I just remembered this essay, which I wrote a few years ago but never managed to get in sufficient shape for publication. It still isn’t quite right, and I’ve mostly moved on to other questions, but now that I’ve looked at it again, and am newly aware of its existence, I thought I might as well throw it on here, very much for what it’s worth, warts and all (double cliché!). Comments more than welcome.


Views of the relationship between the printed versions of early modern plays, their manuscript originals, and the performances to which those manuscripts (and in some cases, the printed texts) gave rise have steadily become more complex over the last decades. Bibliographers, textual theorists, and theatre and book historians have worked to undermine old narratives and New Bibliographical certainties, and terms such as “foul papers,” “promptbook,” or “bad quarto” can no longer be used with the same air of certainty. The skepticism of the “fourth generation”[1] of new bibliographers (in Ernst Honigmann’s phrase) has served to highlight how little we really know about how printed texts, manuscripts, and performances determined, influenced, or generated one another.[2] In complicated ways, this not-so-new sense of uncertainty has affected not only editors and bibliographers, but theatre historians as well – “complicated” because scholars in those fields hardly work in isolation from each other. Textual scholarship has a direct impact on what histories of the stage we can construct, after all: for instance, authors’ papers (foul or otherwise) were not merely documents to be set in type, but also texts that may or may not have circulated in theatres and among company scribes, turned into playbooks and parts (or not), treated with care or negligence in tiring houses as well as stationers’ shops. The same manuscripts bibliographers imagine behind printed plays all played a role, on some level, in the interactions between dramatists and playing companies, and in the creation of live performances.

The relationship between the fields of theatre history and textual scholarship is additionally complicated by their tendency to take each other’s speculations for fact – as when bibliographers adopt hypothetical notions about staging practices, for instance, to theorize the past existence of certain types of texts, or when theatre historians take textual scholars’ word for the notion that particular classes of texts in fact existed and mattered. Even as a more complex account of the collaborative forces that shaped dramatic texts at every point of their textual or oral existence is slowly emerging,[3] both textual and theatre scholarship remain – understandably – keen to use these newly difficult narratives as a means of accessing an originary figure or site that has been at the core of their disciplines’ endeavours all along: an author, a playing company, a theatrical set of practices. And that desire tends to downplay or bypass the collaborative as the negligible, the distracting and distortive, the veil[4] we need to study only so it can eventually be torn. Conversely, I argue in this essay that we should take the contributions of such menial figures as scribes, censors, and compositors more seriously as creative and signifying acts in their own right – that we should inspect and respect the veils that appear to separate us from an authorial or theatrical origin. For one thing, dismissing what those figures produced as that which needs to be overcome only displaces the material traces of the past in favour of critical and theoretical phantasmagoria without considering what interpretative purchase may be gained from taking the work of printing house and theatre professionals seriously. For another, if we actually mean to confront the collaborative nature of both stage and book, the privileging of certain collaborators – those largely hidden from our sight – is methodologically both incoherent and self-defeating. The work of authors, singular or collaborative, is, after all, visible to us only in and through the interposing and mediating labour of copyists, censors, compositors, and book-keepers – the “very agents whose work is excluded in the process of the making of authors,” as Paul Werstine has argued.[5] Recontextualizing writers and even players within the rich network of collusive practices that shaped pages and performances is thus a matter not just of history, but of historiography as well: not only were all participants in the theatrical enterprise engaged in this network in early modern England, these same agents also are accessible to us now only through the written and printed products of their collaborative interactions. As a necessary consequence, the collaborations that have been so central to recent debates, those between co-authors on the one hand and between playwrights and actors on the other, are precisely the ones in need of reconstruction, can almost never be apprehended directly, and have left far fewer traces than we would like. The workings of scholarly desire coincide here with the logic of consumer culture: what we have we do not want, and what we want we cannot have. And frustrated desire has all too often lead to a denigration of those unwanted “veils,” “impurities,” and “contaminations” that simply stand in the way between us and the barely glimpsed inhabitants of the study or the theatre with whom we really want to connect, directly and without intervening agents and media.

Instead of trying to dig below the surface, my explorations here are motivated by an interest in what this textual topsoil, a rich layer of material sediments of collaborative practices, can tell us about the wider world of theatrical production and dramatic reception in early modern England. Too often, “author’s pen” and “actor’s voice,” and even worse, “compositor’s stick,” “pressman’s inkball,” or “censor’s eye” are cast as competing forces, rather than as agents involved in a collective effort.[6] In what follows, I will instead attempt to trace the ways in which various participants in the staging and printing of early modern drama shaped the form and content of the documents that we now rely on in constructing our histories of the genre. To that end, I will turn first to the theatre and ask what traces actors may have left in their scripts – or rather, why they left so few.



I begin with what normally is seen as one of the most obvious instance of collaboration: the relationship between actors and dramatists. If a playbook was set from a playhouse manuscript, the argument goes, it more likely than not was textually refashioned on its way from desk to stage. That early modern players treated playwrights’ words in a cavalier manner has been a commonplace of twentieth-century editorial theory: many printed plays are said to contain “contaminations” or “perversions” introduced by actors.[7] From the traditional, author-centric editorial perspective, these adulterations need to be spotted and erased – thankfully a manageable task, since players’ “interpolations” regularly “disturb the metre”[8] and “never add to the sense nor introduce any significant word which the surrounding context does not supply.”[9] From the perspective of a scholar interested in theatrical practices, of course, those very same “perversions” constitute valuable evidence, and their detectability becomes a boon of a different sort. Either way, it would seem crucial to show exactly how and why these actorly interventions ended up on the page. Harold Jenkins admits the “difficulty of explaining” “how additions and deviations of the players came to be incorporated” in Hamlet (for instance), but that appears to be a mere technicality, and should not, he insists, “prevent the recognition”[10] that these passages undoubtedly can be traced to the playhouse, not to Shakespeare’s pen. G. R. Hibbard is rather more circumspect, cautioning that “proof that they were not Shakespeare’s is still lacking,”[11] and consequently includes a number of hypermetrical “additions” in his edition of the play.[12] He imagines the possibility of collaboration – players adding words so aptly that Shakespeare did not object – but only toys with the idea without insisting on its factuality. This carefully nuanced attitude is particularly crucial since the printed record is opaque:[13] while the study of spelling habits might be able to point to authorial or scribal copy (and even that is doubtful),[14] it cannot effectively determine the origin of individual lines or words; and in the absence of any such at best semi-scientific criteria, editors have fallen back on aesthetic arguments, attributing the damaged, imperfect, or debased to actors, the smooth, perfected, or flawless to the poet.[15]

As problematic as such an approach may be, the underlying assumptions about theatrical practice are even more tenuous. The supposition that even minute variations (such as the doubling of a word for emphasis) would be recorded in the “promptbook” bespeaks a fetishization of the play as document, a notion that no performance could exceed the text laid down in the “booke,” at least not in the long run: the ever-evolving script would eventually catch up.[16] The idea – the fantasy – that the playbook was constantly updated to represent faithfully what was said on stage sets up an ongoing struggle between book and performance, the one striving for control and stability, the other continually undermining that desire.[17] This antagonistic relationship, while it seems to reflect the view of some playwrights (such as Jonson and Greene), clearly misrepresents theatrical practice. Tiffany Stern cites numerous examples for apparently acceptable embellishments, most strikingly two instances were playwrights left decisions about dialogue entirely up to the performers: “Enter Forrester … speake any thing, and Exit;” “Iockie is led to whipping ouer the stage, speaking some wordes, but of no importance.”[18] However, her sources almost universally distinguish between authors’ writings and players’ speech: the two collaborate harmoniously, but they clearly originate from different sources and impulses – premeditated written composition on the one hand, oral and spontaneous improvisation on the other. It is thus surprising that Stern herself follows the trajectory towards the written prescribed by the (old) New Bibliographers: “clowns seem to have expected to embellish and even partially write their texts.”[19] One never knows how seriously to take Hamlet, but his complaint that the clown speaks “more than is set down for him” (3.2.39) surely implies a distinction between performance and script that cannot so easily be collapsed into the phantasmal object of the constantly revised and reworked playbook, or even (in Stern’s version) the settled and recorded clown’s part.

