Adult Playing Companies 1593–1603

Roslyn L. Knutson

in The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697861
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Adult Playing Companies 1593–1603

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)



By any measure, 1593 was a very bad year for the playhouse business in England. The late summer outbreak of plague in 1592 continued in the suburbs of London. Adult playing companies took to the road, visiting towns as widespread as Newcastle upon Tyne, Lyme Regis in Dorset, and Norwich. Strange's Men mounted a tour in the summer of 1593 along a route apparently plague-safe and financially rewarding. The company of Pembroke's Men was not so lucky. Also, companies were geographically estranged from their playwrights, who for the most part stayed in London. One in particular, William Shakespeare, apparently considered a change of focus for his skills from drama to poetry. No one therefore could have predicted that the business of playing would enjoy unprecedented commercial success and expansion in the next decade. Theatre historians construct differing narratives about this decade in the theatrical marketplace, but they generally agree that the salient issues are the companies' business models; patrons and political critics; playing venues; the repertory; the book trade; and audiences.

Keywords: England; plague; adult playing companies; business models; patrons; political critics; playing venues; repertory; book trade; audiences

Article.  8433 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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