions, there was a gap of some years before the play was produced again by Milton Smith and the Columbia University Theatre Associates at Brander Mathews Theatre on the Columbia campus in New York on 22-25 October 1947. The major roles were cast as follows: Touchstone – Michael Wyler, later a well-known film and television actor and already playing roles on the New York stage; Quicksilver – William Markham Altman; Golding – Kenneth Buckridge; Security – Adolph Anderson; Sir Petronel Flash – William Bijur; Mrs. Touchstone – G. Rose Raph; Gertrude -- Caroline Couche; Mildred – Mary Lou Neilson; Sindefy – Gloria Kunnel. Summarizing a contemporary criticism not available to me, Herford and the Simpsons note that Golding and Flash received special commendations, that the pace of the production in the first two acts was seen as slow but picked up subsequently, and that ‘the actors made the most of the delightful fun poked at a number of the characters’ (H&S, 9.195) . This revival was in turn revived some ten years later when Milton Smith and Gertrude Keller directed a second production at Brander Mathews Theatre on 21-23 November 1957. Scenic décor was designed by Deborah Weissman and Robert Winkler, costumes by Sonia Loewenstein, and lighting by Gretchen Burkhalter. The programme includes the following note by the directors:
Our production . . . is made by omitting one or two scenes and by copious cutting. Our production scheme is, obviously, not Elizabethan, but we have tried to retain the flavor of productions of that period by using the asides and soliloquies in the script, by direct addresses to the audience, and by the rapid sequence of scenes. Eastward Ho is an interesting forerunner of the bourgeois drama of the 18th and 19th century, and it seems strange that a play so well known to readers, and containing such a fine gallery of Elizabethan characters and so many excellent scenes, should be so rarely revived in the theatre.
This was not simply an undergraduate production, but included many actors, often M. F. A. candidates, with experience in professional theatre or television. Major parts were cast as follows: Touchstone – Jesse Jacobs; Quicksilver – Louis Vuolo; Golding – Roger Newman; Sir Petronel Flash – Dave Ossman; Security – Joseph Quinn; Bramble – Walter E. Schaaf; Seagull – Clifford Olsen; Wolf – Jerry Thomas; Mrs. Touchstone – Geneva Helm; Gertrude – Marta Gonzalez; Mildred – Marianne Ora; Sindefy – Sharon Sanders; Winifred – Diana M. Sharpe. The play was reduced to four acts, with a major intermission between act 2 and act 3, which began with the scene at the Blue Anchor Tavern (3.3 in the original). This arrangement grouped the scenes of the adventurers’ departure, their shipwreck, and their appearance before magistrate Golding into a single act. One victim of the ‘copious cutting’ seems to have been Slitgut, whose part is not listed in the programme, and consequently Cuckold’s Haven and the Isle of Dogs have been displaced by an unspecified location on ‘The Bank of the Thames’ for the new 3.2. Other than its description of the play as a forerunner of later bourgeois drama, the programme gives no indication as to whether the fifth-act (here the fourth-act) conversions were presented straightforwardly or ironically.
Mermaid Theatre Productions, 1953-1981
Milton Smith’s conviction that Eastward Ho! deserved to be staged more frequently was clearly shared by Bernard Miles, the multi-talented founder of London’s Mermaid Theatre, who was responsible for three productions from 1953 to 1981. The first was given twenty-six performances between 10 June and 23 June 1953 as part of the festivities for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The second opened on 17 October 1962 at The Mermaid Theatre’s permanent home at Puddle Dock, Blackfriars. The third — a musical version that played from 29 June to 15 August 1981 to indifferent reviews – inaugurated the Mermaid’s expensive new quarters in the Touche Remnant office building nearby, but unfortunately proved to be the downfall of the enterprise, which was under-capitalized and could not sustain the failure of its initial offering.
The 1953 Mermaid production was presented along with several other plays on a temporary stage specially erected in the quadrangle of the Royal Exchange at a cost of £20,000. Designed by Michael Stringer in consultation with C. Walter Hodges, it featured a wide, but shallow three-foot high thrust stage with a curtained rear enclosure on the main level and an upper balcony with balustrade, supported by stage pillars, fronting an upper stage façade containing three arched and curtained doorways (see the sketch in The Builder, 13 July 1962). Steps at the ends of the main stage allowed access from the theatre floor, creating a three-level playing area. A programme note announced that ‘The Mermaid is not intended to be a reproduction of any particular Elizabethan theatre. All we claim is that, both in style and general arrangement, it is representative of the gorgeous playing places in which Shakespeare’s plays were first performed.’ Stringer’s plans for the stage and scenery survive in the uncatalogued papers of the Mermaid Theatre in the Guildhall Library, London. For Eastward Ho! Stringer decorated the far sides of the stage with benches and low wooden posts with chains, suggesting a wharf, while painted curtains at the upper arches and sides of the main stage depicted a London cityscape. Most place changes were suggested by opening or closing a series of brightly coloured curtains between the stage pillars and at the front of the rear enclosure, but wooden bars in a frame at the two main stage entrances and between the stage pillars were used to create the Counter prison in the last act. Touchstone’s ‘shop’ was a portable structure with A-shaped side supports and a hinged penthouse roof and counter at the front, dressed with ‘every available gold object’. It was supplemented by a round, three-legged table and some additional properties, such as a ‘poultry basket’ and a fish stand, to create the atmosphere of London commercial life (Guildhall Library, used by permission).
The production, directed by Joan Swinstead, was praised for its energetic pace and its evocation of an earthier, livelier era. The reviewer for The Daily Mail on 11 June 1953 commended it for its ‘richness, colour, and wit’ and for capturing ‘the lusty, rollicking spirit of early 17th-century London’, while the review in The Daily Telegraph for the same date called it a ‘rollicking, rumbustious entertainment’ distinguished by ingenious staging and ‘a gusto, a gaiety, a blaze of colour and an enthusiasm that make the bawdry inoffensive’. To a great extent the flexible staging made possible by the absence of conventional scenery – still something of an innovation in 1953 – was responsible for the production’s energy, as Eric McKeon noted in his review for Punch on 1 July: ‘Its bustling action showed off to advantage the Mermaid’s Elizabethan stage, where scene followed scene in an uninterrupted flow, reminding us how thoroughly the theatre learned the benefits of continuity, long before the cinema. No changes of setting, however dazzling and elaborate, could have matched this swift simplicity.’ Ivor Brown in The Observer for 14 June also remarked on the company’s ‘adroit use of its three-decker platform’ and declared the show ‘a genial caper in the Bankside manner’, though he observed that ‘nothing is subtle, nothing is protracted, all is brisk’. Solid individual performances by a strong ensemble helped to sustain the energy. Barbara Lott was commended for ‘the gusty vigour’ of her Gertrude in Illustrated London News, 27 June 1953. As Quicksilver, Fulton Mackay was ‘nimbly and vocally prominent’, impressing The Times revieweras ‘a sort of Mercutio among apprentices, the very spirit of impudent gaiety’ (11 June 1953), though Gerard Fay complained in The Manchester Guardian for 12 June that ‘he is a comedian of too broad a style for this particular part’ and that he played the role ‘in a little too mercurial a way’. Bernard Miles, thought too modest by some for taking only a minor role, turned Slitgut into a memorable figure, ‘bellowing and stamping in gargantuan glee as each new rascal is fished out of the Thames’, according to The Times reviewer. Michael Gartred’s interpretation of Sir Petronel as an affected fool like Sir Andrew Aguecheek ‘seemed fair enough’ to Fay. According to the reviewer for The Stage (18 June), Arnold Yarrow played Security with ‘character’ as ‘a Jewish moneylender who suffers as many indignities as Shylock himself’; and Graham Squire exhibited ‘an attractive dry humour’ as Touchstone. Other major parts included: Golding – Gordon Whiting; Bramble – Barry Foster; Wolf – John Dunbar; Mildred – Margaret King-Farlow; Winifred – Josephine Wilson; Sindefy – Barbara Clegg.
The one aspect of the production that troubled some critics was that its exuberance seemingly went against the grain of the play’s morality by privileging Quicksilver and burlesquing the virtuous citizens. ‘It is the mood of the moment,’ the Times reviewer complained, ‘to make sport of old plays, especially when . . . they present some difficulty in acting seriously. Is there a danger that the worthy goldsmith with the bleating wife and the daughter bent on being a fine lady may seem dull? May not the worthier of his apprentices . . . seem even duller? Let us take no chances then, but delicately deride them. Let us look at them, in fact, not as the authors apparently looked at them, but from the viewpoint of that other apprentice, the shameless, scapegrace, endearing Quicksilver.’ It is possible, the reviewer conceded, ‘that Miss Joan Swinstead is right and the authors momentarily wrong: it is not in the nature of Quicksilver to be as good as gold’, but, he objected, ‘it becomes a pointless cynicism when virtue, too, is held up to scorn merely because its ways are naïve’. His views were echoed by Eric McKeon, who complained in his review for Punch, ‘Since the war too many revivals have been ruined by seizing the easy laugh at the cost of the play. The laughs were here, all right, in Mr. Fulton Mackay’s indomitably lively Quicksilver, Mr. Gordon Whiting’s priggish Golding, and Mr. Michael Gartred’s amiable, owlish Sir Petronel Flash, but I would much rather have laughed with Jonson and Co. than against them’. Clearly, this production had moved a long way from the moralism of Garrick and Lennox, but the reviewers were not prepared to concede that its send-up of the virtuous characters may have been part of the work’s parodic intent.