Given the relatively minor textual changes usually involved, the purpose of supposed revisions of prompt books is in any event entirely unclear. The sorts of variants editors explain as “playhouse interpolations” tend to occur at the beginning or in the middle of lines; they do not typically alter cues. While a book-keeper may thus have been tempted to change individual players’ parts to reflect the lines as they are spoken (although even that notion is highly speculative, and casts the company rather than the player as the keeper of parts, which seems at least doubtful), it is not obvious why he would have complicated his own text, which was – as far as we can tell – used not to prompt in the modern sense, but to regulate entrances and the appearance of major props, and at most to remind players of their cues if they missed them.[20] Scott McMillin has recently argued that more extensive prompting may simply not have been a viable option: “supplying lines to forgetful actors is virtually impossible in the configuration of the Elizabethan stage.”[21]

I do not take issue with the idea that what occurred and what was heard on stage was the result of a collaboration of players and poets, and the assertion that “any Shakespearean text that can be traced to a prompter’s book has already been repeatedly mediated by other hands”[22] (those of scribes, book-keepers, censors) is fundamental to my own project in this essay. More problematic, however, is the assumption that those two collaborative engagements – the one a translation of script into performance, the other a transformation of one man’s written words into those of a company of players – intersected quite as seamlessly as editors and theatre historians tend to posit. It is conceivable, of course, that actors rewrote their authors’ texts after or prior to speaking their own variations; but there is no clear evidence for that. If anything, that model seems to derive from nineteenth-century theatrical practice like that of the D’Oily Carte Opera Company, whose promptbooks bear many traces of the collaborations (and altercations) between librettist W. S. Gilbert and stars like Rutland Barrington.[23] Not that early modern playbooks were unmarked: Grace Ioppolo’s detailed study of dramatic manuscripts has revealed a wealth of interactions between playwrights and book-keepers, with scripts moving back and forth between authors and playhouse scribes. But her analyses pertain almost exclusively to pre-performance alterations or modifications made for revivals, not to changes made to dialogue or stage directions as a consequence of what actors said or did on stage while the play was in repertory.[24]

What little evidence we have of the way actors approached their scripts rather suggests an at least initially faithful adherence to the text – an approach partly necessitated by the relative ignorance in which they were kept by the parts-system.[25] “Little evidence” is an exaggeration: only a single document survives, the part of Orlando from Greene’s Orlando Furioso.[26] The most striking feature of that manuscript for my present purpose is a series of insertions and corrections in what appears to be Edward Alleyn’s hand. The text was written out by a scribe who left blanks where he had trouble deciphering Greene’s copy; it seems that Alleyn filled these in after consulting either the playbook or the author himself.[27] His comparison between authorial text and scribally produced part seems to have been thorough. More than once he crossed out misreadings and corrected them. Thus, a scribal “faithfull” became the more unusual “faintfull” (A 87 [strip 5]), a reading replicated in the 1594 quarto of Orlando Furioso (Q 714).[28] On one occasion, the scribe had left room for an entire missing line, and Alleyn supplied it himself – presumably giving his own reading of the manuscript or Greene’s verbal explication, but just possibly his own invention: “inconstant base iniurius & vntrue” (A 208 [strip 8]).

The relatively careless handwriting of the insertions may indicate that these emendations were intended only for the actor’s personal use. But their very existence opens up a set of larger questions: if a scribe had such trouble deciphering the copy he was working from, could that text possibly have been used in the tiring house? Did the scribe also prepare a text for the book-keeper or prompter (or were they the same person)? And if so, were the same blanks simply left unfilled?[29] As with the “playhouse interpolations” discussed earlier, the missing words in Alleyn’s part do not affect cues, and thus may have been of little interest to the prompter.

One of Alleyn’s alterations might be an exception to this observation, as Greg considered it “presumably a cue.” In a passage not present in the quarto, the words “away wt thes rages” (A 295 [strip 10]) have been interlined. For Greg, who regarded the Dulwich manuscript as an authentic, faithful transcript of Greene’s original (or at least a manuscript close to the original), and depended on that proximity for his argument that the quarto was a corrupt text, the notion that the part might contain an actor’s independent interventions was intolerable. Therefore the half-line, apparently not present in the text the scribe was copying since he left no gap for it, had to be a stage direction of sorts – a part of the text whose link to authorial authority was inherently weak. In the context of Orlando’s lines, however, the insertion makes much more sense as dialogue:

Argalio why sufferest [thou]

This olde trott, to come so nere me.

^Away wth thes rages[!]^

Fetch me the Robe that prowd Apollo wears

That I may Jett it in the capytoll. (A 293-96)

“Away with these rags,” awkward as a cue (who is supposed to tell Orlando to take off his “rags?”)[30] and oddly emphatic as a stage direction for Alleyn to discard the “rags” he is wearing, functions perfectly as an exclamation – Orlando’s mind jumps from Melissa (the “old trot”) to heroic exploits, and the suddenness of the line emphasizes that. This still does not quite constitute evidence for an actorly rewriting of the script, but it is as close as we are likely to come.[31]

As far as the text of plays was concerned, then, and as far as we can tell from the surviving manuscripts, it seems as if there was collaboration, no end of collaboration, just not for the players. There can be little doubt that playhouses were intensely collusive spaces, but we do not know how much of a textual trace the labour of players left – although we know enough to question if it left any. The “life” that actors brought to plays was after all fleeting, as some of the most bookish playwrights were all too ready to point out – Marston famously conceded that “the life of these things consists in action,”[32] and Webster concurred that “a great part of the grace of this (I confesse) lay in Action.”[33] The players contributed their bodies and voices to the play, but what was written was the responsibility of others. Unquestionably, the documents that passed through the theatre into stationers’ hands bore marks of their journey, but those marks were more likely left by the main textual agent of the playhouse: not any actor, but the company book-keeper.


