Modelling the anatomy theatre and the indoor hall theatre: Dissection on the stages of early modern London

Christian Billing
Department of Drama, University of Hull

Billing, Christian. "Modelling the anatomy theatre and the indoor hall theatre: Dissection on the stages of early modern London" Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 13 (April, 2004): 3.1-17 <URL:

  1. This article explores the similiarities in design of three 'performance' spaces of early modern London: the indoor hall playhouse, the anatomy theatre, and the cockfighting ring. In particular, Christopher Beeston's Phoenix playhouse was designed by Inigo Jones who also designed an anatomy theatre, and it was built upon the foundations of a cockfighting ring that, due to contemporary regulations, could not be substantially altered. The tragedies that John Ford composed for this theatre displace the act of murder from the social and political domain in order to create a new phenomenality of violence in which aggression is enacted almost uniquely as a function of anatomical imperatives. Ford fashioned a dramatic oeuvre in which characters repeatedly display an overriding sexual passion for the histrionically created objects of their desire, and sexual obsession repeatedly erupts into anatomically explicit murder and violence. One of the forces that might have operated on Ford's dramatic imagination, and which certainly would have had connotations for the original audiences, was the shape of the playhouse for which he was writing.

  2. Well before the flourishing of Ford's output, the expectation of an onstage dissection was raised by the closing moments of a Jacobean tragedy, only to be deflated:

           D'am. A Boone, my Lords. I begge a Boone.
            1. Iud. What's that my Lord?
          D'am. His body when t'is dead for an Anatomie.
            2. Iud. For what my Lord?
          D'am. Your vnderstanding still come short o' mine.
        I would finde out by his Anatomie;
        What thing there is in Nature more exact,
        Then in the constitution of my selfe.
        Me thinks, my parts, and my dimensions, are
        As many, as large, as well compos'd as his;
        And yet in me the resolution wants,
        To die with that assurance as he does.
        The cause of that, in his Anatomie
        I would find out. ---
           1. Iud. Be patient and you shall.
        (Cyril Tourneur, The Atheist's Tragedy L1v, 5.2.140-53 [1])

    D'Amville, Tourneur's atheist, is the first character in early modern English drama to articulate a desire to 'anatomise' a fellow character from which it may be inferred that a realistic staging of 'anatomie' (by which I mean a theatrical representation of human dissection that is based on a literal, rather than metaphorical, reading of the term) must necessarily follow. His monologue is no precursor to the sort of literary trope found elsewhere in Renaissance texts and its language is unambiguous [2]. Were D'Amville allowed to enact his heresy before theatrical spectators, one actor would have to be seen to incise and eviscerate a blood-drenched representation of another's cadaver whilst explaining the behavioural significance of its pretended internal physiology. Instead, however, the audience gets a 'slapstick' execution for our would-be anatomist: he "raises up the Axe [and accidentally] strikes out his owne braines". Perhaps a dissection scene was simply too difficult for the playing company to present, or it might have been thought theologically too sensitive a topic. Sixty years later Edward Ravenscroft presented spectators with the intense and liminal frissons that interplay between an anatomist and his 'living-dead' subject could produce. In The Anatomist, or The Sham Doctor, characters are not prohibited from performing in a clearly staged scenographic representation of an anatomy hall. By the Restoration, dissection (now fused with the erotic in a way that ultimately led to the sexually liminal phenomenon of Gothic Horror) seems to have apparently become dramatic fact. What had happened in the meantime that made a clumsy avoidance of anatomizing no longer necessary?

  3. The link between Tourneur's avoidance of anatomical spectacle and Ravenscroft's provision for it lies in the graphic and clinical representations of fratricide or uxoricide via the bodies of boy-actors playing tragic heroines in Christopher Beeston's Phoenix during the late 1620s and 1630s. Ford's tragedies usurp the performatives of the anatomy lecture in order to present them as a conscious inversion of male and female culpability, for conventionally it was the murderer (as transgressor of the moral order) who became the object of dissection, yet in Ford--because murderers are allowed the guise of the 'righteous anatomist'--the deaths and eviscerations of female heroines shift the blame from the male onto the female body. In killing and examining boyish totems of rapacious 'female' sexuality, Ford's theatrical murderers appear to relocate female murder as 'anatomy' and their murders are retributive, punitive and, most importantly, dissective sacrifices of femininity on the patriarchal dissection slab. In the light of recent studies concerned with the place of performance as constituent element of performed meaning, it is significant that Ford's dramas took place in a theatrical auditorium that was remarkably like an early-seventeenth-century northern-European anatomy hall [3]. To understand why this mattered requires a survey of public anatomy 'performance' in the period.

