THE MAKING OF THE PLAYHOUSE MANUSCRIPTS
BEFORE we can intelligently discuss the problems connected with the publication of Shakespeare's plays, we must understand the attitude of contemporary men of letters towards dramatic composition, and the peculiar conditions under which theatrical manuscripts were produced.
Elizabethan critics and poets alike held that while plays written in imitation of Greek and Latin models were a legitimate and even noble species of composition, plays written in the popular style, designed for the "common actors" and the amusement of the rabble, were ephemeral products of a mercenary pen, as art hardly worth serious consideration. Thus the eminent poet Samuel Daniel, though he did not hesitate to publish stately dramas in the classical form, exclaimed with fervency:
God forbid I should my papers blot
With mercenary lines . . .
No, no! My verse respects not Thames nor theatres.
And this was the attitude of literary men in general. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that the popular dramatists took their work lightly. As a rule they looked upon the manuscript which they prepared for sale to the actors not primarily as literature of a high order, with permanent value as such, but as mainly a utilitarian product for the theatres -- a group of situations practicable on the stage, and a collection of speeches adapted to the mouths of actors in the heat of action. Not being at all designed for closet reading, for its proper effect it