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New Article on the Blackfriars Theatre

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.375  Thursday, 28 August 2014


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

Date:         August 28, 2014 at 8:02:26 AM EDT

Subject:    New Article on the Blackfriars Theatre


27 August 2014New Article on the Blackfriars Theatre by Peter C. Herman & his SDSU Class!


Conjectural reconstruction. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.



MoEML’s Pedagogical Partnership Project comes to fruition! This month, we published our first encyclopedia article prepared by a group of students at another institution working under the guest editorship of their onsite instructor.


Professor Peter C. Herman ably guided fourteen upper-level undergraduate students (Ryan Brothers, Shaun Deilke, Amber Dodson, Elaine Flores, Alexandra Gardella, Roy Gillespie, Ashley Gumienny, Mark Jacobo, Karen Kluchonic, Alyssa Lammers, Cassady Lynch, Douglas Payne, Andres Villota, Andrea Wilkum) at San Diego State University through the ins and outs of early modern research in order collectively to produce a nearly 6,000-word scholarly article on the Blackfriars Theatre.


Their excellent new contribution includes details of the repertory, theatrical practices, architecture, and audiences of both the first and second Blackfriars Theatres, as well as information on some of the key figures (including Richard Farrant, James Burbage, and his sons, Richard Burbage and Cuthbert Burbage) involved in both theatres’ history.


MoEML would like to thank Peter Herman and his class for being such intrepid and enthusiastic pilot participants in our pedagogical experiment. We think the results demonstrate just how successfully instructors can enagage their undergraduate students in scholarly research. Furthermore, their work has the wonderful potential to help students elsewhere learn more about early modern London. Indeed, MoEML has received positive feedback from another scholar who has already used this new article on the Blackfriars in her own teaching. Congratulations, Peter and SDSU students!


HERE is the article on The Blackfriars Theatre in The Map of Early Modern London:


Blackfriars Theatre


History of the Blackfriars Precinct

The history of the two Blackfriars theatres is long and fraught with legal and political struggles. The story begins in 1276, when King Edward I gave to the Dominican order five acres of land. To accommodate their buildings, they were allowed to tear down a small section of London’s city wall in order to provide their new precinct a north and north-west boundary (Chambers 475; Stow sig. B5r-B5v). Although the Dominicans first encountered significant opposition to their construction plans by the Dean and Canons of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was only two hundred yards away, in 1278 they started construction and eventually erected a very large church and what must have been a substantial group of surrounding structuress, no trace of which remains today.


Still, these buildings must have been impressive, as over the course of three hundred years they were often used for important government functions. As John Stow puts it:


This was a large church, and richly furniſhed with Ornaments: wherein diuers Parliaments and other great méetings hath béene holden: namely in the yeare one thouſand foure hundred and fiftie, the twentie eight of Henry the ſixt, a Parliament was begun at Weſtminſter, and adiourned to the Blacke-Fryers in London. In the yeare, 1527. the Emperor Charles the fifth, was lodged there. In the yeare 1524. the fiftéenth of Aprill, a Parliament was begun at the Black-Fryers, wherein was demaunded a ſubſidie of 800000. pound to bee rayſed of goodes and lands [...] In the yeare 1529. Cardinal Campenis the Legat with Cardinall Woolſey, ſate at yͤ ſaid Black Fryers, where before them as Legats and Iudges, was brought in queſtion the Kings marriage with Quéen Kathren as to be vnlawfull, before whom thè King and Quéen were cited and ſummoned to appeare [...] The ſame yeare in the moneth of October, begā a Parliament in the Blacke-Fryers, in the which Cardinall Woolſey was condemned in the priminerie [...] (Stow sig. T2r)


Less spectacularly but equally significantly for theatre history, in 1529 Henry VIII chose the Blackfriars site as the office for the King’s Revels and as a storehouse for props, properties, and costumes (Smith 14).


History of the Blackfriars Precinct

The history of the two Blackfriars theatres is long and fraught with legal and political struggles. The story begins in 1276, when King Edward I gave to the Dominican order five acres of land. To accommodate their buildings, they were allowed to tear down a small section of London’s city wall in order to provide their new precinct a north and north-west boundary (Chambers 475; Stow sig. B5r-B5v). Although the Dominicans first encountered significant opposition to their construction plans by the Dean and Canons of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was only two hundred yards away, in 1278 they started construction and eventually erected a very large church and what must have been a substantial group of surrounding structuress, no trace of which remains today.


Still, these buildings must have been impressive, as over the course of three hundred years they were often used for important government functions. As John Stow puts it:


This was a large church, and richly furniſhed with Ornaments: wherein diuers Parliaments and other great méetings hath béene holden: namely in the yeare one thouſand foure hundred and fiftie, the twentie eight of Henry the ſixt, a Parliament was begun at Weſtminſter, and adiourned to the Blacke-Fryers in London. In the yeare, 1527. the Emperor Charles the fifth, was lodged there. In the yeare 1524. the fiftéenth of Aprill, a Parliament was begun at the Black-Fryers, wherein was demaunded a ſubſidie of 800000. pound to bee rayſed of goodes and lands [...] In the yeare 1529. Cardinal Campenis the Legat with Cardinall Woolſey, ſate at yͤ ſaid Black Fryers, where before them as Legats and Iudges, was brought in queſtion the Kings marriage with Quéen Kathren as to be vnlawfull, before whom thè King and Quéen were cited and ſummoned to appeare [...] The ſame yeare in the moneth of October, begā a Parliament in the Blacke-Fryers, in the which Cardinall Woolſey was condemned in the priminerie [...] (Stow sig. T2r)


Less spectacularly but equally significantly for theatre history, in 1529 Henry VIII chose the Blackfriars site as the office for the King’s Revels and as a storehouse for props, properties, and costumes (Smith 14).