  4. Records show that whilst the needs of scholastic anatomy in England during the 1620s and 1630s were increasingly catered for by secular law, the supply of cadavers was not adequate to provide for the rise in public dissection as fashionable entertainment. The London companies of the Barber Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians had rights for the regular dissection of corpses prescribed by civil legislation dating from the mid-sixteenth century, but such law did not provide for regular public demonstrations. The Barber Surgeons had been limited to four corpses per year by their Act of Union in 1540 and the Royal College of Physicians were still limited to only six cadavers a year when the act for an enlargement of their provisions was passed in 1641 [4]. Not all of those who wished to watch anatomy as a social distraction could do so. Jonathan Sawday has recently drawn attention to the example of the Oxford Divine, George Hakewill, who, returning from travels abroad during which he had doubtless been impressed by such anatomical 'entertainments', observed in 1624: "I have not a little wondered . . . that an universitie so famous in forraine parts as this of Oxford, was never to my knowledge provided of a publique lecture in this kinde, till now" [5]. The poet John Hall, a friend of Hobbes and member of the influential Hartlib circle, echoed in 1649: "Where have we constant reading on either quick or dead Anatomies" [6]. In England at least, demand from an educated and literary elite to see regular public anatomy demonstrations as entertainment outstripped supply well into the seventeenth century, and it was precisely such members of the new 'intellectual classes' who were increasingly becoming the audiences of London's club-like indoor hall theatres [7].

  5. The generally accepted dates for the first performances of Ford's The Broken Heart ,'Tis Pity She's a Whore and Love's Sacrifice are 1629, 1630 and 1631 respectively [8] and during the two decades between the first staging of Tourneur's The Atheist's Tragedy and the production of these dramas much changed in the world of anatomical science. Ford's works were produced amid the intellectual turmoil that was generated by the greatest period of somatic change (both philosophical and scientific) to take place in early-modern Europe, the intellectual flux of which was to have a direct influence on the dissective culture of northern Europe, on the intellectual concerns of Ford's elite audiences and upon his dramaturgy itself. The plays coincide with a scientific movement that was beginning to redefine its philosophical framework in order eventually to become largely independent of theology. The liminal and yet quasi-religious activity of anatomy was radically redefining itself as the secular, philosophical and Cartesian 'New-Science' of biology, forming the backbone of what later emerged as 'New Science'. In such a context, the possibility of appropriating anatomy as justifiable theatrical spectacle may begin to be more easily understood, together with the notion that Ford's drama engaged with the philosophical debates of 'New Science' precisely because its elite market supported the presentation of plays that contained spectacle and debate about such intellectual subject matter. Quite plausibly Beeston's Phoenix cashed in on the bourgeois desire to witness anatomical demonstration and hear neoPlatonic, Paracelsian, Catholic, Protestant, Vesalian, Harvean and Cartesian views of the dissected body pitted against one another.

  6. The decade 1628-38 embraces all Ford's major tragic output and publication of the first great Dutch anatomists' major corporal investigations, the anatomical discoveries of the Englishman William Harvey and Descartes' seminal Discours de la Méthode. The work of these Northern European intellectuals would eventually wrestle corporal understanding away from medieval and early-Renaissance microcosmographic views of man as the divine map of God's universal creation and container of the immortal soul (the dominant philosophy of the Vesalian school that was still evident in the works of English anatomists from Vicary to Crooke) towards a late-seventeenth century Cartesian view of the body as biological machine. Harvey's De motu cordis (published in Leiden, 1628) was the first early-modern scientific theory for the function of the heart and the circulation of the blood and came from dissective studies undertaken over the preceding decade at both the University of Padua and the London College of Physicians. Descartes was amassing valuable information from anatomical science and developing the philosophy with which he would begin to liberate the soul from the body, and in 1632 went to live in Leiden where public anatomy "was to reach its zenith" [9].

