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Mr VVilliam Prynn His Defence of STAGE-PLAYS, OR A Retractation of a former Book of his called Hiſtrio-Maſtix.

London, printed in the Year 1649.


Mr VVilliam Prynn his Defence of STAGE-PLAYES.Or a Retractation of a former book of his called Histrio-Mastix.

WHereas this Tyrannicall, abomina­ble, lewd, ſchiſmaticall, haeretical Army, are bent in a wilfull and forcible way to deſtroy all Lawfull Government; and to compaſſe thoſe ends, have lately infringed the Priviledges of Parliament, being a thing con­trary to all Cuſtomes, Laws, Statutes, Examples, Pecedents and precepts, as I have at large diſcourſed in my laſt book, and brought a whole Army of proofs againſt them; (Origen, Philo Iud. Tertullian, Lactantius, Euſebius, Ambroſe, Gregory, Auguſtine, Cyprian, Hieronimus, Baſilius, Nazianzen, Athana­ſius,4 Chryſoſtomus, Barnard, Tho. Aquinas, Hook Eccl. Calvin,) for it is eaſie to be proved by the Fathers, and all Chriſtian Writers, That Authority Law­full is to be obeyed; I cannot yet be ſilent in a thing of ſo great moment; but muſt make known to the People of England, and to all the world, to all ſorts of men, nay, to men and Angels, thoſe exorbitant courſes in which they perſiſt ſtill: It is not long ago, and therefore too lately to be ſo ſoon forgot­ten, how Colonel Pride and diverſe others of the the Army did ſtop the Members of Parliament from doing of their duty in a moſt forcible, unlaw­full, ſeditious, mutinous, unexampled, and unpar­raleld way; among that multitude of faithfull Pa­triots and Parliament men, they ſeized alſo upon me, carryed me away by force, and reſtrained me of my liberty, for no offence, but onely endeavou­ring to diſcharge my conſcience, which is a thing I ſhall alwayes do, without fearing any man, any arm of fleſh, any Potentacie, Prelacy, ſuperintendency, or power terreſtiall or internall; and have done, witneſſe my often ſufferings from the Court, from the Lords, and from the Prelates, when I durſt maintain the truth without fear of either King, Lords, Prelates, Presbyterians, or Independents. But I let this paſſe, having already at large written about that injurie; but now there is another freſh occaſion, which hath incited my juſt indignation againſt this wicked and Tyrannicall Army, they did lately in a moſt inhumane, cruell, rough, and bar­barous manner take away the poor Players from their Houſes, being met there to diſcharge the duty5 of their callings; as if this Army were fully bent and moſt trayterouſly and maliciouſly ſet to put down and depreſſe all the Kings Friends, not onely in Parliament but in the very Theaters; they have no care of Covenant or any thing elſe, but being moſt faedifragous would deprive the King of all his Rights and Prerogatives, which they are bound by the Covenant to maintain; and was it not alwayes an allowed Prerogative to Kings and great Princes to have Players for their Recreations, which I am verily perſwaded they are as little able to anſwer for conſidering their Covenant, as for their other illegal action towards us in the Parliament.

But now I know what the malicious, ill-ſpoken, clamorous, and obſtreperous people will object a­gainſt me; namely, That I did once write a Book againſt Stage-plays, called Histrio-maſtix, for which I underwent a cruel cenſure in the Starchamber. I confeſſe it is true, I did once ſo, but it was when I had not ſo cleer a light as now I have; and it is no diſparagement for any man to alter his judgement upon better information, beſides it was done long ago, and when the King (whoſe vertues I did not then ſo perfectly underſtand) governed without any controul, which was the time that I took the better to ſhew my conſcience and courage, to oppoſe that power which was the higheſt, but had I truly known the King, I muſt confeſſe with ſorrow, I ſhould not have compared him to Nero the moſt wicked of the Roman Emperors (as I did in that book) for loving of Stage-playes; nor have given the Queen thoſe bitter and cruell words of whore and ſtrumpet, for6 playing a part in Mr Montagues Paſtorall, but I have ſuffered for that long ago, and am now ready to ſuffer, in diſcharging my conſcience, under what power ſo ever is now ſet up to Martyr me.

