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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: February ::
Staying Entries


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0070  Tuesday, 16 February 2010

 

[1]  From:      Tom Reedy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:      February 11, 2010 11:44:14 AM EST

     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0061 Staying Entries

 

[2]  From:      John Briggs < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:      February 11, 2010 12:12:51 PM EST

     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0065  Staying Entries 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:         Tom Reedy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         February 11, 2010 11:44:14 AM EST

Subject: 21.0061 Staying Entries

Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0061 Staying Entries

 

A few questions.

 

>There was no copyright in Shakespeare's day. But a publisher who 

>was a member of the Stationers' Company could (by payment of a fee) 

>enter a text in that company's Register and obtain the exclusive 

>right to publish it (and any other text with a title which suggested 

>that it was the same work!) This was effectively a publisher's right, 

>and other publishers could only publish the work by arrangement with 

>the 'owner' of the entry. There were also "staying entries" (a work 

>"to be stayed") which seem to have been provisional entries, offering 

>the same exclusivity, preventing other publishers printing the work, 

>but not committing the publisher to publishing the text, or to paying 

>the full fee. Again, this was to the benefit of the publisher,

 

What would be the benefit to the publisher, if he did not publish the work? And is there any record of exactly how much that fee was?

 

>The London playing companies enjoyed exclusivity in the "acting 

>right" for their own plays -- so it made no difference in that 

>respect whether they were published or not.

 

Is there any documentary support for this? I seem to remember being taught long ago that once a play script was public, any troupe could produce it (but as I say, that was long ago and the thinking has definitely changed about many things since then).

 

>I would like to suggest that the companies had an interest in 

>selling manuscript playtexts to publishers: the demand for 

>printed plays would have meant that publishers would have been 

>willing to buy manuscript playtexts. Perhaps not offering as 

>much as the company had had to pay the original author, but 

>every little helped, and the absence of copyright meant that it 

>was in the company's interests to sell a text before an 

>"unauthorised" manuscript found its way to a publisher. I would 

>suggest that a staying entry represented an option to purchase a 

>manuscript from a playing company. This would have had the 

>advantage to the playing company of preventing any other 

>party selling the playtext while they were negotiating the 

>sale. The stationer making the entry could be buying time 

>to get a publication project off the ground (e.g. raising 

>finance, or doing what passed for market research), or 

>acting as an agent for the playing company in attempting 

>to sell on the project, all parties being protected in the 

>meantime. 

 

This seems reasonable. If a play cost the company ?6, which I understand was around the going rate, the ?2 or so the company earned back by selling it to a publisher would defray the original cost by a third and make it worthwhile. 

 

Tom Reedy

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:         John Briggs < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         February 11, 2010 12:12:51 PM EST

Subject: 21.0065  Staying Entries

Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0065  Staying Entries

 

Steve Roth wrote: 

 

>If Shakespeare only got his company sharer's share of the 

>ms price (who knows what their deal was), it was truly small 

>change--the equivalent of maybe $300 -> $400 today? So not a 

>lot of incentive to write plays twice as long as could be 

>played.

 

I'm suggesting that Shakespeare wasn't paid at all -- he was a Sharer, after all: his payment came as a share of the profits (both of the playhouse and of the acting company -- which one owned the plays would be an interesting question!)

 

So it would have made no difference to him how long the play was. But perhaps he just wrote long plays anyway: Richard III held the record until Hamlet came along, and nobody has suggested that he was a sharer in anything when he wrote Richard III.

 

But Shakespeare wasn't interested in his plays as literature: poetry was the thing for him.

 

John Briggs

 

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