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Plays, Players, and the Court.

Shakespeare, Court Dramatist, by Richard Dutton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. x + 321. $55.00.

The Masters of the Revels and Elizabeth's Court Theatre, by W. R. Streitberger. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. xv + 319. $99.00.

[Full disclosure: I have known Richard Dutton for a number of years, and in this study he quotes favorably from several of my previous articles.]

Richard Dutton and W. R. Streitberger have produced two probing and intellectually challenging as well as imaginative investigations into a series of important problems with the interpretation of Elizabethan-Jacobean-Caroline drama. Both have questioned and, it seems to this reviewer, overturned many previous widely accepted assumptions and explanations. Both regularly attack what I have labeled (for want of a better term) "chronological disjointedness"--an old and deeply embedded problem in the study of Elizabethan-Jacobean-Caroline theaters and the plays produced there. I shall discuss these studies alphabetically by author.

"Chronological disjointedness" is a deliberate carelessness, a branch of teleology that applies current assumptions and explanations of how phenomena might be approached and explained today. But to apply twentieth- and twenty-first-century attitudes and methods to sixteenth-century problems simply opens the door to disaster. Many "chronological disjunctions" are commonly seen in terminology invented to describe sixteenth-century theatrical artifacts. Thus persons who study the origins of play texts have been blinded by the myth of W. W. Greg's invention of never-existing "foul papers." Although the validity of this nonsensical term was blown out of the water by Paul Werstine [Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012], there still are believers who babble terms such as "foul copy" and "memorial reconstruction" into examinations of textual origins.

Similarly, one all too frequently finds the use of "promptbook" (a term not recorded in use until 1772) commonly replacing " playbooks" (an Elizabethan term) thereby distorting the meaning of the term, the use of the books in the playhouses, and by extension, the understanding of much of the ways in which Elizabethan players functioned in their theatres. It may seem tedious to devote time to "chronological disjunctions" at the beginning of a review, but even after Werstine there are still believers who insert these terms into attempted explanations of textual origins, and the notion is important to both Dutton and Streitberger in their attempts to reform understanding in their fields. I shall deal with their accomplishments alphabetically by author.

Dutton opens with his basic contention: "[It] is [not] widely appreciated that the Elizabethan Shakespeare was just as much a court dramatist as the Jacobean one." (2) Very much the over-turner of received opinions, Dutton sketches his plan of attack: "I shall start by countering the usual objection to making the court so central--the fact that Shakespeare and his fellows made the great majority of their money from playing in the public theatres." (13) He then moves to counter some of Bernard Beckerman's interpretations in his influential Shakespeare at the Globe, 1599-1609 (1962). "Beckerman concedes that 'The players certainly tendered courtesy and respect to the Court, which after all was their main defense against puritanical suppression,' but the economics of the situation required them to cater first and foremost to a large and heterogeneous public' This, I suggest, is the logic of the twentieth century and not of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries." (14)

Dutton's major change of focus is toward the importance of the Court. "Firstly and most crucially, the Lord Chamberlain's Men were only able to make the very substantial sums we presume that they did at the Globe because the court protected them and gave them very significant privileges ... The company only existed at all, and certainly only flourished in their metropolitan situation, because they were expressly servants of the court providing entertainment when needed for the Queen and her guests." (14)

Lines of protection were carefully established. "The Privy Council wrote to the Lord Mayor on December 24, 1578 just before the first shows of the season were to be staged at court [spelling] out for the first time that there was an elite and privileged group of companies whose public performance in London that winter could very literally be regarded as rehearsals for appearances at court...." (20) In carefully rethinking the meaning of these records, Dutton seeks a new understanding of what went on and how and why.

As the patronage and political situation stabilized in the last decade of Queen Elizabeth's reign, the duopoly of the Lord Chamberlain's and the Lord Admiral's Men dominated Court performances. "The Chamberlain's Men in particular performed at court as often as all the other troupes put together." (35) "The question, then, is not whether Shakespeare's plays were performed at court, but what form they took there. It is the contention of this book that they were, on occasion, revised from the form in which they were performed in the public theaters for these performances at court. And that the multiple texts of some of these plays reflect something of these revisions." (36-37)

