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The Antipodes

Edited by R. Cave

The Antipodes

Critical Introduction
Richard Cave
Critical Perspectives on The Antipodes1The Antipodes is a veritable tour de force. It is not surprising that the company at the Salisbury Court Theatre were prepared to go to court to wrest the play away from the Beestons at the Cockpit, claiming a prior right to stage it on account of a contract that they had allowed virtually to lapse during the plague months when the theatres were closed.n10501 Brome claimed that the profits accruing to Queen Henrietta Maria’s Men, Richard Heton’s company at the Salisbury Court, were considerable, which suggests they had a popular success on their hands. That the play was available in print as a quarto two years after the initial performances again attests to its popularity. No other play by Brome has such an intricately woven dramatic fabric or is so layered in its satirical strategies and ways of creating meaning. A consequence of this is that The Antipodes has attracted more critical commentary than Brome’s other plays, where the sheer range of approaches intimates how dense the dramatic fabric is.2Matthew Steggle actually divides his study of the play in Richard Brome: Place and Politics on the Caroline Stage into four sections: “genre, politics, medicine, and theatricality”.n10502 He sees voyaging to the imaginary world of The Antipodes as allowing Brome remarkable freedom to pass between the inner psychological and outer social conditions of his characters, to play with concepts of place where “here” can be the fictional world of the play or the London mansion in which it is being performed and to some degree elude precise generic placing, since it is a travel play which, in being a play, goes nowhere and everywhere. He concludes by claiming The Antipodes as Brome’s “most Shakespearean play” (116) on account of its redemptive, healing qualities, which relate to both privately disturbed psychologies and the sick state at large. The sickness of England under King Charles I is the focus of Martin Butler’s accountn10503 , which also claims a Shakespearean lineage for the comedy with its concern with learning through experience, particularly of “beneficial madness and the inverted world” (214). Butler admires Brome’s control of a complex dramatic structure that presents a world of misrule, and sees a defining image for the play in the seemingly mad Peregrine recovering his sanity through playacting as a king who is attempting to reform the sad world of which he finds himself monarch: “here satire and solution are identical” (219), as Peregrine becomes a poignant caricature of Charles I. For him the brilliance of the play resides in Brome’s deployment of Saturnalia and carnival to offer a “specifically political, potentially radical critique of Charles’s government” (220).3These are generalising approaches to the play which attempt to embrace its range. Other recent studies have examined specific details of the play’s composition: its referencing colonial imperatives and the mindset that accompanies them (Ania Loomban10504 ); Brome’s literary debts to Mandeville, concepts of a terra incognita and travel drama (Claire Jowittn10505, Anthony Parrn10506, and Marina Leslien10507), to the fantasy worlds of Jonson’s comedies, particularly The Alchemist (Julie Sandersn10508), and to the comic tradition of the trope of the world-turned-upside-down (Ian Donaldsonn10509). Ann Haaker in introducing her edition of the playn10510 investigates with tantalising brevity the contemporary plays that may have influenced Brome’s invention (Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ford’s The Lover’s Melancholy; Massinger’s The Roman Actor; Randolph’s The Muses Looking Glass), but also stresses his debts to writers as diverse as Rabelais for his delight in topsy-turvydomn10511 and Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy with its preoccupation with cures for forms of melancholyn10512. The diversity of these essays shows the richness of the text to which they are directed.4Though these admirably cover the political, ideological, theoretical, literary and dramatic contexts in which The Antipodes is best viewed, surprisingly scant attention has been paid to the theatrical context (other than in discussions about Brome’s contract with Heton and the Salisbury Court Theatre). A notable exception is Karen Kettnich’s essay, “‘Now mark that fellow; he speaks Extempore’: Scripted Improvisation in The Antipodesn10513. This aims to explore the many instances within the play where by tactical strategies in his dramaturgy Brome aims to create onstage the illusion that what audiences are watching is wholly spontaneous. Though Byplay, one of Letoy’s acting company, is signalled early in the action as a performer who delights in not learning his lines fully and in improvising in scenes, there are few indications in the ensuing play-within-the-play that draw attention to where he is showing off his particular expertise.n10514 We see him conversing with Peregrine, drawing him out of his role as spectator of the play into its action, and encouraging him too to be spontaneous in his interactions with the players’ world; and we observe his quick recovery when the performance does not go quite to plan; but how much further an actor in this role might improvise around his set speeches (some of the longest in the play) is not altogether clear. Brome continually reminds his theatre audience in ways that anticipate many of Brecht’s alienation-devices (his ways of making strange) that the play-within-the-play that they are watching is just a play, that a performance, requiring as it does the coalescing of many factors in a carefully timed sequence, can sometimes go wrong and that, when it does, the actors have to be capable of getting the show back on the rails as quickly as possible. Kettnich analyses the complexities involved in playing the role of Byplay. Spontaneity in The Antipodes, she argues, invariably highlights Brome’s calling “conscious attention to its own craftedness”: “Brome’s verbal pointing to supposed scenes of extempore instead emphasizes just the opposite, that such scenes are actually scripted” (137). Like the other writers discussed above, Kettnich sets Brome’s strategies in larger contemporary contexts: here traditions of dramaturgical experimentation that date back to Medwall, Skelton, Greene, Marston and Jonson, while stressing that Brome’s devices for suggesting improvisation are far more extensive than his predecessors’, with the notable exception of Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle. Though this play was first staged unsuccessfully in 1607, it had achieved popularity through revivals by Beestons’ company at the Cockpit in the 1630s, as the title page of the second quarto of 1635 intimates.n10515 Kettnich argues that Brome takes Beaumont’s comedy “as a point of reference and departure for own exploration of scripted improvisation” (133) and proceeds to demonstrate the grounds on which she makes this claim. The essay meticulously situates the experimental aspects of Brome’s comedy within a particular theatrical tradition. Here Brome is for once being contextualised in terms of dramaturgy and theatre practice, but again the focus is sharply directed at one particular element in The Antipodes, when really the playwright’s major achievement with this particular comedy is in engaging with theatre as an art that embraces many forms, functions, styles and ideological ambitions. It is the contention of this introduction that The Antipodes is best appreciated as a play that interrogates theatre in its myriad manifestations and in a manner akin (if parallels must be proffered) to Shakespeare’s The Tempest (c. 1611) or Calderon’s Life Is A Dream (1635): like Brome’s comedy, both are highly experimental works within each author’s canon; both see significant links between political and personal sanity but determine the nature of such psychological health by confronting extremes of illusion and delusion. By engaging with and celebrating the potency of theatre, Brome found the means to bring all the issues so far touched on into a remarkable synthesis.5It is as difficult to fit Brome as it is to fit Jonson into generic categories or linear traditions, since both tend explicitly or implicitly to take critical stances against the forms and conventions they draw on. They situate themselves both within genres and outside them, striking out on an original path away from the traditional norms. Jonson, for example, in The Devil Is An Ass (staged by the King’s Men in 1616) reminds his audience of earlier representations of devil figures in morality dramas and escapist comedies the like of the anonymous The Merry Devil of Edmonton (Chamberlain’s Men, 1602) the better to demonstrate how naïve the vision of evil proffered by such plays is compared with the monstrous iniquities of Jacobean London examined in his own satire, which shock even Satan when he puts in an appearance. This is intertextually to reference known dramas the better to define one’s originality by pointing up the wide gap between traditional modes of expression and what is currently being dramatised. Brome operates what appears to be a similar strategy of accentuating difference to highlight his innovations, but being less combative than Jonson is less specific about the genres or forms from which he is distancing his own dramaturgy. Such referencing of earlier plays is a characteristic of Brome’s artistry from his earliest work (where The City Wit and The Novella play intertextually with dramas as diverse as Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens in the first instance and The Merchant of Venice and several of Webster’s plays in the second) to his latest (The Queen and Concubine sustains a creative dialogue with The Winter’s Tale and deploys much of the same source material); and The Antipodes is no exception. Because our theatrical and literary cultures today are so centred on Shakespeare, it is easy to argue for creative intertextual relations between Jacobean and Caroline playwrights and his works; for one thing a significant number of his plays were revived in the Caroline theatre. But so too were works by Shakespeare’s contemporaries; and a man of the theatre like Brome, mentored by so culturally conscious a dramatist as Jonson, would be as likely to maintain a creative interest in their work as much as his (Shakespeare did not have quite the pre-eminence in the Caroline theatre that his reputation sustains today). Brome worked over his career for a number of theatre companies and so would have had access to or would have seen the range of their particular repertories.Plays-within-plays6An interesting case to explore in relation to the foregoing argument is Brome’s use of the play-within-the-play. This device has a long pedigree but a number of plays in the late 1620s and 1630s had begun to deploy it as a means of creating an onstage defence of the very art of theatre. This could be interpreted as a deliberate move against puritan attacks on the drama as vicious and socially disruptive, as inciting to evil by enlivening the imaginations of spectators to experience amorality as pleasure and to do so in the communal environment of a theatre. The most sustained rhetorical diatribe against drama and performance was William Prynne’s Histriomastix (1632)n10516 but a questioning of the morality of theatre dates back to Elizabeth’s reign and earlier. It is not surprising that theatre practitioners should have framed a response in terms of their own art, summoning to their aid the classical defences offered by Aristotle and Horace (and regularly reiterated by Jonson) that theatre offers as much education as pleasure. Aristotle had gone further and with his use of the term, catharsis, had viewed theatre as curative, as a bringer of healing. Both plays, which are generally deemed to be antecedents to Brome’s comedy (The Lover’s Melancholy and The Roman Actor), use the play-within-the-play to interrogate Aristotle’s larger claim.n105177Both of the plays just listed were staged before Prynne’s momentous outburst; Brome’s was not written till the period (1636-37) in which Prynne was taken out of prison for further public mutilation and then returned with an extended sentence of incarceration for what was considered his seditious libelling of the king. The ostentation of this punitive treatment may well have brought Prynne’s ideas, for which he was prepared to suffer with remarkable stoicism, firmly back into general awareness. What is noticeable about Brome’s play compared with the others is how extensive is his handling of the play-within-the-play, which is enacted throughout the three central acts, as if major criticism of the art of theatre required a retaliatory response of an equal length and seriousness.n105188Ford’s