The Master of the Revels

The relationship between what took place on stage and what the page records my thus appear more than a little tenuous. Andrew Gurr has recently made a similar point, arguing that “almost no play texts survive from Shakespearian time in a form that represents with much precision what was actually staged.”[34] A mere two King’s Men’s plays are extant in a form unambiguously licensed by the Master of the Revels, but not only do we lack most of these “maximal authorized play scripts, the allowed books,” we also no longer have access to the scripts that were actually staged – shorter (“minimal”) versions which must have existed for every play since “cutting the maximal text in the allowed book was the standard practice.”[35] I sympathize with Gurr’s skepticism, but find myself troubled by the certainties that seem to fuel it. It may well be true that the texts we have are an inadequate representation of what was performed – but how could we ever know that for sure? While only two texts can unquestionably be identified as authorized (because they bear the Master of the Revels’ signature), it is entirely possible that many of the plays that reached print were based on allowed books or their transcripts. And finally, how can we know that the cutting of “maximal” versions down to “minimal” sizes fit for staging was “the standard practice?” We are operating in an almost evidence-free zone here. Gurr seems to propose that nearly all plays were simply too long to fit the “two hours’ traffic of our stage” and consequently needed to be shortened. To say that cutting was common would be one thing; but to claim that the practice was universal seems as unnecessarily apodictic as the statement that “ninety-eight percent of the surviving texts from the Shakespeare company repertory went to the press from their writers,” a claim that assumes we can be certain about where the manuscripts for those books came from, and that they were all holographs (neither of which we know or can know at all).[36] Most perplexing, perhaps, is the question why, if staging minimal rather than maximal (i.e. allowed) versions of plays was so ubiquitous, the Master of the Revels continued to read and approve the longer versions, either oblivious or indifferent to what ended up on stage.

At the heart of Gurr’s scenario lies the need for the allowed copy to remain secure and pristine – an anxiety that makes for a rather odd companion to the free spirit of textual alterations the transformation of maximal into minimal text surely required. The story of how the full, final copy of a poet’s text was transformed into multiple scripts thus rests on a particular configuration of the relationship between players and Master of the Revels: an essentially antagonistic relationship in which the companies needed to keep their authorized books in a secure place, always accessible in case they needed to defend themselves. It is true, of course, that such occasions arose. After the controversial staging of Middleton’s A Game at Chess, for instance, the Privy Council called on the King’s Men and

demaunded of them by what lycence and authoritie they haue presumed to act the same …, in answer whervnto they produced a booke being an originall and p<er>fect Coppie thereof (as they affirmed) seene and allowed by Sr Henry Herbert knight Mr of the Reuells, vnder his owne hand, and subscribed in the last page of the said booke.

As they were able to show the signed and allowed copy of Middleton’s play, the players went unpunished. The incident, however, equally undermines the notion that those “seen and allowed” versions could unproblematically be altered as a matter of course: the players “confidentlie protested they added or varied from the same nothing at all.”[37] Most striking to me in the exchange between acting company and councilors is the degree to which the players could rely on their credit – they “affirm” and protest “confidentlie,” and since they can shore up their own credibility with Herbert’s materially present signature (whose authenticity itself relies on the players’ affirmations), they are believed. In winning the Privy Council’s trust, the actors collaborated with the Master of the Revels, a collaboration grounded in personal faith that is also evident elsewhere in Herbert’s records.[38] In August 1623, for instance, he allowed “an olde playe called Winter’s Tale, formerly allowed of by Sir George Bucke, and likewise by mee on Mr. Hemmings his worde that there was nothing profane added or reformed, thogh the allowed booke was missinge.”[39] The play had been performed before the Duchess of Richmond at Whitehall only a few months earlier – conceivably without the allowed script. The relationship between censor and actors, then, was based largely on trust, on both ends of their interactions. In situations like that of the Winter’s Tale in 1623 (and what exactly, we might wonder, could have happened to the “allowed booke” that year?),[40] a neutral official presumably ought to have re-read the play and charged the players as though the text was new. Instead, Herbert took Hemmings’ word and did not charge him his usual fee. This confidence in the players’ willingness to hold up their end of the bargain similarly emerges on the production side: thus, in June 1638, having asked for Massinger’s The King and the Subject to be “altered,” he “allowed the play to bee acted, the reformations most strictly observed, and not otherwise.” The changes were demanded by the most powerful literary critic in the land: Herbert records that he showed the play to Charles I, “who, reading over the play at Newmarket, set his marke upon the place with his owne hande, and in thes words: This is too insolent, and to bee changed.”[41] Charles himself, that is, played a role in the generation of Massinger’s revised text – the king collaborated, if not exactly in the most constructive manner. It is worth noting that even a text considered “too insolent” was not simply condemned, but merely subjected to reform.

Given the approach Masters of the Revels seem to have taken throughout the period, a surprisingly supportive stance of cooperating with the players in arriving at a mutually agreeable script, it might be useful to think of these officials as acting, in a sense, like editors. This hardly makes them glorious defenders of free speech rights, of course, but within the social and political context of the time, the kind of censorship exercised by them appears comparatively moderate. In any case, it was an ineluctable part of the business of staging plays. We will never know how many of the plays surviving only in printed form bear the traces of the censor’s pen – how often we read Tilney when we think we are reading Shakespeare, or Buc instead of Middleton, or Herbert in Massinger’s place. If Gurr is taken literally, the answer, as far as the King’s Men’s plays are concerned, is “twice.” However, among extant manuscripts, there are more that bear the traces of the Master of the Revels’ work than those that show any tangible traces of the actors who performed the play. In this light, I believe we ought to consider the censor as a type of co-author or at least consultant or critic. There is a good deal of manuscript evidence that this is exactly how he functioned from the players’ perspective.

The manuscript of Sir John van Olden Barnavelt provides some intriguing examples of George Buc’s assumption of the role of the constructive, if restrictive, editor.[42] Certain passages are simply deleted, such as a seemingly innocuous series of jokes on London’s unemployed prostitutes in the first act;[43] but later in the play, Buc not only cuts offensive lines, he replaces them with interlineated alternate suggestions. The lines “and when too late you see this Government / chained to a Monarchie, you’ll howle in vaine” (TLN 2444-45), for example, are altered so that the “government” is “changd to another forme,” diffusing the political point but maintaining the meter (five syllables replace five syllables, the stress pattern is left undisturbed). Having made the effort to find a plausible alternative, Buc apparently decided that the passage was not salvageable after all and crossed it out, but his initial intent seems to have been to find a way to let the players keep the speech. This degree of consideration is all the more remarkable since the Master of the Revels was clearly not impressed with the play’s portrayal of Barnavelt or the Prince of Orange. Early in the manuscript, he scribbled in the margin: “I like not this: neithr do I think yt the pr. was thus disgracefully vsed. besides he is to much presented” (TLN 386). Fletcher and Massinger’s effort fell short, as far as Buc was concerned, both as history and as theatre; it was both inaccurate and offensive. And yet he was willing to engage with their work in detail, erasing the most offensive sections, but also adding his own material in the process. In the end, although the manuscript as it survives does not bear a license, the play was almost certainly performed. The manuscript bears witness to the efforts of the company’s scribe, Ralph Crane, to replace lines cut by the censor and to ready the book for production. The alterations and insertions in the book-keeper’s (or scribe’s) and the Master of the Revels’s hands, then, are the kinds of marks any play text could expect to acquire as it passed from the playwright’s desk to the tiring house. They change the play materially, constrain it, control it even, but they are traces of the collaborative (if potentially contentious and at times antagonistic) effort that preceded the first staging of any new play.

