The Critic, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Act II.

SCENE I. — The Theatre before the Curtain.

Enter Dangle, Puff, and Sneer.

Puff: No, no, sir; what Shakspeare says of actors may be better applied to the purpose of plays; they ought to be the abstract and brief chronicles of the time. Therefore when history, and particularly the history of our own country, furnishes anything like a case in point, to the time in which an author writes, if he knows his own interest, he will take advantage of it; so, sir, I call my tragedy The Spanish Armada; and have laid the scene before Tilbury Fort.

Sneer. A most happy thought, certainly I Dang. Egad it was — I told you so. But, pray now, I don’t understand how you have contrived to introduce any love into it.

Puff. Love! oh, nothing so easy! for it is a received point among poets, that where history gives you a good heroic outline for a play, you may fill up with a little love at your own discretion: in doing which, nine times out of ten, you only make up a deficiency in the private history of the times. Now, I rather think I have done this with some success.

Sneer. No scandal about Queen Elizabeth, I hope?

Puff. O Lud! no, no; — I only suppose the governor of Tilbury Fort’s daughter to be in love with the son of the Spanish admiral.

Sneer. Oh, is that all!

Dangle. Excellent, i’faith! I see at once. But won’t this appear rather improbable?

Puff. To be sure it will — but what the plague! a play is not to show occurrences that happen every day, but things just so strange, that though they never did, they might happen.

Sneer. Certainly nothing is unnatural, that is not physically impossible.

Puff. Very true — and for that matter Don Ferolo Whiskerandos, for that’s the lover’s name, might have been over here in the train of the Spanish ambassador, or Tilburina, for that is the lady’s name, might have been in love with him, from having heard his character, or seen his picture; or from knowing that he was the last man in the world she ought to be in love with — or for any other good female reason. — However; sir, the fact is, that though she is but a knight’s daughter, egad! she is in love like any princess!

Dangle. Poor young lady! I feel for her already! for I can conceive how great the conflict must be between her passion and her duty; her love for her country, and her love for Don Ferolo Whiskerandos!

Puff. Oh, amazing! — her poor susceptible heart is swayed to and fro by contending passions like —

Enter Under Prompter.

Und. Promp. Sir, the scene is set, and everything is ready to begin, if you please.

Puff. Egad, then we’ll lose no time.

Und. Promp. Though, I believe, sir, you will find it very short, for all the performers have profited by the kind permission you granted them.

Puff. Hey! what?

Und. Promp. You know, sir, you gave them leave to cut out or omit whatever they found heavy or unnecessary to the plot, and I must own they have taken very liberal advantage of your indulgence.

Puff. Well, well. — They are in general very good judges, and I know I am luxuriant. — Now, Mr. Hopkins, as soon as you please.

Und. Promp. [To the Orchestra.] Gentlemen, will you play a few bars of something, just to —

Puff. Ay, that’s right; for as we have the scenes and dresses, egad, we’ll go to’t, as if it was the first night’s performance, — but you need not mind stopping between the acts —

[Exit Under Prompter. — Orchestra play — then the bell rings.] Soh! stand clear; gentlemen. Now you know there will be a cry of down! down! — Hats off! — Silence! — Then up curtain, and let us see what our painters have done for us. [Curtain rises.]

SCENE II. — Tilbury Fort.

Two Sentinels discovered asleep.”

Dangle. Tilbury Fort! — very fine indeed!

Puff. Now, what do you think I open with?

Sneer. Faith, I can’t guess —

Puff. A clock. — Hark! — [Clock strikes.] I open with a clock striking, to beget an awful attention in the audience: it also marks the time, which is four o’clock in the morning, and saves a description of the rising sun, and a great deal about gilding the eastern hemisphere.

Pang. But pray, are the sentinels to be asleep?

Puff. Fast as watchmen.

Sneer. Isn’t that odd though at such an alarming crisis?

Puff. To be sure it is, — but smaller things must give way to a striking scene at the opening; that’s a rule. And the case is, that two great men are coming to this very spot to begin the piece; now it is not to be supposed they would open their lips, if these fellows were watching them; so, egad, I must either have sent them off their posts, or set them asleep.

