Philemon and Philecia
Accounts of the Office of the Revels
Philemon & philecia play by the Erle of Lecesters men } ij.Throughly fur- Playes Playde at} on Shrove Mundaye nighte } nished garnished Hampton Coorte} } &fytted with the as followeth. Percius & Anthomiris playde by Munkesters Children on} store of thoffice Shrovetwesdaye at Nighte. } and provisions fol- } lowing
No provenance is known for "Philemon and Philecia" beyond its one court performance, but it is safe to assume the play was part of the active repertory performed by Leicester's men in the London area and in the provinces for at least a year on either side of the court appearance.
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
No storyline has been suggested for this play, but Wiggins, Catalogue #558, by citing the items below, implies that the staging called for several "houses with painted cloths" (Feuillerat, pp. 218, 221, respectively):
The Carpenter Rowland Robynson for iij Elme boordes & vij Ledges for } iij s viijd the frames for the players & for Nayles &c. }
Canvas at shrovetyde Herevnto is to be Added A peece of Canvas conteyning xl } forgotten before. ells which was brought into thoffice by Mris Danes seruaunt} at xijd the ell it was for the howses made for the players } xls then
References to the Play
For What It's Worth
Describing court performances generally, Astington points out the following: about painted cloths:
"Before the Revels Office lost its budget for production, visual splendour was one of its central principles. Stages were hung with curtains and painted cloth, some of which was clearly scenery, in that it represented places to which the action of the play referred. Painters were consistently employed by the Office, and we might imagine that the stage which faced the queen in court chambers was richly coloured, both with painted wood and cloth hangings, and with reflective gold and silver fringes catching the light" (p. 101).
Astington discusses stage "houses" provided for revels at court as follows:
"Theatre historians have made various guesses about what these [players' houses] may have been, what they looked like, and how the actors used them in putting on their plays, but, without either plans or drawings of these structures, guesses are as far as one can go. It is possible that they were dispersed along the upstage edge of the platform rather like the system of 'mansions' in medieval French staging, so that as characters in a play conventionally moved from place to place they would station themselves in front of different schematic frameworks (fn Chambers, ES, 3.1-21). My own guess about the early Elizabethan 'houses' is that collectively they probably were not much different from what is later called the tiring house: that is, that they were a series of curtained or painted points of entry to the stage, with space at the rear which constituted the Elizabethan 'wings' and dressing room in one" (p. 102).
Astington provides additional details (p. 138):
- "the houses were prepared by the painters ahead of time, in the work rooms at St. John's"
- the structures "sound distinctly formulaic—cities, battlements, woods, palces, and castles—and some of them must have been reused year to year"
- "The frames themselves evidently varied in substantiality and in the ways in which they were built. In 1572-73 it took two men, of unspecified trades, to put them together"
- nails were commonly used, but "the frames were also joined together with metal devices, perhaps clamps, tightened with a screw"