Sir John van Olden Barnavelt is one of the rare cases in which we can see the censor’s collaborating hand on the page, inscribed with his own pencil, pen, and ink; to trace similar lines of influence in printed plays would be almost impossible, although, as I suggested above, we can be reasonably certain that many of those texts carry in them, hidden beneath the veil of print, the veil of censorship. Occasionally, we can get a glimpse, as in the case of Fletcher’s The Woman’s Prize. In that instance, a manuscript survives that differs from the printed texts in ways we can link directly to Sir Henry Herbert’s objection to the presence of “oaths, prophaness, and ribaldrye” in the play.[44] The Woman’s Prize, also known as The Tamer Tamed, was an old play, and its revival in 1633 had not been licensed by the current Master of the Revels, a practice Herbert appears to have disliked and attempted to reform (as he suspected that his predecessors were more lenient than he).[45] When he received “complaints of foule and offensive matters conteyned therein,” he forbade the performance (the King’s Men staged “The Scornful Lady” instead), and had the manuscript brought to his chambers in order to purge it – and returned it to the company two days later. No-one was punished, although the company may have suffered a financial loss.

A surviving manuscript of the play, likely produced as a transcript before the 1633 revival, preserves the text in its offensive state.[46] As a comparison with the version printed in the 1647 folio edition of Beaumont and Fletcher shows, Herbert cut or altered oaths (“faith,” “I vow,” “troth” are all gone, “heauens” is variously replaced with “honours,” “vertue,” or “vertues”); “ribaldry” was mainly cut, though occasionally replaced in inspired fashion (“pispots” (TLN 2002) becomes “looking-glasses”); and “profanities” were changed to less offensive phrases, though some passages were apparently beyond salvation: “The blessing of her grandma Eue light on her nothing but thin fig leaues to hide her knauery” (TLN 1930-31) had to go. None of these changes were likely to hamper a performance of the play in any serious way; most of them could easily have been reversed on stage (and probably were).

Herbert’s records of the Tamer Tamed episode also provide a further illustration of just how closely the Master of the Revels and company’s book-keepers cooperated in producing an acceptable script. On 21 October 1633, he wrote to Edward Knight, the King’s Men’s book-keeper, with both praise and criticism:

In many things you have saved mee labour; yet wher your judgment or penn fayld you, I have made boulde to use mine. Purge ther parts, as I have the booke. And I hope every hearer and player will thinke that I have done God good servise, and the quality no wronge; who hath no greater enemies than oaths, prophaness, and publique ribaldry, whch for the future I doe absolutely forbid to bee presented unto mee in any playbooke as you will answer it at your peril.[47]

Herbert’s tone comes as a surprise. He almost seems mildly apologetic about “making bold” to use his pen on the players’ manuscript, and appears to see the need to justify his alterations. He also anticipates that Knight would have done most of the purging already – he merely corrects instances where the book-keeper either missed or misjudged problematic passages. The effort of making the play conform to requirements is unquestionably collaborative in Herbert’s view, with the playhouse professional doing most of the work himself. His own responsibility was to make sure the scribe had done a good enough job, and bring the play in line where necessary, but on the level of the word or the sentence. Rejecting the entire project seems very far from Herbert’s mind, even in the case of a play like The Tamer Tamed, which he had suppressed three days before he wrote to Knight.

The letter changes register rather drastically at the end, of course, when it closes with an ominous threat, but the note of offence Herbert strikes here appears almost personal – he himself does not wish to be confronted with objectionable material. That same personal objection surfaces elsewhere in his records, as when he notes that “The comedy called The Yonge Admirall” “hath given mee much delight and satisfaction in the readings, and may serve for a patterne to other poets” – the play was pleasingly “free from oaths, prophaness, or obsceanes.” Herbert here sees himself almost in the role of a teacher (or, again, an editor), imagining that if the author reads his comment “it will encourage him to pursue this beneficial and cleanly way of poetry, and when other poets heare and see his good success, I am confident they will imitate the original for their own credit, and make such copies in this harmless way, as shall speak them masters in their art, at the first sight, to all judicious spectators.”[48] The censor sounds more like a theatre critic at this point, predicting both aesthetic and commercial success for Shirley’s play and for those who follow his example. Herbert’s point is partly moral,[49] but partly also about theatre as a profession as well as an art form – and in all three respects, plays like The Young Admiral will lead to advances. Again, it is easy (and doubtless right) to disagree with both his principles and his practices, but we should not ignore that Herbert saw himself engaged in a common undertaking with the players and their authors, a shared effort to turn plays into better, more pleasing, and more financially rewarding enterprises. And in this effort, each side required the other’s support – it was not a simple matter of the will to play being curbed by a repressive government agent. As Richard Dutton has argued, “if the livelihood of the dramatists and actors depended to a large degree upon Herbert’s good will, conversely his authority relied in practice on their co-operation.”[50]

Rather intriguingly, Herbert imagines his own experience of reading Shirley’s play as largely commensurate with the experience of future “judicious spectators” seeing it staged. The two states of the play – as text and as performance – do not appear essentially distinct in his thinking. Partly, this kind of thinking simply reflects the underlying logic of theatrical censorship: if the script and its staging are too categorically different, the entire enterprise loses its viability. But it also serves as a reminder that although drama was written primarily in order to be performed in this period, it never ceased to exist and to be received also, and in a sense initially, in documentary form.[51] The acts of collaboration I am tracing in this essay all have that in common: they are all textual transactions, not instances of embodied performance. From this perspective, the move from stage to printed page may seem less like a major category shift and more like the realization of a potential always already inherent in the dramatic form. And with that reflection, I move on to my third site of collaboration – the printing house.



The work of compositors and pressmen may seem of an entirely different nature than that of the contributors to playhouse documents whose activities I have been discussing so far. However, it is an unavoidable fact that our own access to early modern drama, and therefore most of our access to what early modern theatre may have been, depends on the products of those book industry workers. With the exception of five plays and a fragment in manuscript,[52] the bulk of Elizabethan professional drama only survives in print; with the exception of Game at Chess, the same is true of the plays of Jonson, Middleton, and Webster; and while a respectable number of seventeenth-century manuscripts are extant, they constitute only a fraction of all post-Elizabethan dramatic texts. While there may have been a thriving trade in play manuscripts in early modern England,[53] the general observation still holds that drama was “published” first on stage, and subsequently, sometimes, as a printed book. Those two formats were the two major modes of dramatic reception.

I would argue that once a market for texts from the professional theatres had been established in the mid-1590s,[54] a degree of cross-fertilization invariably must have taken place between these two modes, even if only on a conceptual level. We might catch glimpses of this in complex jokes like Jonson’s in The Devil is an Ass, where the foolish Fitzdottrel announces that he has gained his knowledge of Richard III’s reign not from “the chronicle,” but “from the play-books, / And think they’re more authentic.”[55] By 1616, it was possible to pit plays – ironically – against other books, debate or satirize their relative value or merits, and do so on stage, in a live performance taking place the same year Jonson himself staked a particular claim for the status of his drama in his folio Workes – a volume from which his own play about Richard III was notably absent (and the joke might be a reflection of that, too).[56] If plays were books as well as something one went to see in a theatre, a comprehensive approach to theatre history ought to include studying the form and reception[57] of those printed texts as well as reading them for what they can tell us about staging practices. Both for historical and for historiographical reasons (again), then, considering the traces of compositors alongside those left by others during a play’s life on stage seems warranted.