Sneer. Oh, that accounts for it. But tell us, who are these coming?

Puff. These are they — Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Christopher Hatton. You’ll know Sir Christopher by his turning out his toes — famous, you know, for his dancing. I like to preserve all the little traits of character. — Now attend.

Enter Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Christopher Hatton.

Sir Christ. True, gallant Raleigh!”

Dangle. What, they had been talking before?

Puff. O yes; all the way as they came along. — [To the actors.] I beg pardon, gentlemen, but these are particular friends of mine, whose remarks may be of great service to us. —

[To Sneer and Dangle.] Don’t mind interrupting them whenever anything strikes you.

Sir Christ. “True, gallant Raleigh
But oh, thou champion of thy country’s fame,
There is a question which I yet must ask
A question which I never ask’d before —
What mean these mighty armaments?
This general muster? and this throng of chiefs?”

Sneer. Pray, Mr. Puff, how came Sir Christopher Hatton never to ask that question before?

Puff. What before the play began?-how the plague could he?

Dangle. That’s true, i’faith!

Puff. But you will hear what he thinks of the matter.

Sir Christ. “Alas I my noble friend, when I behold
Yon tented plains in martial symmetry
Array’d; when I count o’er yon glittering lines
Of crested warriors, where the proud steeds’ neigh,
And valour-breathing trumpet’s shrill appeal,
Responsive vibrate on my listening ear;
When virgin majesty herself I view,
Like her protecting Pallas, veil’d in steel,
With graceful confidence exhort to arms!
When, briefly, all I hear or see bears stamp
Of martial vigilance and stern defence,
I cannot but surmise — forgive, my friend,
If the conjecture’s rash — I cannot but
Surmise the state some danger apprehends!”

Sneer. A very cautious conjecture that.

Puff. Yes, that’s his character; not to give an opinion but on secure grounds. — Now then.

Sir Walt. “O most accomplish’d Christopher!” —

Puff. He calls him by his Christian name, to show that they are on the most familiar terms.

Sir Walt. O most accomplish’d Christopher! I find
Thy staunch sagacity still tracks the future,
In the fresh print of the o’ertaken past.”

Puff. Figurative!

Sir Walt. Thy fears are just.

Sir Christ. But where? whence? when? and what
The danger is, — methinks I fain would learn.

Sir Walt. You know, my friend, scarce two revolving suns,
And three revolving moons, have closed their course
Since haughty Philip, in despite of peace,
With hostile hand hath struck at England’s trade.

Sir Christ. I know it well.

Sir Walt. Philip, you know, is proud Iberia’s king!

Sir Christ. He is.

Sir Walt. His subjects in base bigotry
And Catholic oppression held;-while we,
You know, the Protestant persuasion hold.

Sir Christ. We do.

Sir Walt. You know, beside, his boasted armament,
The famed Armada, by the Pope baptized,
With purpose to invade these realms —

Sir Christ. Is sailed,
Our last advices so report.

Sir Walt. While the Iberian admiral’s chief hope,
His darling son —

Sir Christ. Ferolo Whiskerandos hight —

Sir Walt. The same — by chance a prisoner hath been ta’en,
And in this fort of Tilbury —

Sir Christ. Is now Confined —
’tis true, and oft from yon tall turret’s top
I’ve mark’d the youthful Spaniard’s haughty mien
Unconquer’d, though in chains.

Sir Walt. You also know —

Dangle. Mr. Puff, as he knows all this, why does Sir Walter go on telling him?

Puff. But the audience are not supposed to know anything of the matter, are they?

Sneer. True; but I think you manage ill: for there certainly appears no reason why Sir Walter should be so communicative.

Puff. ‘Fore Gad, now, that is one of the most ungrateful observations I ever heard! — for the less inducement he has to tell all this, the more, I think, you ought to be obliged to him; for I am sure you’d know nothing of the matter without it.

Dangle. That’s very true, upon my word.

Puff. But you will find he was not going on.

Sir Christ. “Enough, enough — ’tis plain — and I no more
Am in amazement lost!” —

Puff. Here, now you see, Sir Christopher did not in fact ask any one question for his own information.

Sneer. No, indeed: his has been a most disinterested curiosity!

