February 1648: An Ordinance for the utter suppression and abolishing of all Stage-Plays and Interludes, within the Penalties to be inflicted on the Actors and Spectators therein expressed

Pages 1070-1072

Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1911.

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February, 1647/8

[11 February, 1647/8.]

Stage-Players declared to be Rogues.

Whereas the Acts of Stage-Playes, Interludes, and common Playes, condemned by ancient Heathens, and much less to be tolerated amongst Professors of the Christian Religion is the occasion of many and sundry great vices and disorders, tending to the high provocation of Gods wrath and displeasure, which lies heavy upon this Kingdom, and to the disturbance of the peace thereof; in regard whereof the same hath been prohibited by Ordinance of this present Parliament, and yet is presumed to be practised by divers in contempt thereof. Therefore for the better suppression of the said Stage-playes, Interludes, and common Players, It is ordered and ordained by the Lords and Commons in this present Parliament Assembled, and by Authority of the same, That all Stage-players and Players of Interludes and common Playes, are hereby declared to be, and are, and shall be taken to be Rogues, and punishable, within the Statutes of the thirty ninth year of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, and the seventh year of the Reign of King James, and liable unto the pains and penalties therein contained, and proceeded against according to the said Statutes, whether they be wanderers or no, and notwithstanding any License whatsoever from the King or any person or persons to that purpose.

Stagegalleries Seats and Boxes to be pulled down.; How Players shall be dealt with.

And it is further ordered and ordained by the Authority aforesaid, That the Lord Mayor, Justices of the Peace, and Sheriffs of the City of London and Westminster, and of the Counties of Middlesex and Surrey, or any two, or more of them, shall, and may, and are hereby authorized and required, to pull down and demolish, or cause or procure to be pulled down and demolished all Stage-Galleries, Seats, and Boxes, erected or used, or which shall be erected and used for the acting, or playing, or seeing acted or plaid, such Stage-Playes, Interludes, and Playes aforesaid, within the said City of London and Liberties thereof, and other places within their respective jurisdictions; and all such common Players, and Actors of such Playes and Interludes, as upon view of them or any one of them, or by Oath of two Witnesses (which they are hereby authorized to administer) shall be proved before them, or any two of them, to have Acted, or played such Playes and Interludes as aforesaid at any time hereafter, or within the space of two Moneths before the time of the said Conviction, by their Warrant or Warrants under their hands and seals, to cause to be apprehended, and openly and publiquely whipt in some Market Town within their several Jurisdictions during the time of the said Market, and, also to cause such Offender and Offenders to enter into Recognizance or Recognizances, with two sufficient Sureties never to Act or play any Playes or Interludes any more, and shall return in the said Recognizance, or Recognizances into the Assizes or Sessions to be then next holden for the said Counties and Cities respectively; and to commit to the common Gaol any such person and persons as aforesaid, as shall refuse to be bound, and finde such Sureties as aforesaid, until he or they shall so become bound. And in case any such person or persons so Convicted of the said offence, shall after again offend in the same kinde, that then the said person or persons so offending, shall be, and is hereby Declared to be, and be taken as an incorrigible Rogue, and shall be punisht and dealt with as an incorrigible Rogue ought to be by the said Statutes.

Moneys gathered of persons coming to see Stageplayes shall be forfeited and be paid to the Churchwardens for the poor.

And it is hereby further ordered and ordained, That all and every sum and sums of Money gathered, Collected, and taken by any person or persons, of such persons as shall come to see, and be Spectators of the said Stage-Playes, and Interludes, shall be forfeited and paid unto the Church-wardens of the Church or Parish where the said sums shall be so Collected and taken, to be disposed of to the use of the poor of the said Parish and shall from time to time be levied by the said Church-wardens, and Constables of the said Parish, by Warrant under the hands and seals of any two of the Justices of the Peace of the County, City, or Town Corporate where the said sums are so taken and Collected, upon complaint thereof to them made, on the Goods and Chattels of the person or persons collecting the same, or of the person and persons to whom the same shall be paid by them that Collect the same, by Distress, and sale of their Goods and Chattels, rendring to them the overplus, upon examination of the said persons, or proof made upon Oath before the said Justices of the sum or sums so Collected and received, which the said Justices are hereby authorized to take and examine.

Spectators of Stage-playes shall pay for every offence 5s.

And it is hereby further ordered and ordained, That every person or persons which shall be present and a Spectator at any such Stage-play, or Interlude, hereby prohibited, shall for every time he shall be so present, forfeit and pay the sum of five shillings to the use of the poor of the Parish, where the said person or persons shall at that time dwell or sojourn, being convicted thereof by his own confession, or proof of any one Witness upon Oath, before any one Justice of Peace of the County, City, or Town Corporate where the said offence is committed (who is hereby authorized to take the same Oath) to be levied by the Church-wardens or Constables of the said Parish, by warrant of the said Justice of Peace, by distress and sale of the Goods of the said person offending, rendring to him the overplus.

And it is hereby further ordered and ordained, That all Mayors, Bayliffs, Constables, and other Officers, Souldiers, and other persons being thereunto required, shall be from time to time, and all times hereafter, aiding and assisting unto the said Lord Mayor, Justices of the Peace, and Sheriffs, in the due execution of this Ordinance, upon pain to be fined for their contempt in their neglect or refusal thereof.