chapter  5
24 Pages

Telling the Story

SHAPING THE ACTION Variety in itself, however, will not hold an audience. The material has to be shaped and controlled in a way that captures attention - particularly when the audience is as voluble and potentially restless as the audience of the Jacobean public playhouses. In the second scene of Fortune ""by Land and Sea (?Red Bull, c. 1608) the internal variety of the sequence is shaped into a pattern of sharp, quickly alternating contrasts. A fight breaks out in a tavern, and Frank Forrest is killed. This is a shock for the audience, but the drawers' reaction is unconcerned comedy: 'Had not we drawers enough in the house, but they must needs draw too?' (Lii.180). This is followed by straightforward pathos as Frank's father and sister lament his death; and immediately after this a wedding procession enters, with the groom declaring, 'So things are as they should be, we have attained / The height of solace and true joy' (I.iii.278-9). These mood swings are not just erratic; they have a sharp, pulsing rhythm. The sequence that leads up to the attempted murder of Mistress Arthur in How a Man May Choose a Good Wife from a Bad (?Rose, c. 1602) has a similar rhythm.