Dangle. Really, I find that we are very much obliged to them both.

Puff. To be sure you are. Now then for the commander-in-chief, the Earl of Leicester, who, you know, was no favourite but of the queen’s. — We left off — in amazement lost!

Sir Christ. “Am in amazement lost.
But, see where noble Leicester comes supreme in honours and command.

Sir Walt. And yet, methinks,
At such a time, so perilous, so fear’d,
That staff might well become an abler grasp.

Sir Christ. And so, by Heaven! think I; but soft, he’s here!”

Puff. Ay, they envy him!

Sneer. But who are these with him?

Puff. Oh! very valiant knights: one is the governor of the fort, the other the master of the horse. And now, I think, you shall hear some better language: I was obliged to be plain and intelligible in the first scene, because there was so much matter of fact in it; but now, i’faith, you have trope, figure, and metaphor, as plenty as noun-substantives.

Enter Earl of Leicester, Governor, Master of the Horse, Knights, &c.

Leic. How’s this, my friends! is’t thus your new-fledged zeal,
And plumed valour moulds in roosted sloth?
Why dimly glimmers that heroic flame,
Whose reddening blaze, by patriot spirit fed,
Should be the beacon of a kindling realm?
Can the quick current of a patriot heart
Thus stagnate in a cold and weedy converse,
Or freeze in tideless inactivity?
No! rather let the fountain of your valour
Spring through each stream of enterprise,
Each petty channel of conducive daring,
Till the full torrent of your foaming wrath
O’erwhelm the flats of sunk hostility!”

Puff. There it is — followed up!

Sir Walt. “No more! — the freshening breath of thy rebuke
Hath fill’d the swelling canvas of our souls!
And thus, though fate should cut the cable of
[All take hands.]
Our topmost hopes, in friendship’s closing line
We’ll grapple with despair, and if we fall,
We’ll fall in glory’s wake!

Leic. There spoke old England’s genius!
Then, are we all resolved?

All. We are — all resolved.

Leic. To conquer — or be free?

All. To conquer, or be free.

Leic. All?

All. All.”

Dangle. Nem. con. egad!

Puff. O yes! — where they do agree on the stage, their unanimity is wonderful!

Leic. Then let’s embrace — and now — [Kneels.

Sneer. What the plague, is he going to pray?

Puff. Yes; hush! — in great emergencies, there is nothing like a prayer.

Leic. O mighty Mars!”

Dangle. But why should he pray to Mars?

Puff. Hush!

Leic. If in thy homage bred,
Each point of discipline I’ve still observed;
Nor but by due promotion, and the right
Of service, to the rank of major-general
Have risen; assist thy votary now!

Gov. Yet do not rise — hear me! [Kneels.]

Mast. And me! [Kneels.]

Knight. And me! [Kneels.]

Sir Walt. And me! [Kneels.]

Sir Christ. And me! [Kneels.]”

Puff. Now pray altogether.

All. Behold thy votaries submissive beg,
That thou wilt deign to grant them all they ask;
Assist them to accomplish all their ends,
And sanctify whatever means they use
To gain them!”

Sneer. A very orthodox quintetto!

Puff. Vastly well, gentlemen! — Is that well managed or not? Have you such a prayer as that on the stage?

Sneer. Not exactly.

Leic. [To Puff.] But, sir, you haven’t settled how we are to get off here.

Puff. You could not go off kneeling, could you?

Sir Walt. [To Puff.] O no, sir; impossible!

Puff. It would have a good effect i’faith, if you could exeunt praying! — Yes, and would vary the established mode of springing off with a glance at the pit.

Sneer. Oh, never mind, so as you get them off! — I’ll answer for it, the audience won’t care how.

Puff. Well, then, repeat the last line standing, and go off the old way.

All. And sanctify whatever means we use To gain them.

[Exeunt.]”

Dangle. Bravo! a fine exit.

Sneer. Well, really, Mr. Puff —

Puff. Stay a moment!

The Sentinels get up.

1 Sent. All this shall to Lord Burleigh’s ear.

2 Sent. ’Tis meet it should. [Exeunt.]”

Dangle. Hey! — why, I thought those fellows had been asleep?

