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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: December ::
Re: Flags over Globe
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2212  Wednesday, 15 December 1999.

[1]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Dec 1999 11:36:47 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Flags

[2]     From:   Jerry Bangham <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Dec 1999 10:53:23 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.2192 Re: Flags over Globe

[3]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 1999 10:07:06 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.2192 Re: Flags over Globe


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 Dec 1999 11:36:47 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Flags

Like some others, I have run across various handbooks that confidently
assert that flags were put up on play days, and that the color of the
flag indicated the genre of the play to be performed.  But I never see
any references that document this claim. Since there are lots of learned
people on this list, I wonder if any can tell us if this claim is really
true, or is it just at best "oral history," at worst, conjecture?

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jerry Bangham <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 Dec 1999 10:53:23 -0600
Subject: 10.2192 Re: Flags over Globe
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.2192 Re: Flags over Globe

>Where these two scholars got their information, I don't know, but it
>seems to be fairly common knowledge.

I'm afraid I don't place all that much faith in "common knowledge." I've
always heard that a flag was used to signal a performance during the
many years I've been studying theatre history, but this "color coding"
is an idea that seems to have turned up recently.

I want to see some evidence that backs up the claim.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 1999 10:07:06 -0000
Subject: 10.2192 Re: Flags over Globe
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.2192 Re: Flags over Globe

I think we now have all the clues to hand: the reference in Smith
"Shakespeare's Globe Playhouse" (1956) that flags would "let would-be
players know that a play would be presented that afternoon" was probably
itself an over-interpretation of the available evidence, and after that
an extrapolation from Tamburlaine has run wild in the popular
literature!

Irony is notoriously difficult to convey in e-mail, so I am not clear if
it is present in Vince Locke's "Where these two scholars got their
information, I don't know, but it seems to be fairly common knowledge".
I don't know anything about Norrie Epstein's "The Friendly Shakespeare",
other than that its subtitle is "A thoroughly painless guide to the best
of the Bard", which doesn't inspire too much confidence.  Her only other
available book seems to be "The Friendly Dickens: being a good-natured
guide to the art and adventure of the man who invented Scrooge" (unless,
of course, she is the co-author of "Happy motoring: canine life in the
fast lane").  Dr Laurie Rozakis (how can I put this without appearing
condescending?) appears to be more of an expert on writing books than on
Shakespeare.  The piece Vince quotes is entirely derived from Epstein
(as all seasoned source-hunters can see!), neatly filleted, with the
only substantive variation being "Theater owners" for "theatre
managers".

I have found no trace of colour-coding for flags in either "The
Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies" (1986) or "The Cambridge
Companion to English Renaissance Drama" (1990) (this latter is best
thought of as "Hamlet without the Prince...").

John Briggs
 

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