Costume

The threads of a textile intercourse are spun into this play and span a textological narrative of its evolution from stage to page and back again. Sartorial concerns are recorded in the original theatre records, dictated by the stage directions, and are implicit in the text. Thus the first performances inform the initial printed record, and, hence, this edition, with the hope of providing information useful to a theatre practitioner organising any future production. This does not mean, of course, that a modern director of An Humorous Day’s Mirth must clothe his or her cast in late sixteenth-century clothes, but that consideration of clothing discussed or mentioned in the play’s materials should be considered to inform understanding of the context and explication of the plot in visual terms, whether these correlate with the time in which the play was conceived or the age in which it is revived.

Two inventories taken by Henslowe on 10 and 13 March respectively list garments specifically linked with An Humorous Day’s Mirth: ‘Verones sonnes hosse’ and ‘Labesyas clocke, with gowld buttenes’.[123] The items can be associated with the play due to Henslowe’s identification of the characters that wore them. By mentioning Verone’s son and Labesha, Henslowe is marking the items of apparel as different from other hose and cloaks. He is further suggesting that something about the performance made these items memorable, either by virtue of which actor was playing the part, or by some aspect of the characterisation which was specifically drawn from the garment. It must be remembered though that Henslowe was creating records for his private use: the extra detail helps him to record and differentiate between a substantial list of various different items.

In the printed witness of the play, the title is followed by the opening stage direction: ‘Enter the count Laberuele in his shirt and night gowne, with two iewells in his hand’ (A2). The inclusion of this costume detail in the stage direction must not be underestimated. As far as can be deduced from Renaissance texts, a bare stage sufficed for a majority of scenes. As John Russell Brown points out, this naked stage placed emphasis on the actor, costume, words, gestures and small props used on stage.[124] As a result, when properties are specified, consideration is necessary of their specific implications and more general associations. Andrew Gurr and Mariko Ichikawa suggest that ‘Everything used to dress and equip the player on the early stages was symbolic’ and that each of these items worked as a signifier.[125]

Alan C. Dessen speaks of a theatrical shorthand used in place of elaborate exposition. His example is a stage direction from Scene 8: ‘Enter Verone with his napkin upon his shoulder’, by which Chapman places the action of the scene in an ordinary, or tavern.[126] This is implied by Verone’s dress as host of the ordinary, with a napkin on his shoulder, and his son, who carries tablecloths. These are small details, both clothing and props, since Verone wears the napkin on his person as signifier of his status, while the cloths dress the tables to suggest their whereabouts; see the additional discussion of tables. Similarly, the play’s initial stage direction instructs Labervele to enter wearing a shirt and nightgown, the actor’s costume serving as an instant indicator for the audience that this scene is set either during the night or early morning, and Labervele’s first lines confirm that the latter is true. Both nightgown and napkin fulfil the function of alerting the audience to the scene’s setting, while the dialogue further clarifies location and purpose.

20The importance of clothing as social signifier is demonstrated in Act 5 of Every Man in His Humour, when Musco promises to send a varlet or officer to arrest Giuliano at the request of Matheo and Bobadilla, who pawn a jewel and pair of silk stockings to pay for the service. Musco, disguised as Doctor Clement’s clerk Peto, uses the items to pay for a varlet’s suit. Bobadilla and Matheo then recognise Musco as the varlet when next they see him, despite the fact that the man inside the suit is exactly the same one they have previously spoken to as Peto. When Stephano, wearing Giuliano’s stolen cloak, appears a few lines later, Matheo instantly recognises him as Giuliano and instructs Musco as ‘varlet’ to arrest him, such is his conviction from sight of the cloak that the man is indeed Giuliano. Similarly, the sartorially-fixated Fungoso of Every Man out of His Humour hopes that he will be mistaken for his idol, Fastidius Brisk, when he appears in public wearing a suit copied from Brisk’s own garment by Fungoso’s tailor.[127] Thus clothes were dramatically useful to indicate status and mark an individual character for the audience, but also provide comic misunderstandings between characters onstage.

