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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Shakespeare's Audience
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0344  Friday, 6 February 2004

From:           Holger Schott <
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Date:           Thursday, 5 Feb 2004 13:03:45 -0500
Subject: 15.0324 Shakespeare's Audience
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0324 Shakespeare's Audience

Steve Roth <
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 > writes,

 >Neither of them looks anything like comprehensively at receipts or
 >profits. Who were Shakespeare's best customers? This thread started with
 >discussion of marketing, and companies would presumably have tried to
 >attract more of their most profitable customers.

The reason that no-one has undertaken a comprehensive study of "receipts
or profits" at performances of Shakespeare's plays is that we have no
data to work with. Except for a few entries in Henslowe's diary from
early in Shakespeare's career, no information on the financial fate of
his plays exists; except for court payments, we know absolutely nothing
of the economic success of his plays as performed by the Chamberlain's
Men/King's Men.

In general terms (i.e., beyond the Shakespeare/LCM/KM), we know how much
money Henslowe made from gallery receipts, but we have next to no
information on yard receipts. It's perfectly possible, I would say, to
imagine performances that attracted a large number of more affluent
spectators while leaving the yard half-empty, or vice versa, shows that
were popular with people in the yard but unsuccessful with the gallery
types.  (Presumably that distinction could roughly be mapped onto
class/income distinctions.) On the one hand, that means that a show
which only made Henslowe 4s. might have been a success for the company
(since the yard might well have been full), and therefore we should be
cautious in arguing that poor receipts in the diary necessarily equal an
empty house; however, on the other hand, that caveat cannot support the
opposite claim (that the yard was indeed full). Which is to say that the
nature of the evidence is extremely problematic, especially with regard
to claims about the popularity of particular plays with particular sets
of punters.

Best,
Holger

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