On September 2, 1642, Parliament, where the Puritans had gained the upper hand, acted to close all playhouses by issuing the First Ordinance against Stage Plays and Interludes. During the English Civil War period, there was a good deal of surreptitious play-acting. The staging of full-length plays, however, had become too risky a venture for the harrassed actors. Short farces, called drolls, and variety acts seemed to be the fare most suitable under the circumstances. Francis Kirkman, in 1672, had this to say concerning the origin of the genre:

"When the publique Theatres were shut up... then all that we could divert ourselves with were these humours and pieces of Plays, which passing under the name of a merry conceited Fellow, called Bottom the Weaver, Simpleton the Smith, John Swabber, or some such title, were only allowed us, and that but by stealth too, and under the pretence of Rope-dancing, or the like; and these being all that was permitted to us, great was the confluence of the Auditors; and these small things were as profitable as any of our late famed Plays. I have seen the Red Bull Play-House, which was a large one, so full, that as many went back for want of room as had entered; and as meanly as you may think these Drols, they were then acted by the best Comedians then and now in being; and I may say, by some exceeded all now living..."
A.M. Nagler -- A Source Book In Theatrical History

Droll (?), a. [Compar. Droller (?); superl. Drollest (?).] [F. drole; cf. G. & D. drollig, LG. drullig, D. drol a thick and short person, a droll, Sw. troll a magical appearance, demon, trolla to use magic arts, enchant, Dan. trold elf, imp, Icel. troll giant, magician, evil spirit, monster. If this is the origin, cf. Trull.]

Queer, and fitted to provoke laughter; ludicrous from oddity; amusing and strange.

Syn. -- Comic; comical; farcical; diverting; humorous; ridiculous; queer; odd; waggish; facetious; merry; laughable; ludicrous. -- Droll, Laughable, Comical. Laughable is the generic term, denoting anything exciting laughter or worthy of laughter; comical denotes something of the kind exhibited in comedies, something humorous of the kind exhibited in comedies, something, as it were, dramatically humorous; droll stands lower on the scale, having reference to persons or things which excite laughter by their buffoonery or oddity. A laughable incident; a comical adventure; a droll story.

 

© Webster 1913.


Droll, n.

1.

One whose practice it is to raise mirth by odd tricks; a jester; a buffoon; a merry-andrew.

Prior.

2.

Something exhibited to raise mirth or sport, as a puppet, a farce, and the like.

 

© Webster 1913.


Droll, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Drolled (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Drolling.]

To jest; to play the buffoon.

[R.]

 

© Webster 1913.


Droll, v. t.

1.

To lead or influence by jest or trick; to banter or jest; to cajole.

Men that will not be reasoned into their senses, may yet be laughed or drolled into them. L'Estrange.

2.

To make a jest of; to set in a comical light.

[R.]

This drolling everything is rather fatiguing. W. D. Howells.

 

© Webster 1913.

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