10 Pages


For the last three centuries, Shakespearean scholars have emphatically argued that the transmission of an English early modern play-text was linear: that is, from author to acting company to theatre audience to printer to literary audience.1 This type of transmission implies that the author had no further contact with his text or with those who copied, read, used, recited or heard it after its composition. However, significant evidence from dramatic manuscripts, including the handwriting of company scribes, book-keepers and censors alongside that of authors, suggests instead that this transmission was usually not linear but circular and that neither authors nor theatre personnel dissociated authors from their texts. In fact, authors returned to their texts, or texts were returned to their authors, at any or all stages after composition. These reunions of authors and their texts demonstrate that early modern dramatists collaborated in various ways and degrees in the theatrical production and performance of their plays. For early modern dramatists and their theatrical colleagues, then, authorship could be a continual process, not a determinate action.