However, no contributors to the transmission of early modern playtexts have been maligned more than those who worked at and around the printing presses. At best, their work has been characterized as a kind of white noise – the “veil of print” from which my essay takes its guiding metaphor. As Fredson Bowers argued, famously, “by stripping the veil of print from the texts, one may recover a number of the characteristics of the manuscript that was given to the printer.” Bowers’s agenda, of course, is that of an editor searching for a properly authorized copy-text: he was no more interested in manuscripts for their own sake than in the veil of print. The goal was to identify which book was based on “Shakespeare’s own papers”[58] – the holographic grail. There is nothing pernicious in that endeavour, of course, but its perspective almost automatically precludes an inquiry into the historical existence of texts, into the way these specific material objects made meaning.

Bibliographers such as D. F. McKenzie have argued over the past two decades that the kinds of features scholars in the New Bibliographical tradition have defined as “accidentals” (a term broadly coextensive with Bowers’s veil), far from being arbitrary, have the power to change the meaning of texts fundamentally, and are therefore worth preserving and studying in their own right.[59] Randall McLeod and others share a similar point of view in their attacks on an editorial practice that “disengages artifacts from their creation and their recreation.”[60] These critics suggest that the “veil of print” was (and is) an integral part of the textual work of art. However, while the reproduction of facsimiles and the use of photoquotations might come closer to an unmediated (and hence undistorted) access to the material reality of the book, it does not constitute in and of itself an analysis of the role compositors and printers played in the construction of textual significance.

I have argued elsewhere that the placement of stage directions in the margins of some of Marston’s and most of Jonson’s plays in the 1616 and 1631 folios (a classic set of accidentals, universally disregarded in modern editions) can be interpreted as a conscious attempt to stage the text on the page.[61] Here, I would like to briefly open up a much broader question of typographic signification, a question I could not hope to answer in this essay (or, likely, elsewhere): might it make sense to read lines of verse in printed plays as potentially following visual or graphic principles as well as (or instead of) metrical considerations? I would propose that the arrangement of lines on a page did not always heed the dictates of verse. Our imperative that the proper representation of iambic pentameter (an oral or aural phenomenon) has to be a sequence of lines of more or less ten syllables (a typographic or calligraphic phenomenon) does not seem to apply as universally in early modern books. In cases where these texts deviate from that norm, we can either decide to “fix” their “obvious” errors – errors that usually are cast as arising in the printing house – or we can attempt to understand the significance of the way the lines are arranged. The latter approach enriches the meaning of the text as it survives and grants signifying power to its material shape, but it ignores or bypasses the questions of authorship and origin. If a set of lines looks a certain way because a compositor followed his copy or because he was engaged in an attempt to convey some of the text’s meaning through the visual form in which he set his type is not, ultimately, a question that can be answered – and we will have to fall back, happily, on a rich, complex, and finally undecipherable model of collaboration, with the difference that the labour of the compositor is given a degree of inherent value.

One brief example of the potential pay-off of this sort of interpretive stance will have to suffice here. William White’s 1602 reprint of The Spanish Tragedy, the fourth quarto, “newly corrected, amended, and enlarged” “with new additions of the Painters part, and others,” has been much maligned by editors.[62] The new scenes first published in this edition are notorious for their “extreme metrical deficiencies.”[63] W. W. Greg thought they “were not printed from any authoritative copy, but were supplied by a reporter relying on his memory;”[64] Philip Edwards argues that Pavier “obtained some of the new material, but what he obtained has roughness enough to make us suspect that he got it surreptitiously – perhaps by transcript, but conceivably through the actors.”[65] “Roughness” denotes surreptitiousness, or, as we saw earlier, theatrical origin and actorly corruption: authors emphatically do not rough it. However, there may be an alternative explanation for the additions’ unconventional form. While the bulk of the 1602 quarto of Kyd’s play was set from a previous printed text, the additions were necessarily inserted in manuscript; and White had never before encountered theatrical manuscripts. Although he had often been responsible for dramatic texts, all his previous work on plays was as a re-printer from typeset copy. That is to say, the state of the text as we have it does not necessarily tell us anything about that manuscript or its origins, since White’s compositors, being confronted with a theatrical document with whose conventions they have been only vaguely familiar, relied on what one bibliographer calls their “ear[s] of lead” to give the lines their proper printed form.[66]

I would suggest that in insisting that the metrically problematic additions constitute a printer’s failure to get the verse right, we apply an inappropriately rigid and impoverished model to the compositors’ signifying labour. They might have been listening for a different tune – or, to use a possibly more appropriate metaphor, they might have been trying to reproduce a different-looking score. Take, for instance, the third addition, metrically the most challenging to editors. It is a passage of highly irregular, but rhetorically rather effective verse, varying short and long lines to dramatic ends. Edwards’s frustrated observation that the irregular lines in these scenes “cannot be pulled into decasyllabic shape”[67] betrays an editorial attitude that would seem to privilege metrical rigor over dramatic effect. As it turns out, the “dramatic” here is not merely a quality of staged speech but also of typographical – visual – representation. The shape of the lines as they appear on the page can take on an affective purpose. In 1602, we find the following passage:

ST lines[68]



In most modern editions of the play, the “roughness” has been smoothed out thus:

Ay, ay, ay, and then time steals on:

And steals, and steals, till violence leaps forth

Like thunder wrapp’d in a ball of fire,

And so doth bring confusion to them all.[69]

While this arrangement reduces the number of “defective” lines to one (the first now is short), it loses virtually all the visual impact of the original. In White’s lineation, time really does “steal on” and on and on, the threefold repetition of “steal” mirroring the triple iteration of “I;” “violence” really does leap forth, on a new line, after time’s long hypermetrical haul, with orthographic thunder (“foroth”), only to shrink, appropriately, when “wrapt in a ball of fire,” and returns to metrical (and visual) regularity, with a fine sense for paradox, in the line that announces universal confusion. The typography here does interpretative as well as representational work, an effect that is entirely lost in translating the lines into a standardized metrical grid.

