Cave Underhill (1634–1710?) was an English actor in comedy roles.[1]

Cave Underhill in the role of Obadiah, from The Committee (1665) by Robert Howard, a 1712 engraving by John Faber the Younger

Underhill entertained three generations of London theatre-goers. For over 40 years, as a member of the Duke's Company, Underhill played the first Gravedigger in Hamlet. He was also successful in playing Gregory in Romeo and Juliet, the clown in Twelfth Night, and Trinculo in The Tempest.[1]

Early life edit

The son of Nicholas Underhill, a clothworker, he was born in St. Andrew's parish, Holborn, London, on 17 March 1634, and was admitted to Merchant Taylors' School in January 1645. He became first a member of the acting company which was gathered by John Rhodes. around Thomas Betterton. He was then recruited for Sir William D'Avenant and the Duke of York's company at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. In 1663 he was fined in an assault case, with Betterton and James Noke.[1]

Stage career edit

The first character to which Underhill's name appears is Sir Morglay Thwack in D'Avenant's comedy The Wits, revived, with alterations, at Lincoln's Inn Fields on 15 August 1661. In Abraham Cowley's Cutter of Coleman Street, he was the same season the original Cutter, a swaggerer. In 1662 he played before the king and queen at Whitehall Palace the title part in an English version of Ignoramus.[2] After the theatre had been closed for eighteen months through the Great Plague and Great Fire of London, he was the first Moody in John Dryden's Sir Martin Marrall on 16 August 1667, second performance.[3]

On the opening in 1671 of the new theatre in Dorset Gardens, Underhill was the original Sir Simon Softhead in Edward Ravenscroft's Citizen turned Gentleman (based on Monsieur de Pourceaugnac). He played also Pedagog in Lord Orrery's Mr. Anthony.[1][4]

During 1677 Underhill was confined in the Poultry Compter for debt, at the suit of William Allen. His liberty was demanded in April by Sir Allen Apsley, on the ground that he was one of the Duke of York's menial servants; the gaolers delayed until the case went to the House of Lords.[5] After the two major acting companies were combined, Underhill came out on 4 December 1682 at the Theatre Royal as Curate Eustace in the production of Dryden's Duke of Guise. On 6 February 1685, while Sir Courtly Nice was being rehearsed, Underhill had to inform the author, John Crowne, of the death of Charles II, by whose command the comedy had been written. When the play was produced shortly afterwards, he achieved a great success as Hothead. At the Theatre Royal he remained thirteen years.[1][6]

An anonymous comedy, Win her and take her, or Old Fools will be Meddling,’ 1691, acted at the Theatre Royal the same year, was dedicated by Underhill to Lord Danby. It is thought to have been given to Underhill by the anonymous author, who wrote the part of Dullhead for him. At the theatre in Little Lincoln's Inn Fields Underhill was in 1695 the original Sir Sampson Legend in William Congreve's Love for Love (a part in which, according to Colley Cibber, he was unrivalled).[7] The next year saw him as the original Sir Wealthy Plainder in Thomas Dilke's Pretenders; and in 1700 Sir Wilfull Witwoud in Congreve's The Way of the World.[1]

Later years edit

In 1702 Underhill was Merryman in Betterton's Amorous Widow. His name now appeared less frequently. On 8 February 1704 Œdipus and The Rover were played for his benefit, and he played at court Timothy in a revival of Sir Solomon. The Virtuoso was played for his benefit on 31 March 1705 at Lincoln's Inn Fields.[1]

On 5 December 1706 Underhill played at the Haymarket Theatre Sir Joslin Jolley in a revival of She Would If She Could by George Etherege, a part in which in the following month he was replaced by William Bullock; and on 20 January 1707 he repeated Blunt in The Rover. The Mourning Bride (Congreve) was given for his benefit on 28 May; and on 3 June 1709 a performance of Hamlet at Drury Lane, where he played once more the first Gravedigger, repeated on 23 February 1710. On 12 May he was, for his benefit, once more Trincalo in Dryden's Tempest. This was his last performance at Drury Lane. He was seen once, on 26 August 1710, at William Pinkethman's booth at Greenwich, where, for the benefit of Pinkethman, he played Ned Blunt in The Rover. This was Underhill's last appearance, and he is said to have died soon after. He was commonly called Trincalo Underhill; and his name was sometimes spelt Undril.[1]

Reputation edit

Richard Steele praised Underhill's understatement, and Cibber included him as one of the "original masters". In his Brief Supplement, however, Tony Aston disparaged Underhill, saying that he knows Underhill was much cried up in his time, but he (Aston) is so stupid as not to know why.[1]

In fiction edit

Underhill appears as a character in the 2015 play [exit Mrs Behn] or, The Leo Play by Christopher vanDer Ark.