Theatrical Practices

Lyly’s plays also give us some indication of the kinds of productions the Blackfriars space allowed. Each requires two doors cut through the back wall or prop, use an inner stage that is revealed to the audience by way of a curtain, and the stage had a trap door in the floor of the platform (Smith 138-41). Also the stage area was much smaller than the outdoor theatre, which meant the audience saw a different kind of play:


Smaller playing areas meant less reliance on fencing and acrobatics, stable features of plays by adult troupes. Better acoustics allowed dramatists to call for subtler and more varied musical effects, a distinct advantage for choirboy companies, trained in signing and the playing of instruments [...] The intimacy of a hall playhouse or a banqueting hall at court also encouraged dramatists to write for socially cohesive audiences capable of appreciating subtle allusions to specific individuals, issues and situations and to shared concerns about events the world of the play.(Shapiro 134-35)


The new space, in other words, resulted in new artistic strategies.

Sadly, however, property rights eventually triumphed over dramatic success. In 1584, Sir William More finally succeeded in retaking possession of his property, and he ejected the Children of the Chapel after eight years of playing.


The 12 Year Hiatus

The first Blackfriars theatre closed in 1584 and the second Blackfriars theatre would not open until early 1596. In the interim, the Blackfriars complex was turned to commercial uses. The original Parliament Chamber, the upper rooms that once hosted the Children of the Chapel, first became a pipe office (meaning, a records office) for England’s Exchequer (meaning, the national treasurer), and were later rented to William de Laune, Doctor of Physic (Smith 156, 471). The room located below the playhouse was leased to a William Joyner, who turned it into a fencing school. Rocco Bonetti, one of the best fencing masters of Elizabethan England, subsequently bought the school and operated it until early 1596.


During the period that the Blackfriars space was not used for putting on plays, English drama became a major economic and artistic industry. The theatre became an institution. New playhouses were built (Smith 158), such as the Rose in 1587. However, opposition to drama still continued, and actors were still classed as rogues or sturdy beggars unless they gained the patronage of a great person or peer or the realm. It is no accident that most of the theatres in this period were constructed outside of London’s city limits and so beyond the easy reach of London’s city fathers.7


The Second Blackfriars Theatre

Despite the hiatus in playing, the Blackfriars liberty remained an attractive place for a theatre, and James Burbage, who had built the Theatre (1576), had his eye on it. Burbage was no stranger to controversy, nor was he a man to back down. He was, in the words of a contemporary, a stubburne man (qtd. in Edmond). During the litigation over the Theatre, his once-partner and brother-in-law, John Brayne tried to show Burbage a copy of an old court order about contempt. Burbage dismissed this as A paper which he might wype his tale with (qtd. in Edmond). Despite the obvious obstacles, Burbage clearly sensed the commercial possibilities of another theatre at Blackfriars. As Smith argues, Burbage knew that a playhouse in the Blackfriars precinct would give the company unrivaled advantages and prestige. For the first time, a company of adult actors would have a playhouse within the City walls [...] It would be in one of the most fashionable districts of London (161). Somehow, Burbage convinced Sir William More to sell him the Blackfriars property without letting on what his purpose might be, and on 4 February 1596, the sale was completed (Smith 471-75).


However, things did not go smoothly. Once his wealthy neighbors heard about his project, they sent a petition to the Privy Council asking that the project be shut down:


That whereas one Burbage hath lately bought certain rooms in the same precinct, near adjoining unto the dwelling houses of the right honorable the Lord Chamberlain and the Lord of Hunsdon, which rooms the said Burbage is now altering and meaneth very shortly to convert and turn the same into a common playhouse, which will grow to be a very great annoyance and trouble, not only to all the noblemen and gentlemen thereabout inhabiting, but also a general inconvenience to all the inhabitants of the same precinct, both by reason for the great resort and gathering together of all manner of vagrant and lewd persons that, under color of resorting to the plays, will come thither and work all manner of mischief, and also to the great pestering and filling up of the same precinct, if it should please God to send any visitation of sickness as heretofore hath been, for that the same precinct is already grown very populous; and besides that the same playhouse is so near the church that the noise of the rums and trumpets will greatly disturb and hinder both the ministers and parishioners in time of divine service and sermons. (transcribed in Smith 480)


The petition also describes how actors, banished by the Lord Mayor from playing within the City (explaining why all the other theatres were situated outside London’s authority), now think to plant themselves in liberties (transcribed in Smith 480). The petitioners then asked the Council to take order that the same rooms may be converted to some other use, and that no playhouse may be used or kept there (Smith 480-81). The Privy Council agreed and promptly ordered that the property not be used for a common playhouse.


After the Privy Council’s order, it seemed certain that there would be no further theatrical performances in the Blackfriars liberty. Burbage, who went to his grave in 1597, died probably thinking that his project had entirely miscarried and that he bequeathed his son Richard, nothing but debt—Burbage gave his other son, Cuthbert, his lease on the Theatre, which had its own legal problems (Smith 173). Richard, however, had a brilliant idea. Seizing on the phrase common playhouse, he realized that the petitioners had in mind an adult company, such as those presently inhabiting The Theatre, The Swan, and The Red Bull. Richard therefore decided to turn the property into a private theatre: an indoor theatre featuring a company of children. So he turned to the same Henry Evans who had briefly managed Farrant’s company and in 1600, rented the hall to him for a period of twenty-one years (Smith 175).