Once again, it is impossible to argue for the compositor’s intention here. His agency might be worth preserving, but even that is ultimately a doomed project (the lines might have been arranged that way in his copy). In any case, however, the material object that is Q4 of The Spanish Tragedy is enhanced in meaning once we take its status as a collaboratively constituted signifying apparatus seriously. Importantly, such an approach allows us to see the book as its contemporaries may have perceived it, as an artifact that signified both verbally and visually, much like the theatre itself. Beyond that, if such a claim seems too fanciful, I would simply argue that something is always necessarily gained if we look at the veils (of print, of censorship, of playhouse annotation and editing, and even, however tantalizingly it always seems to elude our grasp, that of the actors’ influence) and trace their folds rather than remove them. Bowers’s metaphor strikingly, though likely unconsciously, echoes one of Shelley’s poems, a sonnet that speaks of the consequences of looking beyond the veil:

Lift not the painted veil which those who live

Call Life; though unreal shapes be pictured there

And it but mimic all we would believe

With colours idly spread,—behind, lurk Fear

And Hope, twin Destinies, who ever weave

Their shadows o’er the chasm, sightless and drear.[70]

The veils I have discussed here, I hope, do not quite share the qualities of Shelley’s: their “shapes,” lines of ink and black impressions on paper, seem anything but “unreal.” They certainly disguise some things, and how reliable they are as representations is open to question. But to even treat them as representational artifacts – objects that stand in for something they are not, gesturing at a more desirable but absent other – may not be the only, or even the best, approach. It is certainly the perspective that most animates those “twin Destinies,” hope and fear. Configuring the material forms of textual transmission as so many layers of clothing hiding the true body of the work or the author’s private hand, it imagines the experience of textual inquiry as a sort of striptease, driven by the hope that behind all the interposing veils lies the object of desire whose outlines we can only guess at the outset, and haunted by the fear that there is no there there. Focusing instead on the cloth that is doing the hiding, studying its texture and weight, asking who made it and how, may be a considerably less exciting exercise, less heady and rather more sobering, but also less fraught with the threat of practically inevitable disappointment.



[1] “The New Bibliography and its Critics,” Textual Performances: The Modern Reproduction of Shakespeare’s Drama, ed. Lukas Erne and Margaret Jane Kidnie, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004, 77-94, 85.

[2] See, for instance, Paul Werstine, “A Century of ‘Bad’ Shakespeare Quartos,” Shakespeare Quarterly 50 (1999): 310-33; Laurie E. Maguire and Thomas L. Berger, eds., Textual Formations and Reformations, Newark: U of Delaware P, 1998; Leah Marcus, Unediting the Renaissance: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton, London: Routledge, 1996; Werstine, “Narratives About Printed Shakespeare Texts: ‘Foul Papers’ and ‘Bad Quartos,’” Shakespeare Quarterly 41 (1990): 65-86; Random Cloud: “The Psychopathology of Everyday Art,” The Elizabethan Theatre IX, ed. G. R. Hibbard, n.p.: P. D. Meany, 1986, 100-68; and Randall McLeod, “UN Editing Shak-speare,” Sub-Stance 33 (1982), 26-55. For a recent skeptical reaction, see Edward Pechter, “Crisis in Editing?” Shakespeare Survey 59 (2006): 20-38; for a fairly determined assertion of the continued validity and viability of many new Bibliographical categories, see John Jowett, Shakespeare and Text, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007; and especially “Editing Shakespeare’s Plays in the Twentieth Century,” Shakespeare Survey 59 (2006): 1-19.

[3] See, for instance, Heather Anne Hirschfeld, Joint Enterprises: Collaborative Drama and the Institutionalization of the English Renaissance Theatre, Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 2004; Brian Vickers, Shakespeare, Co-Author: A Historical Study of Five Collaborative Plays, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002; Jeffrey Masten, “More or Less: Editing the Collaborative,” Shakespeare Studies 29 (2001): 109-31; Masten, “Playwrighting: Authorship and Collaboration,” A New History of Early English Drama, ed. John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan, New York: Columbia UP, 1997, 357-82; Masten, Textual Intercourse: Collaboration, Authorship, and Sexualities in Renaissance Drama, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997.

[4] The metaphor is Fredson Bowers’s, and will come under closer scrutiny below.

[5] Werstine, “Close Contrivers: Nameless Collaborators in Early Modern London Plays,” The Elizabethan Theatre XV, ed. A. L. Magnusson and C. E. McGee, Toronto: Meany, 2002, 3-20, 18.

[6] Jeffrey Knapp has recently issued a detailed challenge to some of the emergent orthodoxies shaping current thought on collaborative authorship in the period. His critique partly focuses on the notion that the Renaissance had no concept of individual or singular authorship, and to that extent falls beyond my own focus in this essay; however, I would question Knapp’s insistence on the “distinction of author from actor,” which he sees as a “standard Renaissance” trope. To Knapp, the distinction seems to imply a hierarchy of sorts, with an author’s “act of playwrighting” taking place in a different sphere than the actors’ “essential collectiveness of performance” (“What is a Co-Author?” Representations 89 (2005): 1-29, 6). His contention that a “relative distinction” can be drawn between single and multiple authorship even if “single” authorship cannot specifically be determined for any extant text would be hard to deny from the perspective of a study interested in playwrights and their working habits (7). However, in practice, and in the historical transmission of its products, dramatic authorship was as much beholden to an “essential collectiveness” as actors were, and it is this aspect of the material existence of early modern plays with which my own inquiry concerns itself. By contrast, I find myself sharing a good deal of conceptual ground with Knapp in his reading of Hamlet in the second half of his essay, a reading that stresses the plays insistence that “an author’s writ becomes theater only through the willing collaboration of players” (16) and argues that Shakespeare “attempts to dramatize a different kind of theatre … exemplified by a different kind of author – the Johannes fac totum or jack-of-all-trades Greene had scoffed at, the player-author” (12). I would suggest, however, that the collaborative spirit of the player-author Knapp finds in Hamlet did not rely on authors being actual players; instead, I would argue that playwrights had little choice but work as company men when engaged with and by an acting troupe.

[7] Alice Walker, Textual Problems of the First Folio, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1953, 138.

[8] G. R. Hibbard, “Textual Introduction,” Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987, 112.

[9] Harold Jenkins, “Playhouse Interpolations in the Folio Text of Hamlet,” Studies in Bibliography 13 (1961): 31-47, 42.

[10] “Playhouse Interpolations,” 47.

[11] “Textual Introduction,” 113.

[12] See, e.g., 1.2.135; 1.5.29; 1.5.107-8.

[13] And I should note that greater certainty or lesser skepticism is not necessarily a hallmark only of previous generations of scholars. Much more recently, for instance, Tiffany Stern has confidently asserted that “additions and cuts [are] traceable to actors in plays,” and that “the addition of a word or two” in the part of Reynaldo in Hamlet is “attributable to actor’s interpolation” (Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan, Oxford: Clarendon P, 2000, 99, 107).

[14] See Jeffrey Masten, “Pressing Subjects: Or, The Secret Lives of Shakespeare’s Compositors,” Language Machines: Technologies of Literary and Cultural Production, ed. Masten, Peter Stallybrass, and Nancy J. Vickers, New York: Routledge, 1997, 75-107.

[15] Eric Rasmussen has argued that the contributions of Hand B to the Book of Sir Thomas More constitute a transcript of sorts of “an actor’s improvisations” (“Setting Down what the Clown Spoke: Improvisation, Hand B, and The Book of Sir Thomas More,” The Library 6th series, 13 (1991): 126-36, 135). The claim cannot be absolutely dismissed, but Rasmussen’s own description of Hand B’s insertions as “weak gags” and a “failure” (128-29) begs the question why anyone would choose to transcribe an unfunny improvisation rather than a successful one.

[16] A. W. Pollard’s view still remains influential. He argued that Q1 of Richard II was used as a promptbook, and that “while being used in this way it would … be natural that the copy of the First Quarto should here and there be brought into agreement with any variation from its text which an actor systematically introduced” (A New Shakespeare Quarto, London: Bernard Quaritch, 1916, 99). Letting performance and script diverge for too long is simply “unnatural.”

