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Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 739 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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XXV1. 24operation of the act of 1737 as creating a monopoly. The exclusive rights of the patent theatres were also recognized in the Disorderly Houses Act, 1751, and in private acts dealing with Covent Garden and Drury Lane, and regulating the rights of parties, the application of charitable funds, &c. (see 16 Geo. III. cc. 13, 31; 50 Geo. III. c. ccxiv.; 52 Geo. III. c. xix.; 1 Geo. IV. c. lx.). The results of theatrical monopoly were beneficial neither to the public nor to the monopolists them-selves. In 1832 a select committee of the House of Commons recommended the legal recognition of " stage-right " and the abolition of theatrical monopoly. The recommendations of the report as to stage-right were carried out immediately by Bulwer Lytton's Act, 3 & 4 Will. IV. c. 15 (see COPYRIGHT). But it was not till eleven years later that the Theatres Act, 1843, was passed, a previous bill on the same lines having been rejected by the House of Lords. The act of 1843 inaugurated a more liberal policy, and there is now complete " free trade " in theatres, subject to the conditions imposed by the act. The growth of theatres since that time has been enormous. Nor does the extension seem to have been attended with the social dangers anticipated by some of the witnesses before the committee of 1832. The suppression of objectionable plays was the ground of many early statutes and proclamations. While the religious drama was dying out, the theatre was used as a vehicle for enforcing religious and political views not always as orthodox as those of a miracle play. Thus the act of 34 & 35 Hen. VIII. c. 1 made it criminal to play in an interlude contrary to the orthodox faith declared, or to be declared, by that monarch. Profanity in theatres seems to have been a crying evil of the time. Stephen Gosson attacked it as early as 1579 in his School of Abuse. The first business of the government of Edward VI. was to pass an act reciting that the most holy and blessed sacrament was named in plays by such vile and unseemly words as Christian ears did abhor to hear rehearsed, and inflicting fine and imprisonment upon any person advisedly contemning, despising or reviling the said most blessed sacrament (1 Edw. VI. c. 1). A proclamation of the same king in 1549 forbade the acting of interludes in English on account of their dealing with sacred subjects. In 1556 the council called attention to certain lewd persons in the livery of Sir F. Leke representing plays and interludes reflecting upon the queen and her consort and the formalities of the mass. The same queen forbade the recurrence of such a representation as the mask given by Sir Thomas Pope in honour of the Princess Elizabeth at Hatfield, for she " misliked these follies." By the Act of Uniformity, r Eliz. c. 2, it was made an offence punishable by a fine of a hundred marks to speak anything in the derogation, depraving or despising of the Book of Common Prayer in any interludes or plays. In 1605 " An Act to restrain the Abuses of Players " made it an offence punishable by a fine of £10 to jestingly or profanely speak or use certain sacred names in any stage play, interlude, show, may-game or pageant (3 Jac. I. c. 21). In consequence of the appearance of players in the characters of the king of Spain and Gondomar, an ordinance of James I. forbade the representation on the stage of any living Christian king. The first act of the reign of Charles I. forbade acting on Sunday. Puritan opposition to the theatre culminated in the ordinance of 1648, making it a crime even to be present as a spectator at a play.4 After the Restoration there are few royal proclamations or ordinances, the necessary jurisdiction being exercised almost entirely by parliament and the lord chamberlain. Among the few post-Restoration royal proclamations is that of the 25th of February 1664—65, restraining any but the company of the Duke of York's theatre from entering at the attiring house of the theatre, and that of the 27th of February 1698—99 against immorality in plays. Preventive censorship of the drama by an officer of state dates from the reign of Elizabeth. The master of the revels (see REVELS) appears to have been the dramatic censor from 1545 to 4 For the anti-theatrical Puritan literature see Courthope, History of English Poetry, ii. 381. II 1624, when he was superseded by his official superior, the lord chamberlain.' In some cases the supervision was put into commission. Thus with Tilney, the master of the revels in 1581, were associated by order of the privy council a divine and a statesman. In other cases it was delegated, as to Daniel the poet by warrant