Architecture and Audiences

While the second Blackfriars theatre may have had the same manager as the first, they would present a very different type of drama in a significantly reconfigured space. Burbage installed his theatre in what once was the Parliament chamber, otherwise known as the Upper Frater. While there are no primary source documents telling us what exactly the theatre looked like, we can safely assume that this space was beautiful. According to the lease and the various documents produced by subsequent litigation, the theatre was also very small: 66 feet long 46 feet wide, considerably less than the outdoor, public stages (Smith 165; Gurr 193). The theatre space itself was significantly altered from the first Blackfriars theatre. The stage had to be higher to accommodate the apparatus used in celestial flights (Smith 167). In addition, the floor had two trap doors (the original had only one). However, the most important change concerned the seating. Whereas the audience in the first theatre sat on benches, the audience for the second Blackfriars theatre had a variety of options. The theatre’s patrons could, if they chose and if they could afford it, sit on the stage itself: The tiring-house provided separate and privileged access for up to fifteen gallants, who pad an extra sixpence for a stool so that they could view the play from the stage itself (Gurr 194). Numerous plays, especially Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle (written 1607; published 1613) testify to how the audience and the players seemed to mingle on the stage, with the gallants as much the object of the audience’s appreciation as the play itself. In addition, Burbage created at least two, possibly three, ranges of galleries, which curbed around the auditorium. The audience was literally wrapped around the stage (Gurr 195).


Admission prices at Blackfriars started at sixpence for entry to the topmost gallery. One more shilling purchased a space on a bench in the pit, and a seat on the stage cost about two shillings (Gurr 195; Aaron 88). The prices at the Globe, on the other hand, started at a penny, making the least expensive ticket at Blackfriars six times the price. The higher prices at Blackfriars helped make up for the smaller audience—the smaller theatre accommodated approximately 500 patrons, as opposed to the Globe’s 2000 (Aaron 88)—and they helped keep out the groundlings, thus maintaining the Blackfriar’s elite reputation. Also, the prices reversed the convention for the public theatres, where the audience nearest the stage paid the least.


Playing Style

Just as with the first Blackfriars theatre, the intimacy of the space required a different style of playing and theatrical presentation. Whereas outdoor theatres, such as the Globe, could use loud instruments, such as drums and trumpets, the Blackfriars stage called for more subtle, quieter instruments, such as cornets or hautboys, the ancestor of the oboe (Gurr 192). At the Globe, plays were continuous, but at the Blackfriars, the Children and later the The King’s Men used intermissions to separate the acts (Smith 226-27). The more enclosed space also called for subtler acting requiring new delicacies of expression (Smith 249). But perhaps most importantly, the indoor theatre required candles for lighting, not sunshine (more on this below).


The Children of the Chapel

The theatre company that occupied the second Blackfriars theatre, the Children of the Chapel, was comprised, as the name says, of children, not adults, and the manner by which the company acquired its actors still shocks the conscience. In 1597, Queen Elizabeth issued a memorandum granting Nathaniel Giles the right to impress children, meaning, he was authorized to take such and so many children as he or his sufficient deputy shall think meet [any place] with this our realm of England, whatsoever they be (Smith 482). Giles had the right, in other words, to legally kidnap any child he wanted for his company.8


But on 13 December 1600, Giles and Henry Evans took the wrong child. Thomas Clifton, son of the influential gentleman, Henry Clifton (Smith 182) was snatched while on his way to school and the outraged father bitterly complained to the Privy Council:


they, the said confederates,9 devised, conspired, and concluded for their own corrupt gain and lucre, to erect, set up, furnish to maintain a playhouse or place in the Blackfriars; and to the end they might the better their furnish their said plays and interludes with children whom they thought most fittest to act and furnish the said plays, they, the said confederates [...] most wrongfully, unduly and unjustly taken divers and several children from divers and sundry schools of learning and other places, and apprentices to men of trade from their masters [...] against the wills of the said children, their parents, tutors, masters and governors, and to the no small grief and oppressions [of] your Majesty’s true and faithful subjects.(Smith 484-85)


Henry Clifton managed to free his son by getting a warrant from Sir John Fortescue, a very high-ranking member of the Privy Council. Clifton then sued the Children of the Chapel. While the record of the court’s decision has been lost, a subsequent deposition on an unrelated matter ten years later revealed that Evans was censured by the right honorable court of Star Chamber for his unorderly carriage and behavior in taking up gentlemen’s children against their wills (qtd. in Smith 184). But other than this slap on the wrist, clearly the practice continued, and the young Clifton’s return to his family was the exception rather than rule.



The plays presented at the second Blackfriars theatre were enormously popular. One reason might be that the Children employed some of the finest playwrights in the land, such as Ben Jonson, John Marston, Thomas Middleton, and George Chapman. Another reason might be the plays themselves. Almost every drama acted by the Children between 1600-1608 satirized or ridiculed the government, the Court, and the King himself (Smith 191). The fact that these audacious productions were acted by children only added to the Blackfriars’ popularity, even making them serious rivals of adult companies. The idea behind the controversial plays was that satire bred sensationalism, and sensationalism attracted crowds (Smith 191). Essentially, the farther they crossed the line, the more popular, and even notorious, they became, and the more money the boys made for their managers.