[17] For a forceful argument against the notion of the “word perfect” prompt book, see Scott McMillin, “Introduction,” The First Quarto of Othello, New Cambridge Shakespeare Early Quartos, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005, 14, 41-43.

[18] Anon., The History of the Tryall of Cheualry (1605), sig. E4r; Thomas Heywood, The Second Part of King Edward the Fourth (1599), sig. Y2v; quoted in Stern, Rehearsal, 103.

[19] Rehearsal, 102, my italics.

[20] I accept Stern’s argument that the book-keeper functioned as a sort of prompter, but her examples suggest a prompting of cues rather than lines – which is to say the book of the play would have to be current in its entrances and exits as well as its cues, but not necessarily in the details of the speeches in between. This also corresponds to the evidence assembled by Leslie Thomson in her study of the way in which a printed copy of The Two Merry Milkmaids was used as a playscript; see “A Quarto ‘Marked for Performance’: Evidence of What?” Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 8 (1996): 176-210. In this case, major cuts are marked, but the bulk of annotations concerns stage business that can be controlled from the tiring house. Her observation that the quarto’s numerous inconsistent speech-headings have not been corrected must qualify Stern’s view of the book-keeper as a prompter (197). If Thomson is right to suggest that “what happened on stage was not a bookkeeper’s concern” (198), the question of why actors’ lines would ever be altered in the playbook becomes even more difficult to answer.

[21] McMillin, “Introduction,” 14n.

[22] Stern, Making Shakespeare: From Stage to Page, London and New York: Routledge, 2004, 145.

[23] Barrington introduced numerous lines and gags that are still in use today. See the notes in Ian Bradley, ed., The Complete Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.

[24] See Ioppolo, Dramatists and their Manuscripts in the Age of Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton and Heywood: Authorship, Authority and the Playhouse, London and New York: Routledge, 2006, esp. chapter 5; as well as William B. Long, “‘Precious Few’: English Manuscript Playbooks,” A Companion to Shakespeare, ed. David Scott Kastan, Oxford: Blackwell, 1999, 414-33; and Paul Werstine, “Plays in Manuscript,” A New History of Early English Drama, ed. John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan, New York: Columbia UP, 1997, 481-98.

[25] Our understanding of how that system may have worked has been revolutionized by Tiffany Stern and Simon Palfrey’s work, especially their imaginative and critically highly acute readings of how parts might function in Shakespeare’s plays; see their Shakespeare in Parts, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007.

[26] I would insist on this part’s singularity, despite Stern and Palfrey’s assertion that “much uncertainty has arisen from the erroneous assumption that there is only one surviving early modern written ‘part’ from which all knowledge of actors’ texts must be gleaned” (15). The Orlando manuscript is the only surviving part from the professional theatre between the establishment and the closure of the London theatres.

[27] Michael Warren has cast doubt on the reliability of the part, suggesting that “it may have been an inadequate document to serve an actor who had to perform a role” (“Greene’s Orlando: W. W. Greg Furioso,” Textual Formations and Reformations, ed. Laurie E. Maguire and Thomas L. Berger, Newark: U of Delaware P, 1998, 67-91, 76). He points especially to three instances where scribal gaps have not been filled: “what actor wants to play a gap or confusion?” (77)

[28] I quote both the actor’s part and the relevant passages from Greene’s play from W. W. Greg, Two Elizabethan Stage Abridgements: The Battle of Alcazar and Orlando Furioso, Oxford: Clarendon P, 1923, where they are designated as “A” and “Q.” In addition, I will refer to the facsimile of the manuscript as printed in Greg’s Dramatic Documents from the Elizabethan Playhouses, Oxford: Clarendon P, 1931.

[29] When the King’s Men’s book-keeper Edward Knight copied Fletcher’s The Faithful Friends in 1625, he also “left gaps in his text when confronted by a number of words he could not read in the foul papers.” The manuscript contains alterations and additions in another hand, but this collaborator likewise failed to fill in the gaps, “perhaps,” as Ioppolo suggests, “because Fletcher had originally composed those portions of the text” and was supposed to supply them when he “died suddenly of the plague” (Dramatists and their Manuscripts, 135).

[30] It is also in the wrong position for cues, which are usually given on the right hand side, does not have the characteristic “tail,” and is longer than other cues in the part.

[31] The attribution of the line to Alleyn’s hand is in itself, of course, something of an interpretive leap. If print veils the hands involved in the production of the book, script, too, only imperfectly refers back to an originator. See Leah Marcus, “The Veil of Manuscript,” Renaissance Drama 30 (1999-2001): 115-31. It is also entirely possible that he is correcting a scribal error – an instance where the copyist left out a line rather than left in a gap.

[32] Marston, Parasitaster, or The favvne (STC 17484), sig. A2v.

[33] Webster, The deuils law-case, London : A[ugustine] M[athewes] for Iohn Grismand, 1623 (STC 25173), sig. A2v.

[34] Gurr, “A New Theatre Historicism,” From Script to Stage in Early Modern England, ed. Peter Holland and Stephen Orgel, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, 71-88, 71.

[35] “New Theatre Historicism,” 75, 78. The distinction between maximal and minimal texts was proposed by Gurr in his “Maximal and Minimal Texts: Shakespeare v. the Globe,” Shakespeare Survey 52 (1999): 68-87.

[36] Gurr, “New Theatre Historicism,” 75.

[37] N. W. Bawcutt, ed., The Control and Censorship of Caroline Drama, Oxford: Clarendon P, 1996, 154.

[38] My understanding of the Master of the Revels as collaborator rather than antagonist is indebted to Richard Dutton’s extensive work on the subject. See Mastering the Revels: The Regulation and Censorship of English Renaissance Drama, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991; and Licensing, Censorship, and Authorship in Early Modern England: Buggeswords, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

[39] Bawcutt, Control and Censorship, 142, my italics.

[40] Gurr insists that “the last thing a company would do with its most precious asset … was to hand it over to a printer” (“New Theatre Historicism,” 76), but in light of this incident, we might be inclined to doubt the absolute nature of that commonsensical “rule.” The Winter’s Tale is certainly not the only lost allowed book reported in Herbert’s papers.

[41] Bawcutt, Control and Censorship, 203-4.

[42] For a detailed analysis of Buc’s annotations, see Dutton, Mastering, 206-17.

[43] John Fletcher and Philip Massinger, Sir John van Olden Barnavelt, ed. T. H. Howard-Hill, Oxford: Malone Society Reprints, 1979, TLN 215-228. Further references parenthetically in the text.

[44] Bawcutt, 182.

[45] Bawcutt, 183.

[46] Recently edited by Meg Powers Livingston, Malone Society Reprints 172, Manchester: Manchester UP, 2007. I cite this edition by through-line number.

[47] Bawcutt, 183.

[48] Bawcutt, 180.