But that Playes are lawfull things, and are to be allowed as recreations for honeſt men, I need not quote many Authors to prove it, it will ſerve the turn, if I do but tell you that many good men have been Authors of Comaedies and Tragaedies; and ma­ny of them Chriſtians (Buchanon, Grotius, Henſius, Barclaius,) there are alſo many ancient Comaedians and Tragaedians among the Heathen, which were men of no ill note, (Menander, Soploches, Aeſchylus, Euripides, Aristoplanes, Terentius, Plautus, Seneca) and whereas I did quote many Fathers and other Ancient Chriſtian Authors againſt Stage-playes, I confeſs I was not perfectly adviſed in all the cir­cumſtances belonging to them, being not ſuch Plays as were written and acted in England of late, for the Recreation of our moſt gracious King and Queen, and many of their beſt friends: and there­fore diſtinctions ought to be uſed in thoſe caſes; for all Plays are not of one nature; and vertues, mag­nanimity, chaſtity, ſobriety, temperance, juſtice, modeſty, goodneſs, &c. may be taught in Plays, and many men have been made the better for ſeeing of them. And whereas divers objections have been made againſt Stage-playes, for that many of them are profane, many of them have ſwearing and blaſ­pheming in them, many of them have cozening, cheating, legedemain, fraud, deceit, jugglings, im­poſtures, and other lewd things, which may teach7 young people evil things, and corrupt good maners, I do alſo my ſelf ſpeak againſt ſuch Playes, and will not at all maintain them, much leſſe would I be content to ſuffer in ſuch a cauſe as that were. But that honeſt Playes may be tolerated, and not to be forbidden by any Army under heaven, I do maintain before all the world. It is true that ſome have ob­jected againſt Stage-Playes, that there is an unlaw­ful thing uſed in them, which is againſt a place in the Old Teſtament (and is urged by Dr Reinolds and other reverend men againſt Playes) namely, that men or boyes do wear the apparel of women, being expreſly forbidden in the Text. To this I anſwer, firſt, that if this be all, it is a fault may be eaſily amended; and we may do in England, as they do in France, Italy, Spain, and other places, where thoſe which play womens parts, are women indeed; and ſo there no offence againſt that place. But then again it may be objected, That that is more wanton then if boyes acted womens parts, and more apt to ingender looſe thoughts; and I my ſelf am of that opinion, And therefore do deſire rather to maintain that tenent, That mens putting on of wo­mens apparel is not again the Scripture in a plain and ordinary ſence; for it had a farther meaning, as one of the Rabbies affirms; for it was a cuſtom of men in thoſe days, when they prayed to Rimmon who was Mars, that they put on womens apparel, to ſeem like to Venus, and ſo to pleaſe that falſe god; and women, when they prayed to Aſhtaroth who was Venus, put on mens apparel, to ſeem like to Mars, and ſo to pleaſe that goddeſſe. And there­fore8 I think, becauſe this ſcruple is ſatisfied, I may conclude that good Plays, which are not profane, lewd, bad, blaſphemous, or ungodly, may be act­ed; and that this wicked and tyrannical Army ought not to hinder, to impede, let, prohibit, or for­bid the acting of them; which I dare maintain to all the world; for I was never afrayd to ſuffer in a good cauſe.


About this transcription

TextMr VVilliam Prynn his defence of stage-plays, or A retractation of a former book of his called Histrio-mastix.
AuthorPrynne, William, 1600-1669..
Extent Approx. 9 KB of XML-encoded text transcribed from 5 1-bit group-IV TIFF page images.
SeriesEarly English books online.
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(EEBO-TCP ; phase 2, no. A89183)

Transcribed from: (Early English Books Online ; image set 164862)

Images scanned from microfilm: (Thomason Tracts ; 83:E537[31])

About the source text

Bibliographic informationMr VVilliam Prynn his defence of stage-plays, or A retractation of a former book of his called Histrio-mastix. Prynne, William, 1600-1669.. 8 p. [s.n.],London :Printed in the year 1649.. (An anonymous attack on: Prynne, William. Histrio-mastix.) (Annotation on Thomason copy: "Jan: 10th 1648".) (Reproduction of the original in the British Library.)
  • Prynne, William, 1600-1669. -- Histrio-mastix.
  • Theater -- England -- Moral and ethical aspects -- Early works to 1800.
  • Great Britain -- Politics and government -- 1642-1649 -- Early works to 1800.

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ImprintAnn Arbor, MI ; Oxford (UK) : 2011-04 (EEBO-TCP Phase 2).
  • DLPS A89183
  • STC Wing M2278
  • STC Thomason E537_31
  • STC ESTC R202896
  • EEBO-CITATION 99863033
  • PROQUEST 99863033
  • VID 164862

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