in 1603. The proposal to give statutory authority to the jurisdiction of the lord chamberlain led, as has been already stated, to the withdrawal of Sir John Barnard's bill in 1735, and to considerable debate before the bill of 1737 became law. Lord Chesterfield's objection to the bill in the House of Lords was not unreasonable. " If the players," said he, " are to be punished, let it be by the laws of their country, and not by the will of an irresponsible despot." A stage play must now be duly licensed before performance. § 12 of the act of 1843 prescribes that a copy of every new play and of every addition to an old play, and of every new prologue or epilogue or addition thereto (such copy to be signed by the master or manager), shall be sent to the lord chamberlain, and, if the lord chamberlain does not forbid it within seven days, it may be represented. § 13 empowers the lord chamberlain to fix a scale of fees for examination; the fee is now two guineas for a play of three or more acts, one guinea for a play of less than three acts. All plays represented previously to the act are held to be licensed. A play once licensed is licensed once for all unless the licence be revoked under § 14. The examination is the duty of a special officer of the lord chamberlain's department, the examiner of stage plays. In spite of occasional lapses of judgment, a belief in the wisdom generally shown in the ex 'rcise of the censorship has been confirmed by the report of t}:. select committee of the House of Commons in 1866, and also 'by the report of the joint committee of both Houses in 1909. The censorship has been consistently supported in recent years by theatrical managers, but violently opposed by an advanced section of dramatic authors. There have been instances, no doubt, where perhaps both the lord chamberlain and his subordinate officer, the examiner of stage plays, have been somewhat nice in their objections. Thus, during the illness of George III., King Lear was inhibited. George Colman, when examiner, showed an extraordinary antipathy to such words as " heaven " or " angel." The lord chamberlain's powers are still occasionally exerted against scriptural dramas, less frequently for political reasons. Later instances are Oscar Wilde's Salome (1892), Joseph of Canaan (1896), Maeterlinck's Manna Vanna (1902), Housman's Bethlehem (1902), Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado (temporarily in 1907), and a play by Laurence Housman dealing with George IV. (1910). Before 1866 the lord chamberlain appears to have taken into consideration the wants of the neighbourhood before granting a licence, but since that year such a course has been abandoned. The joint committee in 1909 recommended that it should be optional for an author to submit a play for licence, and legal to perform an unlicensed play whether submitted or not, the risk of police intervention being taken. They also recommended that the reasons for which a licence should be refused should be: in-decency, offensive personalities, the representation in an invidious manner of a living person or a person recently dead, violation of the sentiments of religious reverence, the presence of anything likely to conduce to crime or vice, or to cause a breach with a friendly power, or a breach of the peace. A theatre may be defined with sufficient accuracy for the present purpose as a building in which a stage play is performed for hire. It will be seen from the following sketch of the law that there are a considerable number of different persons. corporate and unincorporate, with jurisdiction over theatres. A consolidation of the law and the placing of jurisdiction in the hands of a central authority for the United Kingdom would probably be convenient. The committee of 1866 recommended the transfer to the lord chamber-lain of the regulation of all places of amusement, and an appeal from him to the home secretary in certain cases, as also the extension of his authority to preventive censorship in all public entertainments; but no legislation resulted. The committee of 1909 ' It was probably through his influence that the expletives in Shakespeare were edited. The quarto of 1622 contains more than the folio of 1623.recommended the abolition of any distinction between theatres and music-halls. Several bills for the amendment of the law have been introduced, but without success in the face of more burning political questions' Building.