A PEPYSIAN GARLAND - online book

Black-letter Broadside Ballads Of The years 1595-1639

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makers, and were performed with fairly elaborate cos­tumes and stage-properties. "Francis' New Jig" has roles for two women, both of whom were at times masked, and for two men, whose costumes indicate which was the gentleman, which the farmer. Furthermore, the gentle­man was provided with ten pounds in stage money and a ring to give his supposed mistress. One scene in "Row­land's Godson" is represented as taking place in an orchard, where the servant beats his master, who is dis­guised in a woman's clothes. One of Robert Cox's jigs required a bedroom set and a chest big enough to hold a man. Stage-directions, too, were as explicit as in the majority of plays and, with the action itself, show that jigs were written with the peculiar conventions of the Elizabethan stage in mind. Notice, for example, the prin­ciple of alternating scenes and the lapse of an entire night's time in "Francis' New Jig."
There is reason to believe that educated and ignorant people alike delighted in jigs. Good jig-makers invariably aimed at making their work "both witty to the wise, and pleasing to the ignorant1." That they succeeded the con­tinual protests of the great dramatists show. Shortly before his death John Fletcher declared with some bitterness that a good play
Meets oftentimes with the sweet commendation Of "Hang't!" "'tis scurvy": when for approbation A jig shall be clapt at, and every rhyme Prais'd and applauded by a clamorous chime2.
In jigs Elizabethan comedians won much of their fame. William Kemp, in particular, gained enormous popularity during the years 1591—1595 with his jigs of "The Broomman," "The Kitchen-Stuff Woman," "A Soldier, a Miser, and Sym the Clown," and the three parts of "Kemp's Jig3." That his reputation for jigs had not declined in 1599 is attested by striking allusions to
1  Hog Hath Lost His Pearl (Dodsley-Hazlitt's Old Plays, xi, 435).
2  Prologue to The Fair Maid of the Inn.
3  Cf. Arber's Transcript, 11, 297, 600, 669; in, 50.
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