Puff. Only a pretence; there’s the art of it: they were spies of Lord Burleigh’s.

Sneer. But isn’t it odd they never were taken notice of, not even by the commander-in-chief?

Puff. O Lud, sir! if people who want to listen, or overhear, were not always connived at in a tragedy, there would be no carrying on any plot in the world.

Dangle. That’s certain.

Puff. But take care, my dear Dangle! the morning gun is going to fire. [Cannon fires.]

Dangle. Well, that will have a fine effect!

Puff. I think so, and helps to realize the scene. —

[Cannon twice.] What the plague! three morning guns! there never is but one! — Ay, this is always the way at the theatre: give these fellows a good thing, and they never know when to have done with it. — You have no more cannon to fire?

Und. Promp. [Within.] No, sir.

Puff. Now, then, for soft music.

Sneer. Pray, what’s that for?

Puff. It shows that Tilburina is coming! — nothing introduces you a heroine like soft music. Here she comes!

Dangle. And her confidant, I suppose?

Puff. To be sure! Here they are — inconsolable to the minuet in Ariadne! [Soft music.]

Enter Tilburina and Confidant.

Tilb. Now has the whispering breath of gentle morn
Bid Nature’s voice and Nature’s beauty rise;
While orient Phoebus, with unborrow’d hues,
Clothes the waked loveliness which all night slept
In heavenly drapery I Darkness is fled.
Now flowers unfold their beauties to the sun,
And, blushing, kiss the beam he sends to wake them —
The striped carnation, and the guarded rose,
The vulgar wallflower, and smart gillyflower,
The polyanthus mean — the dapper daisy,
Sweet–William, and sweet marjoram — and all
The tribe of single and of double pinks!
Now, too, the feather’d warblers tune their notes
Around, and charm the listening grove. The lark!
The linnet! chaffinch! bullfinch! goldfinch! greenfinch!
But O, to me no joy can they afford!
Nor rose, nor wallflower, nor smart gillyflower,
Nor polyanthus mean, nor dapper daisy,
Nor William sweet, nor marjoram — nor lark,
Linnet nor all the finches of the grove!”

Puff. Your white handkerchief, madam! —

Tilb. I thought, sir, I wasn’t to use that till heart-rending woe.

Puff. O yes, madam, at the finches of the grove, if you please.

Tilb. Nor lark,
Linnet, nor all the finches of the grove! [Weeps.]

Puff. Vastly well, madam!

Dangle. Vastly well, indeed!

Tilb. For, O, too sure, heart-rending woe is now
The lot of wretched Tilburina!”

Dangle. Oh! — it’s too much.

Sneer. Oh! — it is indeed.

Con. Be comforted, sweet lady; for who knows,
But Heaven has yet some milk-white day in store?

Tilb. Alas! my gentle Nora,
Thy tender youth as yet hath never mourn’d
Love’s fatal dart.
Else wouldst thou know, that when
The soul is sunk in comfortless despair,
It cannot taste of merriment.”

Dangle. That’s certain.

Con. But see where your stern father comes
It is not meet that he should find you thus.”

Puff. Hey, what the plague! — what a cut is here! Why, what is become of the description of her first meeting with Don Whiskerandos — his gallant behaviour in the sea-fight — and the simile of the canary-bird?

Tilb. Indeed, sir, you’ll find they will not be missed.

Puff. Very well, very well!

Tilb. [To Confidant.] The cue, ma’am, if you please.

Con. It is not meet that he should find you thus.

Tilb. Thou counsel’st right; but ’tis no easy task For barefaced grief to wear a mask of joy.

Enter Governor.

Gov. How’s this! — in tears? —
O Tilburina, shame! Is this a time for maudling tenderness,
And Cupid’s baby woes? —
Hast thou not heard
That haughty Spain’s pope-consecrated fleet
Advances to our shores, while England’s fate,
Like a clipp’d guinea, trembles in the scale?

Tilb. Then is the crisis of my fate at hand!
I see the fleets approach — I see — ”

Puff. Now, pray, gentlemen, mind. This is one of the most useful figures we tragedy writers have, by which a hero or heroine, in consideration of their being often obliged to overlook things that are on the stage, is allowed to hear and see a number of things that are not.

