The palace at Whitehall was a royal palace in Westminster, which was at that time completely separate from the City of London. Whitehall was a townhouse owned by the archbishops of York until 1530 when Henry VIII acquired it. Both Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and James I made improvements to the building, adding a bowling alley, tennis courts, and a series of banqueting houses (Chalfant, 199).
Bartholomew Fair was performed in front of King James I and his Court in the Banqueting House at Whitehall on I November 1614, the day after it was first performed at the Hope Playhouse. Jonson removed the clearly inappropriate Induction from the version of the play performed here and wrote a ‘Prologue to the King’s Majesty’. Suzanne Gossett argues that “the Court performance eliminates both the nostalgia and the satire of popular theatre designed for the Hope audience for a production more focused on the culture of the contemporary courtier. Commercial success fades into insignificance before a greater authority: at Court the play concludes with an Epilogue assuring the King that only his reaction, his ‘power to judge’, matters to the company” (3). The different versions of Bartholomew Fair for its first two performances have contributed to critical division about the play’s meaning.
The Prologue to the King’s Majesty:
“Your Majesty is welcome to a Fair;
Such place, such men, such language, and such ware
You must expect: with these, the zealous noise
Of your land’s faction, scandalized at toys,
As babies, hobbyhorses, puppet plays,
And suchlike rage, whereof the petulant ways
Yourself have known, and have been vexed with long.
These for your sport, without particular wrong
Or just complaint of any private man
(Who of himself or shall think well or can),
The maker doth present, and hopes tonight
To give you, for a fairing, true delight.” (1-12)
“Your Majesty hath seen the play, and you
Can best allow it from your ear and view.
You know the scope of writers, and what store
Of leave is given them if they take not more
And turn it into licence. You can tell
If we have used that leave you gave us well,
Or whether we to rage or licence break,
Or be profane, or make profane men speak.
This is your power to judge, great sir, and not
The envy of a few. Which if we have got,
We value less what their dislike can bring,
If it so happy be t’ have pleased the King.” (1-12)