The 1962 revival, directed by Josephine Wilson and Denys Palmer, was more genial in tone, eliminating the extreme self-righteousness that made the virtuous citizens of the 1953 production seem like burlesques. A script for the production surviving in the Mermaid archives held by the Guildhall Library reveals that the directors not only eliminated much of the play’s contemporary satire and allusions, but also subtly altered its characterization. Touchstone’s lament for the city’s failings ‘in virtue and religious negligences’ (2.1.39-40) and his smug couplet about tradesmen accumulating wealth more easily than the gentry keep it (2.1.143-4) were eliminated, as were some of Mildred and Golding’s sententious speeches, such as the latter’s condemnation of the ‘superfluous cost of the belly’ and his parodic request, echoing Hamlet, that ‘the superfluity and cold meat’ from Gertrude and Sir Petronel’s nuptials furnish his and Mildred’s (2.1.130-2). Sir Petronel’s fear that he will never be able to pacify Gertrude when she sees herself deceived (2.3.17-18) and his unscrupulous declaration that ‘a large, time-fitted conscience is bound to nothing’ (2.3.73) were also omitted, making him seem less predatory and cynical. The motif of Security’s cuckoldry was much reduced by the elimination of the references to Cuckold’s Haven and horns at the beginning and end of 4.1 and the omission of Security’s song and the jokes about cuckolds at the end of 5.5. Gertrude’s lewd ballads and sexual double meanings were also censored, as was the description of her future marital demands at 2.3.57-60 and her remembrance of past sexual escapades with Quicksilver at 3.2.61-2, though enough sexuality remained to lead Eric Shorter, in The Daily Telegraph for 18 October, to remark on the show’s ‘bawdiness and an occasionally daring decolletage’. And some of the more extreme details of Quicksilver’s repentance were trimmed out of act 5, so that the possible parodic intent of the original was obscured (Guildhall Library, uncatalogued script, used by permission). The result was a version in which, as the reviewer for The Times on the same date put it, ‘whatever Jonsonian savagery might linger in the text’ had been drained away, an effect he attributed as much to the actors as to the text: ‘Mr. Brian Wright plays the virtuous apprentice with a welcome absence of any parade of virtue: Mr. Cardew Robinson turns the egregious Sir Petronel Flash into an Aguecheek-like victim, rather than a fortune hunter; and Mr. Aubrey Morris’s Securetie is a usurer with whom one would willingly run into debt. Altogether it is a buoyant and warm-hearted encounter with the past.’ Apparently, however, some of the didacticism remained, though softened by a light-hearted treatment of the final repentances and reconciliations. Michael Kenyon, writing in The Guardian for 18 October , described Eastward Ho! as ‘a true morality play’, and the Times reviewer described it as ‘an uncompromisingly moral entertainment, opposing the virtues of prudence and hard work against the follies of vanity and profligacy’, though, he continued, the authors ‘certainly prevented their fable from growing stuffy’ by depicting Touchstone as ‘three-quarters a comic figure’ and by allowing the three prodigals’ to ‘fleet the time pleasantly before fate lays them low – and even their repentance is a mockery’.
In addition to those mentioned above, cast members included: Touchstone – Sydney Bromley; Quicksilver – Stephen Moore; Gertrude – Sheila Reid; Mildred – Venetia Maxwell; Mrs. Touchstone – Margot Lister; Sindefy – Lynne Barton; Winifred – Mary Denison. Praise for particular performances, however, was relatively rare. Eric Shorter, in The Daily Telegraph, observed that ‘the acting, bold and spirited but never more, generally reaches a good repertory level’. The ‘spirited’ quality of the performances, unfortunately, did not always win praise. Peter Lewis, writing in The Daily Mirror, found the production to be ‘energetic and unsubtle’ and acted in an ‘almost continuous shout’ (18 October), while Michael Kenyon of The Guardian wished for ‘a little less gusto and greater delicacy’ and complained of ‘the sacrifice of all subtlety to high spirits, headlong pace, and some sadly misplaced slapstick grimacing’. Another aspect of the production that divided critics was its use of five-foot high, hinged screens on wheels that were rearranged in differing configurations to mark changes of location. These were contrived by David Meyerscough Jones, who also designed the costumes and settings. Kenneth Tynan thought that they effected scene changes ‘deftly’ (The Observer, 21 October), but Eric Shorter was more critical: ‘The production is as swift and hearty as possible, and there are some good effects in the shipwrecking shortly after the interval. But for some reason two long, folding, and singularly inexpressive screens have to be slid about the stage every few minutes for no other discernible purpose than to hold up inn signs, clothes lines – and the action: though the gaol scene is well suggested near the end.’ A more positive feature was the incidental music, arranged by Bridget Fry and Fritz Spiegel from Michael Pretorius’s Terpsichore (1612), a collection of tunes from French dancing masters and played by a ‘noyse’ of musicians using contemporary instruments. They were supplemented by a barrel-organ in the prison scene when Quicksilver sings his ‘Repentance’.
In the 1981 Mermaid revival, music no longer served incidental functions but became a major element in the production. The Mermaid had experienced considerable success over the years with its hit musical Lock Up Your Daughters, Bernard Miles’ adaptation of Henry Fielding’s Rape upon Rape, first staged in 1959. Apparently Miles had long hoped that Eastward Ho! could be similarly adapted, for the files on the 1962 production in the Mermaid archives contain some correspondence between Miles and Raymond Dutch, a lyricist and composer, about that very possibility. In one letter, Dutch reports that he had read the play and started writing lyrics for it, but Miles wrote back on 12 September, stating that several consultants felt the work to be unsuited to musical theatre and that the company would stage the original version in order to judge its potential (Guildhall Library, uncatalogued, used by permission). When response to the 1962 production was lukewarm, the project was dropped. Miles, however, apparently kept it in mind and returned to it twenty years later as the Mermaid planned to inaugurate new quarters after throughway construction forced the closing of the theatre at Puddle Dock in 1978. The creative team assembled for the adaptation was headed by Robert Chetwyn, a theatrical director with many West End productions to his credit. The stage set was designed by Kenneth Mellor; costumes, by Mark Negin; and lighting, by Graham Large. The music was composed by Nick Bicât; the lyrics, by Howard Schuman, the script-writer of the television Rock Follies, which won the BAFTA award in 1976. The show’s book followed the outline of Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s play but added fourteen original songs, two reprises, and a musical finale for each of the two acts.
Unfortunately, the production was bedevilled by creative disagreements and by difficulty in finding a suitable idiom to capture the spirit of its Jacobean original. In a preview notice in The New Standard on 3 July 1981 Milton Shulman reported having eavesdropped on ‘what might most politely be called a full and frank exchange of views between Chetwyn and Lord Miles in which Chetwyn loudly informed the Mermaid boss that he was very angry indeed, and that he was directing a musical, not a revival’. Miles apparently had good cause for distrust, for the show that Chetwyn and his collaborators produced was roundly criticized by reviewers for its staging, music, and lyrics. Clive Hirschorn, in The Sunday Express, dismissed it cavalierly as ‘quite lamentable . . . an example of the British musical at its most inept’, while Michael Coveney, in The Financial Times for 8 July, labelled it ‘a half-hearted compromise between metropolitan nostalgia and rock musical’ (see London Theatre Record, 2–15 July 1981, 345-6). The set, described by Tony Howard (1982), 123 as ‘an intricate timber construction . . . with narrow cat-walks and a discovery-space for a tableau of a departing ship’, won praise from John Barber, in The Daily Telegraph for 9 July, for ‘one spectacular scene’ in which it opened out ‘to show boats on the river in a swirl of evening mist’. Less charitably, Irving Wardle of The Times objected that ‘the set . . . does nothing to suggest a goldsmith’s shop, a usurer’s office, a prison, or any of the other locations, except for the mudflats of Cuckold’s Haven where the bedraggled runaways are washed ashore’ (8 July, p. 11). His criticism reinforced Benedict Nightingale’s more comprehensive complaint in The New Statesman that ‘there’s no attempt to bring out the period detail . . . or, indeed, to give the thing an authentic feel of any kind’ (reproduced in London Theatre Record, 347).
However, it was the musical score and lyrics that seemed the most problematic. The reviewer for Country Life opined that ‘the adaptation . . . is seriously compromised as to both musical and dramatic form’ and characterized the music as settling ‘for a creamy, occasionally thumping, banality’ (23 July 1981). John Barber complained of ‘the tuneless score of Nick Bicât, who cannot decide whether to write Morris dances, period part-songs or rum-ti-tum marches’, while Sheridan Morley, in Punch, repeated the same objection with more up-to-date comparisons: ‘What kills Eastward Ho! is a deep inability to decide what kind of musical it wishes to be. The score desperately lacks the confident jollity of Lock Up Your Daughters, while Schuman’s lyrics strain after Sondheim and end some way short of Lionel Bart’ (London Theatre Record, 345, 347). Benedict Nightingale described Schuman’s rhymes as ‘tormented’ (singling out, for example, the pairing of ‘rectitude’ with ‘neck to you’ and ‘Lancelot’ with ‘rancid lot’), while Jack Tinker, in The Daily Mail, spoke for many in objecting to the anachronistic manner in which ‘references to Fred Astaire jostle with jokes about farthingales’ (London Theatre Record, 346; see also the reviews by Mark Amory in The Spectator, Michael Billington in The Guardian, and Francis King in The Sunday Telegraph, London Theatre Record, 344-5). Michael Billington of The Guardian felt that the frequent songs ‘tend to impede the action rather than advance it’ and confessed to feeling that the evening ‘would have been great fun’ without them (London Theatre Record, 345).
Not all criticism of the music and lyrics was negative. Tony Howard (1982), 123 reported that ‘a lubricious song about “Young Wives” was ironically taken up later by most of the women as a feminist lament, which at least imposed a kind of thematic development onto the events, and a neat melody (‘Thrifty Sentences’) did encapsulate the smugness of Touchstone’s thrifty values’. Sue Jameson, reviewing for London Broadcasting, observed that ‘the music is notably better in the second half with some really marvellous numbers: “Transparent Castles” and “The Song of Repentance” for example’, and her opinion was shared by Michael Coveney of The Financial Times, who described ‘Transparent Castles’ as ‘a splendidly sung hot gospelling female lament for the demise of chivalry’ (see London Theatre Record, 346). For Tony Howard, ‘the second half was quite entertaining and perhaps even illuminated part of the play’:
Lines were selected with greater freedom from the beginning, as Slitgut (Mark Rylance) swung and clambered at the very top of the set, singing the storm, as it were, and commenting on the panorama below as the shipwrecked characters crawled ashore. Tight scenes were now framed or interrupted by complex musical set-pieces, some operatic, some parodic. The Prison emerged as a separate kingdom that was run on its own—more open—principles of graft, whilst the Quicksilver of Richard O’Brien—recognizably the creator of The Rocky Horror Show—fitted more happily into a fantasy about penitent alchemists than into the earlier Citizen comedy. His original song of repentance was replaced by a wonderfully excessive hymn for those Born Again. For the first and only time, the seventeenth-century plot and milieu were fractured by an idiom that may not have universalized the satire but did make it vivid. (1982, 124)
Just what Howard meant by this last phrase is suggested in Irving Wardle’s review in The Times for 8 July:
A curious change begins to overtake the show after the fleeing males struggle ashore at the Isle of Dogs. Richard O’Brien’s Quicksilver, until then encased in wig and satin trunks, emerges from the ooze in studded black leather; and, in so far as the production does then come to life, it is as the O’Brien show. Cast into prison after the failure of his schemes, O’Brien plays his trump card by heading a religious revival. The virtuous Puritan citizens roll up to view this curiosity, to be confronted by O’Brien, arising sepulchrally from a trap, bald and clad in sackcloth, to ascend to the pinnacle of the set and engage in brisk and decidedly ambiguous self-flagellation.
