Playbills, Prologues, and Playbooks: Selling Shakespeare Adaptations, 1678-82

By Depledge, Emma Lesley | Philological Quarterly, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Playbills, Prologues, and Playbooks: Selling Shakespeare Adaptations, 1678-82


Depledge, Emma Lesley, Philological Quarterly


THE YEARS 1678 to 1682 witnessed two related, yet seemingly unrelated, events: the monarchy faced its greatest threat since the 1640s, and William Shakespeare's plays underwent the most sustained period of alteration in his authorial afterlife. (1) Having all but vanished from the print and performance market by the late 1660s, the plays made a forceful return in the late 1670s and early 1680s. Ten Shakespeare alterations appeared on stage, and nine in print between 1678 and 1682, at a time when Charles II was at loggerheads with parliament over its right to meet, and its attempts to bar his Catholic brother from the succession. In fact, versions of Shakespeare's plays--many of which had yet to appear on the restored English stage--made up almost one fifth of all new plays mounted during these four theatrical seasons. (2) The altering playwrights built on Shakespeare's plots and characters in order to produce topical, political plays that reflected contemporary concerns and disputes. It would therefore appear that the Exclusion Crisis, a succession dispute that threatened to return the country to a state of civil war, helped to generate a market for rewritten versions of Shakespeare's plays. (3)

By exploring Shakespeare's position in the performance and print market for the twenty-two years after Charles's Restoration, this paper argues for the importance of the Exclusion Crisis as the watershed moment in Shakespeare's afterlife. I take the reopening of the theaters and the establishment of the two patent theater companies, the King's Company and the Duke's Company, in 1660, as my starting point, ending with the former's financial demise and the creation of the United Company in 1682.1 intend to make three associated claims. The first is that Shakespeare was less of a name and presence in the years preceding the Crisis (1660-77) than is usually recognized, with the number of alterations and revivals of his plays in decline from the late 1660s, and few new print editions appearing on the market. My second claim is that the material conditions ushered in during the Crisis--such as theatrical recession, harsh stage censorship, and a demand for plays offering direct engagement with contemporary politics--helped to generate a market for Shakespeare redactions, with playwrights and theater managers (re)turning to the practice of alteration in large numbers. During the Crisis versions of Shakespeare's plays were not only staged on an unprecedented scale, but also sold to theater patrons as products of his labor. The promotion of Shakespeare found in stage prologues offers stark contrast with his treatment in the printed playbooks, (4) where his name was no longer used to sell altered versions of his plays. I examine the ways in which Exclusion Crisis alterations of Shakespeare were (often disingenuously) marketed in playbills, prologues, and playbooks. I will suggest that playwrights and theater managers deployed shrewd, media-sensitive marketing strategies that likely revolutionized Restoration London's awareness of a (by then long-dead) playwright named Shakespeare. By tracing a play's journey from playbill to stage prologue to printed playbook, one gains insight both into Shakespeare's perceived salability and the ways in which late seventeenth-century plays could be advertised for performance and print.

My essay thus approaches the topic of "Shakespeare for Sale" by considering the extent to which Shakespeare's name was used to sell plays, as well as the occasions when his plays, or versions of his plays, were and were not deemed vendible between 1660 and 1682. Scholars of Shakespeare's authorial afterlife have tended to survey lengthy time spans, generally concurring that the eighteenth century witnessed the most significant moment in Shakespeare's journey towards canonization. (5) I believe that focusing on shorter periods of history allows us to observe more immediate changes in the ways in which "Shakespeare"--by which I mean both the brand name and the product, to put it anachronistically--was sold. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Playbills, Prologues, and Playbooks: Selling Shakespeare Adaptations, 1678-82
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.