Understanding the functioning of London plays, particularly those at Court is impossible without a thorough examining of the Masters of the Revels. Dutton, of course is principally concerned with Edmund Tilney's development and refining of the office. "Tilney's time was invested in reviewing the scripts of the plays themselves, rehearsing them in his Clerkenwell quarters, possibly calling for changes. Additions, embellishments--the kind of work we shall find Thomas Dekker and Henry Chettle engaged in for the Admiral's Men when we look at Henslowe's Diary.... This is the single most important claim that I shall make in this book and it will require some justification, because it is on the strength of this that my arguments about the effects of court performance on the texts of Shakespeare plays depend." (54)

Dutton insists upon seeing the Masters of the Revels as integral figures in the entertainment milieu; they were not gatekeepers, but figures vitally involved in the theater world. Commenting on the later Master of the Revels, Sir Henry Herbert's play, The Emperor of Otho, Dutton emphasizes: "[T]he very existence of the play underlines my point. The Masters of the Revels were not faceless bureaucrats. They were every bit as much theatrical professionals as the dramatists whose works they licensed, men with whom they could and did do business." (59)

Dutton valiantly tries to pull back the curtain of the past by trying to relate line lengths to playing times; important factors are the ever-shortening hours of London afternoon light, particularly in the fall and winter, and the more or less unlimited time available in playing at court. If outdoor plays could not start until 2:00 (or, in some cases, until after evensong at 3:30 or 4:00), precious little time is left until the lengthening shadows congeal into blackness. Not to be forgotten are the difficulties of spectators (and players) finding their ways home in the lightless and dangerous passage ways.

Short texts habitually are viewed as having something wrong with them. As Dutton incisively observes, "None of those [scholars] I have cited considers the possibility that the minimal texts might actually have been purpose-written to begin with to fit the time available, and only expanded when a specific demand arose for them to be. That, in a nutshell, is my own argument." (77) At Court, after the meal, performances seem to have gone on from about 9:00 until 1:00. (87) There would have been ample time to play the generally 1000 more lines in the Folio text than in a quarto. In the expanded revisions, scenes are added or expanded, many speeches become more rhetorical as well as simply longer. Dutton notes that in Henslowe's Diary, "The only reason ever given for additions, mendings, alterings, or commissioning prologues and epilogues is that they are 'for the court.' And most payments are made in the months from November to February, matching the court Revels schedule." (102)

The temptations for seeing these expansions as the adapting of a public theater text for Court production are very strong. Dutton proposes, and this reader concurs, that the most likely person responsible for such work is Shakespeare himself. Such a proposal is both theatrically and artistically (as well as financially!) logical. If investigators can get beyond the romantic notion that "Shakespeare never revised," he can be seen as the ultimate man of the theatre: author, actor, shareholder, housekeeper, and now, in support of his other interests, reviser of his work (and quite possibly that of others), for longer, more demanding court performances. This perspective Dutton explores in careful detail and with, for this reader, very gratifying results. Since his work has involved the dismantling of the theories and proposals of a number of generations of investigators, there no doubt will be objections and worse from those whose efforts and reputations Dutton has demolished. But it seems to this reader that understanding of what happened to the texts of Shakespeare and others is much more likely to be found from the examination of theatrical practices by those involved in writing and producing the plays than by continually trying to solve theatrical problems by introducing non-theatrical and romantic notions of incompetent and thieving players, piratical publishers, or other fanciful chimeras.

Dutton expands his explorations through a number of non-Shakespearean plays and then considers the meanings of the publishers' descriptions "augmented," enlarged," "amended," "with additions," and "corrected" before dissecting the modern claims to explain the supposed explanations of textual claims: "'stolne and surreptitious copies,'" "'bad' quartos,'" "memorial reconstruction," "abridged rural prompt-book theory," and "foul papers." His conclusions will rankle many. "Shakespeare wrote for performance. Where I principally differ [from Wells and Taylor, 1987] is in believing that court performance 'stood at the centre of [Shakespeare's] professional life' to a degree which Wells and Taylor (and virtually everyone else) have not appreciated. And that it impacted significantly on the texts that have survived, especially the 'good' quartos... Any conflation of Shakespearean texts is highly questionable. Each version represents--however inadequately--a particular moment in the play's evolution, and we need extraordinary grounds for supposing that conflations of them will get us any closer to what Shakespeare wrote or to what audiences saw onstage." (147)

Having dissected theatre and textual history studies, and presumably and hopefully placing this tempest-tossed vessel on an even keel for future study, Dutton leaps into the trench warfare of textual studies by turning to an examination of Shakespeare's multiple texts--the graveyard of multitudes of past venturings. His first dissection is with the Famous Victories--Q1--F1 entanglements of Henry V--a twenty-seven page-carefully balanced and thoughtful dissection. "[O]nce we recognize the foundations of Shakespeare's play in The Famous Victories of Henry V we can see a trajectory running through his two versions, in a way that is not possible for any other play in the canon." (198)