Sneer. Yes; a kind of poetical second-sight!

Puff. Yes. — Now then, madam.

Tilb. I see their decks
Are clear’d! — I see the signal made!
The line is form’d! — a cable’s length asunder!
I see the frigates station’d in the rear;
And now, I hear the thunder of the guns!
I hear the victor’s shouts — I also hear
The vanquish’d groan! — and now ’tis smoke — and now
I see the loose sails shiver in the wind!
I see — I see — what soon you’ll see —

Gov. Hold, daughter! peace! this love hath turn’d thy brain
The Spanish fleet thou canst not see — because —
It is not yet in sight!”

Dangle. Egad, though, the governor seems to make no allowance for this poetical figure you talk of.

Puff. No, a plain matter-of-fact man; — that’s his character.

Tilb. But will you then refuse his offer?

Gov. I must — I will — I can — I ought — I do.

Tilb. Think what a noble price.

Gov. No more — you urge in vain.

Tilb. His liberty is all he asks.”

Sneer. All who asks, Mr. Puff? Who is —

Puff. Egad, sir, I can’t tell! Here has been such cutting and slashing, I don’t know where they have got to myself.

Tilb. Indeed, sir, you will find it will connect very well.

“ — And your reward secure.”

Puff. Oh, if they hadn’t been so devilish free with their cutting here, you would have found that Don Whiskerandos has been tampering for his liberty, and has persuaded Tilburina to make this proposal to her father. And now, pray observe the conciseness with which the argument is conducted. Egad, the pro and con goes as smart as hits in a fencing match. It is indeed a sort of small-sword-logic, which we have borrowed from the French.

Tilb. A retreat in Spain!

Gov. Outlawry here!

Tilb. Your daughter’s prayer!

Gov. Your father’s oath!

Tilb. My lover!

Gov. My country!

Tilb. Tilburina!

Gov. England!

Tilb. A title!

Gov. Honour!

Tilb. A pension!

Gov. Conscience!

Tilb. A thousand pounds!

Gov. Ha! thou hast touch’d me nearly!”

Puff. There you see — she threw in Tilburina. Quick, parry Carte with England! Ha! thrust in tierce a title! — parried by honour. Ha! a pension over the arm! — put by by conscience. Then flankonade with a thousand pounds — and a palpable hit, egad!

Tilb. Canst thou —
Reject the suppliant, and the daughter too?

Gov. No more; I would not hear thee plead in vain:
The father softens — but the governor
Is fix’d! [Exit.]”

Dangle. Ay, that antithesis of persons is a most established figure.

Tilb. ’Tis well, — hence then, fond hopes, — fond passion hence;
Duty, behold I am all over thine —

Whisk. [Without.] Where is my love — my —

Tilb. Ha!

Enter Don Ferolo Whiskerandos.

Whisk. My beauteous enemy! — ”

Puff. O dear, ma’am, you must start a great deal more than that! Consider, you had just determined in favour of duty — when, in a moment, the sound of his voice revives your passion — overthrows your resolution — destroys your obedience. If you don’t express all that in your start, you do nothing at all.

Tilb. Well, we’ll try again.

Dangle. Speaking from within has always a fine effect.

Sneer. Very.

Whisk. My conquering Tilburina! How! is’t thus
We meet? why are thy looks averse? what means
That falling tear — that frown of boding woe?
Ha! now indeed I am a prisoner!
Yes, now I feel the galling weight of these
Disgraceful chains — which, cruel Tilburina!
Thy doting captive gloried in before. —
But thou art false, and Whiskerandos is undone!

Tilb. O no! how little dost thou know thy Tilburina!

Whisk. Art thou then true? —
Begone cares, doubts, and fears,
I make you all a present to the winds;
And if the winds reject you — try the waves.”

Puff. The wind, you know, is the established receiver of all stolen sighs, and cast-off griefs and apprehensions.

Tilb. Yet must we part! — stern duty seals our doom
Though here I call yon conscious clouds to witness,
Could I pursue the bias of my soul,
All friends, all right of parents, I’d disclaim,
And thou, my Whiskerandos, shouldst be father
And mother, brother, cousin, uncle, aunt,
And friend to me!