The Children’s management may have thought that the age of the actors protected them from retribution. Thomas Heywood, in his Apology for Actors (1608), condemns the inveighing against the state, the court, the law, the city, put into the mouths of child-actors, assuming that their juniority to be a privilege for any railing, be it never so violent (qtd. in Smith 192). While the actors may have enjoyed a certain immunity, the writers did not. For writing Philotas (1604), a play based on the career of Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, who lost his head for leading a failed rebellion against Elizabeth in 1601, Samuel Daniel was hauled before the Privy Council, where he had to disclaim any sympathy for the discredited Earl. Still, Philotas appeared in print the following year. In 1605, Eastward Ho!10, written by Ben Jonson, George Chapman, and John Marston, ridiculed the Scottish countrymen that had followed King James to London, and, in consequence, Jonson and Chapman were jailed and at risk of having their noses slit and their ears cropped. Marston, who was said by his collaborators to have been the principal offender, managed to escape punishment by going into hiding (Smith 192). After this incident, the Children of the Queen’s Revels did not appear in court again. John Day’s The Isle of Gulls (1606), which jabbed at court scandals, led James to order the playhouse closed, and the Queen to withdraw her patronage. The Children were thereafter simply dubbed the Children of the Revels, or the Children of Blackfriars.


After the incident, the troupe found itself under the management of Robert Keysar, and managed to stay out of trouble until March 1608, when they offended for the final time with George Chapman’s The Conspiracy and the Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron. The play’s mockery of the French king’s domestic affairs made James so angry that he ordered the imprisonment of some of the players, as well as the disbanding of the troupe, and the closing of the playhouse (Smith 193). This action put an end to the tenure of child actors at Blackfriars. Henry Evans ceded the lease to Richard Burbage, who took over the playhouse and began plans to use the Blackfriars theatre for his company, now the The King’s Men.


The King’s Men

After Elizabeth’s death in 1603, James VI of Scotland ascended the throne, becoming King James I of England. Two months later, he issued a commission stating these our servants, Lawrence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillips, John Heminges, Henry Condell, William Sly, Robert Armin, Richard Crowley, and the best of their associates’ to be known thereafter as the The King’s Men (Smith 244). Despite the earlier opposition, occasionally renewed but never successfully, Burbage decided to use the Blackfriars theatre as an indoor home for the The King’s Men. Burbage took over the playhouse in 1608, but did not open it for business until 1610. One reason for the delay might have been the condition of the theatre itself. The Children of the Revels might have been highly successful in producing political satires, but they did nothing to maintain the building. According to a deposition taken in one of the endless lawsuits over the property, the theatre and surrounding structures were then dilapidated in various parts and unrepaired (transcribed in Smith 517). Another reason might be an outbreak of the plague in 1608, which closed all the theatres as a means of containing the disease.


Starting in 1610, the The King’s Men began a pattern that would last until the company’s dissolution. They would use the Globe during the summer months, and move to Blackfriars from about the middle of October through to May. Even though Blackfriars was significantly smaller than the Globe, records show that playing for London’s elite—indeed, the audience was sufficiently elevated that Charles I’s wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, attended performances in 1632, 1634, 1636, and 1638—was much more profitable. According to gate receipts for the years 1628-1633, the earning capacity of Blackfriars was nearly two and a half times as great as that of the Globe (Smith 263; see also Aaron 164-69).


Traffic Problems

Success, however, brought its own difficulties. In 1619, the residents of the Blackfriars precinct lodged a complaint by divers honorable persons to the Lord Mayor of London over traffic problems:

We desire your Lordship and your brethren to help us to some remedy therein, that we may go to our houses in safety and enjoy the benefit of the streets without apparent danger, which now, we assure your Lordship, neither we that are inhabitants, nor any other of his Majesty’s subjects having occasion that way, either by land or water, can do; for such is the unruliness of some of the resorters to that house, and of coaches, horses and people of all sorts gathered together by that occasion in those narrow and crooked streets, that many hurts have heretofore been thereby done, and [we] fear it will at some time or other hereafter procure much more, if it be not by your wisdoms prevented.(transcribed in Smith 491)


London’s city fathers were sympathetic, and their order closing the theatre goes into even more detail than the original complaint:

There is daily so great resort of people, and so great multitude of coaches, whereof many are hackney coaches bringing people of all sorts, that sometimes all their streets cannot contain them, that they endanger one the other, break down stalls, throw down men’s goods from their shops, hinder the passage of the inhabitants there to and from their houses, let prevent] the bringing in of their necessary provisions , that the tradesmen and shopkeepers cannot utter their wares, nor the passengers go to the common water stairs without danger of their lives and limbs, whereby many times quarrels and effusion of blood hath followed, and the minister and people disturbed at the administration of the sacrament of baptism and public prayers in the afternoons.(transcribed in Smith 493)


Even so, the order to close the Blackfriars theatre was ignored. The same complaint would be registered in 1633, with the same result. Finally, the Privy Council issued an order on the matter, but, instead of shutting down the theatre, they decided to try to control traffic: as many coaches as may stand within the Blackfriars Gate may enter and stay there, or return thither at the end of the play (transcribed in Smith 499). On the success of this order, the archives are silent.


Playgoer Behaviour

Uproars and the potential for effusion of blood were not restricted to the streets outside the theatre. One notable skirmish occurred in 1632 between Lord Thurles, soon to become Earl of Ormond, who had spent a minimum of two shillings for a place on the stage, and Captain Charles Essex, accompanied by the wife of the Earl of Essex, who paid at least half-a-crown to sit in one of the boxes flanking the stage. The following episode occurred because Lord Thurles decided to stand, not sit on a stool, and thus blocked Essex’s view:


Captain Essex told his lord, they had payd for their places as well as hee, and therefore intreated him not to deprive them of the benefit of it. Whereupon the lord stood up yet higher and hindred more their sight. Then Capt. Essex with his hand putt him a little by. The lord then drewe his sword and ran full butt at him, though hee missed him, and might have slaine the Countesse as well as him.(qtd. in Berry 165)


The Captain complained to the Star Chamber. Remarkably, even though he was a professional soldier and Lord Thurles an aristocrat, the court found for the plaintiff, and Lord Thurles had to verbally apologize to Captain Essex (Berry 166).