Costume is used implicitly in the characterisation of Florila, the fanatical Puritan. Prior to her first appearance on stage, Blanvel comments that Florila ‘goes more like a milkmaid than a countess, for all her youth and beauty’ (TLN 117-119). When Florila enters in Scene 4 her first thoughts are of her clothes:

What have I done? Put on too many clothes.
The day is hot, and I am hotter clad
Than might suffice health.
(TLN 197-198)

Jean MacIntyre identifies that Florila ‘treats clothes as a shibboleth’.[128] Contemplation of her clothes becomes an opportunity to exercise Puritan judgement, and Florila decides that it is better to keep her excessive layers of clothing on, than waste time in their removal which might be better spent. Her characteristic disgust with anything vain is prompted by discovery of the jewels, and further exacerbated by Labervele’s suggestion that she dress in accordance with her station. His sartorial recommendations fuel further outrage. Florila objects to the velvet hood as ‘A toy made with a superfluous flap,/ Which being cut off, my head were still as warm’ (TLN 236-238).

Practicality is therefore one of Florila’s main concerns, perhaps hence why she dresses like a milkmaid. That Labervele suggests a velvet hood be worn is indicative of his age: French hoods had been in fashion since the 1530s and, although they continued to be worn well into the 1600s, they might not be the natural first choice of a young woman of Florila’s age and station. It is worth considering that since two characters make reference to Florila’s dressing like a milkmaid, the actor playing her character would reflect this point in his costume.

Although God was believed to place each person in his or her station, Florila seems more concerned with dressing down than expressing her status. Sumptuary laws tried to regulate the wearing of costly apparel to specific social tiers. However, dressing modestly is advocated in the Bible by Peter, who warns against the ‘outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel’.[129] Timothy similarly advises that women ‘adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety’.[130] A ‘Homily against excess of apparel’ confirms that excess of clothing, unless befitting the social rank allotted the wearer by God, is a manifestation of pride, the chief sin.[131]

25Fashionable clothing is also identified as an external sign of lechery. Florila values these sentiments above those of Ephesians 5:22-3: ‘Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body’. Her Puritan beliefs give Florila a voice with which to speak out against her husband’s ‘orders’ and exercise control over her body and what covers it.

Another item of clothing prompts the beginning of Florila’s downfall: Catalian enters the private garden dressed ‘like a scholar’ and his appearance leads Florila to drop her guard. Labervele is instantly jealous and suspicious of the intruder, but Catalian’s ‘godly and neighbourly suit’ (TLN 304) prompts an excited Florila to support the young gallant. It is Lemot, rather than her husband, who manages to persuade Florila to don ‘rich apparel’ (TLN 405).

Florila’s next entrance must embody a Cinderella-like transformation from milkmaid to countess: ‘Enter [Florila] the Puritan in her best attire’ (TLN 640). Again, her first words involve contemplation of her clothing, this time in relation to being ‘ready’. Soon after Lemot enters to try her it is proved she is far from ready to reject temptation, wantonly abandoning herself to the ‘light desires’ (TLN 694) associated with wearing such ‘brave attire’ (TLN 692). MacIntyre acknowledges: ‘Lemot, however, is not a seducer, but a satirist; she declares she loves him and he responds with passionate fustian, offers to kiss her hand and when she gives it “he bites”’.[132] Once Lemot has made fun of her and exposed her Puritan hypocrisy, he advises her to return to her Puritan ways, suggesting first that she ‘Put off this vain attire’ (TLN 1457-1458).

Florila’s entrance direction in Scene 14 alerts the reader to her appearance in clothes beneath her station once again, when she is directed to enter ‘like a Puritan’ (TLN 1778), reasserting her Puritan status with talk of vanity and her own hypocritical piety. This latter is mocked by the lottery prize awarded her: ‘a pair of holy beads with a crucifix’ (TLN 1938), a Catholic symbol which elicits a horrified response from the puritanical advocate of all things plain and pure. If Labesha considers no longer wearing a hat-band a sufficient symbol of his newly affected melancholic state in Scene 10, one can appreciate the striking visual effect of Florila’s costume changes and the comic value embodied in them. Her costume becomes a visual vehicle for her puritanism. Jonson recognised this comic potential and utilised a similar visual joke with the creation of Fastidius Brisk, the elegantly dressed courtier, and idol of Fungoso, the impoverished and fashion-fixated law student.

