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date: 05 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the institutional, professional, economic, and social contexts that shaped the original production of Shakespeare’s comedies. It focuses on how these plays were first staged in a hybrid theatrical marketplace that consisted of both ‘public’ and ‘private’ venues. It describes how the business model of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men combined common and aristocratic patronage and how its repertoire merged popular and courtly cultures. Staged in amphitheatres, town halls, the great halls of royal palaces, the private residences of aristocrats, and at the Inns of Court, Shakespeare’s comedies addressed heterogeneous audiences in complex ways. Indeed, one of the foundations of Shakespeare’s achievement was his ability to draw on elements of both traditions in comedies that are relentlessly adaptive and globally engaging.

Keywords: commercial theatre, patronage, Elizabethan playhouses, playgoing, acting companies, comic playwrights, public and private theatres, early modern theatrical cultures, Shakespeare’s clowns

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