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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: "Leaking" Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0316  Friday, 9 February 2001

[1]     From:   William Proctor Williams <
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        Date:   Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 11:49:31 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0303 Re: "Leaking" Plays

[2]     From:   Ros King <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 18:28:22 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0303 Re: "Leaking" Plays


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 11:49:31 -0500
Subject: 12.0303 Re: "Leaking" Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0303 Re: "Leaking" Plays

One more time and then I will probably shut up about his, but-

1) copyright to a printed book did exist

2) it could only be held by a man who was a member (either by
apprenticeship and freedom, freedom by patrimony, or freedom by
incorporation from another company [e.g., The Mercers, The Merchant
Taylors, etc.] of the Stationers' Company, or women who were widows of
Stationers and who did not remarry  3)copyright was real property and
could be sold, subdivided, inherited, or passed on by the same means as
a piece of land  4)except for Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh (after 1603),
and Dublin it was illegal to print books outside of London  5)all these
regulations, and many more, were granted by royal charter, first by Mary
I in 1558 and confirmed by subsequent monarchs 6)copyright was held in a
printed title and had no direct connection, in the case of plays, with
authority to perform a play, though all classes of writing needed an
authority of some kind to allow its printing.

Yes, there were illegal dealings and all sorts of other stuff like that
and it can be found by reading, among other things, the Stationers'
Court Books.  However, in the "leaking plays" matter (I hate the
thread's name, by the way) I think none of these "illegalities" have
much point.  Partly this is so, as Blayney makes abundantly clear,
because plays were just not worth very much to Stationers.

William Proctor Williams

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ros King <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 18:28:22 +0000
Subject: 12.0303 Re: "Leaking" Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0303 Re: "Leaking" Plays

Nobody has yet mentioned amateur production.

"Damon and Pythias" by Richard Edwards was first produced at court at
Christmas 1564-5 (and possibly immediately afterwards at Lincoln's Inn)
by the Chapel Royal children. The title page of the first quarto (1571)
states that it is:

'Newly imprinted as the same was shewed before the Queenes Maiestie, by
the Children of her Graces Chappell, except the Prologue that is
somewhat altered for the proper use  of them that hereafter shall have
occasion to plaie it, either in private, or open audience.'

There is a record of it being performed at Merton College in 1568 and it
was still known in Oxford 70 years later judging by the story recounted
by John Aubrey that the President of Trinity, Ralph Kettle, while
singing the refrain from the play's shaving song, seized a breadknife
and cut off the long hair of one of his students as he sat at dinner.
(And which of us could say we've never been tempted?)

Three copies of the first edition survive and one of the second (1582)
which might, perhaps, mean that it was read (and performed) to tatters
by generations of school children and students. What a nice thought! The
printer, Richard Jones, certainly seems to be hoping so in his
advertising blurb (above). He was no doubt highly commercially aware,
being a printer of ballads and indeed of other plays, although he moved
on to more serious things later.

Best
Ros
 

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