According to Michael Coveney, O’Brien’s ‘Song of Repentance’ was ‘a solid rock number’ presented in ‘an emphatic tone of mock confessional retraction’; to Milton Shulman, it provided ‘the evening’s most hilarious moment’ (London Theatre Record, 346, 344).
In addition to O’Brien’s effective performance as Quicksilver, the casting was as follows: Touchstone – Trevor T. Smith; Golding – Peter Whitman; Gertrude – Anita Dobson; Mildred – Prue Clarke; Beatrice / Mistress Fond / Pox – Gaynor Sinclair; Poldavy / Drawer / Fangs – Bill Homewood; Poldavy’s assistant / Coachman / Slitgut / Poncer – Mark Rylance; Sir Petronel Flash – Philip Sayer; Mistress Touchstone – Vivienne Ross; Security – Clive Merrison; Winifred – Susan Beagley; Sindefy – Belinda Sinclair; Bramble / Fop – Hugh Futcher; Mistress Gazer / Box – Diana Gibson; Second Jailer – Tony Rickell. Comments about the acting ranged from positive praise by Michael Billington (Guardian) for ‘some lively performances’ to Francis King’s negative ‘enthusiastically amateurish’ in The Sunday Telegraph. Clive Merrison’s Security impressed Jameson as ‘a man so mean he makes Shylock look like the founder of meals on wheels. He wrings his hands, snivels and limps alarmingly yet somehow remains worth watching’, but Howard(1982), 124 found him to be a grotesque ‘without realistic motivation or the power to disturb’. Anita Dobson’s Gertrude won praise from Sheridan Morley in Punch for ‘some good moments as the Jacobean Bette Midler’ and from Milton Shulman of The New Standard for her ability to ‘flounce splendidly as a ninny snob’ (London Theatre Record, 347, 344). Shulman, who took a generally positive view of the production, also commended Philip Sayer’s Sir Petronel for maintaining ‘a suitable look of capricious impatience as he finds all his schemes collapsing around him’ and Trevor T. Smith’s Touchstone for his ‘marvellous picture of sanctimonious rectitude’ (ibid., 347). And in a prophetic judgement he remarked: ‘Talent-spotters might note the name of Mark Rylance, who in an acrobatic singing number delighted the house with the comic timing of a young actor with a future.’
In general, however, the raw energies of the cast were not adequate to offset the creative flaws in the production. In a notice entitled ‘Death Knell’ in The Times for 14 October 1981 Martin Huckerby announced that the Mermaid had run into financial difficulties three months after opening and had been forced to cancel its planned productions of Miles’s Lock Up Your Daughters and Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures. A shortfall in the initial fund drive for the new building was a major factor, Huckerby explained, but ‘the difficulties stem partly from the opening production of Eastward Ho! . . . which lost £80,000 when it found favour with neither critics nor audiences.’ The lively city comedy that had helped establish the Mermaid’s early reputation was now, in its rock musical metamorphosis, responsible for its demise.
University Productions – 1960s and 1970s
Although the Mermaid Theatre was the only venue for professional productions of Eastward Ho! in the twentieth century, the play continued to be performed occasionally by university theatre groups. It was staged at Harpur College in Binghamton, New York, in 1960, at the University of Liverpool in 1962, at Harvard University in 1965, and at Oxford by The New Company in 1979. All of these productions attempted, through one strategy or another, to emphasize the parodic nature of the play and the irony of its ending.
The Harpur College production, performed on 2 and 3 December 1960, was directed by Robert Meriweather Wren, who mentions it in pasing on pp. 340-44 of his 1965 Princeton University Ph. D. thesis on The Blackfriars Theatre and Its Repertory, 1600-1608 . ‘Special action’ (perhaps tricks by Bettrice’s ‘monkey’, played by Lynn Gruber?) was directed by Gladys Warren; the technical director was Jack Stanley. Major roles in the cast were: Golding – Fred Shaw; Touchstone – William S. Hyman; Quicksilver – Larry Goossen; Gertrude – Susan Friedland; Mildred – Miriam Schechter; Sir Petronel Flash – Lanny Taub; Mrs. Touchstone – Barbara Russell; Security – Marion Leonard; Winifred – Jane Lagoudis; Sindefy – Stephanie Allen; Bramble – Jeffrey Czeisler; Seagull, Wolf – Sheldon Krebs; Slitgut – Tony Mainionis. A guitar duo provided music for scene changes and act breaks. G. F. H., reviewing the play in the Binghamton Evening Press for 3 December noted that ‘the sets of Carlton L. Snyder, a veteran professional, were simple and effective, including a cutaway painted pavilion which represented an inner chamber and the watchtower at Cuckold’s Haven’.
The production’s wry take on the play and on Quicksilver’s repentance in particular may be gathered from the typography of the programme’s descriptive subtitle: ‘EASTWARD HO! . . . WITH THE terrible profligacy of Quicksilver, Master Touchstone’s apprentice, and his earnest REPENTANCE, and the unfortunate and fortunate marriages of Touchstone’s two daughters, and the events preceding the SHIPWRACK at Cuckold’s Haven, and what proceeded therefrom.’ Reviewing the performance for the college paper, The Colonial News, on 9 December, Bruce L. Brown praised Larry Goossen for portraying ‘superbly’ the conniving Quicksilver: ‘His transition from the arrogant profligate to a penitent convert did not lessen the satirical note which he skilfully imparted to the role.’ Both Brown and G. F. H. also singled out Touchstone, Security, Winifred, and Slitgut for praise, confirmation that the latter’s role provides an excellent opportunity for a good character actor and that the sub-plot contributes considerable comic interest to the play. Though both reviewers considered the evening to be entertaining and humorous, they complained that in the first half clear diction was sacrificed to the show’s rapid pace.
The production at Liverpool was directed by Inga-Stina Ewbank and given one performance on Thursday, 25 June, as part of the Guild of Undergraduates’ Arts Festival. The major roles were: Touchstone – R. Thomas; Quicksilver – D. Canter; Golding – D. Farnsworth; Sir Petronel Flash – N. Blake; Security – G. K. Hunter; Bramble – I. Atkin; Wolf – P. O'Connor; Mrs. Touchstone – Sylvia Michaelson; Girtred – Jacqueline Pratt; Mildred – Judith McCartney; Winifred – Pamela Izatt; Syndefy – Janie Thorne. The assistant director was Ann Barlow; the stage manager, Terry Ronald. Costumes, in the Elizabethan style, were by Eileen Osborne; lighting by David Molyneux; properties by Ann Critchley. The music was arranged by A. N. Chadwick.
The play was performed in the Stanley Hall Theatre, equipped with curtains and proscenium arch, but was staged in the Elizabethan manner without scene breaks except for one intermission. A review entitled ‘An “Eastward Ho” that Veered West’ by ‘S. J.’ in The Liverpool Daily Post for 29 June 1962 notes that the production ‘was taken at a pell-mell pace’: ‘It captured the shocking, saucy spirit of both plot and sub-plot, but in that process lost a certain amount of articulateness.’ S. J. seems to have viewed Eastward Ho! as a good-natured moral comedy, for he reports: ‘As the honest goldsmith Touchstone, we had a most telling central portrait by Roger Thomas, fussy, laughable yet worthy. Like all good farce, “Eastward Ho” was meant to illustrate through human dilemma the folly of waywardness.’ From this perspective, the marriage of ‘the ambitious, immodest Girtred’ to ‘the penniless swindler, Sir Petronel Flash’ seemed to mark something of a turn off-course. However, whether misled by Touchstone's gentle humour or because he took the moralistic ending literally, S. J. seems not quite to have caught the spirit of the production. Professor David Canter of the university’s Psychology Department, who played Quicksilver and who has generously shared his reminiscences of the production, comments in a recent communication: ‘I think the review . . . missed the irony we tried to put into the play. We were very aware that the play had not been performed for at least 200 years and had been banned. So part of the mood we injected into it, I’m sure, was the whole ’60s, iconoclastic quality of the times. This may have been my interpretation of the play because of the role I had, but I saw Quicksilver as the main character whose final “conversion” was completely hypocritical just to be able to continue to do what he wanted without being troubled by others . . . We tried to take Quicksilver’s role literally as a quick, slippy character, always up to something different from what he was purporting to be doing . . . I certainly recall that I tried to portray Quicksilver's final conversion to the virtuous track as little more than a ploy . . . One way we did this was to give [Quicksilver’s ‘Repentance’] with very heavy, overdramatic seriousness, accompanied by a bass drum off stage to emphasise the almost gallows, confessional quality of it and so enhance the irony.’
If the Liverpool production attempted to bring out the irony in the ending of Eastward Ho! through exaggerated delivery and off-stage sound effects, the Harvard University production of 1965 did so by rewriting the text. Performances were given from 15-17 and 21-24 April in the Loeb Theatre. Anthony Graham-White, a senior undergraduate with previous dramatic training in England, was the director and designed the set, which used as a backdrop Wenceslas Hollar’s view of buildings along the Thames. The actors included Peter Charles Johnson as Touchstone, Harry Smith as Quicksilver, Eric Bregman as Sir Petronel Flash, Norma Levin as Gertrude, Gary S. Zukav as Security, and David Zalkind as Slitgut. The records of the Harvard Dramatic Club for 1964-65 are very fragmentary, but some sense of the production can be gained from a review by Harrison Young in the Harvard Crimson on 16 April 1965 and from the director’s annotated script, which Professor Graham-White, now head of the Department of Theatre and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago has graciously copied for me.
