The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0031 Thursday, 14 January 2010
Date: Tuesday, 12 Jan 2010 17:19:08 +0000
Subject: 21.0022 Was Shakespeare a member of a guild?
Comment: Re: SHK 21.0022 Was Shakespeare a member of a guild?
William Sutton wrote:
>My question involves any kind of Guild in which there might be records
>not yet plumbed for information. The Guilds were active in Europe from
>the Middle Ages through the Renaissance. Cities and towns all over
>England had guilds and members. Whether or not they kept records is a
>matter for local archives.
You should investigate "Records of Early English Drama" (REED).
>The mystery plays were performed by guild members and as such the guilds
>fall within the remit of theatrical history. We know that the 1574 Act
>sent players scrambling for patronage of Noblemen, but that fact
>detracts and distracts from the rise of the public playhouses and
>troupes of individual players who were in it for the money i.e. as a
>trade. After all apprentices were trained to follow their masters.
You are still confusing several issues. We talked about the livery
companies because they were the guilds for the City of London - and it
was only London which had public playhouses. In other towns and cities
travelling players used improvised locations. The mystery plays were put
on by the guilds themselves - if guild members performed in them, it was
as amateurs not as professionals. It is thought that the richer or more
ambitious guilds *did* employ some professionals, but where they got
them is a bit of a mystery (hah!) There is some evidence for parish
clerks being hired to organise the guild productions, and some of them
may have had semi-professional careers as actors. We are talking here,
of course, about the pre-Reformation period and the larger cities (York,
N-Town, etc). In cathedral cities, the choirboys would have been used in
plays, and this becomes important in London *after* the Reformation,
because there wasn't much singing for them to do. (It is a paradox that
the theatre at this time was essentially a Protestant art-form, but many
of those taking part in it were Catholics.)
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