Family edit

Underhill married Elizabeth Robinson, widow of Thomas Robinson, a vintner in Cheapside; she died in October 1673.[1]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Underhill, Cave" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  2. ^ In 1663 he was the clown in Twelfth Night; was between 5 and 12 January the original Diego in Samuel Tuke's Adventures of Five Hours; on 28 May the first Peralta in The Slighted Maid, by Robert Stapylton; and subsequently the first Tetrick in The Stepmother by the same writer. In 1664 he created the parts of the Duke of Bedford in Lord Orrery's Henry V, Palmer in George Etherege's Comical Revenge, and Cunopes in the Rivals (D'Avenant's adaptation of Two Noble Kinsmen); and he played Gardiner in Henry VIII.
  3. ^ Also on 7 November Trincalo in The Tempest, as altered by Dryden and D'Avenant. On 26 March 1668 he was the first Jodelet in D'Avenant's Man's the Master, and in 1669 the first Timothy in John Caryl's Sir Solomon.
  4. ^ The year 1672 saw Underhill as the first Justice Clodpate in Thomas Shadwell's Epsom Wells, and Tutor in Joseph Arrowsmith's Reformation, and in 1673 he was Fullam in Nevil Payne's ‘Morning Ramble.’ He was, presumably, in 1676, the first Jacomo in Shadwell's Libertine ("Don Juan"); and was the first Sanco in Ravenscroft's Wrangling Lovers and Old Jollyman in Thomas d'Urfey's Madame Fickle.
  5. ^ The same year saw him as the original Blunt in Aphra Behn's Rover. In 1678 he was the first Ajax in John Bankes's Destruction of Troy, Sir Noble Clumsey in Thomas Otway's Friendship in Fashion, Pimpo in D'Urfey's Squire Oldsapp, Fabio in Counterfeits (attributed to Leanard), and Phæax in Shadwell's Timon of Athens. In 1679 he was Thersites in Dryden's adaptation of Troilus and Cressida, and Tickletext in Behn's Feigned Courtezans. In Otway's History and Fall of Caius Marius, taken from Romeo and Juliet, he was in 1680 the first Sulpitius (Mercutio). In the same year Underhill's name is down as Amble, a minor part in D'Urfey's Virtuous Wife; John Genest believed it should be Brainworm. Underhill was also the first Circumstantio in Lewis Maidwell's Loving Enemies. In the second part of Behn's Rover, 1681, as in the first part, he was the original Blunt. He was also Gomez in the first production of Dryden's Spanish Friar. In D'Urfey's Royalist in 1682 he was Copyhold; in Behn's False Count Guzman, and in Ravenscroft's London Cuckolds Wiseacre.
  6. ^ He played the following parts, all original: in 1684 Daredevil in Thomas Otway's Atheist, Turbulent in the Factious Citizen; in 1685, Hothead in Sir Courtly Nice; in 1686, Don Diego in D'Urfey's Banditti; in 1687, Dr. Baliardo in Behn's Emperor of the Moon; in 1688, Lolpoop in Shadwell's The Squire of Alsatia, a soldier in Mountfort's Injured Lovers; in 1689, Old Ranter in Crowne's English Friar, Oldwit in Shadwell's Bury Fair; in 1690, Bernardo in Shadwell's Amorous Bigot, Mufti in Dryden's Don Sebastian, Guzman in Mountfort's Successful Strangers, Timerous in Behn's posthumous Widow Ranter; in 1691, Sassafras in William Mountfort's Greenwich Park, Sir Rowland Rakehell in D'Urfey's Love for Money; in 1692, Hiarbas in Crowne's Regulus, Captain Dryrub in Thomas Southerne's Maid's Last Prayer; in 1693, Setter in Congreve's Old Bachelor, Stockjob in D'Urfey's Richmond Heiress, Sir Maurice Meanwell in Thomas Wright's Female Vertuosoes, Lopez in Dryden's Love Triumphant; in 1694, Sancho in the second part of D'Urfey's Don Quixote (Thomas Doggett was Sancho in the first part), Sampson in Southerne's Fatal Marriage, Sir Barnaby Buffler in Ravenscroft's Canterbury Guests.’ He also played a Plebeian in Julius Cæsar; the Cook in Rollo, Duke of Normandy (Beaumont and Fletcher); and, according to John Payne Collier, Smug in the Merry Devil of Edmonton.
  7. ^ Also in 1696 Sir Topewell Clownish in Peter Anthony Motteux's Love's a Jest, Sir Thomas Testie in Doggett's Country Wake, Sir Toby Cusifle in George Granville's She Gallants, Alderman Whim in Dilke's Lover's Luck; in 1697 Bevis in Dilke's City Lady, the Doctor in Ravenscroft's Anatomist, or the Sham Doctor, Sir Blunder Bosse in D'Urfey's Intrigues at Versailles, Flywife in Mary Pix's Innocent Mistress; and played Cacafogo in a revival of Rule a Wife and Have a Wife.

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Underhill, Cave". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.