use of the device in Act 3, Scene 3 of The Lover’s Melancholy (King’s Men, 1628) seems meagre by comparison, occupying as it does but one relatively short scene. Corax, a physician, stages a kind of anti-masque illustrating forms of madness that draw heavily on Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy in an effort to cure Prince Palador of his depression. The actors (all members of the court) enter in bizarrely fantastic costume and Corax as a choric commentator explains the symbolic significance of each as variously illustrating lycanthropia, hydrophobia, delirium, phrenitis, hypochondria and wanton (female) melancholy. Quite what his objective is in staging this display is never properly expressed: perhaps his ambition is to cure Palador, who can at least fulfil many of his princely responsibilities, by showing him worse states of mental collapse than his own. The figures of the play-within-the-play are all solipsistic, even possessed by madness to the extinction of their social selves and maybe Corax intends that they should give Palador a salutary perspective onto his own condition. The prince has been following the action in a written scenario and notices that where the final character should enter is left a blank space. Corax informs him that he is the figure that should occupy the stage finally as embodying love-melancholy. Unwittingly Corax draws Palador’s attention to a youth newly arrived in court, who is actually the prince’s one-time lover and source of his despondency but who is now in disguise. Palador stops the proceedings and races away. The play-within-the-play has confirmed Corax’s analysis of the causes of Palador’s misery and the way to a happy resolution of this aspect of the plotting has been intimated, but this theatrical presentation of types of melancholy and madness cannot be said to cure the prince. Far more successful by comparison is Corax’s later relieving of Meleander’s acute despondency through a ceremony which restores to the aged lord everything that he thought he had lost: his position, his rank, his state offices, the daughter he thought dead, and his prince’s favour. The cure is achieved through processes of rehabilitation and, though a kind of ritual is involved, it is not theatre. The use of the play-within-the-play here is akin to Shakespeare’s use of the device in Hamlet: the performance confirms the suspicions of a rapt onlooker (Corax) about the mindset of the chief spectator (Palador) who, troubled, silences the players. The use of the device by Ford as by Shakespeare is sensational rather than Aristotelian.9Massinger’s The Roman Actor (staged by the King’s Men in 1626), which is set in the time of the Emperor Domitian, starts notably with a lengthy statement of the Aristotelian position and it is offered literally as a defence, since it is voiced by the actor, Paris, when his troupe are arrested and brought before the senate, accused of defaming their superiors. He speaks of curing or purging the ills of society through satire.But ’tis vrg’d
That we corrupt youth, and traduce superiours:
When we do bring a vice upon the Stage.
That does goe off vnpunish’d? doe we teach
By the successe of wicked vundertakings,
Others to tread, in their forbidden steps?
We show no arts of Lidian Pandarisme,
Corinthian poisons, Persian flatteries,
But mulcted so in the conclusion that
Even those spectators that were so inclin’d,
Go home chang’d men.n10519
10That the actors are freed, however, has less to do with the persuasive powers of Paris’s eloquence and the felt rightness of his cause than with being a favourite of Domitian, who is a connoisseur of his performances. The play then develops two lines of action: one focuses on the emperor, his capricious cruelties, his infatuation with Domitia and his assassination; the other moves through a series of staged performances by Paris and his company, which seem to be devised as a testing of his principles as set out in his defence of his art. On each occasion practice falls far short of theory. A miser refuses to renounce his avarice while watching a morality drama that presents the cure of a man in the grip of the same vice, even when hanging threatens. The staging of a tragedy of a love rejected on the grounds of class barriers, far from being an instructive warning to all its spectators, serves to excite one of them (the empress, Domitia) so to lust after Paris in his role as scorned lover that she disrupts the performance rather than watch him commit suicide, even though he insists that the death would be a fiction not an actuality. Later, however, Paris dies in earnest onstage: in role as “the false servant”, he is playing out a scenario that precisely mirrors the adultery he has begun with Domitia, when the emperor, appearing as “the injured lord”, murders him. In a further scene a theatrical situation is established that does not include Paris: Domitian watches as sole spectator while two political opponents are being tortured to death; but, this metatheatrical situation, far from holding a mirror up to his inhumanity that might cause him to relent and be merciful, causes him to rage against his victims because their stoical silence prevents his exercising his sadism and enjoying their abject suffering.11By the end of the play Paris’s claim that an experience of theatre sensitises moral and social awareness is discredited as specious. It could be argued that the extremes against which Massinger interrogates Aristotle’s theory invite an audience to take a combative stance and themselves to find a justification for theatre as an art; but this is to take the debate outside the powerful metatheatrical strategies which Massinger devotes his creative energies to devising. Martin White, having directed a production of The Roman Actor, asserts that the play demonstrates “that, if vice is so deeply embedded, it cannot be supplanted through the agency of theatrical performance and that, by logical extension, neither can true virtue”.n10520 The other strand of narrative in the play concerns the enormities perpetrated by Domitian. This aspect of the drama is political rather than aesthetic in its concerns and posits the question whether it is right for Domitian’s victims to unite to bring about his overthrow and death (the play’s bloody climax) when he is their nominated ruler. (1626 was perhaps too early in the reign of Charles I for the question to be seen as loaded.) The final words of the play assert a decidedly negative answer, pointing the moral that rulers are rulers and that whether they are good or bad is irrelevant: the good are “mourn’d for, after life” whereas the ill “Vnlamented fall”n10521. A marked pessimism prevails: grim endurance is all.12Brome does not choose to place his cards on the table by finding like Massinger a means to remind audiences of Aristotle’s ideas. Though Letoy, the aristocrat who writes and presents the play-within-the-play, has a scene (1.2) in which he presents himself, it reveals less about his informing strategies than his own quixotic nature. He dislikes self-display and the ostentatious pursuits of his class, preferring simpler pleasures, including the running of a theatre company; he does not resent the fact that he is an object of some amusement to his peers, and opines that, if he is to follow his family tradition and set a fashion in attire, then it will be for dressing down, while dressing his servants in the bravest of styles. His attendant, Blaze, sums up the town’s view of him as looking “more like a pedlar /Than like a lord, and liv[ing] more like an emperor” [AN 1.2.speech109]. The theatre audience are led to believe throughout Act 1 that they will join Letoy and Joyless’s family in watching a play that is intended to work a cure on Peregrine, Joyless’s son, who has become obsessed with books and thoughts of travel to the neglect of every other responsibility, especially for his wife, Martha (their marriage remains unconsummated after three years’ wedlock).13The situation that is set up, however, is more complex than first supposed: Peregrine will watch Letoy’s drama in the company of a doctor (Hughball), while the play and his response to it is watched by Letoy and Peregrine’s own family; in turn the play and its two onstage audiences will be watched by spectators in the theatre. As the play proceeds, it receives commentary on its content and the manner of its performance from both onstage groups of spectators. Gradually various of those onstage spectators are drawn into a more complex relationship with what is happening in the play-within-the-play: Peregrine appears to have freedom to wander around the players (he supposes he is a traveller newly arrived in The Antipodes where the play is set and indeed believes this is an exact geographical place, having no awareness that what he is watching is a fiction) and eventually joins them in discourse; Martha responds wholeheartedly to any mention of children or child-getting in the play, offers herself to one of the actors when he mentions the subject, and in time gets taken up like Peregrine into the action where she finds she has a role to play that brings her surprising fulfilment; meanwhile Diana, Joyless’s recently acquired second wife, becomes enamoured of one of the actors too (rather as Domitia becomes infatuated with Paris during a performance). In a more developed way than is attempted by Massinger, Brome establishes a divided focus of interest for the theatre audience: there is the play (a satire on contemporary London, its follies, foibles and forms of downright corruption) but there is also the wide range of differing responses it provokes and what these reveal about the spectators who voice them. What we are watching as audience of Brome’s comedy is not a statement of Aristotelian ideas (like Paris’s grand oration to the Roman senate in praise of the social value of theatre) but an embodied dramatisation of how such ideas about theatre in performance actually operate on individual spectators. What Brome shows is the danger of pursuing overly generalising theories when reactions to the impact of drama in performance can be richly diverse. Much laughter is provoked by this diversity, though as the action proceeds darker resonances begin to be felt. Diana, for whom this is a first experience of theatre, seems liberated by it all: she listens intently and comments with enthusiasm and insight, is appraising of the abilities of the actors (especially Byplay), and begins in time with an equal enthusiasm to flirt with Letoy, who privately whispers to her his comments on the performance. All this is to the chagrin of her husband, who manifestly distrusts theatre, plays, actors, and Letoy and puts up with the whole (to him) demoralising experience for the sake of winning Peregrine back to health.14Health is precisely what is restored to everyone involved as audience to the play-within-the-play from the end of Act 4 onwards (even to Letoy, despite the confident self-promotion of his early appearances). Again what impresses are the multiple and divergent ways in which this process of healing is achieved. Noticeably it is not simply the theme and dramaturgy of the play-within-the-play which effects the cure, but rather what it provokes the several spectator-characters to do. Peregrine, Joyless, Diana, Letoy (to a less extent Martha) become implicated in scenarios of their own individual devising, which expose the particular vulnerability in them individually through which a cure may be achieved. (This is perhaps a first instance of drama as therapy.)n1052215It is helpful in grasping a sense of Brome’s structure and its implications to take Peregrine as an example for detailed analysis. Behind his obsession with travel lies a loss of an independent personal identity because of the extreme possessiveness of his parents. Joyless tells the doctor how he and his wife continually frustrated Peregrine’s signing up on voyages of discovery: “His mother and /Myself opposed him still in all, and strongly /Against his will, still held him in” [AN 1.1.speech44]. On the point of departure with the doctor to The Antipodes Peregrine poignantly fears when Blaze chances to enter that he is “One sent /I fear, from my dead mother to make stop /Of our intended voyage” [AN 1.3.speech210]. Once he wakens into the playworld that he believes is the actual Antipodes, he quickly moves from being enraptured by its strangeness to responding to the inhabitants’ offers of refreshment and private conversation. He is taken backstage into the tiring house, where he is shocked by the costume and property store which he conceives as a country of barbarians. He destroys it all with a sword and, thinking he has conquered an alien land, invests himself as king of it. When next he appears to watch the play-within-the-play it is less in a spirit of delight than with intent to sit in judgement. His interference in the action now becomes Brome’s means of heightening the satire of contemporary London. The Antipodes we learn from the doctor before the play-within-the-play begins is a place where everything runs exactly contrary to how things currently operate in London; Peregrine’s interventions encourage the theatre audience to question what is revealed by the wholesale process of inversion about the London they experience daily. Again an audience’s initial laughter at a world turned upside-down turns darker as issues of judgement and justice (private and social) shape the satire. By now Peregrine has pushed the intended play-within-the-play off course and the actors are increasingly required to improvise. Byplay and the doctor intervene to feed his fantasies of power with the announcement that Peregrine’s people require him to enter a dynastic marriage to maintain a kingly lineage and Martha, richly attired as a foreign queen, is cunningly introduced into the make-believe world as his intended bride. The resulting sexual experience brings release for them both from manias which were the product of unfulfilled longings: his for the authority brought by an independence through which to define himself; hers for social definition through status and motherhood (a critique of these aspects of the comedy will follow). The play-within-the-play allows them to admit to and play out their longings while free of actual social consequences and then, returned to the actuality of family and friends, to settle into marriage contentedly.16A surprising piece of information given to audiences in Act 5 is that Diana was encouraged by the doctor and Letoy to adopt her increasingly jeering response to her husband while watching the play-within-the-play:Did you not warrant me […]
