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date: 18 November 2019

(p. vii) Preface

(p. vii) Preface

This collection grew out of my conviction that it would be helpful to bring together in a single volume something of the remarkable work currently being done in early modern theatre history and its associated Welds. Scholars of early modern literature and drama have famously made a ‘return to history’ since the 1980s. Theatre historians never had to ‘return’ to history, but they have had to rethink the nature of the history in which they are engaged, the kinds of evidence with which they can work, and what they should make of it. At stake is a fuller, truer, and more nuanced sense of ‘the place of the stage’ (in Steven Mullaney's resonant phrase) in the early modern world.

The recent work on this is so disparate—on the acting companies, theatres (including the court, universities, the Inns of Court, households, and the streets), the conditions of acting (lighting, music, sound, rehearsals, properties, licensing), dramatic authorship, repertory, stage directions, patronage, the court and the city, entrepreneurs and finance, the roles of women and of boys, theatre historiography itself—that it is difficult to keep track of it all and to appreciate the points of interconnection between all of these Welds. The days have long since gone when we loosely spoke of a single (Shakespeare- and London-centred) ‘Elizabethan Stage’. The most comprehensive theatrical research undertaking of our time, the Records of Early English Drama project, based in Toronto, has done more than anything else to broaden our horizons, and its fruits are apparent in many of the essays here. But we are still coming to terms with the multiplicity of early modern stages—and their corresponding multiple cultural contexts—which have taken its place. I hope this volume will forward that process and offer a variety of points of engagement with current scholarship.

I did not ask contributors to offer a student overview of their Welds. I invited them rather to concentrate on issues of particular interest or concern, to engage with the research frontiers. Their essays are thus contributions to the ongoing debates with which they engage, not merely surveys of the literature. Beyond that brief I did not wish to impose any rigid agenda on their work, though inevitably my own choice of subject areas and of contributors will have made a foundational mark. The decision to start with a series of essays on the acting companies, dividing the period c.1570–1642 into six blocks of ten to fifteen years, with separate essays on the earlier and later boy companies, arises from the conviction that the conditions of playing changed rapidly throughout the era—and that keeping track of this is a prerequisite to understanding so much else. Old patterns of touring adapted (or not!) to the opportunities afforded by the fixed playhouses in and around London, as the (p. viii) needs of the court and patrons and the concerns of the city and local authorities changed, as modes of dramatic authorship evolved, as plague intervened, and as boy companies waxed and waned. Individual companies either rose to new challenges or languished; some found niches within an increasingly sophisticated market. The styles of the drama they produced inevitably changed in tandem with these circumstances. That is a base reality from which everything else follows (though a complex and contested ‘reality’), as I hope is reflected through these essays.

It would have been wonderful to be able to include more essays on individual companies—Roslyn Knutson's work on the repertory of the Chamberlain's/King's Men (1991), Scott McMillin and Sally-Beth MacLean's work on the Queen's Men (1999), Andrew Gurr's on ‘The Shakespeare Company’ (2004), and Lucy Munro's on the Children of the Queen's Revels (2005), for example, have proved how valuable such work can be. I would also have liked to have had more essays on the playhouses they used. But constraints of space, even in a volume of this size, meant that I had to settle for illustrative samples rather than comprehensive representation. The same is even more true of subjects as diverse as the role of women in that playhouse world, or boy apprentices, or the practices of authorship which the needs of the actors generated. I hope, nevertheless, that the volume is more than the sum of its parts, and that it reflects something of the sheer energy, interconnected resourcefulness, and ingenuity both of early modern theatre itself and of the current scholarship devoted to it.

That is one reason why I decided to create a single composite Bibliography for the volume. It was inspired by the bibliography in John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan's seminal collection A New History of Early English Drama (1997), where familiar and unfamiliar items from disparate Welds rub shoulders in the most thought-provoking fashion. It offers the serendipity of the most inspiring libraries and can in itself be a useful tool for navigating the whole Weld covered by this volume. Contributors have been free to cite play-texts from wherever they choose, a freedom which, however, threatened to clog and clutter the Bibliography. I have therefore adopted the following practice: original and other early texts are cited in the composite Bibliography in the normal way, under ‘Primary Sources: Printed Texts’; so too are complete modern editions, like the Herford and Simpson Jonson and the Wells and Taylor Oxford Shakespeare (listed under author, not editor). Where, however, plays are cited from individual modern editions these are normally only indicated in a footnote within the relevant essay.

The titles of lost plays (i.e. ones for which the title has survived but no version of the text) appear as roman in quotation marks. The titles of plays that survive in manuscript but have since been published are italicized.

The Bibliography—indeed, the whole volume—would never have been completed without the heroic efforts of two research assistants, who worked on it at different times, and I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Dr Marisa Rose Cull (now Assistant Professor of English at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia) and to Erin Kelly for their labours. I also owe particular thanks to David Kathman, who stepped (p. ix) in at a late stage to write the essay on inn-yard playhouses, in addition to the one on apprentices, which he was already commissioned to write. This was made necessary by the death of Herbert Berry, who died after agreeing to contribute that chapter. Scott McMillin was similarly commissioned to write on manuscript play-texts, but sadly did not live to get round to it. The dedication to Herb and Scott is a mark of respect for their immense contributions to early modern theatre history. They were sometime members of the long-standing theatre history seminar at the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America, as are many of those whose essays do appear here. Long may it contrive, phoenix-like, to resurrect itself each year. I want also to thank another of its members, Bill Ingram, who offered me helpful advice and encouragement from the conception of this project. I am happy to be able to salute in print his enormous generosity. Thanks finally to Rachel Clark for her invaluable assistance on the index.

Richard Dutton

Ohio State University

June 2008 (p. x)