Collection No. 73: The Apprentice, by Arthur Murphy

Publication Details | Synopsis | Secondary Commentary |Varieties & Dialects | Other

Publication details

Author: Murphy, Arthur
Author dates: 1727-1805
Title: The Apprentice

First played: 1756
First published: 1756, for Paul Vaillant [etc.] 46 p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1756)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1996)

Genre: Farce

Trend(s): Dialect

Character types: Servant; Scottish; Irish

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Dick Wingate and his lover Charlotte run away together from Charlotte's father Gargle, the apothecary to whom Dick is apprenticed, so that they can go on the stage together. They participate in a Spouting Club performance. Dick ends up arrested, but Gargle bails him out, as he had intended for him to be married to Charlotte.

Act I.
Simon, Gargle the apothecary’s servant, visits Wingate to ask if he has heard or seen his son Dick, who is Gargle’s apprentice. A letter arrives: Dick has been arrested with a group of strolling players, but Wingate’s friend Ebeneezer Broadbrim took pity on him and sent him home in a wagon. Gargle arrives, and both men discuss Dick’s unhealthy penchant for the theatre. The curse has spread to Charlotte, Gargle’s daughter, whom he caught reading a play in bed.  Gargle reports that Dick attends a Spouting Club, in which apprentices practice their recitations and hope to be noticed as actors. Dick arrives; to his father’s explosive “Do you think I must fall in Love with your Face, because I am your Father?”, he replies, “A little more than Kin, and less than Kind”. In the long speech that follows, his father orders him to buy Cocker’s Arithmetic and to concentrate on business rather than on the stage; Dick punctuates the speech with quotations from well-known plays. Simon prepares to escort Dick back to Gargle’s; however, Dick refuses to leave until he forces open a closet door and takes a more fashionable coat. Dick launches into a soliloquy about the theatrical career he hopes to have, and reveals that he intends to run away with Charlotte.

Act II.
The members of the Spouting Club practice their dramatic recitations. They read one of the club’s rules aloud. A Scotchman recites passages from “Macbeeth”. Dick arrives; his friends ask him about his experiences as a player in Bristol. The club members practice their recitations. Dick leaves at five o’clock; he is late for his rendezvous with Charlotte. The departing Spouters encounter some watchmen, who arrest them for disturbing the peace. Dick manages to slip away. He brings a ladder to Charlotte’s window and insists they enact the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, after which he plans to ascend and take her from her house. Charlotte reminds him that Simon will let her out through the shop.  Dick climbs the ladder and meets Charlotte inside; Simon lets them both out and they escape. A watchman notices the ladder propped against Gargle’s house; he sounds an alarm, and Gargle realizes that his daughter is gone. Wingate enters, calculating fractions; Gargle tells him of the latest development. Dick is arrested for not paying his bills in Bristol; he and Charlotte wait for someone to bail them out. They enact some scenes of imprisonment, but are interrupted by Gargle and Wingate’s arrival. Wingate is angry at Dick for stealing the coat and wants him to be hanged. Gargle says that he has always intended for Dick and Charlotte to be married; if Wingate prevents the marriage, the money will go “into another channel.” Wingate tells Dick that his friends “Shakespear or Ben Thompson” will bail him out, but consents to do so when Gargle offers Dick his daughter’s hand and his practice once his apprenticeship is complete. Dick reforms, concluding “Life is but a Tragi-comic Jest / And all is Farce and Mummery at best.”

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Secondary commentary

A) Schwartz, Richard B. ‘Murphy, Arthur (1727–1805)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 29 May 2008.

"On 2 January 1756 Murphy's farce The Apprentice was performed at Drury Lane. This was followed by The Spouter, or, The Triple Revenge, published anonymously in the same year."

B) Bode, Robert F. ‘Arthur Murphy: December 27, 1727-June 18, 1805.’ Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 89: Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Dramatists, Third Series. Edited by Paula R. Backscheider, University of Rochester. The Gale Group, 1989. LiteratureResourceCenter. 29 May 2008.

"Early in 1754 he submitted his first dramatic work, a two-act farce entitled The Young Apprentice , to David Garrick for production at Drury Lane. This play initiated the first of many disagreements between Murphy and Garrick concerning both the content and the scheduling for performance of Murphy's plays, Murphy usually wanting a performance date earlier than suited Garrick and Garrick procrastinating on the date by requesting changes in the next of the play. As a result Murphy withdrew his play from Garrick's consideration, an action he would take several times during his career as a playwright, and the play was not performed until it appeared as the after piece on 2 January 1756 under the title The Apprentice.
The subject of this farce is the desire of a young man named Dick to abandon his apprenticeship with the apothecary Gargle to take up a life upon the stage. The plot is further complicated by Dick's falling in love with his master's daughter, Charlotte, with whom he plans to elope so that they can both follow a thespian calling. Their plans are spoiled when they are caught by a bailiff, and Dick must promise to abandon acting in exchange for his father's going bail for himself and his would-be wife. The play is true laughing comedy satirizing the vehemence of Dick's temporary passion for acting, and the scenes and characters are drawn almost exclusively from life. There were many "spouting clubs" in London at the time of the play's performance where amateur actors, often apprentices from other occupations, could read parts of plays or sometimes even give full performances; The Apprentice was credited by many through the remainder of the century with making these clubs appear ridiculous and thereby keeping down their numbers. The pattern of Dick's speech is the first indication of Murphy's feeling for the effect of a play onstage, for Dick was played in the original production by Harry Woodward, a well-known impersonator, and subsequently by other actors known for their ability to mimic, and Dick's speech consists of a tissue of accurate quotations from other playwrights; thus the actors playing Dick apparently elicited laughter by delivering the quoted lines in the manner of other well-known contemporary actors."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Wingate’s friend from Bristol, Ebeeneezor Broadbrim, uses archaic language in his writing sample (“thee/thy”). Simon, a servant, uses Northern idioms (“gang”). Two of the Spouting Club’s aspiring actors are Scotch and Irish, but aspire to be protagonists of great Shakespearean tragedies (“Mockbeeth” and “Othollo”).

