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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: September ::
Henslowe's 'ne
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1643  Friday, 3 September 2004

From:           Kathy Dent <
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Date:           Friday, 03 Sep 2004 11:55:11 +0100
Subject: 15.1630 Henslowe's 'ne'
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1630 Henslowe's 'ne'

Chris Whatmore writes

 >if Henslowe meant 'new', why didn't he use all
 >three letters as he did, for example, in numerous entries for a play
 >called 'The new worldes tragedie'? Elsewhere, at least four letters
 >appear to be needed before a word is abbreviated, e.g. 'payd' to 'pd' or
 >'with' to 'wth'.

Might Henslowe have considered 'new' to be a four-letter word (replacing
our W with the renaissance double-V)?

 >For my money, it is most likely
 >to be something along the lines suggested by Foakes, i.e. compensation
 >for having the play licensed and for other associated expenses, but it
 >would be good to get a more precise handle on how this process worked.

Diana Price's discussion seems to identify the figure of four shillings
and eightpence as the crucial difference between highest 'ne' takings
and highest non-'ne' takings.  This seems to be remarkably close to the
kind of sum that Henslowe was paying to the Master of Revels (it seems
to be five shillings rising to seven shillings during the course of the
1590s).  Does it seem more likely, therefore, that Henslowe was
recovering the licensing fee as a lump sum on the first performance of a
newly licenced play, rather than changing the *proportion* of takings
that he was entitled to?  This seems a much tidier and straightforward
way of keeping the books straight.

 >we again have to ask whether the increase
 >in attendance would on its own have been proportionally enough to
 >produce the consistently high takings recorded in the Diary. Some
 >further light might also need shedding on how new pieces were
 >publicised.


I believe that new and old plays were probably publicised in the same
way - announcements in the playhouse, fly-posting and - crucially - word
of mouth.  Surely it is this issue of publicity that explains the way
that the repertory system worked: the same play was rarely performed on
consecutive days and when a new play was added to the repertory there
was usually a gap of some days before it was performed again.  Reading
Stow's Survey of London (1598) impresses upon us what a small place
Elizabethan London was: anyone wishing to know what was playing at the
Rose could surely find out quite easily, but perhaps not so quickly as
we can by modern media.  Informal 'reviews' of a new play could, over a
few days, circulate by word of mouth and this would explain why
sometimes second and third performances were *more* luctrative than
first ones.  This latter point - that the first performance did not
always generate the most revenue for Henslowe - is important to an
understanding of 'ne': it is otherwise possible to exaggerate its effect
on Henslowe's takings.  In fact, the 'ne' takings are often not so
disproportionately large as to require any special explanation other
than that supplied by Knutson - the thirst for novelty and the prestige
of being in the vanguard.

Kathy Dent

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