Despite the occasional quarrel within the theatre, traffic congestion without, and the ongoing hostility of London’s authorities, the The King’s Men remained the pre-eminent theatre company in England. The Database of Early English Playbooks (DEEP) records over one hundred printed plays that advertized their performance at the Blackfriars theatre. The repertory included first performances of plays by the leading playwrights of the late Jacobean and Caroline era, such as Francis Beaumont, John Marston, John Fletcher, and William Davenant as well as revivals of Shakespeare’s Othello (1622, 1630), The Taming of the Shrew (1631), Love’s Labours Lost (1631), John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi (1623), and even the play that brought an end to the Children of the Revels, George Chapman’s The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles Duke of Byron (1625). Scholars today are divided on whether the The King’s Men created a separate repertory for the Globe and the Blackfriars based on the class and taste of each clientele, the assumption being that the Globe, attracting a lower class audience, would be better suited to older, cruder plays whereas the more sophisticated audience at the Blackfriars would require more complex plays (Knutson 54-55).


However, there is incontrovertible evidence that at least some plays were performed at both venues. The title page of the 1622 Othello states that the play hath beene diverse times acted at the Globe and at the Blackfriars, and the title page of the 1623 Duchess of Malfi says that the play was presented Privately at the Blackfriars and publiquely at the Globe. Yet while the The King’s Men did not seem to distinguish in terms of which plays they performed at which theatre, the style of acting must have been very different. One imagines that Iago’s statement I hate the Moor (Othello 1.3.717) would be delivered loudly at the Globe. At the Blackfriars, it could be delivered in almost a stage whisper, thus giving the line much more venom and force (Edelstein). Similarly, Ferdinand’s exclamation in The Duchess of Malfi, Damne her, that body of hers, / While that my blood ran pure in’t, was more worth / Then, that which thou wouldſt comfort, (call’d a ſoule) might be played as a rant at the Globe (sig. I3r). The intimate space at the Blackfriars allowed for the actor to express much more psychological depth.



For all their success, the The King’s Men could not avoid the political currents of the English Revolution, and on 2 September 1642, the Blackfriars theatre was closed and the company dispersed following the ordinance adopted by the House of Commons and the House of Lords:


Whereas the distressed Estate of Ireland, steeped in her own Blood, and the distracted Estate of England, threatned with a Cloud of Blood, by a Civil Warre, call for all possible means to appease and avert the Wrath of God appearing in these Judgements; amongst which, Fasting and Prayer having bin often tried to be very effectuall, have bin lately, and are still enjoyed; and whereas publike Sports doe not well agree with publike Calamities, nor publike Stage-plays with the Seasons of Humiliation, this being an Exercise of sad and pious solemnity, and the other being Spectacles of pleasure, too commonly expressing lacivious Mirth and Levitie; It is therefore thought fit, and Ordeined by the Lords and Commons in this Parliament Assembled, that while these sad Causes and set times of Humiliation doe continue, publike State-Playes shall cease, and bee forborne.(qtd. in Smith 283)


In 1650, the The King’s Men petitioned Parliament for their right to play, pleading that they had long suffered in extreme want, being prohibited the use of their qualitie of Acting, in which they were trained up from their childhood, whereby they are uncapable of any other way to get subsistence, and are now fallen into such lamentable povertie, that they know not how to provide food for themselves, their wives and children (qtd. in Smith 285-87). This appeal was denied. On 6 August 1655, the Blackfriars theatre was torn down (Smith 286), and the Great Fire of London in 1666 erased the very last traces of this once grand playhouse (Smith 286).


Contemporary Reconstructions

The recent interest in recovering the original conditions of playing in Shakespeare’s time has led to at least one re-creation of the Blackfriars stage in America and to the re-creation of an indoor Jacobean theatre, not unlike Blackfriars theatre, in the United Kingdom. In 2001, the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia opened up the 300-seat Blackfriars Playhouse. On odd-numbered years, the ASC sponsors a conference on the Blackfriars theatre that brings in scholars from around the world. In 2014, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, named after the film director whose vision led to the rebuilding of the Globe Theatre, opened on the Bankside in the same complex as the reconstructed Globe. According to Farah Karim-Cooper, it is a more of an archetype of an indoor early modern playhouse rather than an exact replica of the Blackfriars theatre (Gurr and Karim-Cooper). The Wanamaker Theatre uses candles instead of electric lights. One of the authors of this article attended a performance of The Duchess of Malfi, and she reports that candelabras are lowered as the start of the performance nears, and each individual candle is carefully lit. During the play, the candelabras are lowered and raised during and between scenes, acting as theatrical props. This action has to be done very carefully, otherwise the candles would be snuffed out. A review of this performance notes the role and risk of using candles:


In the event, the candles, in sconces on the pillars and in hanging candelabra as well as carried by individuals, are less consistently striking as illumination than for their effect on pace. Candles slow the production down, and candelabra lowered to waist height constrict the already small stage to some paths along the front and sides. (Smith)


The soft, muted light influenced the mood of a scene, building tension and drama as the shadows of flames danced against backdrops and the faces of actors and audience members alike.


Additional Information from MoEML

For another essay on the Blackfriars theatre, a modern map marking the site where the it once stood, and a walking tour that will take you to the site, visit the Shakespearean London Theatres (ShaLT) pages for the first Blackfriars Theatre and the second Blackfriars Theatre.