Whisk. Oh, matchless excellence! and must we part?
Well, if — we must — we must — and in that case
The less is said the better.”

Puff. Heyday! here’s a cut! — What, are all the mutual protestations out?

Tilb. Now, pray, sir, don’t interrupt us just here: you ruin our feelings.

Puff. Your feelings! — but, zounds, my feelings, ma’am!

Sneer. No, pray don’t interrupt them.

Whisk. One last embrace.

Tilb. Now, — farewell, for ever.

Whisk. For ever!

Tilb. Ay, for ever! [Going.]”

Puff. ‘Sdeath and fury! — Gad’s life! — sir! madam! if you go out without the parting look, you might as well dance out. Here, here!

Con. But pray, sir, how am I to get off here?

Puff. You! pshaw! what the devil signifies how you get off! edge away at the top, or where you will — [Pushes the Confidant off.] Now, ma’am, you see —

Tilb. We understand you, sir.

“Ay, for ever.

Both. Oh! [Turning back, and exeunt. — Scene closes.]”

Dangle. Oh, charming!

Puff. Hey! — ’tis pretty well, I believe: you see I don’t attempt to strike out anything new — but I take it I improve on the established modes.

Sneer. You do, indeed! But pray is not Queen Elizabeth to appear?

Puff. No, not once — but she is to be talked of for ever; so that, egad, you’ll think a hundred times that she is on the point of coming in.

Sneer. Hang it, I think it’s a pity to keep her in the green-room all the night.

Puff. O no, that always has a fine effect — it keeps up expectation.

Dangle. But are we not to have a battle?

Puff. Yes, yes, you will have a battle at last: but, egad, it’s not to be by land, but by sea — and that is the only quite new thing in the piece.

Dangle. What, Drake at the Armada, hey?

Puff. Yes, i’faith — fire-ships and all; then we shall end with the procession. Hey, that will do, I think?,

Sneer. No doubt on’t.

Puff. Come, we must not lose time; so now for the under-plot.

Sneer. What the plague, have you another plot?

Puff. O Lord, yes; ever while you live have two plots to your tragedy. The grand point in managing them is only to let your under-plot have as little connection with your main-plot as possible. — I flatter myself nothing can be more distinct than mine; for as in my chief plot the characters are all great people, I have laid my under-plot in low life, and as the former is to end in deep distress, I make the other end as happy as a farce. — Now, Mr. Hopkins, as soon as you please.

Enter Under Prompter.

Under Promp. Sir, the carpenter says it is impossible you can go to the park scene yet.

Puff. The park scene! no! I mean the description scene here, in the wood.

Under Promp. Sir, the performers have cut it out.

Puff. Cut it out!

Under Promp. Yes, sir.

Puff. What! the whole account of Queen Elizabeth?

Under Promp. Yes, sir.

Puff. And the description of her horse and side-saddle?

Under Promp. Yes, sir.

Puff. So, so; this is very fine indeed! — Mr. Hopkins, how the plague could you suffer this?

Mr. Hop. [Within.] Sir, indeed the pruning-knife —

Puff. The pruning-knife — zounds! — the axe! Why, here has been such lopping and topping, I shan’t have the bare trunk of my play left presently! — Very well, sir — the performers must do as they please; but, upon my soul, I’ll print it every word.

Sneer. That I would, indeed.

Puff. Very well, sir; then we must go on. — Zounds! I would not have parted with the description of the horse! — Well, sir, go on. — Sir, it was one of the finest and most laboured things. — Very well, sir; let them go on. — There you had him and his accoutrements, from the bit to the crupper. — Very well, sir; we must go to the park scene.

Under Promp. Sir, there is the point: the carpenters say, that unless there is some business put in here before the drop, they sha’n’t have time to clear away the fort, or sink Gravesend and the river.

Puff. So! this is a pretty dilemma, truly! — Gentlemen, you must excuse me — these fellows will never be ready, unless I go and look after them myself.

Sneer. O dear, sir, these little things will happen.

Puff. To cut out this scene! — but I’ll print it — egad, I’ll print it every word! [Exeunt.]

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30