That you would cure his [Joyless’s] jealousy, which affects him
Like a sharp sore, if I to ripen it
Would set that counterfeit face of scorn upon him,
Only in show of disobedience, which
You won me to upon your protestation
To render me unstained to his opinion
And quit me of his jealousy for ever.
[AN 5.2.speech998]
17Diana, in other words, has been playing a role throughout most of the preceding four acts and in a script, a further play-within-the-play, which is also of Letoy’s devising. Moreover, she has been improvising with skill and relish in the belief that the finer and more convincing her performance the sooner she will experience real amity with her husband. She has enacted a role against her own nature in the interests of her marriage and successfully so. Joyless is astonished at the rapid change in her character:The air of London
Hath tainted her obedience already;
And should the play but touch the vices of it [London],
She’d learn and practise ’em.
[AN 2.1.speech286]
18Watching the play with her confirms his worst fears. Diana’s revelation about her role-play is delivered while she is fending off Letoy’s attempts to seduce her into adultery (he has, as the opening line of the scene states, already attempted violence). Against Letoy’s every line of argument Diana puts up a superb defence, proving she is his intellectual match.n10523 What Diana (and the audience) learn, once it is clear that she is inexorable in repelling Letoy’s advances, is that this episode has been contrived as another of Letoy’s plays and that it has its audience too: Joyless, at the nadir of despair that he has lost Diana and is a cuckold, has been secreted into a nearby chamber and has observed the battle of wills which has shown Diana to be wholly invincible. Drama has provided him with the proof on which his future security will rest. This is one scene that his phobia would not allow him to imagine, since his insecurities have so possessed his imagination as to provide him only with images of Diana in the throes of adulterous lust. The shocking intensity of those images is powerfully conveyed to audiences through his soliloquy which opens this act, through his inability to understand Barbara, Blaze’s wife, who tries to console him in his anguish, and through his attempt at murdering her in the certainty that what she is trying to say to him proves the certainty of his wild imaginings. The transformation worked in Joyless by his new experience as spectator is transcendent: Diana is now to him his “better soul” [AN 5.2.speech1002].n10524 The play has worked its cure: however, not by exhibiting to Joyless a mirror-reflection of his own self (arguably the Aristotelian meaning of catharsis), but by showing him Diana’s inner truth and unquestionably honourable identity. She effects his cure by improvising within Letoy’s scenario: his crafted fiction determines her reality.19The most remarkable and unexpected cure in the play is of Letoy himself, but its future efficacy is the most uncertain. In the process of curing others, the physician heals himself. Brome’s structuring of the character is exact. Frequently he has boasted the self-promoting phrase, “For I am still Letoy”. Variations are worked on this (such as “as I am true Letoy”), but the rhythm and the self-promotion vaunted in the self-naming remain constant. Numerous characters throughout Brome’s comedies are given a particular linguistic quirk which becomes their signature. Letoy’s is unusual in continually drawing attention to his identity and authority. The phrase most pointedly recurs whenever circumstances pose some challenge to his mastery of a situation. It appears, for example, when Letoy overhears Joyless imply indelicately that his wife may be a whore [AN 3.1.speech525-528]; enraged, Letoy bids Joyless sit and behave “civilly” and adds the threat, “I’ll lock thee up else, as I am true Letoy” [AN 3.1.speech531]. That he chooses to protect Diana’s honour while simultaneously flirting with her, creates an enigma that it takes the play overall to resolve. Letoy from the first is shown as a character of inconsistencies: he delights in his lineage yet chooses to live privately and simply, avoiding fashionable self-display; he seems to despise his peers for their pursuit of mindless pleasures yet has a most cultivated taste for theatre and playwriting (all popular enterprises at court in the 1630s); he aims to work with the doctor to effect healing but lacks patience and is prone to bursts of furious temper if his control of events is undermined.20What the final episode of the play reveals are the circumstances whereby he has chosen to hide his paternal relation to Diana from her. Letoy tells how like Joyless he believed his wife (Diana’s mother) unfaithful and refused to recognise his paternal responsibilities, preferring to arrange for another (Truelock) to assume the role of father to his daughter. In his past as in the immediate present he has manipulated individuals as if he were their puppet-master or a magus-figure like Shakespeare’s Prospero, arranging lives and relationships as might a dramatist. From his wife’s deathbed admissions he has learned the error of his suspicions of her. Fearing that Diana may be about to suffer as her mother did from marriage to a jealous husband, he has intervened to show Joyless the error of his ways but in the process discovered in Diana a woman of undaunted integrity who will not be manipulated to his liking. She humbles him as aristocrat, as dramatist and stage manager, as civilised man and does so relentlessly in defence of her honour and her marriage, refusing to be cowed by his threats of publicly exposing her as a whore:This you may do, and yet be still a lord;
This can I bear, and still be the same woman!
I am not troubled now: your wooing oratory,
Your violent hands (made stronger by your lust),
Your tempting gifts, and larger promises
Of honour and advancements were all frivolous;
But this last way of threats, ridiculous
To a safe mind that bears no guilty grudge.
My peace dwells here, while yonder sits my judge,
And in that faith I’ll die.
[AN 5.2.speech1000]
21Much of the play has been focused on performance: there is the actual play-within-the-play and the responses it invites from spectators; but there is a larger metatheatrical dimension in The Antipodes, which engages with theatre as metaphor for elements of performativity in daily experience. Within the family Peregrine is seen resisting parental control and Diana is seen resisting attempts to categorise her nature by her husband and by her father, who poses as a tempter to test her strength of character. Both offspring are being coerced into playing roles not of their own choosing; both make a stand for selfhood and independence. Diana is Letoy’s means to cure her husband’s jealousy and in the process exposes the need of a cure for Letoy’s patriarchal tyranny (his wish to determine the lives of others by making his social world a playground in which to exercise his theatrical and dramaturgical expertise). Letoy’s ensuing narrative of his past is part confession, part expiation: his responsible life has been subsumed into his sporting activities and his games with theatre, as if actual creative relations with others were feared and consequently ostracised from his experience. He is a non-man (how telling Diana’s epithets “frivolous” and “ridiculous” are with their condemnation of him as childish) until he can claim his family and draw them about him into a circle. Brome does not, however, create as easy an ending as this would imply: Letoy brings that circle together in the closing moments of the action, but significantly as an audience for yet another of his “toys”: a masque (that most expensive and ephemeral of theatrical forms). How effective or secure is Letoy’s cure? The question undercuts the harmony that the masque and its onstage audience celebrate. Paternalism has been found wanting; but the ideological structure that might best replace it remains an unknown factor.22Compared with Ford’s The Lover’s Melancholy or Massinger’s The Roman Actor, Brome’s play is a far more nuanced and sophisticated defence of theatre. The Antipodes engages with classical Aristotelian and Horatian theories of health through art but less to endorse than to interrogate and problematise them; and Brome dares to do this through the medium not of tragedy (the traditional field of enquiry) but through comedy. What impresses is the ease with which Brome moves between performance and the performative (he certainly proves himself a son of Ben Jonson in this), between the conscious structures of theatre as a site of players and spectators and the more sinister, ideological structures of performance that permeate social existence, where it is difficult to create and sustain a private integrity. (There is a powerful and joyous sense, though, in a performance of the play that Peregrine and Diana, despite all the obstacles laid in their path, have come through and have control of their own futures.) Always the theatre audience are kept mindful of own their place within these structures, so that their experience of The Antipodes in performance requires them continually to interrogate that placing and remain conscious of its attendant responsibilities. If the classical defence of theatre is that a curative power resides in the fusing in drama of instruction with delight, then in Brome’s comedy healing (as the gaining of integrity) lies for spectators in the developed sensitivity and discrimination that are found in laughter and surprise.Improvisation23From the foregoing analysis, it can be supposed that Brome’s handling of supposed (or as Karen Kettnich terms it, “scripted”) improvisation is highly sophisticated, far more so that Beaumont’s use of the device in The Knight of the Burning Pestle or Jonson’s in The Alchemist, Bartholomew Fair or The Devil Is An Ass. The sophistication comes from the complexity of situations in which Brome displays the technique. Again, comparisons are fruitful. Beaumont’s comedy provides audiences with the premise that two citizen members of his audience intrude on the playing space, express boredom with the kind of fare that is to be played and request the actors to allow their apprentice, Ralph, to show his skill amongst them as a performer. Ralph (clearly an ardent theatregoer) has a vast repertoire of privately invented roles and styles of speech (he specially favours rodomontade and the grand address), which he has been indulging to the delight of his employers and their neighbours for some years. He is, in other words, a practised amateur. As the company’s intended city comedy gets going, the tradesman and his wife cajole or more frequently bribe the professionals to allow Ralph to do more and more of his “turns”, which require the acting company (and particularly the boys in the troupe) to improvise around his displays. Ralph’s Don Quixote actually gets involved in the main action (though he totally misunderstands the situation and, spurred on by the Citizen’s Wife, supports the wrong parties), so in time most of the actors are forced to improvise to accommodate