  7. The transition that was forced upon European anatomy by the assertions of Descartes, by Harvey and the Dutchman Nicholas Tulp gained much of its immense cultural power specifically because it took the body away from an 85-year old anthropocentric (and Catholic) view towards one that stressed biological functionalism. 'New Science' based itself on philosophical assertions that struggled to break the body free, if not from religion per se, at least from medieval Catholic theology. Whilst Descartes and Harvey both wrote during a backlash of vigorous Catholic defence that formed part of the immense counter-Reformation, they were relatively secure from persecution whilst working in Protestant realms. Galileo, on the other hand, received an auto-da-fé from the Saint-Office in Rome on 22 June 1633 for the publication of Dialogus de systemate mundi, in which Ptolemic and Copernican systems were pitted against each other, a fact that perhaps led Descartes to renounce his own radical Tractatus de homine and leave it un-published, apart from a Latin edition that emerged in Protestant Leiden in 1662, until the definitive French version that was translated, edited and published posthumously by his friend Clerselier as part of his Œuvres in 1664). Both Love's Sacrifice and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore were entered on the Stationers' Register in a Protestant kingdom in 1633. As we shall see, both plays grappled with the issues of Paracelsian versus Cartesian corporeality that were worked through by the anatomists of England and the Protestant Low Countries.

  8. Representations of the body were shifting from the theological to the biological during the years that Ford wrote his greatest tragedies. 'New Science' came to occupy great cultural and medical significance, and Protestant versus Catholic theology figured heavily in its conception. In 1543, Vesalius had published De humani corporis fabrica whilst occupying the chair of anatomy in the Catholic city of Padua. In 1628 Harvey left Padua--as Descartes left Paris--and was working in a Protestant kingdom akin to that of the Dutch anatomists. De motu cordis looked at how an individual organ worked, irrespective of its supposed connection to the soul. During the 85 years between De humani corporis fabrica and De motu cordis the theologies of Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin had given rise to a series of northern-European Reformations that had created an oppositional Protestant intellectual climate in England and Holland and allowed for new possibilities in medical research. This is the context for the corporal fascination of a playwright, Ford, tarred with the brush of Catholicism, and writing in perhaps the most staunchly Protestant kingdom in Europe [10]. Whether or not Ford simply profited from the increased public interest in (and lack of provision for) public anatomy, or subtly defended anthropocentric Catholic views of the body that were rapidly retreating from the forefront of medical debate in order to critique the irreligious practices of early-modern anatomy, his anatomical themes derive from the divide that 'New Science' was driving between medical and theological conceptions of the body, and the desire of elite audiences to witness that debate in action.

  9. The first anatomists' demand for fresh corpses was justified by their claim that anatomical study made manifest the truth of humanist theology: that God himself was mapped out in the Microcosmographia of the body and that they, like priests, were making manifest an interpretation of the divine text in human form before their audiences. At the centre of these 'map-bodies' lay the heart: the seat of God in man and the symbol of religion at the centre of anatomical science. The soul was pinned to the body through this central figuration of one organ as the central presence of a divine creator. It is largely to do with the limitations of such theological links that anatomy had to reinvent itself as scientific reason in order to progress during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Harvey's choice of the heart as the object of his first enquiry therefore seems to have deliberately unseated God from his corporeal throne, thus paving the way for a liberation of the body from the soul. Ford's principal anatomical concern was also the heart. D'Amville's atheism precluded him from the safe practice of anatomical science and in 1611 Charlemont's resolution was a still a spiritual matter not to be explained by secular anatomy. Until the New Science of the 1620s and 30s dissection could be undertaken only by the sanctioned anatomist whose holy text, the human body, made manifest the divine nature of the cosmos in a quasi-religious environment. The English stage was still no place to do this and even anatomists had to be careful: their venues must not be seen as overtly theatrical in layout. To claim that their work was a religious activity they had to emulate religious architecture, not theatre buildings.

  10. Regarding the need to couch anatomical science in religious terms, the New Scientists were more fortunate than those of the early Vesalian school. By the 1620s nearly a century of anatomical investigation had begun to be accepted as a scientific and cultural fact. Careful architectural measures no longer needed to be taken in order to pre-empt accusations of theological or ecclesiastical transgression. Anatomy hall design in England and Holland became based more upon the simple need to ensure that as many people as possible could see what was happening. This can been demonstrated by contrasting the title page of the 1543 or 1555 Fabrica, showing the anatomy theatre in Padua (figure 1), with the 1609 and 1610 views of the Leiden anatomy theatre (figures 2 and 3).