—A theatre (at any rate to make it such a building as can be licensed) must be a permanent building, not a mere teat or booth, unless when licensed by justices at a lawful fair by § 23 of the act of 1843. It must, if in the metropolis, conform to the regulations as to structure contained in the Metropolis Management Act 1878, and the Local Government Act 1888. These acts make a certificate of structural fitness from the county council necessary as a condition precedent for licence in the case of all theatres of a superficial area of not less than 500 sq. ft. licensed after the passing of the act, give power to the council in certain cases to call upon proprietors of existing theatres to remedy structural defects, and enable it to make regulations for protection from fire. The existing regulations were issued on the 30th of July 1901 and 25th of March 1902. As to theatres in provincial towns, the Towns Improvement Act 1847, and the Public Health Act 1875, confer certain limited powers over the building on municipal corporations and urban sanitary authorities. In many towns, however, the structural qualifications of buildings used as theatres depend upon local acts and the by-laws made under the powers of such acts. Performance.—To constitute a building where a performance takes place a theatre, the performance must be (a) of a stage-play, and (b) for hire. (a) By § 23 of the act of 1843 the word " stage-play " includes tragedy, comedy, farce, opera, burletta, interlude, melodrama, pantomime or other entertainment of the stage, or any part thereof. The two tests of a stage-play appear to be the excitement of emotion and the representation of action. The question whether a performance is a stage-play or not seems to be one of degree, and one rather of fact than of law. A ballet d'action would usually be a stage-play, but it would be otherwise with a ballet divertissement. § 14 empowers the lord chamberlain to forbid the acting of any stage-play in Great Britain whenever he may be of opinion that it is fitting for the preservation of good manners, decorum, or the public peace to do so. § 15 imposes a penalty of f5o on any one acting or presenting a play or part of a play after such inhibition, and avoids the licence of the theatre where it appears. Regulations of police respecting the performance are contained in 2 & 3 Viet. C. 47, and in many local acts. A performance may also be proceeded against as a nuisance at common law, if, for instance, it be contra bonos mores or draw together a great concourse of vehicles, or if so much noise be heard in the neighbourhood as to interfere with the ordinary occupations of life. Very curious instances of proceedings at common law are recorded. In Sir Anthony Ashley's case (2 Rolle's Rep. 109), 1615, players were indicted for riot and unlawful assembly. In 1700 the grand jury of Middlesex presented the two play-houses and also the bear-garden on Bankside (the " Paris garden " of Henry VIII. act v. sc. 3) as riotous and disorderly nuisances. Performances on Sunday, Good Friday, and Christmas day are illegal. Regulations as to the sale of intoxicating liquors during the performance are made by the licensing acts and other public general acts, as well as by local acts and rules made by county councils. It is frequently a condition of the licence granted to provincial theatres that no excisable liquors shall be sold or consumed on the premises. The excise duty where such liquors are sold varies according to the annual value of the theatre up to a maximum of f2o. The Dangerous Performances Acts, 1879 and 1897, forbid under a penalty of f to any public exhibition or performance whereby the life or limbs of a child under the age of sixteen if a boy, eighteen if a girl, shall be endangered. It also makes the employer of any such child indictable for assault where an accident causing actual bodily harm has happened to the child, and enables the court on conviction of the employer to order him to pay the child compensation not exceeding f 2O. The Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904 forbids a child to appear in any public entertainment without a licence from a petty sessional court. (b) The performance must be for hire. § 16 of the act of 1843 makes a building one in which acting for hire takes place, not only where money is taken directly or indirectly, but also where the purchase of any article is a condition of admission, and where a play is per-formed in a place in which excisable liquor is sold. In the case of Shelley v. Bethell, 1883 (Law Reports, 12 Q.B.D. II), it was held that the proprietor of a private theatre was liable to penalties under the act, though he lent the theatre gratuitously, because tickets of admission were sold in aid of a charity. Licensing of Building.