Frontispiece to The Wits, showing chandelier above the stage of a 17th-century indoor playhouse


The Wits, or Sport upon Sport was first published in 1662, and contains 26 'drolls' or comic scenes from popular plays, including the grave-diggers' scene from Hamlet. The frontispiece offers an impression of a 17th-century indoor playhouse. Though not thought to be based on a particular theatre, the woodcut depicts one of the main features of indoor playing spaces: the artificial lighting. Chandeliers (or ‘branches’) hang above the stage and candles are shown along its front edge, though it is unlikely that indoor playhouses used footlights due to the difficulty of keeping them alight in the drafts.

Full title:
The Wits, or Sport upon Sport, being a curious collection of several drols and farces, etc. (Written by ... Shake-spear, Fletcher, Johnson, Shirley, and others.) (pt. I.)
1673, London
Book / Octavo
Francis Kirkman
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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