This iconoclastic print is a witty play on the comic incongruity betwen the dignity, grandeur and mythic dimensions of the roles, costumes and symbols of classical culture and the earthy, vexed and common nature of the real lives of the players who are now the guardians and transmitters of this past.
In 1737 "the Act against Strolling Players" (a copy of it sits on the crown) mad it illegal for plays to be performed outside of London and Westminster without a license; this troupe is giving its last performance before the act takes effect. The playbills on the bed announce the evening's varied entertainments. "By a Company of Comdians from The Theatres at London at the George Inn This Present Evening will be Presented The Devil to Pay in Heaven Being the last time of Acting Before ye Act Commences." Next to this lies the company's playbill, "Heaven...Being the last...Act Commences...The part of Jupiter by Mrs Bilvillage / Diana Mrs... / Siren Mrs... / Flora Mrs... / Aurora Mrs... / Juno by Mrs... / Juno by Mrs... / Eagle by Mrs ... / Night Mrs... / Cupid Mrs... / two Devils Ghost & Attendance / To which will be added Ropedancing & Tumbling / Vivat Rex."
In the center of the scene set in a barn, the girl playing Diana postures exaggeratedly. Though her head is dressed with flowers, plumes, pearls, and a crescent, the body of this girl playing the goddess of chastity is half-naked, invariably a sign of casual sexual morality in Hogarth's work. Beside her foot stands a plaque of the head of Medusa, as if distraught at the scene before her. At an altar next to Diana two little children dressed as devils quarrel over a tankard of beer. Beside the beer mug on the alter stand's Diana's robust lunch: her glass, some tobacco in a paper, her smouldering pipe and some bread. Next to the altar the end of a cat's tail (to leave tail for further amputations) is being sacrificed by two women to provide blood for a scence in the play. The figure dressed as a page is being clawed on the stomach and hands by an animal while the one-eyed crone with the tiny dagger in her cloak delights in the operation.
At the extreme right, Juno, looking skyward, practices her lines while a monkey urinates in front of her into a plumed Roman helmet; as teh goddess props her leg on a wheelbarrow, Night darns a hole in her stocking. Juno's book rests against a decorated salt box with a rolling pin in it (both used a noise makers). A thunderbolt and tinder box lie beside the salt box on the dilapidated trunk. Near the wheelbarrow lie a cushion, Night's lantern, a mitre filled with books entitled "Tragedys," "Farce," and "Farces." Next to the mitre lie a wig, a halter, a mantle, and two cups containing juggling balls. Two kittens play with a regal orb and a lyre.
Candles stuck in clay for illuminating the stage rest on the floor; an iron grill sits against a bed on which lie four eggs, one of them broken. A full chamber pot stands beside an elaborate crown which serves as a stand for a saucepan of pap. Next to the crown a figure wearing a terrifying eagle costume attempts to feed a baby. The child, scared by the threatening beak of the bird, spews out his food. Above them, a siren offers a half-dressed Ganymede a drink to relieve her toothache while a dark-skinned Aurora kills lice on the siren's dress.
Next to them stand a portico decorated with flowers, tow sets of waves (on which three hens roost), a drum, a trumpet, and a brush. Beside the siren's fishtail, Flora, wearing a hoop with her blouse fron open, dresses her hair with flour and wax. She sits before a mirror fragment that rests on a wicker basket labeled "Jewels." A comb and a shell containing cosmetics lie next to the mirror. The candle beside the bed has ignited the jewel chest. Behind Diana, Apollo holds a ladder and with a cupid's bow points out a pair of stockings (which hang from a cloud) to the little winged figure who climbs a ladder and stretches on tiptoes to reach them.
The company props are stored in the roof. They include two dragons, a chariot, "Oedipus," and "Jocasta" in a cloud hidden behind the English flag with St. George's cross, a flail on some straw, and two wings of scenery representing forests. On a trestle stand a palette and brushes, a chamber pot used for painting scenery, and a Roman legion standard and a banner inscribed "SPQR." Two caps, ruffles, a shirt, and and apron hang on a line to dry. A boy peeps curiously at the scene through a hole in the roof.