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The Profession of Player in Shakespeare's Time, 1590-1642

The Profession of Player in Shakespeare's Time, 1590-1642

Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 338
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  • Book Info
    The Profession of Player in Shakespeare's Time, 1590-1642
    Book Description:

    This book is a comprehensive study of the customary practices of English players of the period--how they lived and worked and were paid, organized, and cast for parts in the phenomenally popular theaters of England. Gerald Bentley discusses sharers, hired men, boy apprentices, musicians, touring groups, and managers, showing that players in general led difficult but seriously professional lives.

    Originally published in 1984.

    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: 978-1-4008-5326-7
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER I Introduction
    (pp. 3-11)

    The phenomenal popularity of English theatrical entertainment in the half century from 1590 to 1642 is vaguely known to many, though perhaps not fully realized even by many writers on dramatic subjects. During these years there were professional performances of English playsin Englishnot only all over Britain, from Folkstone and St. Ives to Aberdeen and Edinburgh, but in Germany, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Poland, and even in France.

    This unusual popularity of the London theater was recognized at the time by travellers. Fynes Moryson wrote in the second part of hisItinerary,licensed for printing on 14 June 1626:...

  5. CHAPTER II The Player and His Company
    (pp. 12-24)

    For the professional player in London during the years 1590-1642, the primary focus of his life was usually the theatrical troupe to which he was attached at the moment. One must say “at the moment,” for life in the theater is always precarious. Only one troupe, the Lord Chamberlain’s-King’s company, had a continuous existence throughout the period; other troupes came and went, usually overwhelmed by their debts but sometimes dispersed because a theater landlord like Henslowe or Beeston or Meade or Langley had reason to expel them from the playhouse he owned. Since about twenty different commercial companies performed in...

  6. CHAPTER III Sharers
    (pp. 25-63)

    Throughout the period the ranking players in the adult companies were the sharers, so called because their remuneration was not a weekly wage, as in the case of the hired men, or valuable training as in the case of the apprentices, but a share in the receipts for each performance by the company. Other terms for the same status were in common use: “patented member” because only the sharers were named in the royal patents for the companies; “fellow” in the first sense given in theOxford English Dictionary,“One who shares with another in a possession, official dignity, or...

  7. CHAPTER IV Hired Men
    (pp. 64-112)

    “Hired men” is the term commonly used in the reigns of Elizabeth, James, and Charles for those theater people who were not named in the patents and did not share in the profits but were paid weekly wages by the sharers. The term was used by both players and laymen. In the anonymous late Elizabethan playHistriomastixone of the soldiers says: “Come on Players, now we are the Sharers, and you the hired men.” A leading actor in the King’s company, Augustine Phillips, in his will of May 1605 leaves £5 to be distributed amongst “the hired men of...

  8. CHAPTER V Apprentices
    (pp. 113-146)

    The convention of the Shakespearean theater most difficult for moderns to accept is that of the boy players. These children and adolescents were assigned all female roles¹ in the productions of the adult companies and most of the roles of any sort in the performances of the boy companies. Since comparatively few moderns have ever seen professionallytrainedjuvenile actors performing any roles except those corresponding to their own age and sex, many are baffled by the imaginative feat of picturing an adolescent boy enthralling a sophisticated audience with his performance of Rosalind, Lady Macbeth, Webster’s Duchess, or Ford’s Annabella....

  9. CHAPTER VI Managers
    (pp. 147-176)

    The complexity of the affairs in which Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline repertory companies were necessarily involved required that some one or two players be in charge, at least to the extent of authorizing the purchase of new costumes and costume materials; paying for new plays by freelance dramatists; getting scripts approved by the Master of the Revels, paying him for licenses for the theater and for occasional privileges, like playing during parts of Lent; paying the company’s regular contributions to the poor of the parish, assessing fines against sharers or hired men for infringement of company regulations; calling rehearsals; collecting...

  10. CHAPTER VII London Companies on Tour
    (pp. 177-205)

    The history of English players on tour is much too extensive and too complex to be fully discussed in its entirety in any single chapter or even any single volume. During the period 1590-1642 there were scores of companies on the road at different times, not only in the British Isles, but on the Continent as well.¹

    The majority of these touring troupes were not London companies, but peripatetic provincial organizations. Therefore most of the town and great house records concern troupes of players that seldom or never played in the London theaters. Nevertheless, so far as one can tell,...

  11. CHAPTER VIII Casting
    (pp. 206-233)

    The casting of plays by the professional companies of London in the years 1590-1642 was a simpler process than it usually is in the twentieth century. In the first place, all these troupes were repertory companies, hence the available players were fixed as to numbers and familiar as to talents and limitations. In the second place a high proportion of the plays produced were prepared by a dramatist with the specific company in mind, so that he could develop at least his principal characters with some consideration for the talents of the fellows of the company. This phenomenon of the...

  12. CHAPTER IX Conclusions
    (pp. 234-244)

    In the years between 1590 and 2 September 1642 when the Lords and Commons issued their order that “publike Stage-Playes shall cease, and be forborne” the profession of player flourished in England as never before and seldom since.¹ Though most of the one thousand and more known professional players in England were poor men frequently without London employment, the status of the profession improved in these years and a few of the players accumulated respectable estates as shown by their wills and by occasional allusions. In 1619 Edward Alleyn founded the College of God’s Gift at Dulwich. Sir Richard Baker,...

  13. APPENDIX: Casts and Lists of Players
    (pp. 247-296)
  14. Index
    (pp. 297-315)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 316-316)