—By § 2 of the act of 1843 all theatres (other than patent theatres) must be licensed. By § 7 no licence 2 Dryden's words in the " Essay on Satire " (addressed to the earl of Dorset, lord chamberlain) still describe the duties of the office. " As lord chamberlain I know you are absolute by your office in all that belongs to the decency and good manners of the stage. You can banish from thence scurrility and profaneness, and restrain the licentious insolence of poets and their actors in all things that shock the public quiet or the reputation of private persons under the notion of humour." is to be granted except to the actual and responsible manager, who is to be bound by himself and two sureties for due observance of rules and for securing payment of any penalties incurred. The metropolitan theatres other than the patent theatres (as far at least as they are included in the boroughs named in the act of 1843) are licensed by the lord chamberlain. By § 4 his fee on grant of a licence is not to exceed ios. for each month for which the theatre is licensed. The lord chamberlain appears to have no power to make suitable rules for enforcing order and decency. He can, however, by § 8, suspend or revoke a licence or close a patent theatre where any riot or misbehaviour has taken place. He has issued a code of regulations. Provincial theatres fall under three different licensing authorities. The lord chamberlain licenses theatres in Windsor and Brighton, and theatres situated in the places where the king occasionally resides, but only during the time of such occasional residence (§ 3). Theatres at Oxford and Cambridge, or within 14 M. thereof, are licensed by the justices having jurisdiction therein, but before any such licence can come into force the consent of the chancellor or vice-chancellor must be given. The rules made by the justices for the management of the theatre are subject to the approval of the chancellor or vice-chancellor, who may also impose such conditions upon the licence as he thinks fit. In case of any breach of the rules or conditions, he may annul the licence (§ 10). All other provincial theatres are licensed by the county councils or county borough councils' under s. 7 of the act of 1888, except in case of a special and temporary performance, where justices still grant the licence as they did in all cases before that act came into operation. The regulations of the London County Council are dated the 27th of July 1897. Penalties are imposed by the act for keeping or acting in an unlicensed theatre, and for producing or acting in an unlicensed play. A contract to perform in an unlicensed theatre is unenforceable. Music Ilalls.—Music was at no time the object of restrictions as severe as those imposed upon the drama. The present English act governing music halls, the Disorderly Houses Act 1751, was passed probably in consequence of the publication in 1750 of Fielding's Inquiry into the Causes of the late Increase of Robbers. It is remarkable that two works of the same writer should from opposite causes have led to both theatre and music-hall legislation of lasting importance. The act was originally passed for a term of three years, but was made perpetual by 28 Geo. II. c. 19. It applies only to music halls within 20 M. of London and Westminster. Every such music hall must be licensed at the Michaelmas quarter sessions, the licence to be signified under the hands and seals of four or more justices. The licence may be granted for music or dancing or both. Public notice of the licence is to be given by affixing over the door the inscription " Licensed in pursuance of act of parliament for," with the addition of words showing the purpose. The penalty for keeping an unlicensed music hall is f loo. This act is amended as to Middlesex by the Music and Dancing Licences (Middlesex) Act 1894, putting the licensing into the hands of the county council. Regulations were made by the council under this act on the 31st of July 1900 and the 27th of June 1901. Music halls beyond the radius of 20 M. from London and Westminster are mainly governed by the Public Health Act 1890, the licensing authority being the licensing justices. There is no censorship of music-hall performance, the only remedy for anything objectionable is for the licensing authority to withdraw the licence or refuse to renew it. See generally W. N. M. Geary, Law of Theatres and Music Halls (1885); C. Hamlyn, Manual of Theatrical Law (1891); A. A. Strong, Dramatic and Musical Law (1898); J. B. Williamson, Law of Licensing (1902). Scotland.—In Scotland the theatre has always exercised a smaller amount of influence than in England, and there has been little exclusively Scottish legislation on the subject. 1555, c. 40, discountenanced certain amusements of a semi-theatrical kind by enacting that no one was to be chosen Robert -Rude (sic), Little John, abbot of unreason, or queen of May. A proclamation of ames VI. in 1574, and 1J79, c. 12, followed the lines of English legislation by making persons using unlawful plays, such as jugglery or fast and loose, punishable as vagabonds. In 1574 the General Assembly claimed to license plays, and forbade representations on Sunday. As in England, the licensing power seems then to have passed from the church to the crown, for in 1599 James VI. licensed a theatre at Edinburgh. 