Internet Shakespeare Editions


The closing of the theatres

Zeal-of-the-Land Busy may have been defeated in Jonson's satire of the puritan attitude to the theatre, but his brethren in parliament were increasingly active: in September of 1642 the puritan parliament by edict forbade all stage plays and closed the theatres.

They rapidly fell into disrepair and neglect; at the Restoration in 1660, only the Red Bull was still intact, and soon it too was superseded by the new, indoor theatres with their proscenium arches, and French traditions in acting--in particular, women were for the first time seen as actors.

Few of the great writers for the theatre were still active when the theatres were closed. John Ford, and James Shirley* were still alive, but only William Davenant carried the older traditions into the new period.

The edict

Whereas. . . the distracted estate of England, threatened with a cloud of blood by a civil war, calls for all pallible means go appease and avert the wrath of God, . . . it is therefore thought fit and ordained by the Lords and Commons in this Parliament assembled, that . . . public stage plays shall cease and be forborne.


  1. James Shirley

    Shirley was a prolific and competent writer. His comedies (Hyde Park, The Lady of Pleasure) in many ways anticipate the taste of the Restoration; his best known tragedy is The Cardinal.