Next up is a consideration of The Contention--2 Henry VI and The True Tragedy--3 Henry VI interrelationships. Dutton finds numerous examples of authorial revisions--Shakespeare's revising, expanding, enriching, and lengthening his original efforts in versions for productions in a courtly venue where there were no time restrictions. Dutton moves to Q1--Q2--F Romeo and Juliet, finding the "main difference is simply length (and accompanying verbal richness)" again attributable to authorial revision with court production in view. (211) Dutton's guiding assumption, continuously put to practical test, is that "All texts, including those based on Shakespeare's own manuscripts (or close copies of them), were tailored to quite specific playing conditions and to the licensing regime that contained them. Particular versions came together at given times to create the versions that have survived." (213) Having surveyed numerous textual cruces, he concludes: "All these problems disappear if we accept that Q1 is an earlier, less reflective version of the play, which I for one have no problem crediting to a less practiced Shakespeare; and that Q2 is a more studied revision written by a more mature playwright for the wider canvas of a court performance." (217)

Turning to Q1--Q2--F Hamlet, he suggests "on the basis of the evidence advanced in this book, that the overwhelmingly most likely explanation for the most substantial differences [between the versions] is revision (substantial revision) for court performance." (226) Dutton carefully considers both quartos in relation to the ever-looming succession crisis. Moving on to the tangle that are the quarto and folio texts of Merry Wives, Dutton weighs the mythos of Elizabeth's supposed request, the addition of the Garter element, Greg's "foul papers" confusings, more Oldcastle controversy, and which character is playing the Fairy Queen at the end. "In F the intention at least seems to be that Shakespeare wanted to locate... satire in a wider, more ceremonial celebration of the Order of the Garter." (257) "If we acknowledge that Q1 is not just a poor report of the F version but has its own integrity (however limited), while F has a different integrity which identifies it as a piece for court performance, then I suggest that my argument makes the most compelling sense of the inadequate evidence we have. (258)

He then examines a series of textual problems: the "fly-killing scene in Titus Andronicus, the abdication scene in Richard II, and 2 Henry IV. "The textual history of 2 Henry IV is one of the most complex in Shakespeare's canon. The play appeared only in one quarto (Q, 1600), which had all the hallmarks of having been set from a manuscript in Shakespeare's hand... But the quarto appeared in two distinct states.... And the First Folio text (F) is quite different in some respects from either version of Q." (263)

Dutton also examines the change of reign and the effects it may have had on "Shakespeare's contract." How did the change in reign effect Shakespeare's relations and duties with the King' Men? "Something which certainly changed is that plays written by him after the accession of King James--and not just 'bad' quartos--all stopped being printed..... King Lear is the only indisputably Jacobean play entirely by Shakespeare to see print in his own lifetime, or indeed down to the publication of the First Folio." (271) This phenomenon need not be mysterious. Dutton picks up on G. E. Bentley's contention [The Profession of Dramatist in Shakespeare's Time, 1590-1642 (1971)] that Jacobean and Caroline companies were usually most reluctant allow into print the plays of their "ordinary poets"; showing convincingly that the plays which Heywood, Fletcher, Massinger, Shirley, and indeed Brome wrote while they were under such contracts did not normally come into print so long as the contracts lasted." (273)

Dutton concludes: "My argument is at bottom a simple one: that the courts of Elizabeth and James loomed much larger in Shakespeare's creative life than is generally appreciated; that many--perhaps more--of his plays have survived in versions adapted for court purposes, where length was no object (and indeed encouraged) and rhetorical virtuosity appreciated" (286) "The court is what made Shakespeare Shakespeare." (290)

Dutton's sensitive and sensible sortings out of the problems are too involved to summarize in detail; suffice to say that his solutions are theatrical, sensible, and believable.

No one dare even consider teaching, let alone writing about, multitext plays without first carefully reading Richard Dutton.

All too few Shakespeareans know much about the Revels Office, either its history, its vital connections with sixteenth-century drama, or its Master during half of Shakespeare's creative life, Edmund Tilney, unfortunately often dismissed as some sort of "censor." No longer is there any excuse for haziness or ignorance. After numerous articles and three previous books about Tilney, W. R. Streitberger offers a detailed, judicious, and highly informative study in The Masters of the Revels and Elizabeth I's Court Theatre.