Rowley is in a similar situation to Fungoso: both have rich fathers, but neither is allowed access to their supposed fortunes. During Rowley’s only scene in An Humorous Day’s Mirth, Lemot takes especial note of his falling band, a flat band worn round the neck outside the doublet and fixed to it with pins. Much less material is required for a falling-band than a ruff, potentially rendering it a cheaper option, hence Lemot’s comment on its ‘little cost’ (TLN 1136).

30However, the fashion for falling-bands, which had grown during the last quarter of the sixteenth century and increasingly overtook the ruff in popularity through the seventeenth century, was based upon several expensive modes of decoration and displays of wealth. Falling-bands could be made from lace or linen, the latter’s status being increased with cut-work, elaborate embroidery or the fineness of the material used. Often a combination of the above would be employed to communicate the wealth and status of the wearer, as with all other items of clothing.

Lemot gives us little clue as to the decoration of Rowley’s falling-band and, of course, he may be humiliating Rowley by calling attention to its lack of ornament. Comments on its prettiness may draw attention to the falling-band’s pleasing ornament but could also diminish it, so that perhaps Lemot is being dismissive. ‘Fantastical’ (TLN 1135) may refer to the nature of the embroidery, which could be of a very intricate, geometric design or consist of flower or animal motifs, or to delicate lace or cut-work. However, Rowley’s denial of the memory of its purchase suggests embarrassment: he has not had it commissioned for him, but ‘bought it by chance’ (TLN 1139), possibly second-hand, suggesting he is not wealthy enough to buy expensive items new or associate with gallants on a regular basis.

In fact, we are informed soon after Rowley’s entrance that he has been invited to the gathering by his cousin Colinet and that this is his first visitation to an ordinary. Lemot could be cruelly exposing him as the outsider and newcomer in the group. ‘Make much of it’ (TLN 1140) may be a further reinforcement of the falling-band’s crudity amongst such company and thus mocks the lack of an impression it makes upon the group, despite the wearer’s intention. Similarly the falling-band could be remarked upon for being too gaudy and therefore out of place. Later in the scene Lemot remarks privately to Catalian that Rowley’s ‘gay outside’ (TLN 1220-1221) seeks to conceal his ‘very foul and sweaty, yea, and perhaps lousy’ (TLN 1221-1222) undergarments.

Clothes as the superficial disguises of men are the subject of Dowsecer’s melancholic musings in Scene 7. The King introduces the idea of notional symbolism when he rails against the trumpeters: ‘Not telling what I am, but what I seem:/ A king of clouts’ (TLN 776-777). Thus the trappings of royalty, the trumpets, crown and stately clothes mask rags and a ‘scarecrow’ (TLN 777). Three sets of items are laid out for Dowsecer’s perusal by Lavel, ‘To put him, by the sight of them, in mind of their brave states that use them, or that at the least of the true use they should be put unto’ (TLN 830-832). Among them are ‘a pair of large hose, and a codpiece’ (TLN 822-823). Yet, as Labervele downheartedly remarks, Dowsecer ‘doth despise our purposes’ (TLN 880) by thinking not of ‘brave’ men who might wear such garments but delivering a diatribe against ‘goodly gear’ (TLN 866-867).

Dowsecer mocks fashionable clothes being ‘the soul of man’ (TLN 867) and in doing so voices a common criticism of characters such as Paroles and Fungoso. Dowsecer’s disdain for humanity renders their clothing more worthy than their souls. ‘A large hose and a codpiece makes a man’ he concludes (TLN 875-876). MacIntyre suggests that this scene provides the most overt satire of fashion in the play, the hose and codpiece possibly resembling those worn by other young men onstage, and may also have been used in Chapman’s lost play, The Fountain of New Fashions.[133] She further suggests that similar satire might be involved in the costuming of the young gallants in the ordinary, which is perhaps why gold buttons easily identify Labesha’s cloak in Henslowe’s inventory.

35Neither is Lavel’s second hope fulfilled: instead of being reminded of their proper use, Dowsecer instead appears to flout all usual conventions for wearing hose and codpiece. He might put either item on his head, or, as suggested by his final words ‘sit upon the matter’ (TLN 878-879) might sit down upon the items, prompting Labervele’s disheartened response.[134] Dowsecer is uncomfortable with the vast sums of money expended by gentlemen keeping up with the fashion, a theme incorporated in Jonson’s Every Man out of His Humour with the characters of Fungoso and Fastidius Brisk. At one point, Fungoso, who has spent all his money on upgrading a suit made specially to imitate that worn by Fastidius, passes into unconsciousness when his idol enters wearing yet another fantastic outfit. Fungoso’s obsession drains the colour from his cheeks as quickly as it drains the money from his purse.