Graham-White’s script was a synthesis of Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s original text, often rearranged, with elements from Tate’s Cuckolds Haven and excerpts from other works by, or thought to be by, Chapman and Marston. The borrowings from Tate heightened Quicksilver’s defiance of Touchstone. They also enhanced Security’s role as comic usurer and restrictive husband and underscored the irony of Winifred’s escape despite his precautions, creating opportunities for Gary Zukav, who was praised by Young for his comic timing and skill at evoking laughter. By rearranging scenes so that the introduction of Mildred and Golding followed directly on Touchstone’s comments about the differences between his two daughters at 1.1.66-8 and by giving to Mildred Beatrice’s affirmation of ‘hearty gratefulness, / Unsullen silence, unaffected modesty, / And an unignorant shamefastness’ from The Dutch Courtesan, 2.1.17-15, Graham-White made her and Golding more positive figures. Conversely, Graham-White’s alterations made Sir Petronel’s terror at 2.3.61 a direct response to Gertrude herself, rather than to Quicksilver’s description of her future wifely humours, and the sense that his marriage to her was a kind of penance was re-enforced at the end by the addition of a speech from Chapman’s Monsieur D’Olive 1.1.347 ff., lamenting the ‘hell’ of husbands tied to extravagant wives. Finally, although many of the lines parodying citizen comedy were cut from the text, Quicksilver’s reformation was presented subversively. His moralistic lament about the ‘ruin’ caused by ‘licentious policies’ when he emerges from the Thames at 4.1.95 of the original was eliminated, and although the parodic excess of his song of ‘Repentance’ was pruned away, he was given a cynical speech, also derived from Monsieur D’Olive, 1.1.282-88, making absolutely clear that his new ‘honesty’ was only a ploy, inspired by witty lawyers, panders, and tradesmen, and not a real reformation. The effect, as Young noted in his review, was to undercut the moralism of Touchstone’s ‘Now London look about’: ‘For even as Touchstone dispenses justice at the close of the play – like a citizen equivalent of the Prince or Duke at the end of so many of Shakespeare’s – the golden aura he tries to cast over the proceedings is belied by Quicksilver’s hypocritical reformation.’ Young also praised Graham-White for making ‘David Zalkind’s dramatic monologue as Slitgut a farcical interlude legitimately set off from the rest of the play’ and ‘for the restraint of the whole production’, though he lamented the lack of comic flair exhibited by many of the actors.
The 1979 Oxford production by The New Company was presented from 28 November to 1 December in the Newman Rooms and was directed by Mark Hutton. It is known only through a substantial description by R. V. Holdsworth (1979), 74-5:
This was a low-budget production, without scenery, played in a hall without a stage, and using simply a semi-circle of screens to provide entry and exit points. The costuming is best described as vaguely Edwardian. The citizens wore sober black suits and hats . . . Quicksilver and Sir Petronel Flash gaudy cravats and blazers. The cast provided a very enjoyable evening. Their director’s decision to treat the play as burlesque, as a distinctly tongue-in-cheek extravaganza of primly moralizing citizens versus flashy gentry, was clearly right, and made nonsense of the once-common critical view that the play is a straight-forward satire, aimed at social climbers and the upper class. Everyone played, or rather overplayed, their parts effectively, except for Golding, the virtuous prentice, who like Belloc’s Charles Augustus Fortescue always does what is right and so accumulates an immense fortune; he needed to be much more nauseatingly goody-goody. Quicksilver, the prodigal apprentice, had a wonderfully plummy accent, and delivered his annihilating one-liners . . . with ineffable hauteur. The finest piece of acting, however, was David Anderson’s remarkably wizened Security, which gave me a new sense of the importance of the part. Bent almost double and swathed in an enormous shabby overcoat, he looked like a tortoise, yet made the character pathetic as well as grotesque. “I suspected thee,” he gasped out to his wife in shocked tones, when, terrorized and half drowned, he is hoodwinked into believing that he is not, after all, a cuckold. It was a memorable moment, at once sardonic and touching. The bawdy and the songs were also well handled, being both intelligible and very funny, and the cutting (Bramble disappeared) did not show. It was a pity, though, to lose the first half of III.iii, where Seagull rhapsodises about Virginia . . . a beautiful example of Jonson’s ironic method of making deluded fantasy more powerfully appealing than the truth.
‘This production’, Holdsworth concluded, ‘impressed on me what a brilliantly funny and subtle class comedy this is, and how unjustly neglected on the stage’.
The twentieth century also saw at least four radio productions of Eastward Ho!, reflecting a wide range of interpretation. The first of these, produced by the Federal Theatre Radio Division of the United States’ Works Progress Administration, was broadcast on 27 December 1938 by station WQXR, New York, as the eighth in a series of Elizabethan plays directed by Arun Foxman. The note in the programme to this series of ‘13 Elizabethan Dramas’ suggests that the play was given a moralistic interpretation that may have been encouraged by the era of the Great Depression:
Here we have a drama with social implications. It is the triumph of virtue over vice. Of the worthy poor over the dissolute rich. Touchstone, a master goldsmith, has two apprentices. One, Quicksilver, is a shiftless drunkard and a gambler. The other, Golding, is sober, industrious and trustworthy. But the virtues and the vices of this pair are instrumental in thwarting Sir Petronel Flash, a rogue who has compromised Touchstone’s daughter Gy[r]trid into marriage for the purpose of obtaining her heavy dowry and inheritance. Despite the simple Gy[r]trid’s longing for Sir Petronel, she sees through his trickery but forgives him when he repents. The play ends on the triumph of the apprentices, each accomplishing good according to his nature.
This simplistic summary undoubtedly reflects a script much cut from the original text, for the series was broadcast for one hour only on Tuesdays from 9-10 p.m., but the production also seems to have taken the play at face value as a straightforward prodigal-son story.
A second one-half hour radio version was broadcast on 15 and 16 March 1955 by the BBC General Overseas Service as the fourth in a series on ‘Jacobean Theatre’. Written and narrated by H. A. L. Craig and directed by R. D. Smith, its cast included: Scene-setter – Noel Iliff; Touchstone – William Avenall; Quicksilver – Douglas Seale; Golding – Richard Pascoe; Mildred – Betty Linton; Gertrude – Molly Lawson; Poldavy – Jack May; Mistress Fond – Nancy Jackson; Mistress Gazer – Jill Nyasa; Sir Petronel Flash – Alan Bridges; Security – Redmond Phillips; Seagull – Leigh Crutchley; Drawer – Doreen Aris; Wolf – Alan Bridges; and Syndefie – Nancy Jackson. I have not been able to locate a recording of the production, and the BBC Written Archives, which supplied me with this cast list, seems to have no more information about it.
A fuller treatment was afforded by the BBC broadcast version directed by Raymond Raikes and aired on 22 February 1961 on the BBC Third Programme. The cast included Donald Wolfit as Touchstone, Margery Webster as Mrs. Touchstone, June Tobin as Gertrude, Heron Carvic as Sir Petronel Flash, Hugh Dickson as Golding, Freda Dowie as Mildred, Charles Leno as Quicksilver, Janet Richer as Sindefy, John Slater as Security, Nerys Kerfoot as Winifred and Mistress Fond, Michael Bates as Slitgut, and Lawrence Baskcomb as Master Wolf. Minor roles included Michael Turner as Captain Seagull and the Constable, Tom Watson as Poldavy and Scapethrift, Nicholas Edmett as the Page, Footman and Spendall, Charles Simon as Bramble, and Keith Williams as the Drawer and Coachman. The production was well-paced and gave distinctive voice to the contrasting characters. Security was presented as a Jewish moneylender with an Eastern European accent and some Yiddish expressions. June Tobin was an energetic and shrill-voiced Gertrude whose bawdy ballads and joking with Poldavy suggested her absorption with sexual fantasies. Leno’s Quicksilver spoke in a sarcastic tone with a bit of Cockney accent, while Wolfit’s Touchstone modulated nicely between his roles as a sharp master, a bemused commentator on Gertrude and Sir Petronel, and a good-humoured sponsor to Mildred and Golding.
Raikes’s artful use of sound effects and music (provided by a portion of the New Century Orchestra) also effectively brought out Eastward Ho!’s vivid evocation of London’s commercial life and underscored its dramatic ironies, achieving a happy union between the resources of radio theatre and the play’s complexity of tone. As Frederick Laws noted in his review for The Listener, the music by Christopher Whelen was ‘witty, varied, and practical’, and ‘the numerous songs in the play came off very well indeed’. The prologue, in multiple voices, was spoken against an evocative background of London street noises, and sound effects (‘horse gallup up and stop’, ‘coach arrive and depart’, ‘crowd cheering’, ‘stormy wind’, ‘thunder’, etc.) were used throughout to heighten the drama and create a sense of realistic colour. Considerable trimming and cutting was necessary to make the production fit its two-hour time slot: Winifred’s reunion with Security in 4.1 was eliminated, as was Touchstone’s first encounter in 4.2 with Gertrude and Mrs. Touchstone as they return from their futile search for Gertrude’s castle in the country. Touchstone’s sermonizing on prodigality in the same scene was much reduced, and Quicksilver’s moralistic coming-ashore speech in 4.1, his confident account of alchemical deceits to boost Sir Petronel’s confidence, and the report by Wolf of his amazing reformation in prison were all omitted. However, to Laws, the production nicely underlined the play’s parodic elements:
The eternally popular contrast between the idle and industrious apprentices is heavily pointed — so heavily that it sounded like parody. The sober citizen Touchstone . . . with his catchphrase ‘work upon that now’ duly triumphed; but his bad apprentice Quicksilver . . . and the deplorable Sir Petronel Flash . . . had much the best of the dialogue . . . It was right to play the improving passages about the ‘two kinds of gentlemen – artificial and natural’ straight, but the mockery of city virtue lasts better than its glorification. Nobody has bettered ‘when thy name shall be written upon Conduits’ for a definition of aldermanic honour.
