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The Changeling - Early Stage Life

The Changeling was licenced for performance by Sir Henry Herbert Master of Revels on 7 May 1622: the theatre company was the Lady Elizabeth's Servants and the venue was the Phoenix - 'a small private theatre in Drury lane.' (J. Daalder, 'Introduction' to The Changeling, 1990:XXXV) If the information on the licence for acting comes 'in the form a manuscript note by Malone in his copy of the 1653 quarto [...] the earliest record of an actual performance dates from 4 January 1623/4, when the play was produced at Court "by the Queene of Bohemias company [...] the prince only being there. Att Whitehall."' (N. W. Bawcutt, 'Introduction' to The Changeling, 1958:XXV) In the case of this play, the acting rights were 'vested in [Christopher] Beeston' - leader of the troupe and owner of the Phoenix theatre - 'rather than in the various companies that occupied his theatre.' After the plague outbreak that closed the theatres for most of the year 1625, the play was performed in 1626 by the Queen Henrietta's company 'again organised by Beeston', at the Phoenix. (Bawcutt, p. XXV) The company continued to perform it until 1636, when in the face of another plague outbreak it retreated to the Salisbury Court Theatre in Whitefriars. By the end of the same year the company had broken apart; The Changeling, however, continued to be performed by the King and Queen's Young Company or 'Beeston's Boys', the rights of the play granted to Christopher's son William Beeston, the leader of the new company: 'The Changeling is one of a substantial number of plays which the Lord Chamberlain protected for William Beeston on 10 August 1639 by forbidding other companies to perform them.' (Bawcutt, p. XXVI)

'The popularity of The Changeling survived the closing of the theatres: actors brought together by John Rhodes played it at the Phoenix in 1659 (Downes qtd. in Bawcutt, p.XXVI); in 1660 Pepys mentions a performance of the play that 'takes exceedingly' by Rhodes company by that time taken over by Sir William D'Avenant, renamed The Duke's Company and transferred temporarily to the Salisbury Court Theatre.  An entry in Sir Edward Browne's Memorandum Book, 1662 lists a performance of The Changeling 'at the Cardinalls cap in Cambridge' - an inn near Pembroke Hall. (MS Sloane 1900, fol. 60b qtd. in Bawcutt, p. XXIX) The last mention of the play's stage life comes from the title page of the 1668 quarto reprint: it was 'acted (with great Applause) by the Servants of His Royal Highness the Duke of York, at the Theatre in Lincolns-Inn Fields' on 30 November, 1668.

Apart form a 'plagiarised version' of the play 'called Marcella' written by William Hayley - Blake's patron - and 'performed three times in November 1789, but [...] met with little success', there is no record of any performance of The Changeling in Britain until well into the twentieth century. (Bawcutt, p. XXX)