To accomplish this, Streiberger must lay the spirit of a particular strain of "chronological disjointedness" which has controlled how the Masters and their duties were perceived and how these distortions have warped seriously much Elizabethan theater history. Streitberger begins at the "beginning" with E. K. Chambers's The Elizabethan Stage (1923). The problem is not with Chambers's masterful collecting and ordering of facts (Streitberger footnotes him very frequently) but with the distorting perspective from which Chambers viewed his material.
Chambers's methodology was empirical. His goal was "to collect, once
and for all, as many facts with as precise references as possible."
History was a detached, scientific study of historical documents, not a
philosophical or literary attempt to recreate a former time. (1)...
Despite Chambers's attempts at detachment, his Victorian and Edwardian
notions are omnipresent in his synthesizing narrative in The
Elizabethan Stage, the most prominent of which is a belief in social
evolution: "At the close of the Middle Ages, the mimetic instinct,
deep-rooted in the psychology of the folk, had reached the third term
of its social evolution." Drawing strength from church liturgy and the
feudal celebrations of municipal guilds, this instinct now attached
itself to the royal household on the way to its "ultimate entrenchment
of economic independence." Chambers was very much a product of his
time. (2) Few historians today would be content with this evolutionary
view of the development of the drama, but everyone who has written on
the Elizabethan theatre and the court has been influenced by his
account of the royal household and the Revels Office which is founded
on the same notion. Generations of theatre historians are indebted to
him for the belief that the royal household was a hierarchal,
bureaucratic organization and for the claims that the Lord Chamberlain
traditionally oversaw the Revels Office, that the Master of the Revels
was his deputy, that Sir William Cecil, 1st Lord Burghley, was
singlehandedly responsible for reforming the Revels Office after 1572,
and that Sir Francis Walsingham was responsible for creating the new
company of Queen's Players in 1583. We are also indebted to him for the
suspicion that the reduction in Revels Office responsibility for
productions did not result in a saving to the Crown because these
duties were taken over by the offices of Works ad Wardrobe. In the
following chapters, I will re-examine these assumptions, claims,
suspicions, and beliefs--all of which have become cornerstones of
contemporary Elizabethan theatre history. None of them will withstand
scrutiny. (2)


A tall order, indeed, following a slashing critique. Having cleared the field (in spades!) of inadequately or falsely based assumptions, Steitberger now can launch his probing evaluations of the historical/theatrical situation. Historians of the drama and Shakespeareans in particular need to pay close attention. Chambers repeatedly and persistently regarded units of the Elizabethan government as (at least proto-) bureaucratic. 'If there is a model helpful in understanding [Elizabeth's Privy Chamber] it is not that of a modern bureaucracy, as Chambers imagined, but that of a family business that pulls together in time of need and adapts as best it can to the situations at hand." (7) Streiberger also warns against simplistic views of multifaceted royal offices. "Censorship is much too narrow a concept within which to understand the role the Masters played in readying plays for production at court. Much more was involved than simply omitting objectionable material." (26)

"Costume design and tailoring were the oldest and most basic functions of the Revels establishment." (27) "One of the property-maker's principal functions was to create headpieces, the elaborate headgear considered essential to Tudor masking costumes." (28) After the early 1570s, "lighting came to be regarded as one of the main concerns of the Revels office.... Wire drawers were hired to design lighting for performances and then fabricated the chandeliers."... (30) "Plays received as much production attention as other entertainments. Once a script was altered for court performance, the production was planned. The Yeoman proceeded much as he did in producing masks, devising and fabricating costumes 'answerable to the matter, person, and part to be played.' 'The Master subcontracted stage properties to property-makers and painters who 'ffashioned, paynted, garnished, and bestowed' the properties 'as the players required & needed.' Properties such as wells, arbors, gibbets, altars, and hollow trees were constructed of paste or timber frames on which canvas was stretched. Elaborate mounts or rocks were occasionally built.... (30) Streitberger closes his survey of production functions by warning: "Romantic notions of proprietorship, intellectual property rights, and of creative control by artists have little place in understanding Tudor revels. Collaboration was the means by which these entertainments were created and produced." (31)

Streitberger then examines the careers and the management of the Revels Office of Elizabeth's reign beginning with Sir Thomas Cawarden (1558-59) by reminding his readers that Elizabeth's claim to the throne "was based on parliamentary title, not right of inheritance." (33) Cawarden had been a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Henry VIII; an ardent Protestant (or "gospeller"), and he came to the aid of Elizabeth in the early "anxious days" of her reign. Not only did Elizabeth choose talented and able cousins for high office (the Earl of Sussex as Lord Chamberlain; Charles Howard, Lord Effingham as Lord Admiral, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, as her succeeding Lord Chamberlain), but also she chose talented lesser persons for lower offices. All three of her Masters of the Revels were so endowed.