Windsor Chapel refers to St George’s Chapel in Windsor. Richard Farrant was Master of the Windsor Chapel choir from 1564 onwards. (KMF)


Conjectural dates of first performance from Corrigan 7. (PCH)


Publication dates from DEEP. (PCH)


Corrigan marks this entry in his list with an asterisk, which indicates an uncertain ascription of play to playhouse: Either the date of the play is in serious question or the company’s ownership is uncertain. The * means likely (but there is some doubt) (Corrigan 5). (JJ)


Corrigan marks this entry in his list with an asterisk, which indicates an uncertain ascription of play to playhouse: Either the date of the play is in serious question or the company’s ownership is uncertain. The * means likely (but there is some doubt) (Corrigan 5). (JJ)


Corrigan marks this entry in his list with an asterisk, which indicates an uncertain ascription of play to playhouse: Either the date of the play is in serious question or the company’s ownership is uncertain. The * means likely (but there is some doubt) (Corrigan 5). Gurr gives the date as 1576-1580 (Gurr 298). Part of the problem in dating this play and linking it to a specific playhouse is the theory that the extant play is a post-Tamburlaine revision or adaptation of an earlier play about Cyrus by Richard Farrant. Critics will date the play to the 1590s if they believe it to be later than Tamburlaine, to the 1580s if they believe it to predate Tamburlaine, and to ca. 1578 if they believe it to be by Farrant, who died in 1580. See Chambers 3.311-12 and subsequent editions and articles by James P. Brawner, Irving Ribner, and G.K. Hunter. (JJ)


It is not true that the theatres and the areas known as the liberties were completely lawless and beyond the reach of authority. For example, London’s mayor and the Privy Council could, and did, shut down the theatres due to outbreaks of plague. But at the same time, early modern documents regularly distinguish between the city and the liberties. See Kozusko for an exceptionally intelligent treatment of liberties and the early modern theatre. (PCH)


James Burbage is not mentioned in either Elizabeth’s commission allowing Nathaniel Giles to impress children or in Henry Clifton’s complaint. But as stealing talented children was evidently a common practice, it is hard to imagine that he either did not know or disapproved of the practice. (PCH)


The confederates are Giles, Evans, James Robinson “and others yet” (Smith 484). (PCH)


See MoEML’s TEI-encoded transcription of Eastward Ho! (JT)



Aaron, Melissa. Global Economics: A History of the Theatre Business, the Chamberlain’s / King’s Men, and Their Plays, 1599-1642. Newark, DE: U of Delaware P, 2005. Print.


Adams, Joseph Quincy. The Conventual Buildings of Blackfriars, London, and the Playhouses Constructed Therein. Studies in Philology 14.2 (1917): 64-87. Print.


Berry, Herbert. The Stage and Boxes at Blackfriars. Studies in Philology 63.2 (1966): 163-86. Print. Web. Subscr. JSTOR.


Chambers, E.K. The Elizabethan Stage. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1923. Print.


Corrigan, Brian Jay. The Repertory of the London Playhouse Part II: The Children’s Houses St. Paul’s, First and Second Blackfriars, Whitefriars. Discoveries 20.1 (2003): 5-8. Web. Subscr. EBSCOhost.


DEEP: Database of Early English Playbooks. Ed. Alan B. Farmer and Zachary Lesser. Web.


Edelstein, Barry. Interview. San Diego State University. 21 April 2014.

Edmond, Mary. Burbage, James (c.1531–1597). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Web. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3950.


Egan, Gabriel, ed. Shakespearean London Theatres. De Montfort University and Victoria & Albert Museum. Web. Open.


Gosson, Stephen. Plays Confuted in Five Actions. London, 1582. STC 12095. Web. Subscr. EEBO.


Gurr, Andrew, and Farah Karim-Cooper, eds. Moving Shakespeare Indoors: Performance and Repertoire in the Jacobean Playhouse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Print.


Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. Print.


Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642. 4th ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. Print.


Knutson, Roslyn. What If There Wasn’t a ‘Blackfriars Repertory?’ Inside Shakespeare: Essays on the Blackfriars Stage. Ed. Paul Menzer. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna UP, 2006. 54-60. Print.


Kozusko, Matt. Taking Liberties. Early Theatre 9.1 (2006): 37-60. Web. Open.


Lyly, John. Campase. London, 1584. STC 17048a. Web. Subscr. EEBO.


Lyly, John. Sapho and Phao. London, 1584. STC 17086. Web. Subscr. EEBO.


Shakespeare, William. Othello. Internet Shakespeare Editions. 30 November 2013. Web. Open.


Shapiro, Michael. Early (Pre-1590) Boy Companies and their Acting Venues. The Oxford Handbook to Early Modern Theatre. Ed. Richard Dutton. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. 120-35. Print.


Smith, Emma. Review: Mirth that Fills the Veins with Blood. Times Literary Supplement. 5 March 2014. Web. Subscr. Times Literary Supplement.


Smith, Irwin. Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Playhouse: Its History and Its Design. New York: New York UP, 1964. Print.


Stow, John. A SVRVAY OF LONDON. Contayning the Originall, Antiquity, Increase, Moderne estate, and description of that Citie, written in the yeare 1598. by Iohn Stow Citizen of London. Also an Apologie (or defence) against the opinion of some men, concerning that Citie, the greatnesse thereof. With an Appendix, containing in Latine, Libellum de situ & nobilitate Londini: written by William Fitzstephen, in the raigne of Henry the second. Ed. Janelle Jenstad, Kim McLean-Fiander, and Nathan Phillips. MoEML. Transc. Web. Forthcoming. [Contact us if you would like to see our draft.]


Webster, John. The Tragedy of the Dutcheſſe of Malfy. London: Nicholas Okes, 1623. STC 25176. Web. Subscr. EEBO.