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    (Figure 1. Title-page to the second edition of Andreus Vesalius' De Corporis humani fabrica (Basel, 1555). The layout is cramped due to the tempettio style architecture.)



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    (Figure 2. Anonymous Engraving of an anatomy taking place at the Leiden Anatomy Theatre (1609) after a drawing by J. C. vant Woudt (Woudanus))


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    (Figure 3. View of the Leiden Anatomy Theatre circa 1610. Provenance: Leiden University Library)

    In the Paduan image, the sacrifice of adopting the basilica like layout is that the room appears to be cramped; the spectacle is obscured and it is clear that a large part of the audience has problems in witnessing the demonstration. In the Protestant city of Leiden, however, a more ergonomic design seems less concerned with paying lip service to religious significance, and thereby provides excellent sight-lines for all present.

  11. Drawing on architectural precedents for dramatic theatres (rather than the anthropocentric design of Italian Renaissance churches), English physicians' companies during the 1620s and 1630s utilised the skills of theatre designers (most notably Inigo Jones) in the construction of their new auditoria. Vitruvian theatre design from the 5th of The Ten Books of Architecture and Serlian design from the first three books of De architettura are clearly the model for Jones's design for the Barber Surgeon's Hall, as shown in figures 4 and 5, and the author's digital reconstruction of this shown in figures 6 and 7 and the Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) model of the Barber Surgeons' Hall that accompanies this essay.


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    (Figure 4. Plans and Elevation of Inigo Jones's design for the Barber Surgeons' Anatomy Theatre (1636). Provenance: Worcester College, Oxford)


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    (Figure 5. Cross Section of Inigo Jones's Barbers Surgeon's Hall. Provenance: London, Guildhall Library)


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    (Figure 6. Author's digital reconstruction of Inigo Jones's Barber Surgeons' Anatomy Theatre (1636) showing the view from the third row of the auditorium)


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    (Figure 7. Author's digital reconstruction of Inigo Jones's Barber Surgeons' Anatomy Theatre (1636) showing the view from the anatomist's entranceway)

    The computer model was made using the software package called 3D Studio Max by the author and Drew Baker of the University of Warwick from the ground-plan and cross-sectional elevation drawings held in the London Guildhall Library and texture maps based on the physical reconstruction of the anatomy theatre in the Boerhaave museum in Leiden. The 3D Studio Max model provided the pictures reproduced here; the VRML version of the model was derived from the 3D Studio Max original and loses much of its detail. The act of making the model suggested to the author the anatomy theatre's likeness to the Worcester College designs for an unnamed theatre (discussed below), and indeed were a mirror-line drawn across the front of the stage in the theatre ground-plan, and the house end of the auditorium reflected in it, the anatomy theatre's size and shape would be almost perfectly produced. The reader is invited to explore the VRML model to get a sense of its likeness to familiar theatrical spaces.

  12. Certain links between Jones's anatomy theatre and indoor hall playhouse design are obvious:

    (i) Like playhouses, anatomy theatres placed their performers, in this instance a cadaver and an anatomist, on a raised platform surrounded with spectators.

    (ii) Like playhouses, anatomy theatres had a degree of scenic decoration that had a symbolic link to the activity taking place within them.

    (iii) A spectator's proximity to the action depended upon his social status.

    (iv) The spectacle of (and commentary upon) anatomical demonstration was guided by the 'script' of a published anatomy.

    (v) Dissections (like many plays) served to circumscribe and reinforce the symbolic power of a ruling class through physical punishment of a known transgressor of the moral order. (Until the Anatomy Act was passed in 1832 the corpses on which dissections were undertaken were only ever those of executed felons and anatomy was, therefore, obvious further punishment for the crimes of their lifetime).

    Some of these similarities may be said to hold for all early modern playhouses, but they are especially germane to Ford's Phoenix plays because of the specific origins of that building.

