Stage. Only three lines into the Prologue of The London Merchant, a grocer, his wife, and his apprentice climb out of the audience onto the stage, interrupting the performance and transforming the stage from a simple setting for a specific play to what was known in the middle-ages as the “platea”—literally “the place.” The stage becomes everyplace and anyplace as the apprentice Rafe extemporaneously takes on the leading role (playing his master) in the play, which George retitles The Knight of the Burning Pestle.
The stage becomes a liminal space where the play and the play-within-the-play are staged simultaneously. Inspired by tales of knights-errant rescuing damsels in distress, Rafe sets out on a great adventure, traveling to Moldavia. Throughout his travels mention is made that the location changes from scene to scene but as the players are forced to improvise to accommodate Rafe’s character the stage becomes increasingly a site of the here and now as all attention is drawn to the reactions of George and Nell. All the while the “real” audience of Beaumont’s play is aware that George and Nell are actors performing roles and understand that while the play invites the audience to see the stage as a real location in time and space, this too is an illusion; the relationship turns back on itself as the audience understands that all they observe is artifice.