A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.





Immorality, and Profaneneſs


Engliſh Stage,


With the Senſe of Antiquity
upon this Argument,


London, Printed for S. Keble at the Turk's-Head
in Fleetſtreet, R. Sare at Gray's-Inn-Gate,
and H. Hindmarſh againſt the Exchange in
Cornhil. 1698.



Being convinc'd that nothing has gone farther in Debauching the Age than the Stage Poets, and Play-Houſe, I thought I could not employ my time better than in writing againſt them. Theſe Men ſure, take Vertue and Regularity, for great Enemies, why elſe is their Diſaffection ſo very Remarkable? It muſt be ſaid, They have made their Attack with great Courage, and gain'd no inconſiderable Advantage. But it ſeems Lewdneſs without Atheiſm, is but half their Buſineſs. Conſcience might poſſibly recover, and Revenge be thought on; and therefore like Foot-Pads, they muſt not only Rob, but Murther. To do them right their Meaſures are Politickly taken: To make ſure work on't, there's nothing like Deſtroying of Principles; Practiſe muſt follow of Courſe. For to have no good Principles, is to have no Reaſon to be Good. Now 'tis not to be expected that people ſhould check their Appetites, and balk their Satiſfactions, they don't know why. If Virtue has no Proſpect, 'tis not worth the owning. Who would be troubled with Conſcience if 'tis only a Bugbear, and has nothing in't but Viſion, and the Spleen?

My Collection from the Engliſh Stage, is much ſhort of what They are able to furniſh. An Inventory of their Ware-Houſe would have been a large Work: But being afraid of over charging the Reader, I thought a Pattern might do.

In Tranſlating the Fathers, I have endeavour'd to keep cloſe to their Meaning: However, in ſome few places, I have taken the Liberty of throwing in a Word or two; To clear the Senſe, to preſerve the Spirit of the Original, and keep the Engliſh upon its Legs.

There's one thing more to acquaint the Reader with; 'Tis that I have Ventured to change the Terms of Miſtreſs and Lover, for others ſomewhat more Plain, but much more Proper. I don't look upon This as any failure in Civility. As Good and Evil are different in Themſelves, ſo they ought to be differently Mark'd. To confound them in Speech, is the way to confound them in Practiſe. Ill Qualities ought to have ill Names, to prevent their being Catching. Indeed Things are in a great meaſure Govern'd by Words: To Guild over a foul Character, ſerves only to perplex the Idea, to encourage the Bad, and miſlead the Unwary. To treat Honour, and Infamy alike, is an injury to Virtue, and a ſort of Levelling in Morality. I confeſs, I have no Ceremony for Debauchery. For to Compliment Vice, is but one Remove from worſhipping the Devil.

March 5th. 169 7/8.



