Historical Contexts: Stage-Directions in 3LL

‘As it hath been publiquely played’: The Stage Directions and Original Staging of The Three Ladies of London

Leslie Thomson

Abstract: The Three Ladies of London is the earliest extant play linked to the London professional theatre. One might expect the stage directions to be primitive, awkward, or unusual; but in fact they are broadly efficient and conventional. They are almost certainly authorial, and reflect Robert Wilson’s practical experience as a player. The 1584 quarto could have been staged almost anywhere because all it requires is a platform with two rear doors – no need for a trap, upper level, or central opening. But this does not mean that the play would have been uninteresting in performance. On the contrary, the combination of explicit and implicit stage directions, together with the use of costumes and properties, would result in visually effective illustrations of the ideas expressed in the dialogue. As my analysis of the play’s various staging elements demonstrates, Wilson knew what he was doing and how to do it.

Citation: Thomson, Leslie, ‘“As it hath been publiquely played”: The Stage Directions and Original Staging of The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context,

Download PDF
View Online