1672, c. 21, exempted comedians while upon the stage from the sumptuary provisions of the act respecting apparel. The chamberlain of Scotland, while such an office existed, appears to have exercised a certain police jurisdiction over theatres. The Theatres Act 1843 extends to Scotland, as did also the previous act of 1737, and further provisions are made by the Burgh Police Act 1892. Ireland.—Theatrical legislation, as far as it went, was based upon English models. Thus ridicule of the liturgy was forbidden by 2 Eliz. c. 2 (Ir.) ; common players of interludes and wandering 1 The councils may delegate their authority to justices, a district council, or a committee of their own body, such as the Theatre and Music Hall Committee of the London County Council.minstrels were deemed vagabonds, to & ii Car. I. c. 4 (Ir.). In 1786 an act was passed to enable the crown to grant letters patent for one or more theatres in Dublin city and county, 26 Geo. III. c. 57 (Ir.). The preamble alleges that the establishing of a well-regulated theatre at the seat of government will be productive of public advantage and tend to improve the morals of the people. Exceptions from the restrictions of the act were made in favour of entertainments for the benefit of the Dublin lying-in hospital and exhibitions of horsemanship or puppet-shows. The existing theatre and music-hall acts do not apply to Ireland, except the Public Health Act 1890, s. 51. British Colonies.—There is a large amount of legislation. An example is the Victoria Act, No 1430 (1897), giving the chief secretary power to cancel or suspend the licence of any theatre if used on Sunday without special permit. United States.—Public entertainments, dramatic or other, are usually under the control of the municipal authorities, and there is no act of Congress on the subject, except one of 1898 imposing a temporary war tax on the theatres. In most states there is state legislation, requiring places of public entertainment to be licensed by the proper authority. In many states it is a condition of the licence that intoxicating liquors shall not be sold in such places. Other conditions, more or less usual, are that there shall be no Sunday or dangerous performances, that acrobats shall be properly protected, and that female waiters shall not be employed. Structural qualifications are in some cases made necessary. Thus in 1885 the New York legislature passed an act containing many minute provisions for ensuring the safety of theatres against fire. A characteristic piece of legislation is the New York Act of 1873, c. 186, enacting that no citizen is to be excluded from a theatre by reason of race, colour or previous condition of servitude. This act of course merely carries out the important principle affirmed in art. xiv. of the amendments to the constitution of the United States. There are two curious and conflicting decisions of other states on the matter. Missouri held that a manager could discriminate against a person of colour, Michigan that he could not (see Green's Digest, vol. i. 642). Continental Europe.—The principal points in which the continental theatre differs from the English are that Sunday is the most important day, and that the theatre is often owned or subsidized by the state or a municipality. In France there has been much legislation since the days of the Revolution, the principal law being one of 1864. A feature is the tax known as le droit des pauvres, which has been the subject of much discussion. The censure prealble was abolished in 1906. The object is attained by police penalties. Most of the authorities will be found in Dalloz, Supplement, vol. xvii., and, for the older law, Lacan, La Legislation et la jurisprudence des theatres (1853), and Maugras, Les Comediens hors de la loi (1887), may be consulted. Italy has produced at least two modern works on the subject, Rivalta, Storia e Sistema del Diritto dei Teatri (1886), and Tabanelli, Codice del Teatro (1901). What strikes one is how little special legislation there is on the subject. The penal code meets most cases. Spain retained the autos sacramentales much longer than other countries retained the religious drama. Legislation begins very early. The Siete Partidas enacts that the clergy are not to take part as actors or spectators in scurrilous plays (juegos por escarnio). Cervantes in the first part of Don Quixote makes the canon of Toledo xegret that the government had not appointed a censor to prevent the acting of plays not only injurious to morals but also offending against the classical rules of the drama. There is a considerable amount of law in the Ottoman empire; details will be found in G. Young, Corps de droit ottoman, vol. ii. 320 (1904). U. W.)
End of Article: XXV1

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