Ralph’s intrusions or to meet with his employers’ expectations of what proper (usually sentimental) developments and resolutions a good play should present. The comedy is a warmly generous satire on current trends in theatre and the precarious spatial relations between actors and audience in public theatres such as the Swan where it was first played in 1607: the citizen and his wife in their cheerful familiarity know no boundaries and so do not subscribe to the contract that establishes by convention a divide within the Jacobean theatre between stage and spectators and between gentlefolk and groundlings. The play is a delightful fantasy of the “what-would-happen-if…” type that allows the acting company the chance to display a gamut of acting styles and their ability deftly to change the tone and focus within an instant. It is a superb vehicle for a good ensemble.24So of course is The Antipodes and for very similar reasons: we have in the staging of the play-within-the-play a highly vocal onstage audience; spectators who disrupt the players and intrude on the action; and one specific spectator whose imagination is so swayed by the performance that he takes on a leading role and insists on his right to shape how the performance develops. Audiences are alerted to the whole idea of improvisation by Brome when Letoy informs the doctor that his company of actors are reliable and usually word-perfect always excepting Byplay who makes “such shifts extempore /Knowing the purpose what he is to speak to /That he moves mirth in me ’bove all the rest” [AN 2.1.speech228]. The doctor agrees to bring Peregrine to converse with Byplay in whatever role he is playing, since the latter can be relied on to invent an appropriate dialogue on the spot. When Peregrine, invited into the antipodean world, begins to take an active role there, Byplay alone is unfazed when scenes take off in unexpected directions and humour is made out of the perplexity of his fellow actors who are at a loss what to do: “He puts me out.n10525 My part is now /To bribe the constable” [AN 4.1.speech 728]. And there is the hilarious episode when Peregrine decides to knight Byplay for the excellence of his judgement when acting in a court scene and none of the swords proffered meet his approval except (to the astonishment of some of the actors) for a property sword of lath stuck in a velvet scabbard [AN 3.1.speech655-660]. But even Byplay can be fazed on occasion: there is the time when the prompter has to shout from offstage to inform Byplay (here acting as a judge), who seems momentarily to have lost the plot, that he should “Dismiss the court”, which earns him Letoy’s rebuke: “Ha’ you lost your ears, judge?” [AN 3.1.speech628-629]. He is lost for words too when, having stirred up Peregrine’s wrath for his performance as a lord with control of state monopolies, he finds himself suddenly pardoned (“Stand up, you have our favour”) and cannot see how to move the action back to the agreed scheme (“Your grace /Abounds - abounds - your grace - I say, abounds”), which again earns Letoy’s derision: “Pox o’ your mumbling chops. Is your brain dry? /Do you pump?” [AN 4.1.speech865-866]. Letoy is so angry that he begins to shout down directions to the actors from the window “above” from which he is watching the action with Diana and Joyless (“Ha’ you forgotten (puppy) my instructions /Touching his subjects and his marriage?”), which provokes a curious Peregrine to ask, “What voice was that?” Byplay engages in some quick thinking and reassures Peregrine that it was “A voice out of the clouds that doth applaud /Your highness’ welcome to your subjects’ loves” [AN 4.1.speech874-878]. The invention allows Byplay to get the action back on target to Letoy’s satisfaction. These episodes remind the theatre audience how difficult spontaneous improvisation is to sustain, particularly when the actors involved are trying to keep pace with non-scripted and non-devised interventions from a highly unpredictable source. They also serve to keep the issue of improvisation in spectators’ minds in preparation for the final act.25What spectators watch here is Joyless pushed to the brink of sanity where he cannot discriminate the sense of what he is being informed of and is so desperately confused that he threatens Barbara’s life; they then see Byplay rapidly intervening to protect her and steer Joyless off in quest of Diana; she next appears being rapidly pursued by Letoy, who seems bent on rape if he cannot persuade her to adultery. The opening of their subsequent scene of temptation takes place over a table that is pushed or carried onstage; it is covered in fabulously costly jewels and artefacts. Almost the first words that Letoy utters on entering carry intertextual resonances of Volpone’s attempts to woo Celia: “See, here’s wealthy treasure: /Jewels, that Cleopatra would have left /Her Marcus for” [AN 5.2.speech983].n10526 For the regular, attentive theatregoer of his day, Brome seems to be offering a number of signs here but their particular import is not immediately established. They offer one of several ways to help read the scene which follows. It is helpful to look at it in the light of what is revealed by the end of the act regarding Letoy’s relation to Diana and his objective in attempting her chastity. Those dark initial episodes encompassing so much pain for Joyless and Diana are later discovered to be scenes contrived by Letoy, who has deliberately devised a means to push Joyless to the edge of despair and as deliberately followed up his earlier flirtation by forcing his carnal attentions on Diana. He has done this to establish beyond doubt Diana’s chastity and purge away Joyless’s jealousy and fear of being cuckolded. In other words, he has required husband and wife unknowingly to improvise within scenarios of his invention: they have been compelled to act for “real”, while he has observed and shaped their performances towards what he deems the appropriate ending. The intended ends may be curative, but how are spectators to judge the means? Is the intertextual referencing of Jonson’s Volpone devised to alert an informed theatre audience that the ensuing scene is to be viewed as another of Letoy’s (meta)theatrical games? Has Letoy’s delight in spontaneous performance got quite out of hand? These are questions that ultimately only a given production can resolve and even then the answers will be relative to that particular director and cast’s choices of emphasis and tone. What can be perceived, however, is that Brome has the imagination to encompass not only the light-hearted possibilities of improvisation but also its darker potential, once it extends away from theatre proper into the metatheatrics of performativity. The rounded completeness of Brome’s engagement at various levels with the device of improvisation is impressive. Beside his achievement with this aspect of The Antipodes, Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle seems remarkably innocent.The Play as Political Satire26The discussion of the play-within-the-play earlier in this introduction focused on it as a theatrical device and on its varied reception by the onstage audience; there was scant mention of its content. The doctor explains to Peregrine at some length in 1.3 what a voyage to The Antipodes entails and the kind of world the traveller will find there:The people through the whole world of Antipodes,
In outward feature, language, and religion,
Resemble those to whom they are supposite:
They under Spain appear like Spaniards,
Under France, French men, under England, English,
To the exterior show: but in their manners,
Their carriage and condition of life,
Extremely contrary.
[AN 1.3.speech164]
27In other words: The Antipodes is a place where everything is the exact opposite of what would obtain in London, a place of inversions and reversals. Brome had already explored such strangeness in his collaboration with Heywood on The Late Lancashire Witches (King’s Men, 1634) in the scenes concerning the bewitched family of the Seelys, where the children tyrannise over the parents and the servants rule the roost. These (which are generally thought to be the work of Brome rather than Heywood) are amongst the funniest sequences in the play, but the pattern of inversions of expected norms is relatively simple here compared with the subtlety that Brome develops in The Antipodes. However, the doctor’s first descriptions of what Peregrine may expect to find there and indeed the first scenes on his arrival stay close to the satirical technique Brome initiated in the Seely scenes: we learn that “the people rule /The magistrates” and “women overrule the men”; that, though in England parents and masters have authority, “there they obey the child and servant”; men in The Antipodes participate at “christenings and gossips’ feasts”, while their wives go hunting; deer chase hounds, sheep worry foxes, partridges hunt hawks, and swans are white and ravens black.n10527 Once there by virtue of the play-within-the-play we see sergeants refusing to arrest an offender; learn that old men and women marry very young partners and that those youngsters are then expected to get children by committing adultery with either their servants or with equally young members of the opposite sex; and observe elderly men in their second childhood being sent back to school from which they delight in playing truant. All this is straightforward enough in its way and perhaps relaxes an audience into a state of comfortable superiority, though to the wary it is noticeable that law officers are being travestied here, along with primogeniture and the belief that chastity is the sum of a person’s (particularly a woman’s) honour. The anxieties that underlie manifestations of patriarchal control (about the getting of a “true” heir, the maintaining of a proper status and the securing of an acceptable lineage through carefully arranged dynastic marriages, the enshrining of women’s virginity as tokens of a family’s honour) are being cheerfully brought out into the open: what English upper and middle class society most fear as subversions of their power is being matter-of-factly shown as making for a nicely comfortable way-of-life in anti-England.28It is in the third act that the satire steadily becomes more challenging, as the focus turns more precisely to the law and the issue of justice. At first spectators watch individuals seeking to establish their rights: a poet, for example, seeks financial satisfaction of his patron with an itemised list of fees for his commissions; a woman boxer presses her claim to be allowed to fight in a prize match. But later a full trial concerning contractual obligation is staged in which Byplay enacts a judge: his decisions, which cleverly find a way to satisfy defendant, plaintiff and himself, and in so doing throw into sharp relief the difference between justice and equity. The contract is a bizarre one by conventional standards of behaviour: a mercer has given valuable goods to a young gentleman to induce him to get the tradesman’s wife with child and the gentleman, having misgivings about the transaction, has failed to comply although he has held on to the goods. The judge by a train of absurd logic decides (as a gentleman himself) to take the silks and bed the wife, thereby leaving everyone (including the unseen spouse) content.n10528 This out-does Solomon’s cunning in arriving at an expression of justice which is based on commonsense rather than the rule of law but the outcome advantages him best. This is at once highly comic and also disturbing in that the trial proceeds with a precise attention to the required formalities and ceremonies of an actual court in its concern for precedence and for recognition that the power invested in the judge is absolute. Byplay as that judge is quick to reprimand any infringement of the required codes or hint of insubordination. Equally disturbing in the episode are the private social and psychological intimations that resonate throughout the plaintiff’s speeches: that the gentleman’s bastard got with the mercer’s wife may, if made the gentleman’s heir, succeed to his father’s estate. Again the ideology of primogeniture is being challenged and the panoply of patriarchal law undermined. What makes the episode both surprising and unnerving is Byplay’s merry confidence in endorsing his personal concept of justice and all the repercussions it sets going in one’s imagination. It is hardly surprising that Joyless is shocked by it (he and Diana have their sharpest quarrel to date in the play the moment the sequence ends and she extols Byplay for his performance).n10529 If Byplay’s judgement were to become an accepted precedent in common law, then Joyless’s fears of being cuckolded would be severely augmented; he is horrified at the prospect of having to accept into his family a player’s bastard (particularly given the general distaste