chapter
Introduction
ByROGER D. SELL, ANTHONY W. JOHNSON, HELEN WILCOX
Pages 10

It is a commonplace of English cultural history that the first decades of the seventeenth century were an unusually rich period for the London stage. Given that the names Shakespeare, Jonson, Chapman, Cary, Webster, Middleton, Beaumont, Fletcher, Ford, Massinger, and Shirley together form the roll-call of leading playwrights from that era, few would disagree with the proposition that, during the reigns of James I and Charles I, theatrical activity was formidably vigorous. As visitors to early modern London observed with some amazement, there were performances almost every afternoon of the week in each and every public playhouse (except during outbreaks of the plague), while royalty and aristocracy were proactive patrons and hosts of masques, plays, and other forms of dramatic entertainment. Indeed, drama was in such copious supply as to attract frequent denunciation from many a printing press and pulpit.