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Profession of Dramatist in Shakespeare's Time, 1590-1642

Profession of Dramatist in Shakespeare's Time, 1590-1642

Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 674
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  • Book Info
    Profession of Dramatist in Shakespeare's Time, 1590-1642
    Book Description:

    Gerald Eades Bentley assembles and analyzes the extant theatrical materials of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His discussion of the working conditions of professional dramatists like Thomas Heywood, John Fletcher, and Philip Massinger as well as William Shakespeare rounds out the fascinating picture of the professionalism that developed in the great days of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre.

    Originally published in 1972.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7242-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. CHAPTER I Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    In the great days of the “Elizabethan” drama the production of plays for the London populace was largely in the hands of professionals. Indeed, the rise of professionalism in dramatic affairs in the last quarter of the sixteenth century is one of the distinguishing marks of the emergence of “the Age of the Drama.” Before the accession of Elizabeth and even halfway through her reign, English drama was almost wholly amateur.

    The episodes of the great medieval English cycles were staged and acted by men who were earning their living as glovers, shipwrights, bakers, cordwainers, bowyers, fletchers, mercers, and butchers,...

  5. CHAPTER II Amateur Dramatists and Professional Dramatists
    (pp. 11-37)

    A thoughtful consideration of all plays and playwrights in England during the period 1590–1642 underscores the fact that the plays of the time were provided by writers who varied widely in motive and in theatrical experience. Most clearly defined are the amateurs who were not writing primarily for profit, who generally showed a certain disdain for the commercial theatres, who usually hurried their plays into print, who, with a few exceptions, wrote only one or two plays, and whose productions were usually prepared for amateur actors.

    At the opposite end of the scale were the regular professional playwrights who...

  6. CHAPTER III The Status of Dramatists, Plays, Actors, and Theatres
    (pp. 38-61)

    In the preceding consideration of the classes of playwright during the years 1590 to 1642 there have appeared occasional statements about the normal degree of esteem which literate men of the time accorded to plays and the men who wrote them. Jasper Mayne’s publisher said that the author ofThe City Matchhad no ambition to publish his play, “… holding works of this light nature to be things which need an apology for being written at all, not esteeming otherwise of them, whose abilities in this kind are most passable, than of masquers who spangle and glitter for the...

  7. CHAPTER IV The Dramatist and the Acting Company
    (pp. 62-87)

    In this period of the highest development of the English drama, the basic fact in the situation of the professional dramatists is that they were the employees of the acting companies. The relationship could take various forms, but it was always the acting company which the dramatist had to please first; it was the acting company which paid him eventually; and it was the acting company, which, under normal circumstances, controlled what we should call the copyright of his play.

    There were certain exceptions to this normal situation. The boy companies, for instance, in whose direction the boy actors had...

  8. CHAPTER V Dramatists’ Pay
    (pp. 88-110)

    Though playwrights were the servants of the acting companies and theatres, and though actors, theatres, and dramatists stood rather low in social esteem in these times, a little consideration of contemporary remunerations shows that professional playwrights were not ill paid.

    The financial rewards of the dramatist in the reigns of Elizabeth, James, and Charles have too often been lamented in the romantic context of golden words poured out for posterity by the starving drudge in the frigid garret, or, for example, in a scandalized comparison of the £6 Thomas Heywood received for the composition ofA Woman Killed with Kindness...

  9. CHAPTER VI Dramatists’ Contractual Obligations
    (pp. 111-144)

    Close and continued association of certain playwrights with certain companies has been implied in several contexts in preceding chapters—“Amateur Dramatists and Professional Dramatists,” “The Dramatists and the Acting Company,” and “Dramatists’ Pay.” So many scholars have noted such an association of William Shakespeare with the Lord Chamberlain-King's company that the observation has become a commonplace. How conventional was such an association? What did it entail? And was it formalized or simply a free selection by an independent artist of his favorite among several competing companies?

    It is likely enough that arrangements between dramatists and acting companies were not completely...

  10. CHAPTER VII Regulation and Censorship
    (pp. 145-196)

    All plays presented in the London theatres throughout the period required approval by the Master of the Revels, whose censorship seldom admitted of any appeal. Every dramatist knew this, every manager, every player, and every factotem of the company. One important stage in the intricate progression of every play from an idea in the playwright’s head to first performance was the submission of the manuscript to the Master of the Revels for his official permission to proceed. Normally his permission was set down in his own autograph at the end of the manuscript. Several of these autograph official statements have...

  11. CHAPTER VIII Collaboration
    (pp. 197-234)

    Collaboration and revision were related activities of the professional dramatists since each required one author to accommodate his writing to that of another. But since the analysis of each activity must be complicated, it is expedient to consider them in consecutive chapters rather than in a single discussion.

    The two assignments are frequently entangled in the printed texts which have come down to us. This entanglement is most familiar in the plays of the Beaumont and Fletcher folios of 1647 and 1679 in which Massinger evidently had a hand. The evidence is overwhelming that Beaumont had nothing to do with...

  12. CHAPTER IX Revision
    (pp. 235-263)

    Revision is associated with collaboration both in the problems it presents to the modern scholar and in the activities of the professional playwright. For the scholar the two are often entangled: in a given text which appears to present the work of more than one man, is the second (or third or fourth) hand that of a collaborator, or of a reviser who may never have known the principal author? Several playwrights, like Philip Massinger, are known to have performed both functions on the work of one principal dramatist; inThe Little French Lawyerhe was almost certainly a collaborator;...

  13. CHAPTER X Publication
    (pp. 264-292)

    Since the plays of the Elizabethan dramatists have customarily been read and analyzed as literary documents for the study rather than as working scripts for the theatres, the normal practices of those writers of plays who were the regular employees of the theatres—the group of attached professional dramatists—have been obscured by the publishing habits of unattached professionals like Ben Jonson, John Marston, John Ford, and William Davenant, or even amateurs like Lodowick Carlell or Jasper Mayne.

    In general the attached professionals refrained from publication without the consent of the acting troupe for which the play had been written...

  14. Index
    (pp. 293-329)