Characters such as Fungoso are derided by Dowsecer in his first speech on fashion. In the second part, Dowsecer attacks those who introduce new and foreign fashions to their country: ‘Men make their native land the land of apes’ (TLN 889). His concern has biblical backing sourced in Zephaniah, who threatens punishment of ‘all such as are clothed with strange apparel’.[135] Dowsecer’s warning is against affection for anything, including fashion, which might be alien to that country, and therefore discourage patriotism.

In opposition to Dowsecer’s fear of apparel hiding man’s true state is the example of Jaquena in Verone’s ordinary. Lemot reveals that she is pregnant with Verone’s child during the lottery at the end of the play. ‘What, Queen Fortune with child! Shall we have young fortunes, my host?’ asks the King playfully (TLN 1958-1959). Her pregnancy has already been alluded to in a previous scene: when Catalian enters the ordinary sweating after a victorious game of tennis, he is brought a coarse napkin by Jaquena and attempts to kiss her. In drawing her close it seems that Catalian notices her pregnant belly, since he comments that Verone will do Jaquena ‘mighty wrong’ (TLN 1157) if he doesn’t marry her. In order to increase the comedy of the moment, the actor playing Jaquena might wear a false bulge and have her clothing tied loosely with laces to indicate in no uncertain terms that she is pregnant. This would heighten the comedy when Catalian remarks on her state, and render her embarrassed reaction to the lottery’s revelation even more redundant, since the audience would be all too aware of her situation.

Several examples of similar references to pregnancy can be drawn from the drama of the period. In Scene 2 of The Marriage Between Wit and Wisdom, Idleness notes of Wantonness, ‘What me think you are with child’ (l. 250).[136] Vulcan remarks on Psyche’s ‘great breadth’ in Heywood’s Love’s Mistress (4.1),[137] and in Wilson’s The Cobbler’s Prophecy Venus draws attention to her own pregnancy (l. 823).[138] The fact that dialogue in these plays refers directly to a visual manifestation of pregnancy suggests a false belly must have been part of the costume for (male) actors to appear pregnant.

This suggestion appears to be borne out by explicit references to pregnant characters in stage directions. In Rowley’s When You See Me, You Know Me, the stage direction at the beginning of Scene 2 dictates trumpets to play and the entry of ‘King Harry the Eight, Queen Jane big with child’ (ll. 135-36).[139] Similarly, The Witch of Edmonton’s opening stage direction reads: ‘Enter Frank Thorney, Winifred with child’.[140] The stage directions specify which characters enter, perhaps in what order, sound effects and the costuming detail concerning pregnancy. The characters are not in the early stages of pregnancy, but are visibly pregnant. Realistic detail surrenders to the theatrical norm that if a character is pregnant, a point that usually bears in some way on the plot, it will be visible to the audience.

40In the same way, Jaquena’s pregnancy is obvious to the audience, perhaps heightening the comic potential of Catalian’s observation, and revealing information to the audience which strangely remains unobserved by other characters, necessitating revelation by the lottery. No pregnant belly appears to be recorded in Henslowe’s inventories. Perhaps if it were required it was constructed in an impromptu way out of wool or some other material, rather than being represented by one identifiable property or costume item. Thus Jaquena’s costume as Queen Fortune for the play-within-a-play action of the lottery attracts attention, but for the wrong reasons: not to remark on its splendour or the excellence of her part in the action, but to embarrass her with Lemot’s witty accusation: ‘you have played your bellyful’ (TLN 1962-1963).

In the same scene, Moren is more successful at shrinking from view. He adopts the role of torchbearer, which brings with it a mask, in order to keep hidden from his angry wife. His deception is cunningly revealed to Lemot, who unmasks him using an echo device. This is the only overt use of disguise, usually a stock comic ingredient and thoroughly explored as such in Chapman’s previous comedy for Henslowe, The Blind Beggar of Alexandria. The plot of An Humorous Day’s Mirth relies on Lemot’s quick-witted, cunning disguise of true intentions in his role as principal intriguer, a position easily managed due to his manipulative discourse.