Cawarden was not just a civil servant (however able). He was wealthy, had supported the claims of Lady lane Grey, somehow survived Queen Mary, and was "capable of easily raising 200 armed men and in times of need 500. ... he had he largest store of warhorses, armour, weapons, cannon, and munitions in Surrey." (38) He must have been a comfort to Elizabeth in her early uncertain days.

Cawarden died in 1559 and was succeeded by another who had been persecuted by Queen Mary, Sir Thomas Benger (1559-72) who became known for his elaborate (and very expensive) entertainments. "Only eleven plays were performed by professional companies during Benger's entire tenure as Master." (83) His specialty was lavish and spectacular performances of the best plays he could find, but all this came at a price. "The Exchequer disbursed payments to the Revels Office of over [pounds sterling]8484, an average of more than [pounds sterling]653 for productions in each of the thirteen seasons between Christmas 1559 and May 1572." (86) Notwithstanding, Benger refined the sophistication of production and moved toward bringing professional players to court. "He is the first Master to begin to routinely review plays by professional players for possible production in his revels. He is the first to use specially designed three-dimensional houses in his plays, and apparently the first to use sophisticated lighting schemes." (86).

After Benger's death in 1572, there was an interregnum in the Revels Office until 1578. Nonetheless, entertainments were needed, as well as a refurbished banqueting hall, the description of which bears quotation to demonstrate artistry of conception and skill of construction, and the scale of enterprise which ran the cost to [pounds sterling]224 6s. 10d. Most Shakespeareans today would not expect such an elaborate effort.
After his crews completed the frame for the free-standing structure,
Thomas Hale, Groom of the Tents since 1541, cut the 1,006 ells of...
canvas bought from... the Linen Draper, and supervised the work of
Robert Elton and his seventeen tailors "to Cover the howse." When the
Revels crews of workmen arrived to decorate it, the house consisted of
stud walls, with windows installed, and a trussed roof structure which
was covered with canvas. The sixty-six plasterers who fixed lath to the
studs were required to keep working until the job was completed...
bread and cheese [were supplied] because "they might not be spared nor
trusted to go abrode to supper." While the plasterers completed their
work, thirty basket-makers fabricated frets for the walls, roof, and
windows from seasoned wicker and wove eighty-nine loads of birch to the
lath. These birch walls provided the medium for workmen to fix the
carloads of ivy and bay and the thousands of bunches of roses and other
flowers "gathered, bound and sorted" by over 200 "workfolks," mostly
women. Roof beams and other parts of the house were garnished with
pendants, the coats of arms of England and France, roses and
fleurs-de-lis, all prepared by the painter William Lizard. The floor
was strewn with rose leaves and doused with "sweete waters." The Great
Hall at Whitehall was prepared with lighting as well, for the
wire-drawers charged for hanging twenty-four "branches" of four lights
each on the "Greate wires that went crosse the hall".... [French
official] La Mothe Fenelon describes the building as "grand et
magnifique." (98-99)


When Elizabeth's cousin, Thomas Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex, became Lord Chamberlain and William Cecil, Lord Burghley, became Lord Treasurer, great efforts were exerted to cut the huge Revels expenses. Steitberger carefully describes not only the changes in persons but also how the inter-workings of personality changed the functioning of offices. (Reading Streitberger occasionally seems like one is standing backstage watching Elizabethan history play out before him.) It was widely known that Elizabeth enjoyed hearing plays. "By a wide margin, Elizabeth had more plays produced at her court than any of her predecessors." (126) By happy chance, as Sussex and Burghley were straining to cut expenses, companies of professional players were starting up. "The most likely explanation for the remarkable expansion in London commercial theatre between 1574 and 1578 is the outsourcing of plays to privileged companies." (135) The principal ones, of course, were sponsored by Elizabeth's cousins.

