Journal Article

An Act to Restrain Abuses of Players (1606)

Hugh Gazzard

in The Review of English Studies

Volume 61, issue 251, pages 495-528
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 0034-6551
Published online November 2009 | e-ISSN: 1471-6968 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/res/hgp066
An Act to Restrain Abuses of Players (1606)

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The Act to Restrain Abuses of Players (1606) prohibited spoken profanity in any dramatic production; it was the most precise and sweeping piece of censorship addressed to the theatre of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. This article is the first full-length analysis of the contexts, content, and consequences of the act. It examines the nature and scope of the statute, how it came about, how it was part of a wider trend of regulation of public speech, and how it can be related to contemporary ideas about verbal profanity and improper speech in everyday life and in the drama, as those issues were aired in the writings of moralisers and polemicists. It considers how the law was enforced, how it relates to legislation concerning profanity in seventeenth-century society generally, and where the law sits in the general array of the practices and processes of official censorship of the drama. This article deals with the general framing and operation of the law; it is intended that a further article will analyse the nature of swearing, and the scale of the effects of the law, in play-texts.

Journal Article.  18402 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature) ; Literary Studies (American) ; Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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