In the prison scene, Quicksilver’s song of repentance was briskly spoken as a quick recitative with strings in the background and French horns making a ‘wa-wa’ response to each stanza. Touchstone’s final moralizing was set off by a trumpet call and drum roll. The aural effects of radio theatre thus became an important element in establishing the production’s sardonic perspective on the characters and their actions even when some of the satiric hyperbole in the text had to be sacrificed.
If Raikes’s 1961 production offered a subtle reading of Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s bemused take on bourgeois moralizing, the BBC version broadcast on 21 October 1973 presented an even more cynical interpretation. It was directed by Martin Esslin and adapted by Peter Barnes (now listed on the programme as one of the authors), who revised the ending so that profit, not morality became the uppermost consideration. The cast included David Neal as Touchstone, Joe Melia as Quicksilver, Dilys Laye as Gertrude, Norman Rodway as Sir Petronel Flash, Peter Craze as Golding, Sandra Clark as Mildred, Ann Heffernan as Mrs. Touchstone, Cyril Shaps as Security, Hilda Schroder as Winnie, Jan Edwards as Sindefy, Timothy Bateson as Wolf, and Peter Williams as the Narrator and as Slitgut. The instrumental ensemble was again led by Christopher Whelen, who composed nineteen minutes of incidental and transitional music. Barnes treated the text freely, adding songs and characters such as a preacher (David Sinclair) to preside over the play’s two weddings, introducing new speeches like Sir Petronel Flash’s description of the pleasures Gertrude will enjoy at his castle, and substituting his own more explicit bawdy for some of the original. Golding and Mildred were made to seem even more priggish and to take delight in the material perquisites of Golding’s new rank. In the prison scene Quicksilver was quite explicit about the difference between true reformation and seeming penitence, and subsequently he and Sir Petronel bribed Golding into supporting their plea for mercy from Touchstone by promising him a share in the Virginia voyage. Barnes transferred Seagull’s original description of Virginian gold into act 5, where the ladies were excited at the prospect of gold chamber pots. When Touchstone hesitated to forgive Quicksilver, Golding won him over by pointing out that prosecuting his son-in-law won’t look good to the city fathers and would only give power to the lawyers, that he had little hope of recovering Sir Petronel’s debts, and that he would do better to let the rogues sail to Virginia on condition that they gave him half the profits. When Security, too, agreed to share his wealth with Touchstone, the play ended on a happy note with the promise of a festive banquet before the Virginia voyage. The subtle parody of the original was thus replaced by cynically explicit bargaining that exposed all the characters – citizens and rogues alike – as deluded fools and hypocrites. In doing so Barnes transformed Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s playful ridicule of bourgeois moralism and the citizen ethos of diligence and thrift into an even sharper satire on the worship of gain as the citizen’s true religion.
Recent University Productions
From the Mermaid Theatre’s 1981 musical version to the end of the twentieth century there seems to have been a long gap in performances of Eastward Ho!, but the late 1990s saw a sudden burst of productions. In December 1997 the play was presented by the University of Bristol Department of Drama. On 8 November 1998 the Globe Theatre gave it one of its staged readings, though the event was not reviewed and information about it is hard to come by. In the same month a production directed by students of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School was staged at the New Vic Studio of the Theatre Royal, Bristol. The play was performed again by the ‘King’s Players’ of King’s College, University of London, in late March of 2000.
The University of Bristol production, directed by Martin White, was performed at the Wickham Theatre on 11-13 December 1997 by second and third year students as part of a project on ‘Renaissance Drama in Practice’ illustrating how early plays might be transposed to another period. As the programme explained, the Victorian period was chosen because it afforded social and literary parallels: ‘The middle-years of the nineteenth century provided our general context, many of the social values of that time echoing those expressed in the play. The early novels of Charles Dickens provided a useful source of ideas. Dickens, like his Jacobean counterparts, was obsessed with London, a creator of sharply drawn but extravagant characters, a master of plot-complexity, and keen to shift the tones of his work between the sinister and comic, to mix sentiment and sentimentality’. The change in period made some changes to the original text desirable. The Scots jokes were excised, and Mrs. Fond (Helen Burns) and Mrs. Gazer (Laura Wade), who doubled as milliners with a basket of clothes to dress Gertrude (Amy Gravelle), were substituted for Poldavy. Captain Seagull, Spendall, and Scapethrift were replaced by two women travellers, Mistress Compass (Sophie Prideaux) and Mistress Map (Emily Banfield), whose destination was India, not Virginia. The departure of Gertrude for the country by coach was staged with echoes of Nicholas Nickleby. Since the play was presented in the round, the set was minimalist, but properties were cleverly recombined so that the stagecoach was formed of trunks and tables used earlier, with parasols for wheels. The goldsmith’s shop in act 1 was portrayed as an artisan’s workshop with a golden bowl displayed on a red cloth. At the start of act 4 the effect of the storm was created by one big lantern swinging across the stage. Cuckold’s Haven was represented by the central pillar in the auditorium, climbed not by one butcher, but by two – Slitgut and Mrs. Slitgut – wearing matching eye-patches on opposite eyes.
The salient idea behind the production was that the play depicts a world in which money drives most relationships. The text was rearranged at the beginning so that Golding (Barny Meats) and Mildred (Emily Balkwill) provided a sympathetic contrast to the more predatory characters, as Golding, played as a shy, diligent young man, tried to find a moment to give Mildred a gift that he had made for her. On the other hand, Quicksilver (Chris Gunter), though physically dexterous and attractive, was depicted as a slippery figure with an eye to the main chance. His heartless treatment of Sindefy (Emily Banfield) paralleled the cynicism of Sir Petronel Flash (Tom Rogers) about plundering Gertrude. Like Mrs. Touchstone (Sophie Prideaux), Gertrude was played as sexually interested in the men, but not otherwise concerned with anyone but herself. In act 5 when she had fallen on hard times, she was shown to have sold not only her own clothes but those of Hamlet (Sam Alexander, with his hair cut to look like Sir Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet), who was forced to sit onstage in his underwear as she and Sindefy shared a meal of a tiny partridge. Her reconciliation with Touchstone (James Anderson) was presented as something forced by necessity, like Quicksilver’s conversion – both had learned how to play the game. The latter’s song of repentance was sung beautifully, causing everyone on stage to dab their eyes, though Golding, like the elder brother in the parable, was depicted as resentful that Quicksilver could get away with his act. The marriages and reconciliations at the end were undercut by the curtain calls, as the lights went down after Touchstone’s last speech only to be brought up on a tableau of the actors arguing with each other, and this was repeated again a second time in a new combination so as to suggest that the harmony at the end of the play would not last very long.
The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School version, which received 14 performances between 11-21 November 1998, was a Jacobean-dress production directed by John Hartoch. The musical director was Andrew Allpars; the lighting designer, Victoria Kilpatrick; the sound designer, Kim Lewis; and the set designer, Penny Fit. In a note to accompany the picture of her stage in Timespace: Design for Performance 1995-99, Fit described her design as ‘less a set than a stage; a stage which could fuse our 20th-century studio space with the Blackfriars’ stage of 1605 on which the play was originally performed’ (Hall and Burnett, 1999, 69). The stage platform, two steps higher than the theatre floor, angled towards the centre from both sides, creating the effect of a thrust stage. The stage façade in weathered wood contained an open doorway topped by a balcony at far stage left and stairs leading up through another open doorway stage right, with two additional hinged openings at stage centre and stage left to allow multiple points of access and to create the goldsmith’s shop when needed. A central trap door was used by Touchstone as a refuge when besieged by his pleading wife and daughters in act 5. Inked across the stage facade was an enlarged version of J. Moor’s 1662 ‘Map of London, Westminster and Southwark, with views on the river from Greenwich to Gravesend’, including the Isle of Dogs and Cuckold’s Haven, which ‘laid out the geography for our 20th-century audience’ (ibid.). A high pole whose top could be swung outward from the stage façade by chains attached to the catwalk overhead formed Slitgut’s perch at the beginning of act 4, and the prison in act 5 was suggested by a grid pattern projected onto the stage floor by lighting. In the absence of curtains, the play began and ended with a clever new prologue and epilogue by John Hartoch, which served respectively to illuminate the play’s original satire on such targets as James’s forty-pound knights and his Scots courtiers and to close on a teasing note by suggesting that the modern audience would never engage in such behaviours as marrying for money or cheating on their spouses. A ‘mid-logue’ after intermission gave the audience some useful background on Cuckold’s Haven before Slitgut appeared. The music was an eclectic mix, ranging from period songs to Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’ played on recorders, to the theme song from the television show ‘EastEnders’.
Though briskly paced and anchored by energetic performances from Adam Booth as Touchstone and Ian Duncan as Quicksilver, the production was distinguished more by gently ironic humour than by sharply satiric characterization. Lisa Kay as Gertrude had moments of disdainful scorn for her city relatives, but played her role at first more as a dreamy fantasist than as an aggressively ambitious fool. Ian Duncan’s Golding and Camilla Bullus’s Mildred were disapproving of their prodigal counterparts without being parodies of virtuous priggishness, though Mildred was given a comic moment when Gertrude’s request for a little box on the ear led to a broad slap. Jenny Coversack was a somewhat lachrymose Mistress Touchstone, weeping throughout 5.1 when she saw her social-climbing daughter reduced to her shift by her misfortune. Cameron Fitch’s Sir Petronel Flash was a shallow poseur rather than a cynical predator, and Laura Strachan’s Sindefy was a gentle rather than a brazen figure, more a country girl seduced by false promises than a hardened mistress. Paul Currier’s Security was a comical dotard with bent posture, a pouch full of mortgages, and keys to lock in Winifred (Elizabeth Hurran), but was tricked by Sindefy, who stole the keys and helped Sir Petronel to sneak past Security to Winifred in 2.2, thereby introducing more preparation for the affair between Petronel and her than is provided in the original text.
