September 21st after lunch, about two
o'clock, I and my party crossed the water,
and there in the house with the thatched
roof witnessed an excellent performance of
the tragedy of the first Emperor Julius Caesar
>> note 1 with
a cast of some fifteen people; when the
play was over, they danced very marvellously
and gracefully together as is their wont,
two dressed as men and two as women.
On another occasion not far from our inn,
in the suburb at Bishopsgate, if I remember,
also after lunch, I beheld a play in which
they presented diverse nations and an Englishman
struggling together for a maiden; he overcame
them all except the German who won the girl
in a tussle, and then sat down by her side,
when he and his servant drank themselves
tipsy, so that they were both fuddled and
the servant proceeded to hurl his shoe at
his master's head, whereupon they both
fell asleep; meanwhile the Englishman stole
into the tent and absconded with the German's
prize, thus in his turn outwitting the German;
in conclusion they danced very charmingly
in English and Irish fashion. Thus daily
at two in the afternoon, London has two,
sometimes three plays running in different
places, competing with each other, and those
which play best obtain most spectators. The
playhouses are so constructed that they play
on a raised platform, so that everyone has
a good view. There are different galleries
and places, however, where the seating is
better and more comfortable and therefore
more expensive. For whoever cares to stand
below only pays one English penny, but if
he wishes to sit he enters by another door
and pays another penny, while if he desires
to sit in the most comfortable seats, which
are cushioned, where he not only sees everything
well, but can also be seen, then he pays
yet another English penny at another door.
And during the performance food and drink
are carried round the audience, so that for
what one cares to pay one may also have refreshment.
The actors are most expensively and elaborately
costumed; for it is the English usage for
eminent lords or knights at their decease
to bequeath and leave almost the best of
their clothes to their serving men, which
it is unseemly for the latter to wear, so
that they offer them then for sale for a
small sum to the actors.
How much time then they may merrily spend
daily at the play everyone knows who has
ever seen them play or act.
There is also in the city of London not
far from the horse-market, which occupies
a large site, a house where cock-fights are
held annually throughout three quarters of
the year (for in the remaining quarter they
told me it was impossible since the feathers
are full of blood), and I saw the place,
which is built like a theatre. In the center
on the floor stands a circular table covered
with straw and with ledges round it, where
the cocks are teased and incited to fly at
one another, while those with wagers as to
which cock will win sit closest around the
circular disk, but the spectators who are
merely present on their entrance penny sit
around higher up, watching with eager pleasure
the fierce and angry fight between the cocks,
as these wound each other to death with spurs
and beaks. And the party whose cock surrenders
or dies loses the wager; I am told that stakes
on a cock often amount to many thousands
of crowns, especially if they have reared
the cock themselves and brought their own
along. For the master who inhabits the house
has many cocks besides, which he feeds in
separate cages and keeps for this sport,
as he showed us. He also had several cocks,
none of which he would sell for less than
twenty crowns; they are very large but just
the same kind as we have in our country.
He also told us that if one discovered that
the cocks' beaks had been coated with
garlic, one was fully entitled to kill them
at once. He added too, that it was nothing
to give them brandy before they began to
fight, adding what wonderful pleasure there
was in watching them.
Every Sunday and Wednesday in London there
are bearbaitings on the other side of the
water. . . . The theatre is
circular, with galleries round the top for
the spectators; the ground space down below,
beneath the clear sky, is unoccupied. In
the middle of this place a large bear on
a long rope was bound to a stake, then a
number of great English mastiffs were brought
in and shown first to the bear, which they
afterwards baited one after another: now
the excellence and fine temper of such mastiffs
was evinced, for although they were much
struck and mauled by the bear, they did not
give in, but had to be pulled off by sheer
force, and their muzzles forced open with
long sticks to which a broad iron piece was
attached at the top. The bears' teeth
were not sharp so they could not injure the
dogs; they have them broken short. When the
first mastiffs tired, fresh ones were brought
in to bait the bear.
With these and many more amusements the
English pass their time, learning at the
play what is happening abroad; indeed men
and womenfolk visit such places without scruple,
since the English for the most part do not
travel much, but prefer to learn foreign
matters and take their pleasures at home.
