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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: June ::
How long to write a play?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0386  Monday, 18 June 2007

[1] 	From: 	Matteo Pangallo <
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	Date: 	Friday, 15 Jun 2007 17:02:28 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0377 How long to write a play?

[2] 	From: 	Colin Cox <
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	Date: 	Friday, 15 Jun 2007 14:46:40 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0377 How long to write a play?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Matteo Pangallo <
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Date: 		Friday, 15 Jun 2007 17:02:28 -0400
Subject: 18.0377 How long to write a play?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0377 How long to write a play?

The writing of *The Tragedy of Sir John van Olden Barnavelt* provides a 
timeline for the writing of a play, though given the unique 
circumstances (the fact, for example, that the King's Men had lost 
almost all of the 1619 playing season by the time it was written may 
have prompted the writers to speed up the process and get it on the 
stage as soon as possible) it may not be most reliable as a standard.

Oldenbarnevelt and his confederates were beheaded in the Netherlands on 
May 13, 1619. One day later news of the event had reached King James, 
and four days later it was available in print form on the streets of 
London. On August 14, 1619 (3 months after the event), Thomas Locke 
wrote in a letter that "The Players heere were bringinge of Barnavelt 
vpon the stage, and had bestowed a great deale of money to prepare all 
things for the purpose, but at th' instant were prohibited by my Lo: of 
London [John King, Bishop of London]" (quoted by Bentley, vol. iii, p. 
415). One month later Locke wrote another letter noting that "Our 
players haue fownd the meanes to goe through with the play of Barnavelt, 
and it hath had many spectators and reaued applause" (ibid).

This timeline suggests approximately 4 months for the composition, 
transcription, revision, licensure (which seems to have been 
particularly difficult for this play), rehearsal, and performance. And 
two internal references to contemporary events suggest an even shorter 
timeline (by July 14, 1619 at the earliest) for the initial draft: less 
than 2 months.

It's probably safest to state simply that different writers took varied 
amounts of time to write their works depending on a number of highly 
flexible variables such as financial conditions, theatrical 
considerations, the input of collaborators, the revisions required by 
the Master of the Revels, etc.-to say nothing of differing degrees of 
creative ability between writers.

- Matteo Pangallo

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Colin Cox <
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Date: 		Friday, 15 Jun 2007 14:46:40 -0700
Subject: 18.0377 How long to write a play?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0377 How long to write a play?

As a playwright, with first hand experience of the agony of putting 
words to page, the phrase, 'average time to write a play', seems 
somewhat nebulous.  Our own good Bill has thirty-seven plays in 
twenty-three years at the rate of 2-3 per year. Kit Marlowe has seven 
plays in his brief seven years (86-93) for 1 a year. Thomas Heywood, on 
the other hand, by his own admission, had his hand, or 'at leaste a 
maine finger', in an astounding two hundred and twenty plays (The 
English Traveller) between 1590 and 1640, with a five year hiatus. 
That's an eye-popping five plays a year for half a century!

Colin Cox

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