chapter  1
34 Pages

‘As good a play for yr publiqe howse as euer was playd’: dramatists and authorship

In his 1971 book The Profession of Dramatist in Shakespeare’s Time, G. E. Bentley claimed to examine the ‘normal working environment circumscribing the activities of those literary artists who were making their living by writing for the London theatres’.1 In fact, he depicted as normal an antagonistic working environment in which dramatists lacked ‘respect’ from their employers and ‘control’ over their texts, as well as the ability to negotiate their terms and conditions inside and outside the playhouse, particularly with such entrepreneurs as Philip Henslowe. Bentley concluded that only eight early modern dramatists could be categorised as ‘regular professionals’ or ‘attached dramatists’, and even they were kept from participating or collaborating in the playhouse transmission and performance of their plays.2 In effect, Bentley helped to establish the view, recently re-emphasised by Orgel, that the majority of professional dramatists were enslaved, in theory if not in practice, in a theatrical industry that minimised or negated their own interests and concerns and ‘contaminated’ their texts.3