Charles Dickens

The short thin man beside Mr. St. Julien, whose white face is so deeply seared with the small-pox, and whose dirty shirt- front is inlaid with open-work, and embossed with coral studs like ladybirds, is the low comedian and comic singer of the establishment. The remainder of the audience--a tolerably numerous one by this time--are a motley group of dupes and blackguards.

The foot-lights have just made their appearance: the wicks of the six little oil lamps round the only tier of boxes, are being turned up, and the additional light thus afforded serves to show the presence of dirt, and absence of paint, which forms a prominent feature in the audience part of the house. As these preparations, however, announce the speedy commencement of the play, let us take a peep 'behind,' previous to the ringing-up.

The little narrow passages beneath the stage are neither especially clean nor too brilliantly lighted; and the absence of any flooring, together with the damp mildewy smell which pervades the place, does not conduce in any great degree to their comfortable appearance. Don't fall over this plate basket--it's one of the 'properties'-- the caldron for the witches' cave; and the three uncouth-looking figures, with broken clothes-props in their hands, who are drinking gin-and-water out of a pint pot, are the weird sisters. This miserable room, lighted by candles in sconces placed at lengthened intervals round the wall, is the dressing-room, common to the gentlemen performers, and the square hole in the ceiling is THE trap-door of the stage above. You will observe that the ceiling is ornamented with the beams that support the boards, and tastefully hung with cobwebs.

The characters in the tragedy are all dressed, and their own clothes are scattered in hurried confusion over the wooden dresser which surrounds the room. That snuff-shop-looking figure, in front of the glass, is Banquo: and the young lady with the liberal display of legs, who is kindly painting his face with a hare's foot, is dressed for Fleance. The large woman, who is consulting the stage directions in Cumberland's edition of Macbeth, is the Lady Macbeth of the night; she is always selected to play the part, because she is tall and stout, and LOOKS a little like Mrs. Siddons--at a considerable distance. That stupid-looking milksop, with light hair and bow legs--a kind of man whom you can warrant town-made--is fresh caught; he plays Malcolm to-night, just to accustom himself to an audience. He will get on better by degrees; he will play Othello in a month, and in a month more, will very probably be apprehended on a charge of embezzlement. The black- eyed female with whom he is talking so earnestly, is dressed for the 'gentlewoman.' It is HER first appearance, too--in that character. The boy of fourteen who is having his eyebrows smeared with soap and whitening, is Duncan, King of Scotland; and the two dirty men with the corked countenances, in very old green tunics, and dirty drab boots, are the 'army.'

'Look sharp below there, gents,' exclaims the dresser, a red-headed and red-whiskered Jew, calling through the trap, 'they're a-going to ring up. The flute says he'll be blowed if he plays any more, and they're getting precious noisy in front.' A general rush immediately takes place to the half-dozen little steep steps leading to the stage, and the heterogeneous group are soon assembled at the side scenes, in breathless anxiety and motley confusion.

'Now,' cries the manager, consulting the written list which hangs behind the first P. S, wing, 'Scene 1, open country--lamps down-- thunder and lightning--all ready, White?' [This is addressed to one of the army.] 'All ready.'--'Very well. Scene 2, front chamber. Is the front chamber down?'--'Yes.'--'Very well.'-- 'Jones' [to the other army who is up in the flies]. 'Hallo!'-- 'Wind up the open country when we ring up.'--'I'll take care.'-- 'Scene 3, back perspective with practical bridge. Bridge ready, White? Got the tressels there?'--'All right.'

'Very well.