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Ebeeneezor Broadbrim’s writing
a. Sample of dialect
[page 4]
“Esteemed Friend,
Last was 20th ultimo , since none of thine, which will occasion Brevity. The

[page 5 ]

Reason of my writing to thee at present, is to inform thee that thy Son came to our Place with a Company of Strollers, who were taken up by the Magistrate, and committed as Vagabonds, to Jail.---"
Zooker's! I'm glad of it---a Villain of a Fellow! Let him lie there---
"I am sorry thy Lad should follow such profane Courses; but out of the Esteem I bear unto thee, I have taken thy Boy out of Confinement, and sent him off for your City in the Waggon, which left this Place four Days ago. He is consigned to thy Address, [125]  being the needful from thy Friend and Servant,
Ebeeneezor Broadbrim.”
b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “thee/thine/thy”; “Last was 20th ultimo, since none of thine, which will occasion Brevity” (?)
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: Wingate's Bristol friend
e. Consistency of representation: consistent (to this letter)

Variety: Simon (Gargle’s servant)
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 15]
Lord love ye, Master---I'm so glad you're come back---come, we had as good e'en gang Home to my Master Gargle's ---

[page 16]

He's at his Plays again---Odds my Heart, he's a rare Hand---he'll go through with it, I'll warrant him---Old Cojer must not smoke that I have any Concern---I must [450]  be main cautious---Lord bless his Heart, he's to teach me to act Scrub .---He begun with me long ago, and I got as far as the Jesuit before a went out of Town:--- "  Scrub---Coming, Sir---Lord, Ma'am, Iv'e a whole Packet full of News---some say one Thing and some say another; but, for my Part, Maam,---I believe he's a Jesuit"---that's main pleasant---" I believe he's a Jesuit ."

b.1 Orthography: “e’en”
b.2 Grammar: “he begun with me”; “before a went”; “you’re come back”; “we had as good e’en gang Home” (we might as well go home)
b.3 Vocabulary: “Odds my Heart”; “Old Cojer” (epithet for Wingate); “gang” (to go – Northern); “must not smoke” (must not realize)
c. Nationality: English (Northern)
d. Character profile: servant
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Scottish actor
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 22]
Come now I'll gee you a Touch of Macbeeth .---

1st. Memb.
That will be rare, come let's have it.---

What do'st lier at Mon?---I have had muckle Applause at Edinburgh , when I enacted in the Reégiceede ,---and I now intend to do Macbeeth ---I seed the Degger Yesterneet, and I thought I should ha' killed every one that came in my way.---

b.1 Orthography: “gee” (give); “Macbeeth”; “lier” (?); “Reegiceede”; “Degger”; “Yesterneet”
b.2 Grammar: “I seed”
b.3 Vocabulary: muckle
c. Nationality: Scottish
d. Character profile: aspiring Scottish actor
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Irish actor
a. Sample of dialect
[page 24]
Arrah, my Dear, but what is that same Epitaph now?

Arrah, my dear Cousin Mackshane , won't you put a Remembrance upon me?---

Ow! but is it mocking you are? ---Look-ye, my Dear, if you'd be taking me off---Don't you call it taking off?---By my Shoul I'd be making you take yourself off.---What? If you're for being obstropolous, I would not matter you three Skips of a Flea.---
b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “is it mocking me you are?”
b.3 Vocabulary: “Arrah”; “Look-ye”; “By my Shoul”; “obstropolous”; “My Dear”
c. Nationality: Ireland
d. Character profile: aspiring Irish actor
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects

Language use within a family:

Where is the Scoundrel?

Dear Sir, moderate your Anger, and don't use such harsh Language.

Harsh Language!---Why do you think Man, I'd call him a Scoundrell, if I had not a Regard for him?---You don't hear me call a Stranger a Scoundrel.

Scottish speech as an "impediment":

Stay till you hear me give a Speecimen of Elocution.

What, with that Impediment, Sir?

Impeediment! what Impeediment? I do no leesp---do I?---I do no squeent---I am well leem'd, am I not?---

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Other points of interest

Wingate’s impression of Shakespeare:
Ay, that damned Shakespear !--- I hear the Fellow was nothing but a Deer-stealer in Warwickshire :---Zookers! if they had hanged him out of the Way, he would not now be the Ruin of honest Men's Children.---But what Right had he to read Shakespear ?---I never read Shakespear !--- Wounds! I caught the Rascal, myself, reading that nonsensical Play of Hamblet , where the Prince is keeping Company with Strollers and Vagabonds: A fine Example, Mr. Gargle !---

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©2008 Arden Hegele