for actors as rogues and vagabonds, a view encoded even in law in the sixteenth century). The performance has set Joyless’s personal fantasies racing to a degree where they wholly shape his response to the drama and to his own wife and cause him to confuse the fictional world of the play-within-the-play with his and Diana’s actuality. His confusion invites the theatre audience to speculate whether London and this presentation of an antipodean anti-London are as discreetly antithetical as the doctor originally argued.29Peregrine in his self-created role as King of The Antipodes endorses the ruling of the court by knighting the judge (Byplay) and this closes the third act. He is less content with what he discovers about justice in the Act 4, where some of the consequences of pursuing private whim or prejudice as a form of law in the manner of Byplay’s judge are depicted. An innocent young gentleman, accused of harassing a maiden is threatened with prison by a constable who refuses to listen to him and takes the word of the woman as gospel (she is lying outrageously) on the grounds that, having a wife and daughters, he is bound “by hourly precepts to hear women first” [AN 4.1.speech719]. As an officer of the law, he has no sense of fair play and seemingly no belief that one is innocent till proved guilty. The audience are next presented with a form of mob rule when (a subtle inversion, this) a man-scold is seen recovering from being ducked by a posse of vengeful women. Peregrine’s class-awareness suffers a knock when he discovers that in The Antipodes social manners are not an indication of rank: he encounters courtiers who behave like “rude silken clowns” [AN 4.1.speech783] and working men who possess the civility and good grace he supposed characterised only aristocrats. How fair is a social system that legally privileges the first but not the second? The question is answered in an episode that pitches Peregrine into despair: an opulent statesman (Byplay again) is courted by projectors framing the maddest of ideas which he is prepared to take up and promote as monopolies; he also has the dispensing of charity towards the indigent, and Peregrine is appalled to discover that robbers, brothel-keepers and cutpurses are to be receivers of the greatest munificence. He intervenes in defence of the principle of Justice (though it is a justice even so, that is relative because framed within the limits of Peregrine’s English experience) but he is moved to temper his wrath and ameliorate his intended punishment with mercy.30It is difficult to estimate how these scenes would have resonated with Caroline audiences in 1638. However, they were still experiencing King Charles’s long period of personal rule, when in dispensing with Parliament he had removed one major regulator of the law, much of which he now shaped to meet his own requirements and his concept of justice as an expression of his political role as divinely appointed monarch. Increasingly strapped for money to further his regal schemes, he attempted to implement taxes of his own devising, and welcomed any means such as the sale of monopolies (as had his father, James I) to supplement the royal income. Through two Stuart reigns individuals had bought their way to a title, regardless of their backgrounds and education, while many one-time establishment figures were reduced to penury.n10530 Letoy claims that his play-within-the-play is offering a world of inversions, an anti-London, but by the fourth act it is remarkably difficult to distinguish between the way of life experienced in 1630s London and its antithesis.n10531 In a sense The Antipodes is literally an underworld (with all its connotations both of a den of vice and of hell). At one point, shortly before Byplay’s entry as the statesman, Peregrine observes the passage across the stage of a procession of strange couples which have an almost iconic status; they all in turn represent the loss of traditional certainties, values to be honoured. The doctor acts as instructive chorus:A sick man giving counsel to a physician;
And there’s a puritan tradesman teaching a
Great traveller to lie; that ballad-woman
Gives light to the most learned antiquary
In all the kingdom. […]
A natural fool, there, giving grave instructions
T’a lord ambassador; that’s a schismatic,
Teaching a scrivener to keep his ears;
A parish clerk, there, gives the rudiments
Of military discipline to a general:
And there’s a basket-maker confuting Bellarmine [a learned scholar and orator].
[AN 4.1.speech816] [AN 4.1.speech818]
31Topsy-turvydom has gone beyond the absurd to the iniquitous; perspective has been lost along with commonsense; anarchy reigns, as medicine, the classics and classical education, foreign relations, diplomacy, the law, military prowess and strategy, religious disquisition and learning are usurped and perverted. This is an image of hell on earth and it is not surprising that Peregrine cries out in despair: “Will you make me mad?” [AN 4.1.speech819].n10532 What he is facing is the enormity of the task before him if, as “king”, he is to succeed in his ambition:Before I reign
A month among them, they shall change their notes,
Or I’ll ordain a course to change their coats.
I shall have much to do in reformation.
[AN 4.1.speech813]
32The final line which subverts the assurance and finality of the preceding couplet exactly captures Peregrine’s emotional swing as his awareness impresses on him just what it is that he will have to do. When everything is patently awry, where does one find one’s standard? The comedy, like the satire, has turned astringent.33It would be helpful at this point in my argument to discuss Peregrine’s role and function in the play-within-the-play and its relation to the satire. Peregrine’s progress in The Antipodes is rapid from tourist to inhabitant. After his assault on the tiring house which provokes in him the belief that he has conquered and subjected the antipodean race, he conceives a new project:He begins to govern
With purpose to reduce the manners
Of this country to his own.
[AN 3.1.speech556]
34This is the typical colonising ambition: to give to other countries the dubious “benefit” of one’s own social and civil structures (and in time cultural and linguistic habits too). Byplay (in role as an antipodean) immediately collaborates, proffering a feast, the freedom of the city or of the city’s guilds, and (most pointedly) an absolute pecuniary gift: “use our purse for what great sums /Your majesty will please” [AN 3.1.speech641]. How King Charles would have relished such willing compliance from his subjects and the unreserved financial backing which accompanies it! (The ship money crisis was still dragging on over the whole period of Brome’s composition of The Antipodes and its staging.) At the start of Act 4 we find Peregrine going a progress around his new realm, aiming to determine “what to approve and what correct” amongst his people, whether to “cherish or severely punish” [AN 4.1.speech669-670]: Peregrine, urged on by the doctor, clearly deems his powers absolute. Observing a number of instances of antipodean daily life, he gets a sense of the size of the task of reformation that lies before him: “’Twill ask long time and study to reduce /Their manners to our government” [AN 4.1.speech761]. This is still the typical project of the coloniser. What surprises is the accuracy of Brome’s perception, given that England’s colonial experience was at this date so limited and so little theorised, debated or interrogated. In a wonderfully ironic moment Peregrine envisages seeking help from more experienced settlers abroad: “What if I craved a counsel from New England? /The old will spare me none” [AN 4.1.speech815]. Since it was to escape the patterns and social structures of old England that early colonisers fled to America, Peregrine’s idea of appealing to New Englanders for support for his project is patently absurd.35The young man has been desperate to elude parental influence and assert his own independent power. The fantasy world of the play-within-the-play has allowed him free rein to become a motley king for a day, triumph in warfare over corrupt and dangerous enemies and set about the reform of the territory to which he lays claim by right of conquest. He dispenses knighthoods and favours (notably with a property sword) and accepts his subjects’ fealty and their gifts. Kingship and its powers are in this presentation associated with (and to some degree are a product of) at best juvenile angst and at worst potential madness. Colonialism is fitted appropriately into this frame of reference too and characterised as an irresponsible, madly impetuous urge, which is then in the aftermath subjected to a sudden, unthinking assumption of responsibility. Sickness in the individual becomes allied with sickness in the state (and by implication, given Peregrine’s self-definition as monarch, sickness in kingship too). In The City Wit Brome had come close to dramatising the king’s own person when the fools in that comedy carry their idiocy and corruption into the king’s Presence Chamber at Whitehall: much of the comic tension of that sequence comes from the potential imminence of Charles’s arrival at any moment and the struggle of fops to preserve a dignity suited to their august environment. The Antipodes shows Brome risking the staging of a caricature of kingship: Peregrine is the prince of folly. As London and anti-London come increasingly to merge in the viewer’s mind, one cannot but make similar connections between fiction and reality in respect of the reigning monarch and the sickness his apparent follies had generated within his kingdom. The fact that Brome’s critique is situated within the never-never land of the play-within-the-play (carefully distanced from the theatre audience by a series of framing devices) keeps the darkest reach of the satire within the bounds of comedy and would offer Brome some protection if his play were accused of seditious intent. His satire invites debate, not outright assent (though Brome’s several references in the text to persons deprived of their ears, as Prynne was, suggests he had his anxieties about where his satiric imagination was leading). Viewed in retrospect from a twenty-first-century perspective, the completeness of the satirical survey that Brome accomplishes is remarkable: he is partly helped in this within his central acts by devising a picaresque, revue-like structure that allows him to present critiques of a wide range of class examples so that one quickly gets a sense that this is a picture of the current state of England. What allows Brome to maintain an aesthetic control over such diverse thematic material is the structural framework of the play-within-the-play and an organising thematic principle that presents the progression of scenes as illustrative of justice at work in society.36The play ends with Peregrine restored to health and to a seemingly united family; but one is left pondering what sanity is available within the larger social contexts that the play opens up to an audience’s inspection. It would have sentimentalised and cheapened his ending, if Brome had arranged for the family harmony to be given a national or universal application (despite the oft-repeated Stuart rhetoric about the monarch being the father of his people, parens patriae). Instead he offers one last play-within-the-play in the form of a masque in which performers representing Harmony and her attendant gods reclaim the household from the clutches of another group of players impersonating Discord and her retinue. Brome takes as his model the pattern of a typical Jonsonian masque. Folly, Jealousy, Melancholy and Madness join Discord in an anti-masque of discordant song and uncoordinated movement set to hideous music. These are dispelled by the arrival of Harmony, who invokes to her support the classical gods, Mercury, Cupid, Bacchus and Apollo, whom she describes as exemplifying Wit, Love, Wine and Health (curative powers that are the antitheses of Discord’s rout). Thus far the proceedings follow the archetypal masque and its attendant ideologies such as found favour at the courts of James and more especially Charles. But then Brome begins to innovate. Conventionally the figures of the antimasque, once quelled, would quit the stage as emblematic of how their threat was wholly vanquished; but in Brome’s masque Discord now “cheers up her faction”, who “rise and mingle in the dance with HARMONY and the rest”. Letoy who is acting as commentator describes the “disorders” as mingling “in defiance with the virtues” until he bids them “vanish and the mansion quit” [AN 5.2.speech1099]. Harmony and the gods dance on unimpeded before finally saluting their onstage audience and making their exit. These later developments are highly irregular and subtly subversive of the genre and its customary modes of closure. Discord and her train leave; they