  13. Illustrative evidence about the size, shape and layout of early modern cockpits concurs with contemporary eyewitness accounts. The general model was a circular structure, approximately 40 feet across, containing a series of concentric tiered seats (often with an ambulatory platform around the exterior) and a circular table at the centre covered with straw or rush matting upon which the cocks fought. The royal Cockpit built by Henry VIII at Whitehall was unusually large for such a structure [11] and a typical piece of evidence for the general design is presented here as figure 8.

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    (Figure 8. Frontispiece to R[obert] H[owlett]'s The Royal Pastime of Cockfighting (London, 1709))

    The journal of Thomas Platter, a young traveller from Basle who visited London between 18 September and 20 October 1599 describes a visit to a cockpit:

    I saw the place which is built like a theatre (theatrum). In the centre of the floor stands a circular table covered with straw and with ledges around it, where the cocks are teased and inticed to fly at one another, while those with wagers as to which cock will win, sit closest around the circular disk, but the spectators who are merely present on their entrance penny sit around higher up. [12]

    The confirms the circular structure, a raised central table, and provides evidence that a spectator's position, within the tiered rings of seating, was subject to his financial commitment. As in indoor hall playhouses, those spending more--in this case by placing wagers--were located nearest the action; and we also know that position nearest the centre in anatomy theatres was dependent on wealth and status [13]. The essential structure seems unchanged more than 100 years later in Zacharias von Uffenbach's description of one near "Gras [that is Gray's] Inn":

    The building is round like a tower, and inside it resembles a 'theatrum anatomicum', for all round it there are benches in tiers, on which the spectators sit. In the middle there is a round table which is covered with mats, on which the cocks have to fight [14].

    The cockpit/anatomy-hall likeness was obvious to Von Uffenbach, who was well placed to know as he had visited the anatomy theatre of the Royal College of Physicians.

  14. In the last quarter of 1616 Christopher Beeston, erstwhile actor of the Chamberlain's Men, the King's Men and the Red Bull Company (and the man who was to become London's leading theatre impresario in the years leading up to the Civil War), leased a portion of land on Drury Lane from another entertainment entrepreneur, John Best. Seven years before Best had financed construction of a regular circular amphitheatre on his terrain, at which the public had paid the standard admission price of one penny, sat in tiered galleries rising around a central circular table and observed the spectacle provided by cocks fighting [15]. Beeston took over Best's site with the plan to enlarge the circular structure of the cockpit auditorium and to convert it into an indoor hall playhouse similar to the second Blackfriars, the exclusive venue of the King's men that commanded higher admission prices than any previous London venue [16]. Beeston's accounting was simple: the increased seating capacity after conversion and expansion of Best's cockpit into a Serlian hall theatre, together with the increase (upwards of 600% over the Red Bull) in what could be charged for admission, made the venture potentially extremely lucrative.

  15. Beeston undertook his Phoenix project during the strictest period of architectural regulation prescribed by the Jacobean monarchy. James I inherited a series of Elizabethan proclamations that were intended to regulate the practices of the capital's construction industry. The first of these sprang from fear of overcrowding in the suburbs and its role in the spread of plague earlier that year. James also had a desire to shape the architectural development of his capital and to join trade and the city harmoniously with the court and Whitehall. The broad thrust of most Jacobean building legislation was two-fold: to control overcrowding by prohibiting new building, and to reduce risk of fire by permitting only stone and brick building. For the most part the regulations were obeyed, offenders being fined and/or imprisoned and their buildings demolished [17]. James Burbage's adaptation of the former Dominic monastery at Blackfriars in 1596 would have been safe even under the new, stricter regulations since it required no external alterations, but 20 years later Beeston--like any London entrepreneur seeking not a refit but a rebuild--found building regulations far more limiting. Why did Beeston take on Best's cockpit at all, given that it was far too small to house his new indoor hall playhouse without extensive rebuilding that new prohibitions would hamper? Why not copy Burbage and take a building with a shell large enough to accommodate a new theatre? The answer is location.