Formatting SHAKSPER Newsletter Articles

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.374  Tuesday, 26 August 2014


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

     Date:         August 22, 2014 at 2:20:48 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Requests


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

     Date:         August 22, 2014 at 4:29:33 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: Requests


[3] From:        Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         August 25, 2014 at 7:15:14 AM EDT

     Subject:    Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong


[4] From:        Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         Tuesday, August 26, 2014

     Subject:     Spaces




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

Date:         August 22, 2014 at 2:20:48 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Requests


I’m afraid it will be difficult for me not to type two spaces after a period; it’s ingrained in my muscle memory. But I confess that there are times when extra spacing might be confusing. For example: There are numerous places in the Riverside (both editions) where something like two spaces appear in places where other editions have a comma. It occurred to me that this might have been a deliberate effort by the editors to denote a pause shorter than that suggested by a comma, and I took to calling in a “semi-comma.” In a brief correspondence I had with G.B. Evans, he told me that no one else had ever noticed this phenomenon. He explained that this was pretty much an accident. The editors’ decisions to delete some commas were made after the type had already been set up. To avoid the possibility of creating other errors, they decided to leave in the extra leading, expecting that no one would notice. No one, with evidently one exception, did.


The foregoing paragraph has only one space between sentences. It looks ugly to me and looking at it as a bloc of type it strikes me as a chore to read.



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

Date:         August 22, 2014 at 4:29:33 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: Requests




I'll have to risk offending Hardy by disagreeing with him.


The current MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (New York, 2005) says “. . . there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding punctuation marks . . .” (p. 78).


There are good reasons to do so. One is that your electronic text will thereby have a unique marker (that may be searched for) showing where each sentence ends. That marker is the sequence “period-space-space”.  If you type only one space after a period, then your sentence-ending marker of “period-space” is indistinguishable from other parts of your text, such as (and Hardy was explicit about this) the ellipsis marked by “period-space-period-space-period”.


So useful is the “period-space-space” convention for ending sentences that the world’s most powerful text editing software, called “vi”, has this convention built into it: there’s a short-cut button for moving through your document sentence by sentence. It’s an incredibly useful way to move around a text and if you’re still using a mouse or scroll keys to move about, you’ll be amazed at how much faster you can work if you move in sentences.  (If anybody is interested in how to force the world’s least useful but best-selling text editor, Microsoft Word, to move by sentences, I’d be happy to explain.)


But, says the article Hardy quotes, this whole “period-space-space” convention came from the typewriter’s monospaced font, and we’ve moved beyond that. Actually, no we haven’t. Unless you’re producing camera-ready copy for publication, you should give people your writing in a 12pt monospaced font such as Courier. It’s not your place as the author to choose typefaces and sizes: it’s the publisher’s (for print) and/or the reader’s (for digital). If I want to reader your words in 19pt Comic Sans, that’s my affair as a reader.


Lastly, there’s another practical reason to produce your work in simple monospaced fonts like Courier.  The British Library is getting every university library in the UK to digitize and OCR their PhD dissertations to make this scholarship available to all readers.  (It’s the BL’s EThOS project.) Dissertations produced on typewriters in the 1920-1980s scan and OCR almost perfectly, as monospaced fonts are predictable and widely spaced. But dissertations made with fancy word-processing software using proportionally space fonts in the 1990-2000s are significantly less accurately OCRd. So, the price for having what the candidate thought was a beautifully modern-looking computer typeset dissertation is a failure to make the leap to the next level of technological enhancement.


The typographical aesthetes who shudder when they see a monospaced font are like the medieval monks who shuddered at the unilluminated bibles coming off the early printed presses: they’ve simply misunderstood what matters most about the written word, which is getting the widest possible dissemination.


Gabriel Egan


[Editor’s Note: I am a fairly big boy and can stand disagreement, especially when that disagreement leads me to a greater understanding of an issue. Thanks, Gabriel. –Hardy]



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

Date:         August 25, 2014 at 7:15:14 AM EDT

Subject:    Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong


I saw the following on one of Dave Kathman’s Facebook postings. 


Heraclitean River

You can never step into the same river twice. .


Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong Ior, lies typographers tell about history)


The topic of spacing after a period (or “full stop” in some parts of the world) has received a lot of attention in recent years. The vitriol that the single-space camp has toward the double-spacers these days is quite amazing, and typographers have made up an entire fake history to justify their position.


The story usually goes something like this:


Once upon a time, typographical practice was anarchy.  Printers put in all sizes of spaces in haphazard ways, including after periods.  Then, a standard emerged: the single space after a period.  Unfortunately, the evil typewriter came along, and for some unknown reason (usually blamed on monospace fonts), people began to put wider double spaces after periods.  Typographers railed against the practice, but they could do nothing.  Actual printed work used the single space, but the morons with their typewriters could not be stopped.  Early computers and printers used similar monospace typefaces, and the evil persisted.  Then, in the past couple decades, it became possible to use proportional fonts easily, and finally typographers could step in and save the day again with their single sentence spaces!  The only people today who continue to use double spaces are stodgy old typing teachers and ignorant fools, who dare to think that their practice is okay in the face of the verdict of the experts in typography.


A short version of this story is told, for example, by Grammar Girl in her advice on this question.  But perhaps the worst offender in the promulgation of such nonsense is a particularly self-righteous piece in Slate from earlier this year.  We are told, “Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren’t for a quirk of history,” i.e., the typewriter.  And we are told that the one-space rule derives from the expert experiences of publishers developed over many years: “We adopted these standards because practitioners of publishing—writers, editors, typographers, and others—settled on them after decades of experience.  Among their rules was that we should use one space after a period instead of two—so that’s how we should do it.”  As to why they believe this to be so, it’s because double spaces are “ugly”: “A page of text with two spaces between every sentence looks riddled with holes; a page of text with an ordinary space looks just as it should.”