[49] Bawcutt argues that “the surviving records show Sir Henry acting more often as a censor of morality than of politics” (73), a reading Richard Dutton has contested, pointing out that the dividing line between the moral and the political cannot be drawn absolutely, and that in the context of the 1630s, crossing moral or especially religious lines had direct political significance (see Licensing, Censorship and Authorship, 43-61). Dutton’s reading of Herbert’s motivation strikes me as convincing, but it is not incompatible with what Bawcutt identifies as the Master of the Revels’ strong moral stance against oaths throughout his tenure – he could certainly have considered himself a crusader against stage obscenities even if he understood that at certain points and in certain situations these same objectionable moments attained an even greater offensive potential.

[50] Licensing, 59. Elsewhere, he refers to the “symbiotic relationship of licenser and licensees” with its “balance of mutual self-interest” (60). On the trust implicit in the relationship between Master of the Revels and players, especially their book-keepers, see also Ioppolo, Dramatists and their Manuscripts, 124-25.

[51] On the complex interplay of writing and performance in the theatre of the period, see also Tiffany Stern, “Watching as Reading: The Audience and Written Text in Shakespeare’s Playhouse,” How to Do Things with Shakespeare: New Approaches, New Essays, ed. Laurie Maguire, Oxford: Blackwell, 2008, 136-59

[52] They are Edmund Ironside, John a Kent and John a Cumber, John of Bordeaux, Sir Thomas More, Woodstock, and what remains of The Massacre at Paris.

[53] See T. H. Howard-Hill, “‘Nor Stage, Not Stationers Stall Can Showe’: The Circulation of Plays in Manuscript in the Early Seventeenth Century,” Book History 2 (1999): 28-41.

[54] For hypotheses on how that market was created, see Alan B. Farmer and Zachary Lesser, “Structures of Popularity in the Early Modern Book Trade,” Shakespeare Quarterly 56 (2005): 207-13; Farmer and Lesser, “The Popularity of Playbooks Revisited,” Shakespeare Quarterly 56 (2005): 1-32; Douglas Bruster, “The Birth of an Industry,” The Cambridge History of British Theatre, Vol. 1: Origins to 1660, ed. Jane Milling and Peter Thomson, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004, 224-41; and my own “Thomas Creede, William Barley, and the Venture of Printing Plays,” Shakespeare’s Stationers: Studies in Cultural Bibliography, ed. Marta Straznicky, Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2013, 28-46.

[55] Jonson, The Devil is an Ass, ed. Peter Happé, Revels Plays, Manchester: Manchester UP, 1994, 2.4.12-14.

[56] On 22 June 1602, Henslowe paid Jonson £10 “in earnest of A Boocke called Richard crockbacke” as well as for additions to the “Jeronimo” play usually assumed to be Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy (R. A. Foakes, ed., Henslowe’s Diary, 2nd ed., Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002, 203).

[57] Exactly how printed plays were treated by their readers falls outside the scope of this essay, but it is a question in serious need of sustained study. Some scholars have recently begun to address the issue (see Zachary Lesser and Peter Stallybrass, “The First Literary Hamlet and the Commonplacing of Professional Plays,” Shakespeare Quarterly 59 (2008): 371-420; John Jowett, “For Many of Your Companies: Middleton’s Early Readers,” Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works, ed. Gary Taylor et al., Oxford: Clarendon P, 2007, 286-327; Sonia Massai, Shakespeare and the Rise of the Editor, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007, 10-30; Stallybrass and Roger Chartier, “Reading and Authorship: The Circulation of Shakespeare, 1590-1619,” A Concise Companion to Shakespeare and the Text, ed. Andrew Murphy, Oxford: Blackwell, 2007, 35-56; Lucy Munro, “Reading Printed Comedy: Edward Sharpham’s The Fleer,” The Book of the Play: Playwrights, Stationers, and Readers in Early Modern England, ed. Marta Straznicky, Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 2006, 39-58; and Stephen Orgel, “The Book of the Play,” From Performance to Print in Shakespeare’s England, ed. Peter Holland and Stephen Orgel, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, 13-54), but the subject has not yet been treated as comprehensively as other aspects of early modern reading practices (see, for instance, William H. Sherman, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2008; Heidi Brayman Hackel, Reading Material in Early Modern England: Print, Gender, and Literacy, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005; Lori Humphrey Newcomb, Reading Popular Romance in Early Modern England, New York: Columbia UP, 2002; and Sherman, John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance, Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1995).

[58] Bowers, “Today’s Shakespeare Texts, and Tomorrow’s,” Studies in Bibliography 19 (1966): 39-65, 59.

[59] See McKenzie, “Typography and Meaning: The Case of William Congreve,” Making Meaning: “Printers of the Mind” and Other Essays, ed. Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez, Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 2002; and McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999. The distinction between “accidentals” and “substantives” goes back to W. W. Greg, “The Rationale of Copy-Text,” Studies in Bibliography 3 (1950-1): 19-36.

[60] Random Cloud, “Psychopathology of Everyday Art,” 168.

[61] See Syme, “Unediting the Margin: Jonson, Marston, and the Theatrical Page,” English Literary Renaissance 38 (2008): 142-71.

[62] The Spanish tragedie, London: William White for T. Pavier, 1602 (STC 15089), titlepage.

[63] L. L. Schuecking, quoted in The Spanish Tragedy, Revels Plays, ed. Philip Edwards, Manchester: Manchester UP, 1977 [1959], lxii.

[64] Greg, “Preface,” The 1592 Quarto of The Spanish Tragedy, Oxford: Malone Society Reprints, 1948, xv. The way Greg’s views on this point changed between 1925, when he first published on Kyd’s play, and 1948, when he wrote the introduction to the Malone Society reprint of the 1592 edition, provides an interesting illustration of the rise of the memorial reconstruction hypothesis to the status of established doctrine: in the earlier article, Greg merely said that “Pavier somehow got hold of the famous ‘additions of the Painters part, and others’” (“The Spanish Tragedy – A Leading Case?” The Library, 4th series, 6 (1926): 47-56, 54); by 1948, that “somehow” had found its inevitable answer. See Laurie E. Maguire, Shakespearean Suspect Texts: The ‘Bad’ Quartos and their Contexts, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996, 306-7, for a summary of the arguments for and against memorial reconstruction in this instance.

[65] Spanish Tragedy, Revels Plays, Ixiv. Pavier, of course, has long had a terrible reputation among Shakespeareans for his supposedly illicit project of publishing a sort of collection of Shakespeare’s plays in 1619; for a much-needed revision of this traditional view, see Massai, Rise of the Editor, 106-35.

[66] Alan Craven, “Simmes’ Compositor A and Five Shakespearean Quartos,” Studies in Bibliography 26 (1973): 37-60, 58. J. R. Mulryne’s introduction to his edition of the play is remarkably restrained in its assessment of the additions; he at least suggests that “some kind of printer’s bungling [may have] taken place” (The Spanish Tragedy, New Mermaids, ed. J. R. Mulryne, London: A. C. Black, 1989, xxxiv).

[67] Spanish Tragedy Revels Plays, lxiii.

[68] The Spanish tragedie, 1602 (STC 15089), sig. G4r.

[69] Spanish Tragedy Revels Plays, 126, lines 45-48. Mulryne arranges the lines the same way (New Mermaids, 128, lines 45-48).

[70] The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse, ed. Jerome J. McGann, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993, 695.

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