  16. Best's Drury Lane site was almost exactly midway between the court and the city. In 1616, opportunities to construct an indoor hall playhouse in the increasingly fashionable area between Covent Garden and Lincoln's Inn fields were scarce and a building with large enough foundations and an accepted history of public entertainment was not easily come by. The area was increasingly attracting the latest, richest, and most upwardly mobile of immigrants to London, from whom a lucrative audience could be drawn. The fashionable central location would also be likely to attract those willing to travel to the theatre, and moreover Beeston's project itself could be defended as an upgrading of amenities in the location just as much it was the Red Bull theatrical company's obvious attempt to upgrade its audience. But Beeston could not simply demolish Best's cockpit and construct a larger, rectangular, purpose built hall theatre on this attractive site, for the regulations prohibited this. Fortunately for Beeston, however, a law of 12 October 1607 authorized the extension of a building by up to one-third its size if the majority of the original foundations were retained [18]. This legal requirement links Ford's drama to the architecture of anatomy theatres because it imposed upon Beeston the retention of the original shape of Best's circular cockpit, so that his theatre was necessarily a smallish round (or U-shaped) structure retaining the circular tiered galleries of the original cockpit and of an anatomy theatre. According to John Orrell, the plans for an unnamed U-shaped theatre designed by Inigo Jones and held in the Jones and Webb collection at Worcester College Oxford (figures 9 and 10) fulfil the requirements of the conversion project to the letter.


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    (Figure 9. Plan and Elevation of an unnamed theatre by Inigo Jones. Provenance: Worcester College, Oxford.)


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    (Figure 10. Sections through the auditorium and stage of the theatre in figure 9)

    Orrell traced a history of research that identifies these drawings as Beeston's Phoenix, starting with Iain Macintosh in 1969, asserting that the unnamed Jones plans should now be generally accepted as those drawn up for the construction of that theatre [19]. The arguments may be summarised as follows:

    (i) The drawings at Worcester College are indisputably in Jones's hand.

    (ii) Internal evidence dates the drawings as being drafted between circa 1616 and circa 1618 [20].

    (iii) The plans are on a paper whose watermark indicates a date up to and including 1616 but not later [21].

    (iv) The theatre building projects in London between 1616 and 1618 were only two, one of them the abortive scheme at Puddle Wharf (that was suppressed by the authorities in January 1616/17) the other Beeston's Phoenix. Since the Puddle Wharf project was first embarked upon in 1613--when Jones was touring Europe--his involvement in it is unlikely.

    (v) The lack of Jones's typical classical embellishments to the curved exterior wall of the theatre shown in the Worcester College plans indicates a conversion from some simpler existing circular structure such as Best's cockpit.

    (vi) The blind eye turned by the authorities to Beeston's presumptuous bending of building regulations may be linked to the involvement in the project of the powerful figure of Jones, who was Royal Surveyor at the time.

    The most important connection between Jones's design and an anatomy theatre is the retention of at least half of Best's original cockpit's circular seating and the arrangement of benching around the playing area. Beeston had to retain at least half of Best's original cockpit circle as the house end of his auditorium in order to claim that the foundations of his original structure were being preserved in their essence for his new theatre, and consequently that his enlargement (presumably including ground originally occupied by cock sheds and outhouses) was only by one-third.

  17. Keeping the curved tiers of seating around the old cockpit's central stage and having a total diameter of only 40 feet to work with brought Beeston's Phoenix closer to the architecture of contemporaneous English and Dutch anatomy halls than that of any other theatrical structure in early-modern London. This architectural accident created a dramatic space in which the dissected bodies of transgressors of the moral law could occupy the central focus of audience attention that had previously been occupied by the fighting animals of Best's cockpit. The plays that John Ford wrote for this space are replete with images of dissection and for his audiences the similarities of playhouse, cockpit, and anatomy theatre probably put the plays in a multi-layered context of 'New Scientific' ideas and old-fashioned bloodsports that we should not ignore when trying to understand the drama.


1. Quotations of the play are from the quarto of 1611 printed by John Stepneth and Richard Redmer, STC 24146.

2. Instances of characters who metaphorically anatomise or are anatomised include Oliver proposing to reveal the truth of his brother Orlando’s character to Charles the wrestler: 'I speak but brotherly of him; but should I anatomise him to thee as he is, I must blush and weep, and thou must look pale and wonder. (As You Like It, 1.2.147–50) and Rumour: 'But what need I thus / My well known body to anatomise / Among my household?' (2 Henry 4, Ind.20–22). Lear’s plea to Edgar-as-Tom): 'Then let them anatomise Regan, see what breeds about her heart. Is there any cause in nature to make these hard hearts?' (King Lear, 3.6.77–9) is a rather more interesting case since it would seem to imply a literal dissection and Shakespeare's play predates Tourneur's The Atheist's Tragedy. However, since mad Lear is vague--who does he mean by 'them'?--it seems unlikely that the audience were to expect an actual anatomy of the kind indicated by D'Amville.

