Theater Entrepreneurs and Theatrical Economics

S. P. Cerasano

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

Theater Entrepreneurs and Theatrical Economics

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



The theatrical culture of early modern England is remembered primarily for its plays and playwrights, but it would never have flourished had it not been underwritten by investors for whom the enticement of financial success outweighed the risk of economic ruin. Nevertheless, while scholarly discourse over the past two centuries has paid great attention to the conditions of performance, conversation surrounding theatrical economics has emerged relatively recently. For the London entrepreneurs, the amount of money required in order to construct individual playhouses was substantial. The choice of a location or the settings of individual playhouses — which differed greatly, one from another — could potentially have a financial impact upon the success or failure of a venture. This article tackles the economics of early modern theatre in England and the dependence of art upon trade and commerce. It also looks at three of the most influential theatre owners and investors of the sixteenth century: James Burbage, Frances Langley, and Philip Henslowe.

Keywords: England; economics; trade; commerce; theatre owners; investors; James Burbage; entrepreneurs; playhouses; Frances Langley

Article.  8326 words. 

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

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