The ending of the play was treated with the same balance of sympathy, humour, and irony as earlier scenes. Although a programme note invited the audience’s amusement at Quicksilver’s ‘Last Farewell’, it did not question its motives: ‘We are used to Jonson showing that the repentance of rogues is never sincere and that the “humours” of their character make-up will mean an inevitable return to their old ways, but in Eastward Ho! this is expressed not by seeing it happen, but by creating a “genuine” repentance which is so laughable as to be unreal’. Accordingly, Quicksilver’s reformed demeanour was acted without exaggeration, and his ballad of ‘Repentance’ was sung in a forceful, straightforward baritone, but the whole event was framed as laughable by the musical accompaniment. As each stanza was sung, more instrumentalists joined in: a guitarist during the second verse, a violinist during the third, a cello player revealed behind the centre stage doors during the fourth, and prisoners with recorders rising through the trap door during the fifth. Moreover, a sentimental touch was added to the repentance scene by the anxious presence of Sindefy in the prison, masked and cloaked so as to be anonymous but ready to reveal herself when Quicksilver was forgiven and Golding proposed that Quicksilver’s marriage to her be one of the conditions of his forgiveness. In an upbeat ending, Touchstone spoke his closing verses while coming towards the audience hand in hand with Gertrude (‘the prodigal child’) and Quicksilver (‘the lost sheep’).
The production by the King’s College players was performed from 30 March to 1 April 2000 at The Greenwood Theatre, Weston Street, London, and directed by Martha Crossley and Nick Tanner. The designer was Nel Boase. As Nick Tanner explains in his very helpful ‘Director’s Notes’, from which many of the details below are taken, he and his co-director were attracted to the play by its comic possibilities, by its thrust and energy, and by its reflexive joking about the Elizabethan theatre. The original text was adopted with only minor cuts, the Scots jokes were played up, and Hamlet the footman found a skull and was about to talk to it when Potkin cut him off with ‘’Sfoot, Hamlet, are you mad?’ The production adopted a generally ironic stance but accepted the complexities of characterization that may have resulted from the play’s collaborative authorship. Quicksilver (Michael Chance) was given the accent of a gentleman born and presented as an appealing rogue, but one whose bombastic speech style was shaped by his play-going and who was unable to orchestrate events with the skill of a Mosca or Face. His bankside speech of desperation at 4.1.90 was delivered as the expression of someone ‘who was being pushed to the edge of his resolve but who decided not to throw in the towel’ and later recovered his aplomb by quick thinking. Gertrude (Juliette Goodman) was allowed to be a changeable character, at times petulant and bitter, at times caught up in fantasies of grandeur, but reduced by 5.1 to being ‘sad and small, with occasional flashes of defiance building to her rejection of her mother [and] then . . . dissolving in tears’ that allowed the audience to empathize with her. Sir Petronel (Nick Tanner) was also seen as part knave and part gull, no mere fop given his energy in seducing Winifred (Kitty Ford) and in the tavern scenes, though reduced to Quicksilver’s comic foil later. The praise of morality, thrift, and trade by Golding (Grant Hibbard) and Mildred (Lily Ford) was allowed to stand, though other characters on stage rolled their eyes at them, and Mildred’s ‘violent flatteries of fortune’ speech at 2.1.51 was given a seductive undercurrent. Security (Simon Ray) established something of a relationship with the audience at his first appearance in 2.2, but was generally stingy and repulsive (his ‘feastlike’ breakfast was crusts and water), though sympathetically desperate at 3.4 and comically inept at the end as he struggled to improvise rhymes. By contrast, Touchstone (Michael Caines) was played as a vigorous, angry figure whose ‘Work upon that now’ was spoken gratingly and who forcefully took command of scenes until he was fooled by Quicksilver’s mock repentance at the end.
One challenge of the production was adapting a work written for an intimate Jacobean indoor theatre to the space of the Greenwood Theatre, which featured a large, proscenium-arch stage with a six foot apron that could be raised or lowered. The directors solved this problem partly by using lighting to reduce or expand the size of the acting area and by setting the scene only with properties that were carried or lowered onstage. Tanner’s ‘Director’s Notes’ describe the various settings:
The goldsmith’s was represented by a work table, bench and stool, and a chair and table for the account books. A golden globe hung above backstage right, lit by a warm yellow light to mark the identity of the shop. As throughout the production, the design was kept simple, with as close to period furniture as we could acquire serving as the only set. For Security’s house, the smaller table and chair remained, covered with black cloth, whilst two large lanterns were lowered in, each casting a pool of light on an otherwise dark and dingy stage . . . With the tavern, we wanted to create an almost magical atmosphere for Seagull’s speeches on Virginia, so had the sailors seated round a table with a large chandelier hanging directly above, creating a solitary pool of light which bounced off the map onto their gathered faces. Once again, darkness was used as a contrast to the outdoor and more fully lit goldsmith scenes. For the river bank, the large apron was lowered to a half-way level, giving a step up to the main stage which served as a muddy promontory, whilst Slitgut (as with Fond and Gazer, and Security in the prison) used one of the two balconies at either side of the stage. For the shipwreck, the voyagers entered at the back of the auditorium, drenched to the bone . . . and ran wailing down the aisles to cast themselves up on the bank formed by the lower apron. This nicely unsettled the audience, and as with the exit from the tavern, received spontaneous applause.
In the prison, the apron was fully lowered, and the backcloth flown up, opening out the entire stage as far back as the bare brick walls of the theatre. A frame of prison bars split up the main area of the stage into free and imprisoned space, whilst five actors, one pregnant, lounged about in rags in the large prison area. The idea behind this design was to get the sense of [a] Jacobean prison as a series of large and unpleasant rooms as opposed to small, sterile cells; we also wanted to give the audience something arresting to look at in the final act which would augment the harsher tones of the second half of the play. The final image was in fact the prison: after Touchstone had made his speech and the cast had progressed out of the prison and up through the aisles, and Quicksilver had delivered his Epilogue and exited the stage, the lights were held for a few seconds as Wolf closed the prison door, sneered at the pregnant prisoner and slouched back into the shadows.
The unmarked change of scene in the original text after 2.2.166 was effected by dimming the lights and then bringing them up again after a short musical interlude.
Music was central to the production. For pre-show and incidental music, including a jig after Gertrude’s ‘Come, sweet knight . . . I do hunger and thirst to be abed with thee’ at 2.3.140-1, arrangements of Jacobean string and wind pieces by Philip Pickett were used. Where possible, the songs in the text were sung to their original settings. ‘As such’, Tanner notes, ‘Gertrude’s song of the Golden Shower was both funny and very moving. Equally important, it was not until we added a lute player and set Quicksilver’s song in 3.2 to its original setting that we realised the full potential of the scene as a desperate improvisation to stall Gertrude, and after which it was one of the funniest scenes in the play.’ For the end of the tavern scene (3.3) the actors sang contemporary sea shanties as the action reached a pitch of drunken carousal. Quicksilver’s song of ‘Repentance’ in 5.5 was ‘confidently sung veering towards ham at certain moments’, milking the audience’s laughter at the end by ‘his bursting forth once again after it had seemed that he was finally finished’.
The 2002-03 Royal Shakespeare Production
After so many university performances in the space of a few years, it is not surprising to find Eastward Ho! returning to the professional stage. In 2002 it was given a highly successful production by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Swan Theatre in Stratford as part of a series of five Elizabethan and Jacobean plays, including Edward III, The Island Princess, The Malcontent, and The Roman Actor, acted in repertory by the same ensemble. Eastward Ho! , directed by Lucy Pitman-Wallace, opened on 25 April. In December, under the sponsorship of the producers Thelma Holt and Bill Kenwright, all five plays were moved to the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End, where Eastward Ho! opened on 21 December. When early ticket sales for the series were strong, the run was extended two months. Some images of the production are reproduced in the Stage History archive.
In addition to Lucy Pitman-Wallace, the production team included: Robert Jones, decor; Wayne Dowdeswell, lighting; Martin Slavin, sound; Sue Lefton, choreography; Mick Sands, music; Terry King, fights. The cast was: William Touchstone – Geoffrey Freshwater; Mistress Touchstone – Claire Benedict; Gertrude – Amanda Drew; Mildred – Shelley Conn; Golding – James Tucker; Quicksilver – Billy Carter; Sindefy – Sasha Behar; Sir Petronel Flash – Michael Matus; Flash’s Page, Slitgut, Hamlet – Avin Shah; Security – Paul Bentall; Winifred – Sian Howard; Bramble – Colin McCormack; Seagull, Mistress Fond – David Acton; Spendall, Holdfast, Mistress Gazer – Keith Osborn; Scapethrift, Potkin, Gentleman – Vincent Brimble; Constable, Gentleman – Sean Hannaway; Poldavy, Coachman, Wolf – Joshua Richards; Scrivener, Drawer – Wayne Cater.
In general, the RSC production emphasized the play’s London setting but brought out its satire on the social climbers and courtly pretenders more sharply than its ridicule of the citizen ethos, preferring to exploit more accessible sources of humour than to depend on the audience’s knowledge of the Elizabethan popular drama it parodied. As Lucy Pitman-Wallace noted in the following e-mail communication, her conception of the play developed as she explored the complexities of characterization with the actors:
I started with the idea that Quicksilver does not truly repent and that his song is another piece of acting to get him out of jail. This means that Touchstone is gulled by it. Flash, however, really does repent. Quicksilver I imagined as the finest actor in the boys company who fancies himself a bit and can be . . . all things to all men. In the actual playing of the last scene I enjoy the ambiguity that an audience may believe him as genuine. Billy [Carter] and I worked on him very much as mercury. I certainly started on the side of the rogue characters, Flash, Quicksilver, Security and even Gertrude. Golding is priggish, puritan-like and a killjoy (he’d rather have no guests at his own wedding), but his genuine love for Mildred and even Quicksilver redeem him. Jimmy [Tucker] really helped to find the softer elements of Golding. We also played with the idea of him as the “hero” of the play. Touchstone has a sparkle and commonsense, but he does get carried away by his vindictiveness and so his gulling seems appropriate, yet he is blissfully unaware. I enjoyed the idea that Touchstone and Quicksilver almost battle for the narrative – who tells the story. Geoffrey [Freshwater] found a great way of really bringing the audience in on Touchstone’s side – I asked him to imagine that everyone is a fellow shopkeeper. Gertrude’s accent drifts because she aspires to be a lady, but can’t quite lose her East End roots, especially when she becomes angry . . . Amanda [Drew] and I worked on the sense of her as a very spoilt child who has been indulged by mother and probably ignored by father. However she also has the innocence of a child. She grows up during the play, as does Flash; this allows us to reconcile them at the end.
