chapter  4
34 Pages

‘A fayre Copy herafter’: dramatists and fair copies

As soon as the dramatist finished his foul papers he faced a decision. If they were legible, he could tidy them up and correct them; if they were illegible, due to sloppy handwriting, marginal or interlinear cuts, additions or corrections, or even the insertion of added sheets, he or someone else would have to recopy them. This ‘fair’ copying was usually done before the play was submitted for licensing, although in some cases foul papers were probably submitted to the censor. The majority of the dramatic manuscripts that survive in authors’ hands indeed look like fair rather than foul papers, and thus scholars tend to draw their theories about authorial foul papers correctly or incorrectly from authorial fair copies. While recopying a manuscript the author could make minor as well as major changes in parts or in the whole of the text.1 However, scribes were much more conservative when copying an author’s foul papers, usually confining themselves to regularising performance features of the text, as were book-keepers and other theatre personnel, including actors. Although dramatists worked collaboratively with these personnel and censors to prepare a text for performance, this collaboration left the responsibility for the composition and revision of the play’s content, including dialogue, plot, characters and structure, entirely up to dramatists.