3. For a sustained analysis of the intellectual and bourgeois nature of early-seventeenth-century indoor hall theatre audiences see Keith Sturgess, Jacobean Private Theatre (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987). Stephen Mullaney's The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (London: University of Chicago Press, 1988) likewise characterizes the 'geo-political' domain of the open-air amphitheatres.

4. Jonathan Sawday, The Body Emblazoned, Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (London: Routledge, 1996), p. 56.

5. Sawday, The Body Emblazoned, p. 42.

6. Sawday, The Body Emblazoned, p. 42.

7. Andrew Gurr noted of the Cockpit (= Phoenix) that "Beeston gave the Prince's Men the Cockpit, the first indoor theatre to offer a chance of rivalling Blackfriars as the most popular playhouse with the moneyed section of London Audiences". Of Beeston's second company to play there, Queen Henrietta Maria's Men, Gurr observed: "This company rose steadily in reputation and status over the next ten years [it was the only Beeston Company to last more than three]. The master of the Revels signalled their success in the winter season of 1629-30, giving them ten Court performances, compared to twelve for the King's Men, who up to then had given as much of the court entertainment as the rest of the companies put together […] Shirley was the [major] dramatist for Beeston, and more popular than Davenant or the other young wits providing for the Blackfriars". In the 1630-31 season, Queen Henrietta Maria's Men gave sixteen plays at Court and were the only company besides the King’s Men to receive the grant of Royal Liveries. See Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage, third edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 61-64.

8. From the 'Select List of Plays and their Playhouses' in Gurr, Shakespearean Stage, pp. 234, 242, 238 respectively.

9. Sawday, The Body Emblazoned, p. 148.

10. For an account of Ford's connections with a Catholic coterie in England, see Lisa Hopkins's John Ford's Political Theatre (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), pp. 3-29.

11. For visual records of more usual sized pits, see the Hogarth engraving of the Dartmouth Street Cockpit or Rowlandson's colour print of the same (both reproduced in Glynne Wickham, Early English Stages Vol. 2, Part II (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972), plates XVI & XVII. The surviving structure of a circular cockpit with a conical thatched roof standing in the yard of the Hawk and Buckle Inn, Denby, North Wales is reproduced in George Ryley Scott, The History of Cockfighting (London: Charles Skilton, 1957), p.58.

12. Thomas Platter, Thomas Platter's Travels in England, edited by Claire Williams (London: Jonathan Cape, 1937), pp. 167-68.

13. Sawday, The Body Emblazoned, p. 75.

14. Zacharias von Uffenbach, London in 1710, translated by W. H. Quarrell and Margaret Mare (London: Faber and Faber, 1934), p. 48.

15. For an account of Best's cockpit construction, see Leslie Hotson, The Commonwealth and Restoration Stage (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1928), pp. 88-99.

16. James Burbage's conversion of the Upper Frater Building is discussed in detail in Sturgess, Private Theatre, pp. 27-55 and the full story of the building is the subject of Irwin Smith, Shakespeare's Blackfriars playhouse: Its History and its Design (New York: New York University Press, 1964).

17. Norman G. Brett-James, The Growth of Stuart London, (London: Allen and Unwin, 1935), pp. 80–100; John Orrell, The Theatres of Inigo Jones and John Webb (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 44.

18. Orrell, The Theatres of Inigo Jones and John Webb, p. 45.

19. Iain Macintosh, "Inigo Jones–Theatre Architect", TABS 31 (1973), pp. 101-4;  John Orrell, The Theatres of Inigo Jones and John Webb, pp. 39-77.

20. John Harris, Stephen Orgel, and Roy Strong, The King's Arcadia: Inigo Jones and The Stuart Court, Catalogue of the quartercentenary exhibition held at the Banqueting House, Whitehall (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1973), p. 109.

21. D. F. Rowan, "A Neglected Jones/Webb Theatre Project: the 'Barber Surgeons' Hall Writ Large" Shakespeare Survey 23 (1970), p. 127.

Works Cited

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at m.steggle@shu.ac.uk.

© 2004-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).