are not quelled absolutely; they depart from the mansion; but their threat remains without (in fact in the offstage world). While ostensibly the masque celebrates concord and health, Brome’s adaptation of the form underscores what a tenuous hold such values have on society except within the world of the play-within-the-play (itself at some considerable remove from reality). Within the limited contexts of the family and of the theatre he can show that sanity (as inner psychological harmony in the one, and as a happy ending in the other) may obtain; he cannot make such claims for the greater world without. But this is Letoy’s vision as rendered by Brome and the focus of Letoy’s interest in these closing sequences is Peregrine, the heir who needs to assume the qualities befitting fatherhood and his future inheritance, if in time he is properly to take his place in society. Viewed from this perspective, the ideology of the masque appears distinctly masculinist (even as a restoration of patriarchal codes). It is important that the argument next engages with the issue of gender representation in the play.Gender37It is difficult to understand Caroline attitudes to gender-representation in the theatre: our own twenty-first century ideologies and theories inevitably colour our judgement of what is likely to be in consequence a contentious issue. No effort of the imagination today can quite understand what a Caroline audience actually saw when female roles were presented to them by male actors. The OED dates the earliest usage of masculinist as a critical, if not pejorative epithet from 1912. To write as above that The Antipodes seems to promote a masculinist ideology at times and particularly in its closure is to adopt a distinctly twenty-first-century approach but one that would have to be negotiated by a director and cast attempting a revival nowadays. At first glance Martha would seem to end the play joyously opening herself to the delights of sex and motherhood (but they have been her ambition throughout the action and she has only found fulfilment when her husband has been tricked into being as open to such delight himself); Diana quietly dwindles into being a wife. She has proved herself a woman of principle with a keen intelligence, who is not afraid to take on the challenge of a man who appears to see her in masculinist terms as fair game for his pursuing carnally. In the scene where that man (Letoy) stands revealed as her father, it is noticeable that he addresses his defence of his actions to Joyless and to Truelock, who has assisted him over many years in his scheming. Both are awarded lavish sums of money by him as if to buy their goodwill and compliance: it seems an assertion of paternalistic values. Where does this situate Diana, who, having performed her part to her best ability, is now virtually ignored by the three elderly men? From the moment when Diana finds that she is kneeling in filial respect to the wrong father-figure, she is largely silent (she has but one further line to speak). Always in drama it is necessary to enquire what that silence connotes. A printed text tends to marginalise such a figure in one’s reading, but a silent figure cannot be so ignored onstage, particularly one that has recently commanded spectators’ interest and respect for the precision and passion of her speech. In the context of performance a silent actor is “an active signifier” that can draw the focus of an audience’s awareness and attention like a magnet.n10533 As so often in Brome’s plays the dramatist prepares an audience carefully in advance of one of his strategies to aid their interpretation: immediately prior to Letoy’s tempting of Diana, he writes a short scene for Blaze and his wife, Barbara, in which he reveals to her that he is going to play the role of a mute in the forthcoming masque, which provokes a laughing retort from her and much ribald chat which helps to establish the idea firmly in a spectator’s awareness; Blaze ends by explaining that “a mute is one that acteth speakingly, /And yet says nothing” [AN 5.1.speech978]. This encourages the theatre audience to attend to Diana when she appears marginalised by the cheerful volubility of the men. Brome deploys further signals in his comedy to help spectators to read Diana’s silence?38Much laughter is provoked early in the play-within-the-play at instances of gender-reversal in The Antipodes (great ladies run at tilt while their husbands stay at home intent on their make-up and so on); the Old Lady and her Waiting Woman are decidedly empowered in their handling of the Gentleman; the Mercer’s wife (in the court scene in Act 3) is unseen but she clearly keeps her husband under her thumb, given his willingness in public to admit he cannot satisfy her sexually. These are strong women but they are not demonised: they may provoke laughter but equally so do the male figures with whom they are involved. The forceful and direct woman boxer could be staged as emblematic and representative of her gender in this context. It would be difficult to criticise Brome in these sequences as guilty of misogyny. If judgement goes against the Maid in the opening sequence of Act 4, it is more on account of her outright lying and hypocrisy than for the fact that she makes advances on a man (it is his and his servant’s spineless timidity that raises the laughs rather than her forward behaviour). The most surprising scene of role-reversal comes in Act 4, where spectators watch a man being ducked for being shrewish and a scold. In tears he laments:Was ever harmless creature so abused?
To be drenched under water, to learn dumbness
Amongst the fishes, as I were forbidden
To use the natural members I was born with,
And of them all, the chief that man takes pleasure in:
The tongue!
[AN 4.1.speech753]
39Women bystanders encourage his rage in hope of his getting a second ducking, which they lust after as “more holiday sport” [AN 4.1.speech756]. The stage picture here of a weeping man surrounded by jeering women opens up complex possibilities of interpretation. The scene is far from straightforwardly comic and its uneasy tone (how would men in the Caroline audience have responded?) challenges the basis of gender definition within a patriarchal society. Peregrine is shocked: after thinking he is experiencing a nightmare (“Sure these are dreams, /Nothing but dreams”), he asks a pertinent question: “Can men and women be so contrary /In all that we hold proper to each sex?” [AN 4.1.speech757] [AN 4.1.speech759]. His question raises another: if this is an inversion of the norm, then what does that indicate about the construction of that norm (all that Peregrine holds as “proper”)? From this perspective, the norm and its inversion are both open to moral questioning: the brutality of the practice of ducking in the actual scene is experienced as profoundly unmanning; but is the practice any less brutish if the victim is a woman, as was allowed legal practice in the Caroline period and earlier? Behind that lies further questioning: where is justice, where is equity in determining gender relations, if this is how they are framed within Caroline law? Though brief, this is a strong scene that sets up powerful resonances that cannot but influence how spectators choose to read the final act which turns its focus to Diana.40The cure for Joyless’s fear of cuckoldry has required Diana’s rigorous trial with her integrity tested to the limit: all turns ultimately on his need for proof; at no point does he experience or manifest trust in Diana. She has to prove her worth as a wife, but there is no questioning of Joyless’s worth as a husband. Where is the equity or justice in such a “trial”? Are we to interpret Diana’s long silence as indicating that Brome has no more dramatic use for her role and so, misogynistically, he silences her, reducing her to the stereotypical, passive renaissance wife? This is, however, quite out-of-character with the role as presented: from her first appearance her enthusiasm, volubility, her curiosity and delighted questioning about The Antipodes have been infectiously attractive features and her defence of her integrity has won respect. To see her as silenced in this way is to judge by the impact of her non-appearance on the printed page. In the theatre her silence is, to use Blaze’s term, speaking: it is the potent signifier of her presence. The manifest difference of this Diana from the Diana presented throughout the earlier four acts of the comedy problematises the final masque and its reception as a celebration of marriage, of health and sanity. Her silence stands in opposition to what is described above as the masculinist ideology of Letoy’s final play-within-the-play and critiques its satisfied tones. The various ways that Brome deploys to ensure that his comedy does not achieve a neat closure (the masque that does not end quite as masques usually did; the silent, thoughtful figure of Diana at the centre of the jollifications) are ultimately its strength. Brome has taken his theatre audience on a journey throughout four acts that invite (and to some degree tutor) their discrimination over a wide span of political issues. It is wholly appropriate that his final act sets up oppositions to exercise spectators’ newly honed powers of close observation and shrewd insight. Satire still informs Brome’s dramaturgy, even when his characters have to all appearances returned home safely. (If travels truly broaden the mind, should one ever come home safely?) Martin Butler has rightly described The Antipodes as “brilliantly successful”.n10534 It has been the intention of this introduction to the play to show how its brilliance and its success reside in Brome’s daringly thorough and robustly radical politics (and especially in his handling of gender).Conclusion: The Antipodes and the Theatre41That The Antipodes was in print less than two years after its initial performances is evidence that the play was a success with Caroline audiences. Revivals were staged at the Restoration, since Pepys’s diary informs readers that he attended a performance by Killigrew’s company in 1661: he thought the comedy contained “much mirth but no great matter else”, which suggests that the production emphasized the absurd elements of the comedy rather than its satirical bite.n10535 It is not an easy play to stage since it requires attention to a mass of individual scenes combined with a sense of its overall architecture and dynamic. The Antipodes demands too a cast with a highly developed command of the techniques that make for a good ensemble; and it offers a wide range of roles to individual actors. If it was originally played with a cast numbering about fourteen actors, then a considerable amount of doubling would have been essential. Many in the Salisbury Court company would be handling a rich array of small parts, which would be as rewarding a situation for minor players as for those working on one major role. The complex structure of the play-within-the-play and its highly engaged and vocally responsive onstage audience imposes on an entire company the need for an acute concentration so that nothing halts the flow of action, which often simultaneously relates to some three or four different plot-lines (the world of Antipodes; Diana’s education; Peregrine’s cure; Martha’s sexual fulfilment). It is imperative that the theatre audience know exactly at any moment to which of the several layers of reality they are being required to respond. The great strength of the play is how it couples diversity of incident and plot-lines with the precise, controlling organic unity which resides in its comprehensive satiric vision. A company need to know how to balance those two demands on their invention to a nicety. (One suspects that the performance Pepys saw attended only to the diversity.) The play is beginning to find a place in the repertories of the twentieth and twenty-first-century theatre: it has been staged recently at Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside, in Australia at Ballarat; and in several student productions. This is not surprising, given, as has been indicated, the many ways in which Brome’s comedy seems to antedate aspects of the culture and theatrical practice of the past century. A production of my own with students occasioned elation amongst my colleagues, who noted with astonishment seeming “parallels” with Brecht, Stoppard, Pirandello (“The Gods from the Mountains”), applied drama, drama therapy, reception theory, and a host of alternative approaches to psychological health. This is perhaps to indulge in historical and anachronistic confusions: it would be more fitting to claim that developments in current cultural theory and practice have tutored modern spectators to appreciate the particular excellences of Brome’s comic dramaturgy. Those excellences are many: The Antipodes deserves a permanent place in the repertory.