This approach gave the actors – and the audience – a way to connect with their roles, but it downplayed Eastward Ho!’s satire on contemporary plays that valorise citizens. It also created some tension between the production’s slightly ironic take on Quicksilver’s repentance on the one hand and the more straightforward treatment of Gertrude and Sir Petronel as true prodigals on the other. At the same time, thanks to good pacing, some inventive touches, and strong performances by key actors, it provided a comically satisfying experience that pleased the majority of reviewers and delighted a growing audience.
As Pitman-Wallace indicates, the play’s mockery of Touchstone’s self-righteous thriftiness and Golding’s self-effacing diligence was consciously softened somewhat by giving them sympathetic touches. Though Geoffrey Freshwater’s Touchstone gradually wound up to an increasingly more manic pitch in acts 4 and 5, Michael Billington praised him in The Guardian for 26 April for ‘adroitly’ mixing ‘vengefulness and bonhomie’, and Lois Potter (2003, 91), reviewing the series for Shakespeare Quarterly, felt that he caught beautifully the ‘combination of the crafty and the sentimental’. If there was ‘real sadistic relish’, as Billington put it, in his exultation that Gertrude, Mrs. Touchstone, and Sindefy, ‘in pursuit of aristocratic castles in the air, are forced to spend the night in a coach “like three snails in a shell”’, he also showed a wry good humour and affection when he accepted Mrs. Touchstone back at 4.2.101, and his stance towards the prodigals at the beginning of the play was more one of bemused irony than savage indignation. As a commonsensical commentator on the courtly pretensions of Gertrude and Sir Petronel, he continually evoked laughter with his sardonic asides. James Tucker also acted Golding ‘with a lightness that takes the curse off his prissy role’, as Rhoda Koenig stated in her review for The Financial Times on 26 December. At 1.1.108-09 when Golding trips up Quicksilver’s heels after he offers to draw, Tucker spoke the line, ‘Alas, I behold thee with pity, not with anger’ with such an emphasis on pity that he communicated concern as well as disapproval. Lois Potter also found other emotional depths in his performance:
In the scene where Touchstone lets his son-in-law pronounce sentence on Quicksilver and Petronel Flash, James Tucker’s Golding showed alarm as he caught the stridently self-righteous tone of his own voice. Helen Ostovich’s intelligent program notes remark on how even Golding gets caught up in the playacting that brings about a happy ending. Here his eagerness to get Touchstone to pardon the prodigals seems partly motivated by remorse. Since the production suggested that Sindefy really loved Quicksilver, Golding’s insistence that the latter should marry her (with a dowry from Security) looked like another surprisingly imaginative idea on his part rather than a bow to convention. (91)
Moreover, the playscript published for the Royal Shakespeare Company by Nick Hern Books (2002) shows that the puritanical moralism and citizen values of Touchstone and Golding were also diluted by discreet cuts to their lines. In the opening scene Touchstone’s thrifty sentences were reduced to ‘Touchstone, keep thy shop and thy shop will keep thee’. His allusions to the ‘worthies’ of the city such as Gresham and Whittington at 4.2.53-57 were omitted, as was his advice to Golding to let Quicksilver and Sir Petronel ‘taste the fury of a citizen in office’ (lines 133-5) and the exaggerated alliteration in his denunciation of the ‘pox of pleasure’, the ‘piles of perdition’, and ‘the cart of calamity’ at lines 242-47. Golding’s promise to practise ‘the honest and orderly industry and skill of our trade’ (2.1.62-3) was cut, and the comical echo of Hamlet in his insistence that ‘the superfluity and cold meat’ left from Sir Petronel and Gertrude’s wedding ‘will with bounty furnish ours’ was left to stand on its own without subsequent moralizing about how ‘the grossest prodigality is superfluous cost of the belly’ (2.1.130-2). Such omissions made Touchstone and Golding seem somewhat less ridiculous or priggish, but they did so at the cost of weakening Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s satire on popular plays and novels celebrating the triumph of civic virtue.
At the same time, the production picked up on more obvious aspects of the authors’ intertextual wit and treated Quicksilver’s repentance with a teasing uncertainty that complicated but did not eliminate entirely its parody of the literature of reform. Avin Shaw’s Hamlet got laughs not only as the object of Potkin’s query about his madness but also because he moped about the stage picking at a loaf of bread which, as he exited, was revealed to be in the shape of a skull. Quicksilver’s repetition of bombastic speeches by Marlowe and Kyd was underscored by Billy Carter’s broad dramatic gestures and bounding movements, which established Quicksilver as a changeable figure who delights in role-playing. Although Alastair Macauley, writing in The Financial Times for 29 April, felt he worked ‘too hard’ at his part, the exaggeration not only helped to draw the parallel between Quicksilver’s theatrical fantasies and Gertrude’s absorption in sexual daydreams derived from ballads and romances, but it also prepared the way for his stagy delivery of his ‘Repentance’ in act 5. Once again the text was cut so that some of the more ludicrous details, such as Quicksilver’s choice of the tune for ‘I wail in woe, I plunge in pain’ and his stanza about cutting off ‘the horsehead of Sin’, were omitted. The awed discussions of his supposed transformation in 5.3 and 5.5 by the First and Second Prisoners and their credulous Friend were eliminated entirely. Instead, the prison scenes were introduced by the sound of chanting inmates singing the sombre first verse of Thomas Ravenscroft’s ‘Remember, O thou man . . . / Thy time is spent’. As in the King’s Players production, Carter delivered Quicksilver’s ballad straightforwardly in a strong voice, but with his arms raised widely as he knelt on the stage in a grid-like pattern of light and shadow. His exaggerated gesturing and the conventional piety of some of his lines were sufficient to invite laughter from many of the audience: his declaration that he would ‘let God work his will’ (5.3.73-4) and his offer to go home through the streets as a spectacle to children (5.5.178-80) were both received with amusement in the performances we saw. Still, as Paul Taylor noted in The Independent for 1 May, there was ‘a little indecision about the degree to which the pious homilies should be wedged within inverted commas’, and Touchstone’s willingness to forgive his errant apprentice seemed not so much foolishly deluded as benign. To an academic critic like David Nicol (2002, 22.11), reviewing the production for Early Modern Literary Studies, the sentimentality of the ending ‘had the effect of highlighting Touchstone as the play’s true hero’ and ‘of mitigating the play’s totalising attack on the citizenry. But it also, perversely, turned Eastward Ho! into one of the very plays it was originally written to satirise. Nicol admitted that one difficulty of staging Eastward Ho! for modern audiences was that ‘most audience members will be unfamiliar with the plays it was parodying’, but he wished that the RSC had paired it with a play like The London Prodigal that would have pointed up its parodic elements more clearly.
Yet if this production chose to minimize Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s satire on the literature of repentance and civic virtue, it offered much to amuse. One factor that contributed substantially to the production’s success was a stellar performance by Amanda Drew as Gertrude that was universally praised and evoked a long encomium from Alastair Macaulay:
Amanda Drew lights up the whole play like a star, a very twinkly star. This Gertrude is a comic caricature. She can’t pronounce her Rs (‘vewy well’), or her ‘ths’, and her accent does a shuttle service between upper and lower classes. But she herself is so lit up by her vivid sense of Jacobean movement – she beats at her corseting with alternate fists when she’s intemperate, she trips through a travelling dance when she’s gleeful – so ardent in her attention to other people onstage (what a gaze she has), and such a source of glee that she makes the whole world of the play more riveting; more real, even. Her most affected remarks seemed to have formed themselves in her head that very second. Gertrude’s linguistic schticks (‘As I am a lady’), she makes delicious; the flights of period parlance (‘Now, out upon thee baggage, my sister married in a taffeta hat?’) she makes hilariously self-revealing. She uses a throaty, gurgly voice . . . and it releases her: the way she can build a long sentence or a speech has real musical imagination. She can be artlessly dirty (‘With arm, or leg, or any other member’, drolly done), or – quite a different matter – thoughtlessly gross (‘We shall as soon get a fart from a dead man as a farthing of courtesy here’). This twit, this arriviste, carries all before her, and wins all hearts. (Financial Times, 29 April)
Wearing a red wig with long ringlets and later carrying a basket containing a small stuffed lapdog, Drew’s Gertrude giggled, pouted, and squawked her way through the play, hurling her shoes onstage before she first appeared in 1.2, speaking contemptuously of ‘shitizens’, skipping like a child in her new velvet gown, assaulting Sir Petronel with an aggressive kiss, throwing an exaggerated fit at the sight of the newly-married Golding and Mildred in 3.2, allowing herself to be waltzed grandly around the stage by Petronel and Quicksilver as they tried desperately to delay her departure until she signed away her land, quarrelling shrewishly with her mother in 5.1, and reclaiming Sir Petronel joyfully at the end. To John Gross, her performance demonstrated ‘perfect comic pitch’ (The Sunday Telegraph, 28 April).
Although not everyone in the cast matched Drew’s level of performance, the production also brought out the comic possibilities of many of the other roles as well. Writing in The Evening Standard for 26 April, Rachel Halliburton praised ‘Paul Bentall’s dank and dastardly money-lender, Security, Sasha Behar’s savvy prostitute, Sindefy’, and the ‘enjoyable fluttering-eyelashed foppery by Michael Matus’ as Sir Petronel, equipped with elegant Cavalier moustache and goatee. Behar, in a flashy red silk gown, struck a sceptical pose during Security’s praise of money-lending in 2.2 and exited in disgust as he requested Quicksilver’s help in bringing Sir Petronel within his ‘parchment toils’, but she took her turn as a trickster when she reappeared later in a demure black robe and long white bands to be presented to Gertrude as ‘a gentleman’s daughter new come out of the country’ (2.3.94). Bental’s Security, with long stringy hair and a black skullcap and gown, impressed Benedict Nightingale as ‘gruesomely malevolent’ (The Times, 29 April), but his excited giggles at the thought of cuckolding Bramble in 3.2 underscored the irony of his own deception by Sir Petronel, and in the final scene his off-key singing was so comically dreadful that his forgiveness was wished for by all. Sian Howard played his wife Winifred at first as an emotional, repressed figure who breathed deeply when she first met Sir Petronel, but effectively demonstrated her ‘woman’s wit’ at 4.1.204-18 as her suspenseful look at Security to see if her exclamation ‘my dear husband’ would work gave way to the outraged wonder of her question, ‘Did you suspect me?’ Michael Matus played Sir Petronel as a showy poseur, and although his ‘endlessly bright oeillades this way and that’ struck Alastair Macauley as a bit extreme (Financial Times, 29 April), he made a striking transition in 4.2 when Touchstone’s threats of prosecution induced a comic terror that led him and Quicksilver to grovel in fear before their accuser.