There are a great many inns, taverns, and
beer-gardens scattered about the city, where
much amusement may be had with eating, drinking,
fiddling, and the rest, as for instance in
our hostelry, which was visited by players
almost daily. And what is particularly curious
is that the women as well as the men, in
fact more often than they, will frequent
the taverns or ale-houses for enjoyment.
They count it a great honour to be taken
there and given wine with sugar to drink;
and if one woman only is invited, then she
will bring three or four other women along
and they gaily toast each other; the husband
afterwards thanks him who has given his wife
such pleasure, for they deem it a real kindness.
In the ale-houses tobacco
>> note 2 or
a species of wound-wort are also obtainable
for one's money, and the powder is
lit in a small pipe, the smoke sucked into
the mouth, and the saliva is allowed to
run freely, after which a good draught
of Spanish wine follows. This they regard
as a curious medicine for defluctions,
>> note 3 and
as a pleasure, and the habit is so common
with them, that they always carry the instrument
on them, and light up on all occasions,
at the play, in the taverns or elsewhere,
drinking as well as smoking together, as
we sit over wine, and it makes them riotous
and merry, and rather drowsy, just as if
they were drunk, though the effect soon
passes — and they use it so abundantly
because of the pleasure it gives, that
their preachers cry out on them for their
self-destruction, and I am told the inside
of one man's veins after death was
found to be covered in soot just like a
chimney. The herb is imported from the
Indies in great quantities, and some types
are much stronger than others, which difference
one can immediately taste; they perform
queer antics when they take it. And they
first learned of this medicine from the
Indians, as Mr. Cope, a citizen of London
who has spent much time in the Indies,
informed me; I visited his collection with
Herr Lobelus, a London physician, and saw
the following objects.
This same Mr. Cope inhabits a fine house
in the Snecgas;
>> note 4 he
led us into an apartment stuffed with queer
foreign objects in every corner, and amongst
other things I saw there, the following
seemed of interest.
- An African charm made of teeth.
- Many weapons, arrows, and other things
made of fishbone.
- Beautiful Indian plumes, ornaments, and
clothes from China.
- A handsome cap made out of goosefoots
- A curious Javanese costume.
- A felt cloak from Arabia.
- Shoes from many strange lands.
- An Indian stone axe, like a thunderbolt.
- Beautiful coats from Arabia.
- A string instrument with but one string.
- Another string instrument from Arabia.
- The horn and tail of a rhinoceros, is
a large animal like an elephant.
- A fan made out of a single leaf.
- Curious wooden and stone swords.
- The twisted horn of a bull seal.
- A round horn which had grown on an English
- An embalmed child (Mumia).
- Leathern weapons.
- The bauble and bells of Henry VIII's
- A unicorn's tail.
>> note 5
This city of London is not only brimful
of curiosities but so populous also that
one simply cannot walk along the streets
for the crowd.
Especially every quarter when the law courts
sit in London and they throng from all parts
of England for the terms to litigate in numerous
matters which have occurred in the interim,
for everything is saved up till that time;
then there is a slaughtering and a hanging,
and from all the prisons (of which there
are several scattered about the town where
they ask alms of the passers by, and sometimes
they collect so much by their begging that
they can purchase their freedom) people are
taken and tried; when the trial is over,
those condemned to the rope are placed on
a cart, each one with a rope about his neck,
and the hangman drives with them out of the
town to the gallows, called Tyburn, almost
an hour away from the city; there he fastens
them up one after another by the rope and
drives the cart off under the gallows, which
is not very high off the ground; then the
criminals' friends come and draw them
down by their feet, that they may die all
the sooner. They are then taken down from
the gallows and buried in the neighboring
cemetery, where stands a house haunted by
such monsters that no one can live in it,
and I myself saw it. Rarely does a law day
in London in all the four sessions pass without
some twenty to thirty persons — both
men and women — being gibbeted.
And since the city is very large, open,
and populous, watch is kept every night in
all the streets, so that misdemeanor shall
be punished. Good order is also kept in the
city in the matter of prostitution, for which
special commissions are set up, and when
they meet with a case, they punish the man
with imprisonment and fine. The woman is
taken to Bridewell, the King's palace,
situated near the river, where the executioner
scourges her naked before the populace. And
although close watch is kept on them, great
swarms of these women haunt the town in the
taverns and playhouses.