I have always been taught, and always tell my students, that the commercial theatres in London were closed when the civil wars broke out in 1642. Today, I set eyes for the first time on the official document which on the 2nd of September 1642 decreed that “publike Stage-Playes shall cease.” No more Tamoras or Tamburlaines — from this date onward there was to be only repentance and pious solemnity:
An Order of the Lords and Commons concerning Stage-Playes, 1642
Whereas the distressed Estate of Ireland, steeped in her own Blood, and the distracted Estate of England, threatned with a Cloud of Blood, by Civill Warre, call for all possible meanes to appease and avert the Wrath of God appearing in these Judgements; amongst which, Fasting and Prayer having bin often tryed to be very effectuall, have bin lately, and are still enjoyned; and whereas publike Sports doe not well agree with publike Calamities, nor publike Stage-playes with the Seasons of Humiliation, this being an Exercise of sad and pious solemnity, and the other being Spectacles of pleasure, too commonly expressing lasciuious Mirth and Levitie:
It is therefore thought fit, and Ordeined by the Lords and Commons in this Parliament Assembled, that while these sad Causes and set times of Humiliation doe continue, publike Stage-Playes shall cease, and bee forborne. Instead of which, are recommended to the people of this Land, the profitable and reasonable Considerations of Repentance, Reconciliation, and peace with God, which probably may produce outward peace and prosperity, and bring againe Times of Joy and Gladnesse to these Nations.
Die Veneris, Septemb. 2 1642
Ordered by the Lords and Commons in Parliament,