n10501   It is not surprising that the company at the Salisbury Court Theatre were prepared to go to court to wrest the play away from the Beestons at the Cockpit, claiming a prior right to stage it on account of a contract that they had allowed virtually to lapse during the plague months when the theatres were closed. For a discussion of Brome’s contract with Salisbury Court, see Eleanor Collins’s essay included in this edition [ESSAY_EC_SALISBURY]. [go to text]

n10502   “genre, politics, medicine, and theatricality”. Matthew Steggle, Richard Brome: Place and Politics on the Caroline Stage (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), p. 109. [go to text]

n10503   The sickness of England under King Charles I is the focus of Martin Butler’s account Martin Butler, Theatre and Crisis: 1632-1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 214-220. [go to text]

n10504   Ania Loomba Ania Loomba, Gender, Race, Renaissance Drama (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 135-141. [go to text]

n10505   Claire Jowitt Claire Jowitt, Voyage Drama and Gender Politics 1589-1642: Real and Imagined Worlds (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), pp. 214-224. [go to text]

n10506   Anthony Parr Anthony Parr (ed.) Three Renaissance Travel Plays (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), see his introduction. [go to text]

n10507   Marina Leslie Marina Leslie, “Antipodal anxieties: Joseph Hall, Richard Brome, Margaret Cavendish and the cartographies of gender”, Genre 30:1 (1997), 51-79. [go to text]

n10508   Julie Sanders Julie Sanders, “The Politics of Escapism: Fantasies of travel and power in Richard Brome’s The Antipodes and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist” in Ceri Sullivan and Barbara White (eds.) Writing and Fantasy (London: Longman, 1999), pp. 137-150. [go to text]

n10509   Ian Donaldson Ian Donaldson, The World Upside-Down: Comedy from Jonson to Fielding (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), pp. 78-99. [go to text]

n10510   Ann Haaker in introducing her edition of the play Richard Brome, The Antipodes, edited by Ann Haaker (London: Edward Arnold, 1967), see her Introduction. [go to text]

n10511   topsy-turvydom She specifically references Gargantua and Pantagruel (Books 4 and 5) in this context (p. xiii). [go to text]

n10512   melancholy Burton’s great treatise had been published in 1621; a second, enlarged edition was printed in 1638. [go to text]

n10513   A notable exception is Karen Kettnich’s essay, “‘Now mark that fellow; he speaks Extempore’: Scripted Improvisation in The Antipodes” Karen Kettnich, “‘Now mark that fellow; he speaks Extempore’: Scripted Improvisation in The Antipodes”, Early Theatre, 10:2 (2007), 129-139. [go to text]