Enter Edmund Tilney (1578-1603), a distant cousin of Elizabeth I, who "worked at court mainly with extended family members." (140) It was he who decided which plays by which companies were to fill holiday entertainment schedules, working with the players to avoid possible difficulties. He not only read plays, but also heard them in his offices. "A combination of documentary and circumstantial evidence shows that the revels [in the mid-1590s] were produced almost wholly by the privileged companies. The fact that the Admiral's and Chamberlain's companies were formed at exactly the time that the Revel Office became incapable of paying production costs and that they went on to perform all of the plays at court for the next six years is unlikely to be a coincidence." (194)

Because of their settled existence in London, the Lord Admiral's and Lord Chamberlain's companies "could generate enough income to gradually buy and store an inventory of costumes and properties, and could afford to underwrite the entire cost of their own productions at court." (195) "The privileged companies had an inventory of scenery, properties, and costumes necessary to produce their own shows at court at a level consistent with what we know about earlier Revels Office productions." (196) The implications of these factors alone could alter radically what generally has been imagined about "barebones" productions in the public theatres. "Ultimately the public paid for the queen's revels by patronizing the commercial venues in which the favoured companies practiced for their appearances at court." (198)

Streitberger concludes by repeating his warning about the dangers of "chronological disjointedness." "Modern notions of government by law and efficient enforcement hinder our attempt to understand the problems of the Tudor government which depended on the cooperation of citizens and on their responsiveness to the wishes of those in authority. And of course, this did not happen consistently.... Tilney's licensing activity for most of Elizabeth's reign was focused principally in the London area, and none of the evidence indicates that he was the Privy Council's primary agent for regulation." (236)

"And, of course, the Privy Council's continuing interventions in regulatory matters duplicated all of those authorities yet again. This multilayered exercise of authority, sometimes in conflict with one another, runs counter to modern expectations. Elizabeth's government was hardly efficient by modern standards, and historians have largely ignored this fact. They attempt to impose consistency on the history of the period by bringing their own notions of bureaucracy, hierarchy, law enforcement and efficiency to their analysis of regulation and censorship. But as Chambers long ago pointed out, an understanding of the workings of Elizabethan government depends on appreciating the fact that Tudor attitudes were quite different from ours. The 'paradox of the duplicate exercise of royal functions' as he observed, 'lies at the bottom of an understanding of medieval government.' In fact, the duplicate or even triplicate or quadruplicate, exercise of functions was characteristic of government at all levels during the entire Tudor period. As a result, regulating and censoring the theatre and drama in Elizabeth's reign was never single-minded, never consistent, and never efficient." (237)

It is frankly daunting to question a transcription in a so well proofread a book from so experienced and so accurate a reader of Elizabethan handwriting as Steitberger, but I am disturbed by a letter on page 153, line 12 which makes no sense because of what seems to be a typo: "shal be thought meete of [or?] vnmeete." If the printed reading is correct, a "[sic]" would have been appreciated.

Streitberger concludes with two very helpful reference tools: the fifty-three-page Appendix 1, "Calendar of Court Revels and Spectacles" during Elizabeth's entire reign and Appendix 2, "Officers of the Revels," listing all those who served as Master of the Revels, Clerk Comptroller of the Revels and Tents, Clerk of the Revels and Tents, and Yeoman of the Revels with pertinent details of tenure.

In 1988, Scott McMillin chaired a Shakespeare Association of America seminar entitled "Chambers at 65--Should He Be Retired?" Strietberger has provided the eloquent and quite valid answer: Chambers continues to be of great value in his compilations of historical evidence, but his views of history and of the Elizabethans functioning in it are outdated and lead to serious distortions and misapprehensions. Overcoming both the looming reputation of Chambers and the vicious and omnipresent "chronological disjunctions," Streitberger has rewritten much court and theatre history to allow readers to understand the functions and importance of the Revels Office and its Masters in shaping and sustaining the world of Elizabethan theater and its productions.

Anyone attempting to understand the Court, the Masters of the Revels, and their relations with and support of the theatres and the plays themselves ignores Streitberger's work at his/her peril.

Because in some measure they are dealing with the same material, Dutton and Streitberger complement each other's work. Both agree that many assumptions about the interpretation of the place and function of professional players in the late sixteenth century needs radical revaluation in the different perspectives from which they need to be viewed and that the "chronological disjunctions" of previous scholars have done great disservices to the understanding of the period and its plays. In this review, I perhaps have relied too much upon direct quotation; but the authors' conclusions often will be viewed as controversial, and I preferred to have their words stand for themselves. The scholarship of both of these studies has advanced greatly our understanding of the Court, the Masters of the Revels, and their relationship to plays.
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Title Annotation:Shakespeare, Court Dramatist; The Masters of the Revels and Elizabeth's Court Theatre
Author:Long, William B.
Publication:Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2018
Words:5136
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