The Introduction. Page 1
The Immodeſty of the Stage. p. 3
The Ill Conſequences of this Liberty. p. 5
Immodeſty a Breach of good Behaviour. p. 6
The Stage faulty in this reſpect to a very Scandalous degree. p. 8
Modeſty the Character of Women. p. 9
The Natural Serviceableneſs of this Quality. p. 11
Immodeſty much more inſufferable, under the Chriſtian, than under the Heathen Religion. p. 14
The Roman, and Greek Theatres more inoffenſive than the Engliſh. p. 15
This proved from Plautus. Ibid.
From Terence. p. 20
From Seneca's Tragedies. p. 25
The Compariſon carried on to the Theatre at Athens. Ibid.
A ſhort Character of Æſchylus. p. 26
The Cleaneſs of his Expreſſion. p. 27
The Genius and Conduct of Sophocles. p. 28
The Sobriety of his Plays. p. 29
Euripides's Character diſtinguiſhed from the two former. p. 30
The Reſerv'dneſs of his Stile. p. 31
All Humours not fit for Repreſentation. p. 35
A Cenſure of Ariſtophanes. p. 36
Ariſtophanes his Teſtimony againſt himſelf. p. 48
The Authorities of Ben. Johnſon.
Beaumont & Fletcher.
And Corneille.
p. 51
p. 52
p. 53
The Authorities of againſt the preſent Stage.
The Prophaneneſs of the Stage.
This Charge prov'd upon them,
I. By their Curſing and Swearing. p. 57
The Engliſh Stage formerly leſs hardy in this reſpect. Ibid.
The provokingneſs of this Sin. p. 58
This Offence puniſhable by Law, and how far. p. 59
Swearing in the Play Houſe an Un-Gentlemanly, as well as an Un-Chriſtian practiſe.
A Second Branch of the Profaneſs of the Stage, conſiſting in their Abuſe of Religion, and the Holy Scriptures. p. 60
Inſtances of this Liberty in the Mock Aſtrologer. Ib.
In the Orphan. p. 62
In the Old Batchelour, and Double Dealer. p. 63, 64
In Don Sebaſtian. p. 65
Breif Remarks upon a Paſſage or two in the Dedications of Aurenge Zebe, and the Tranſlation of Juvenal. p. 66, 69
Farther Inſtances of Profaneneſs in Love Triumphant. p. 72
In Love for Love. p. 74
In the provok'd Wife. p. 77
And in the Relapſe. p. 78
The Horrid Impiety of this Liberty. p. 80
The Stage guilty of down right Blaſphemy.
This Charge made good from ſeveral of the Plays above mention'd. p. 82
The Comparative Regularity of the Heathen Stage, exemplyfied in Terence, and Plautus. p. 86
And in the Greek Tragedians. p. 87
Seneca more exceptionable than the Greeks, but not ſo faulty as the Modern Stage. p. 94
This outraging of Religion Intolerable. p. 95
The Clergy abuſed by the Stage. p. 98
This Uſage both
p. 112
p. 127
The Miſbehaviour of the Stage upon this account. p. 138
Immorality encouraged by the Stage. p. 140
The Stage Poets make Libertines their Top-Characters, and give them Succeſs in their Debauchery. p. 142
A Character of their fine Gentleman. p. 143
Their fine Ladies Accompliſh'd much after the ſame manner. p. 146
The Young People of Figure in Plautus and Terence, have a greater regard to Morality. Ibid.
The Defence in the Preface to the Mock-Aſtrologer, not ſufficient. p. 148
The Chriſtian Religion makes a great difference in the Caſe. p. 149
Horace of a Contrary Opinion to the Mock-Aſtrologer. p. 150
The Mock-Aſtrologer's Inſtances from Ben Johnſon Unſerviceable. p. 151
The Authority of Shakeſpear againſt the Mock-Aſtrologer. p. 154
His Maxim founded on the difference between Tragedy, and Comedy, a Miſtake. p. 155
Delight not the Chief-End of Comedy. p. 157
This Aſſertion prov'd againſt the Mock-Aſtrologer from the Teſtimonies of Rapin. Ibid.
And Ben Johnſon. p. 158
Ariſtotle, and Quintilian, cited to the ſame purpoſe p. 159, 161
To make Delight the main Buſineſs in Comedy, dangerous, and unreaſonable. p. 162
The improper Conduct of the Stage with reſpect to Poetry, and Ceremony. p. 165
Extravagant Rants. p. 167
Gingles in the Spaniſh Fryar, King Arthur, and Love Triumphant. p. 169
Women roughly treated by the Stage. p. 171
Their coarſe Uſage of the Nobility. p. 173
Theſe Freedoms peculiar to the Engliſh Stage. p. 175
Remarks upon Amphytrion. p. 177
The Machines prophane, ſmutty, and out of the Character. p. 178
The ſingularity of the Poet in this point. p. 180
Blaſphemy in Abſalom and Achitophel. p. 184
A Poem upon the Fall of the Angels, call'd a Fairy way of Writing. p. 189
The Puniſhment of the Damned ridiculed. p. 192
Remarks on the Comical Hiſtory of Don Quixot. p. 196
The Poets horrible Prophaneneſs. p. 197
His want of Modeſty, and Regard to the Audience. p. 202
All Imitations of Nature not proper for the Stage. p. 204
The Poets Talent in Raillery, and Dedication. p. 205
Remarks on the Relapſe. p. 209
A Miſnommer in the Title of the Play. p. 210
The Moral Vitious. p. 211
The Plot ill Contriv'd. p. 212
The Manners or Characters out of Order. p. 218
The three Dramatick Unities broken. p. 228
The Opinion of the Heathen Philoſophers, Orators, and Hiſtorians, concerning the Stage. p. 233
The Stage cenſured by the State. This proved from the Conſtitutions of Athens, Sparta, and Rome. p. 240
Farther Inſtances of this publick Diſcountentance in the Theodoſian Code. p. 241
In our own Statute Book. p. 242
And in the late Order of the French King. p. 243
An Order of the Biſhop of Arras againſt Plays. p. 245
The Stage Condemn'd by the Primitive Church. p. 250
The Councils of Illiberis, Arles, &c. cited. Ibid
The Teſtimony's of the Fathers againſt the Stage, particularly, of Theophilus Antiochenus. p. 252
Of Tertullian. p. 253
Of Clemens Alexandrinus. p. 260
Of Minutius Fœlix. p. 261
Of St. Cyprian. Ibid.
Lactantius. p. 265
St. Chriſoſtom. p. 267
St. Hierom. p. 272
And St. Auguſtine cited to the ſame purpoſe. p. 273
The Cenſure of the Fathers, and Councils &c. applicable to the Engliſh Stage. p. 276
The Concluſion. p. 280