n10514   where he is showing off his particular expertise. In a sense this is an issue for the actor, much as choosing precisely where Hamlet will assume his “antic disposition” and appear at court strangely mad. After the prince announces that he would do this, Shakespeare gives no prescription in the text (or rather texts) of Hamlet to show where the actor should specifically convey madness (feigned or genuine). [go to text]

n10515   as the title page of the second quarto of 1635 intimates. Beaumont’s play was also listed in an order by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office of August 10,1639, which specified and protected the plays which comprised the repertory of William Beeston’s company at the Cockpit (“all & euery of them properly & of right belong to the sayd House”). See G.E.Bentley The Jacobean and Caroline Stage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1941), Vol. 1, pp. 330-331. [go to text]

n10516   The most sustained rhetorical diatribe against drama and performance was William Prynne’s Histriomastix (1632) Various references to Prynne and his monstrous punishments occur in Acts 3 and 4 of The Antipodes and are commented on in accompanying annotations. A good example of Elizabethan opposition to players and playing is John Rainoldes’ Th’ Overthrow of Stage-Playes (1599), a diatribe which Lisa Jardine analyses in Still Harping on Daughters (Sussex and New Jersey: Harvester Press and Barnes and Noble, 1983), pp. 9-17. [go to text]

n10517   use the play-within-the-play to interrogate Aristotle’s larger claim. Ann Haaker in the introduction to her edition also includes Thomas Randolph’s The Muses’ Looking-Glass (1630), but its use of the play-within-the-play format is very naïve, as is Randolph’s engagement with Aristotelian catharsis. Two puritan tradesmen come to the theatre intent on castigating its personnel and repertory (even though they make a living by selling their wares to the company); an actor, Roscius, invites them to sample the drama and presents a morality in which, in the manner of bygone university plays, pairs of characters (all psychological type-figures) meet to debate their contrasting values. All are sent to view themselves in a mirror, which will teach them truth of self. The stage, of course, has already revealed their inner reality to spectators. This and a final masque (the details of which are not prescribed by Randolph) convince the puritans that the theatre is an acceptable pursuit. Randolph’s use of the puritans as a framing device for his play results less in a play-within-the-play than an imitation of a favourite Jonsonian technique of beginning and ending the acts of several of his comedies with a small band of spectators who express their views on what they (and the theatre audience) are about to see or have just seen. It is in Jonson a way of stimulating debate amongst spectators about his themes. Examples where Jonson uses this device would include Every Man Out Of His Humour (Chamberlain’s Men, 1599) or the chorus of Gossips in The Staple of News (King’s Men, 1626). Haaker’s tracing of a lineage for Brome’s comedy follows the example set by Clarence Edward Andrews in his Richard Brome: A Study of His Life and Works (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1913), the appendix to which contains a detailed examination of the possible sources of The Antipodes. [go to text]

n10518   a retaliatory response of an equal length and seriousness. The voyage to the Antipodes, Brome’s play-within-the-play, is also discussed in its preparation in Act 1, while its consequences influence much of the content of Act 5. [go to text]

n10519   But ’tis vrg’d That we corrupt youth, and traduce superiours: When we do bring a vice upon the Stage. That does goe off vnpunish’d? doe we teach By the successe of wicked vundertakings, Others to tread, in their forbidden steps? We show no arts of Lidian Pandarisme, Corinthian poisons, Persian flatteries, But mulcted so in the conclusion that Even those spectators that were so inclin’d, Go home chang’d men. Philip Massinger, The Roman Actor, A Tragaedie (London: B[ernard] A[lsop] and T[homas] F[awcett] for Robert Allot, 1629), C2v. [go to text]

n10520   neither can true virtue”. Martin White, Renaissance Drama in Action (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), p. 108. [go to text]

n10521   the good are “mourn’d for, after life” whereas the ill “Vnlamented fall” Philip Massinger, The Roman Actor, K4v. [go to text]

n10522   (This is perhaps a first instance of drama as therapy.) If modern parallels may be suggested: this is less after the manner of Freud or Jung, than akin to the work of Assagioli in Psychosynthesis with its emphasis on placing the self in dramatised situations, of Milton Erickson with Hypnotherapy, of R.D.Laing with his sophisticated games and role-play, of Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking, (which overlaps to some degree with Erickson’s practice), and finally of Wilhelm Reich and his concepts of a healing potential in sexual orgasm. Remarkably Brome in imagining his comedy touches on the healing potential of all these processes long before they were researched and theorised as forms of applied therapy. [go to text]

n10523   intellectual match. I would take issue here with Martin Butler’s contention that the character of Diana displays merely “fatuousness” as a spectator (Theatre and Crisis, p. 215). There is maybe an initial naivety in her responses to the play-within-the-play, but this is her first experience of seeing a stage play and her comments grow in sophistication throughout the central three acts where she chiefly appears as a spectator. She has previously shown in her bandying ripostes with the doctor in 1.3. that she is astute, imaginative and witty. Fatuousness is not present in her confrontation with Letoy in this final scene: she is fighting for her honour and argues with rigour and moral scruple. [go to text]

n10524   Diana is now to him his “better soul” [AN 5.2.speech1002]. One surprising feature of the printed text is that it gives no stage direction to indicate that the theatre audience are to see Joyless watching the sequence between Diana and Letoy, although Byplay tells how he “brought you [Joyless] to the stand from whence you saw /How the game went”[AN 5.1.speech1006]. Was this an omission? If so, this is odd, given the fact that the text at the end of Act 3 specifies a “window” from which Letoy and his party on returning from their interval refreshments will now view the play-within-the-play [AN_3.1.speech 667]. On their return in Act 4, the stage direction specifies that they “appear above”[AN 4.1.speech856-857]. The Cockpit Theatre for which the play was written did possess a centrally placed upper window-like arch directly above the main playing space, if Martin White and others are right in considering that the Inigo Jones/Philip Webb sketch of the interior of a theatre usually dated c.1616 is of the converted Cockpit (see White, Renaissance Drama in Action, Figure 6, p. 157). When the play was staged at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2000, Joyless was a visible spectator throughout the sequence. [go to text]

n10525   He puts me out. The actor here means he forgets his lines because Peregrine’s interruption of the scene as written and rehearsed has played havoc with his concentration. [go to text]

n10526   “See, here’s wealthy treasure: /Jewels, that Cleopatra would have left /Her Marcus for” [AN 5.2.speech983]. Volpone’s words in Jonson’s comedy are:
See, here, a rope of pearl; and each more orient
Than that the brave Egyptian queen caroused…
[go to text]

n10527   ravens black. See[AN 1.3.speech166],[AN 1.3.speech172], [AN 1.3.speech181], [AN 1.3.speech183], and [AN 1.3.speech185]. [go to text]

n10528   thereby leaving everyone (including the unseen spouse) content. Byplay’s reasoning and judgement prefigure Azdak’s in Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle. [go to text]

n10529   (he and Diana have their sharpest quarrel to date in the play the moment the sequence ends and she extols Byplay for his performance). See[AN 3.1.speeches632-637] [go to text]

n10530   while many one-time establishment figures were reduced to penury. I have been much influenced in my reading of Caroline history, drama and literature by Kevin Sharpe’s The Personal Rule of Charles I (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992). [go to text]

n10531   by the fourth act it is remarkably difficult to distinguish between the way of life experienced in 1630s London and its antithesis. Martin Butler makes this point too (Theatre and Crisis, p. 216) that “London and anti-London are indistinguishable: courtiers and beggars are simply interchangeable”. I would argue that Brome takes care to prepare spectators to interpret the play-within-the-play in this way through the image he creates in the opening act in the figure of Letoy. He is an aristocrat but in his chosen attire does not appear to be one: both Diana and Peregrine question if someone so dowdy and plain can hold such status. Letoy is an embodiment of his own conception of anti-London; his way-of-life is a thorough refusal to conform to the conventions of his class. [go to text]

n10532   This is an image of hell on earth and it is not surprising that Peregrine cries out in despair: “Will you make me mad?” [AN 4.1.speech819]. A possible precedent for Brome’s compelling image here of a world gone wholly astray is Jonson’s portrayal of London in The Devil Is An Ass (King’s Men, 1616), by the side of which Hell appears to Satan as akin more to a grammar school. I am not suggesting a direct influence (though Brome in all likelihood was resident in Jonson’s household by the date when this comedy was composed). If there was an influence at work, then Brome has quite transformed his source. Brome himself informs us (in the note to the “Courteous Reader” which closes the printed text) that the play was heavily cut by the actors for its first performances at Salisbury Court on the grounds of its “superfluous length”; and one wonders whether it was the darker, more radical sequences such as this that were omitted. [go to text]

n10533   awareness and attention like a magnet. Brian Woolland, “The Gift of Silence” in Richard Cave, Elizabeth Schafer and Brian Woolland (eds.), Ben Jonson and Theatre: performance, practice and theory (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), p. 134. [go to text]

n10534   “brilliantly successful”. Martin Butler, Theatre and Crisis, p. 219. [go to text]

n10535   satirical bite. The Diary of Samuel Pepys (Monday 26 August, 1661), visited 2 May, 2009. [go to text]

Contact: Richard Brome Online, ISBN 978-0-9557876-1-4.   © Copyright Royal Holloway, University of London, 2010