The production kept many of the play’s topical jokes but supplemented them with some broad humour and a few anachronistic touches. Sir Petronel’s encounter with the two ‘Frenchified’ Englishmen in 4.1 made a comic point of its place name (the ‘Isle of Dogs’), and Seagull’s account of Utopian conditions in the New World was set off amusingly by two shadowy tavern-goers who slammed their pots down angrily when he suggested that the Scots all be sent to Virginia. The shipwrecked prodigals not only had lost their finery when they staggered onstage, but had acquired some comical properties from their time in the water – a crab in Security’s breeches, seaweed in Winifred’s bosom, a sardine in Seagull’s mouth and a ship’s wheel around his neck – and Sir Petronel’s fashionable thimble-shaped hat had shrunk to something not much larger than a thimble. In a campy variant on the play’s original presentation by boy actors, Mistress Fond and Mistress Gazer were played in drag, and some of the humour was given an up-to-date spin. The drunken Quicksilver appeared carrying a bag labelled ‘Ye Odde Byn Endes’ in reference to the Oddbins chain of liquor stores, and Touchstone signalled his dismissal by giving him a sheet of parchment with ‘P Forty-Five’ – the modern English discharge notice (P45) – printed prominently on it in Gothic lettering. Golding’s deputy alderman’s chain had for its medallion a red and blue London Underground symbol. A few critics, like Kate Bassett, objected to these ‘crass modern gags’ (The Independent, 5 January 2003), but more agreed with John Gross’s view that ‘the whole thing is explosively funny, and though a few modern touches are introduced (legitimately, I think), its essential vitality is plainly that of the Jacobean original’ (The Sunday Telegraph, 28 April 2002).
The staging of the production also blended modern and Jacobean practice. It began with a reminiscence of civic pageantry as two robed men wearing ruffs and headdresses with gilded model ships processed in stately fashion across the rear of the stage against a vivid royal-blue backdrop. Then the calls of the watch and of street vendors crying their wares were heard as the scene filled with costermongers carrying baskets on their heads in a manner that reminded several reviewers of the movie version of Oliver. After this opening, colour was provided by Robert Jones’s splendid period costumes, which differentiated nicely between the plainer dress of the citizens and the often-changed outfits of velvet plush and silk brocade worn by Sir Petronel, the prodigal Quicksilver, and Gertrude. The stage set itself was minimal, making frequent use of the Swan’s lower side balconies and higher central balcony supported at the front left by a wooden post for Slitgut to climb; the stage below was open all the way back to the theatre’s brick wall. Locations were defined only by properties carried onstage – the goldsmith’s shop, Security’s house, and the tavern were suggested by shifting configurations of benches, tables, and barrels. Pitman-Wallace received praise from Rachel Halliburton for manipulating ‘the Swan’s space sensitively, using the galleries so that music and singing suddenly spill onto the bare stage’ (The Evening Standard, 26 April). In fact, the production’s use of song throughout brought it close to the kind of musical that Bernard Miles must have originally hoped for in his 1982 production at the Mermaid Theatre. Though some pieces, such as the Phantom-of-the Opera-like music that preceded act 4 to indicate the storm, were in a modern idiom, musical director Mick Sands not only found Jacobean settings of the original songs whenever possible, but supplemented them with appropriate period music to mark scene changes, as in the prison scene mentioned above or again in the transition between 4.1 and 4.2, where Ravenscroft’s ‘I Lay with an Old Man’ underscored the theme of cuckoldry. The show ended on a festive note with a song celebrating the reunion of the play’s three couples. Despite a few dissenters, most critics praised its staging: Paul Taylor, writing in The Independent (1 May), said that ‘by and large . . . Lucy Pitman-Wallace’s production is a zestful, spiritedly acted affair’; John Peter, in The Sunday Times for 5 May, judged it to be ‘a sparky, entertaining production, turning what are little more than types into vigorous characters’; and Charles Spencer, in The Daily Telegraph for 27 April, called it ‘an absolute delight’.
Although Eastward Ho! has been performed only intermittently in the four hundred years since its writing, its varied adaptations serve as an interesting barometer of changing taste and social attitudes. Its ambiguous take on citizens and social climbers, wantons and wits has afforded opportunities for Tate’s ridicule of tradesmen, Garrick’s moralism, Lennox’s sentimentalism, and more recently, a range of ironic interpretations that exploit its parodic allusions and its subversive energies. It offers appealing comic roles in Gertrude and Quicksilver, and commentators on many different productions have also singled out Security and Slitgut as figures of special interest. It is also a highly theatrical piece in which frequent costume change points up the characters’ intrigues and social ambitions, and a musical one, whose many ballads and song snatches are integral to its characterization and comic effects. Written for a theatre whose scenic conventions allow free movement from internal to external settings, its action builds in intensity towards its two great climactic scenes – the tavern revelry that ends act 3 as the prodigals depart on their ill-fated voyage to Virginia and Quicksilver’s performance of his ‘Repentance’ in the final prison scene of act 5. Well-staged, as the 2002 RSC production demonstrates, it is not only a witty comedy that comments amusingly on the social divisions and literary tastes of Jacobean London, but a delightful show that is still capable of pleasing audiences. One hopes that future editors will have many more productions to write about.
Modern Newspaper Reviews, Anonymous (Chronological)
The Boston Globe, 12 April 1903
The Harvard Crimson, 21 March 1903
Quindecennial Report of the Harvard Class of 1903, Norwood, Mass. (1920), 330-1
The Times, 12 March 1913
University College [London] Union Magazine, 6 (1913), 99-100
The Daily Mail, 11 June 1953
The Daily Telegraph, 11 June 1953
Illustrated London News, 27 June 1953
The Times,11 June 1953
The Stage, 18 June 1953
The Times, 18 October 1962
London Theatre Record, 2–15 July 1981, 345-6
Country Life, 23 July 1981
Signed Reviews (Alphabetical)
Barber, John, The Daily Telegraph, 9 July 1981
Bassett, Kate, The Independent, 5 January 2003
Billington, Michael, The Guardian, 26 April 2002
Brown, Bruce L., Colonial News, 9 December 1960
Brown, Ivor, The Observer, 14 June 1953
Coveney, Michael, The Financial Times, 8 July 1981
Fay, Gerard, The Manchester Guardian, 12 June 1953
Gross, John, The Sunday Telegraph, 28 April 2002
H., G. F., Binghamton Evening Press, 3 December 1960
Halliburton, Rachel, The Evening Standard for 26 April 2002
Huckerby,Martin, The Times, 14 October 1981
Kenyon, Michael, The Guardian, 18 October 1962
Koenig, Rhoda, The Financial Times, 26 December 2002
Laws, Frederick, The Listener, 65 (1961), 408
Lewis, Peter, The Daily Mirror, 18 October 1962
Macauley, Alastair, The Financial Times, 29 April 2002
McKeon, Eric, Punch, 1 July 1953
Nightingale, Benedict, The Times, 29 April 2002
Peter, John, The Sunday Times, 5 May 2002
Shorter, Eric, The Daily Telegraph, 18 October 1962
Shulman, Milton, The New Standard, 3 July 1981
Spencer, Charles, The Daily Telegraph for 27 April 2002
Taylor, Paul, The Independent, 1 May 2002
Tynan, Kenneth, The Observer, 21 October 1962
Wardle, Irving, The Times, 8 July 1981
Young, Harrison, The Harvard Crimson, 16 April 1965
Like the theatre itself, theatre history is a collaborative enterprise. The essay above owes its existence to a great many people who have assisted me in my search for records of past productions. I wish to thank Stephen Freeth, Keeper of the Manuscripts, Guildhall Library, for permission to quote materials relating to Bernard Miles and the Mermaid Theatre, and Fredric Woodbridge Wilson, Curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection, for permission to quote from reviews and records of the Delta Upsilon fraternity’s production of 1903 and the Harvard Dramatic Club production of 1965. I am also indebted to the efforts of many archivists, who have often gone well beyond the call of duty in tracking down relevant materials. Special thanks are due to Adrian Allan, University Archivist, University of Liverpool; to Elizabeth Falsey of the Harvard Theatre Collection and Andrea Goldstein of the Harvard Archives; to Valdan Pennington and Nena Couch, Curator, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute, Ohio State University; to Herbert Poetzl, Curator, Max Reinhardt Archives, SUNY Binghamton; to Jocelyn K. Wilk, Assistant Director, Columbia University Archives; to Charlie Turpie, Deputy Keeper of Manuscripts, Guildhall Library; and to the staffs of the British Library, the London Theatre Library, the BBC Sound Archive, the BBC Written Archive, and the library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I am grateful, too, to the following directors and others who have shared information about productions in which they have been involved: to Lucy Pitman-Wallace for an informative e-mail on the concepts behind the 2002 RSC production; to Nick Tanner for a pleasant dinner interview and for sharing his ‘Director’s Notebook’ from the 2000 production at King’s College, London; to Martin White, of the University of Bristol’s Department of Drama, for his recollections of his 1997 production; to Paul Rummer and John Hartoch of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School for their gracious hosting and for allowing me to see the video recording and other materials from Hartoch’s 1998 production at the New Vic Studio; to Professor Anthony Graham-White of the University of Illinois at Chicago for copying his annotated text of the 1965 production by the Harvard Dramatic Club; and to Professor David Canter of the University of Liverpool Department of Psychology for his memories of the Liverpool Dramatic Society’s production of June 1962. Finally, I want to thank my co-editor, Suzanne Gossett, and the general editors, David Bevington, Martin Butler, and Ian Donaldson, for helpful assistance at every stage of this project.