Tag Archives: Richard Brome

Props in Brome’s Antipodes, 1638.

Richard Brome was an English playwright during the Caroline era, making him about a generation removed from Shakespeare. One of his plays,¬†The Antipodes, first performed in 1638, features a sort of play-within-a-play that gives us a glimpse into a properties storeroom of the time. The character of Peregrine is fooled into believing he has traveled to the Antipodes, a mythical “anti-London” on the opposite side of the world. The inhabitants are simply theatrical actors, though, hired by a doctor in an attempt to treat Peregrine. Peregrine eventually finds his way “backstage” into the props storage area, known in this time as the “tiring house”, and begins destroying the props, believing they are real items in the Antipodes. Another character, Byplay, recounts this event. It gives us a glimpse into what manner of props and scenery may have been stored at an English theater during this time period:

Byplay: He has got into our tiring house amongst us,
And ta’en a strict survey of all our properties,
Our statues and our images of gods, our planets and our constellations,
Our giants, monsters, furies, beasts, and bugbears,
Our helmets, shields and vizors, hairs and beards,
Our pasteboard marchpanes and our wooden pies.

later…

When on the sudden, with thrice knightly force,
And thrice, thrice puissant arm he snatcheth down
The sword and shield that I played Bevis with,
Rusheth amongst the foresaid properties,
Kills monster after monster, takes the puppets
Prisoners, knocks down the Cyclops, tumbles all
Our jiggumbobs and trinkets to the wall.
Spying at last the crown and royal robes
I’th’ upper wardrobe, next to which by chance
The devil’s vizors hung and their flame-painted
Skin coats, those he removed with greater fury,
And (having cut the infernal ugly faces,
All into mammocks) with a reverend hand,
He takes the imperial diadem and crowns
Himself King of the Antipodes, and believes
He has justly gained the kingdom by his conquest.

The Antipodes by Richard Brome, Act 3 Scene 1. 1638. https://www.dhi.ac.uk/brome/viewTranscripts.jsp?play=AN&act=1&type=BOTH

Props in Caroline England

Richard Brome was an English playwright of the Caroline Era, coming just on the heels of Shakespeare. In his 1640 play¬†The Antipodes, he describes the inventory of properties and costumes of a typical company at the time. In the scene, a character named By-Play is describing how another character named Peregrine entered the company’s prop room and, thinking everything was real, set forth on “conquering” all the props.

Richard Brome
Richard Brome

“He has got into our tiring house 1 amongst us,
And ta’en a strict survey of all our properties,
Our statues, and our images of gods,
Our planets, and our constellations,
Our giants, monsters, furies, beasts, and bug-bears,
Our helmets, shields, and visors, hair, and beards,
Our paste-board march-panes, and our wooden pies.
Whether he thought ‘t was some enchanted castle,
Or temple, hung and piled with monuments
Of uncouth and various aspects,
I dive not to his thoughts. Wonder he did
Awhile, it seemed, but yet undaunted stood;
When, on a sudden, with thrice knightly force,
And thrice puissant arm, he snatcheth down
The sword and shield that I played Bevis with,
Rushed among the ‘foresaid properties,
Killed monster after monster, takes the puppets
Prisoners, knocks down the Cyclops, tumbles all
Our Jigamogs and trinkets to the wall.
Spying at last the crown and royal robes
I’ the upper-wardrobe, next to which, by chance,
The devil’s visor hung, and their flame-painted
Skin-coats, these he removed with greater fury;
And (having cut the infernal ugly faces
All into mammocks,) with a reverend hand
He takes the imperial diadem, and crowns
Himself ‘King of the Antipodes,’ and believes
He has justly gained the kingdom by his conquest.” 2

Original text of script
Original text of script

Notes:

  1. The tiring house was a backstage area for actors to change costumes and grab props before going back onto stage (http://www.bardstage.org/globe-theatre-tiring-house.htm)
  2. Wall, James W. Rise and progress of the modern drama. Knickerbocker, v.44, July, 1854, p.70. Google Books. Web. 27 June 2016. <https://books.google.com/books?id=zJtdXXOxOK0C&pg=PA70#v=onepage&q&f=false>.