The author, Farhad Manjoo, is astounded to find so many educated and ignorant people who apparently believe that two spaces are okay.  He even polls people over Thanksgiving dinner, just so he can tell them how wrong they are!  The author subsequently decides to go on a mission to show them why they are wrong, resulting in the linked article.


Unfortunately, this whole story is a fairy tale, made up by typographers to make themselves feel like they are correct in some absolute way.  The account is riddled with historical fabrication.  Here are some facts:

  • There were earlier standards before the single-space standard, and they involved much wider spaces after sentences.
  • Typewriter practice actually imitated the larger spaces of the time when typewriters first came to be used.  They adopted the practice of proportional fonts into monospace fonts, rather than the other way around.
  • Literally centuries of typesetters and printers believed that a wider space was necessary after a period, particularly in the English-speaking world.  It was the standard since at least the time that William Caslon created the first English typeface in the early 1700s (and part of a tradition that went back further), and it was not seriously questioned among English or American typesetters until the 1920s or so.
  • The “standard” of one space is maybe 60 years old at the most, with some publishers retaining wider spaces as a house style well into the 1950s and even a few in the 1960s.
  • As for the “ugly” white space, the holes after the sentence were said to make it easier to parse sentences.  Earlier printers had advice to deal with the situations where the holes became too numerous or looked bad.
  • The primary reasons for the move to a single uniform space had little to do with a consensus among expert typographers concerning aesthetics.  Instead, the move was driven by publishers who wanted cheaper publications, decreasing expertise in the typesetting profession, and new technology that made it difficult (and sometimes impossible) to conform to the earlier wide-spaced standards.

The lies do not just come from random Slate writers or bloggers, but also established typographers, who seem to refuse the clear evidence that they could easily see if they examine the majority of books printed before 1925 or so.  Even an authority like Robert Bringhurst is foolish enough not to do his research before claiming that double spacing is a “quaint Victorian habit” that originated in the “dark and inflationary age in typography” of the (presumably mid to late) nineteenth century.


The Chicago Manual of Style editors similarly show a great deal of ignorance when one of them states on an official question-and-answer page: “I’ve noticed in old American books printed in the few decades before and after the turn of the last century (ca. 1870–1930 at least) that there seemed to be a trend in publishing to use extra space (sometimes quite a bit of it) after periods.”


It’s a pity this editor apparently hasn’t bothered to look at most books published for centuries before 1870 or at many published even decades after 1930.  It’s an even greater pity that this editor didn’t even bother to look at previous editions of the Chicago Manual itself!  (As we shall soon see, this was not some minor trend, but accepted practice, as the early editions of the Chicago Manual demonstrate.)


Typographers seem eager to dismiss wider spaces as some sort of fad, either something ugly that originated with typewriters, or some sort of Victorian excess that lasted for a few brief decades and quickly petered out.  But this is simply not the case.  As we will explore presently, the large space following a period was an established convention for English-language publishers (and many others in Europe) in the 1700s, if not before, and it did not truly begin to fade completely until around 1950.


While the modern convention is the single space, it is no less arbitrary than any other, and if you believe that larger spaces after periods look better in some situation, you should feel confident that your choice is supported by hundreds of years of good typographical practice.  For the record, before we go further, my preference is not for double-spacing, but for a slightly larger sentence space, about 1.5 times an interword space for most typefaces.  But unlike the modern single-space fanatics, I don’t judge anyone’s aesthetic preferences, nor will I try to make up fairy tales using fabricated history to convince you.


Early Sources (before 1870, i.e., pre-typewriter)

Spacing practices for the first couple centuries of the printing press were quite variable.  But they began to coalesce into certain sets of standards in the 1600s, which became accepted conventions in the 1700s.  More than a century before our Chicago Manual editor’s 1870 cut-off date, printers in England and America had relegated the idea of a large space after the period to the standard introductory rules taught to the beginning typesetter.


As an aside, here’s my own theory about the Chicago Manual editor’s made-up date of 1870: that’s right about the time that the first commercially available typewriter started to be sold.  However, since the practice was standard for over a century before this date, the whole “big spaces after periods come from typewriters” claim is clearly a myth.


Take, for example, the advice given by Philip Luckombe in The History and Art of Printing (London, 1771):


Another rule that is inculcated into beginners, is, to use an m quadrat [i.e., an em-quad] after a Full-point [period]: but at the same time they should be informed, not to do it, where an Author is too sententious, and makes several short periods [sentences] in one Paragraph.  In such case the many Blanks of m-quadrats will be contemptuously called Pigeon-holes; which, and other such trifles, often betray a Compositor’s judgment, who may be a good workman else.


An em-quad (here called an “m-quadrat”) is a relatively large space, the width of an entire M in a particular font.  It gets its name from its square shape, the width of an M on all sides.  In contrast, Luckombe calls for an en-quad (about half the size) after other punctuation, and in normal “Lower-case matter a middling Space makes a sufficient separation” between words.


This quotation is intriguing not only for its early statement of the use of relatively large spaces after periods as a clear and standard rule “inculcated into beginners,” but also for the offering of a solution for one of the biggest supposed bugaboos of the wide sentence space, namely the “Pigeon-holes” (today called rivers) that occur when short sentences lead to the joining of these wide spaces on consecutive lines, producing the effect of white holes in the text block.  Luckombe simply says: yes, this is a problem, but a good typesetter will realize it is a problem, and in this particular case, he will adjust the spaces to avoid the holes.  Indeed.  That’s what good typesetting is all about.  No “rule” is ever absolute; it must always yield to the aesthetics of a particular case.  The single-space absolutists might learn something from their forebears.


And by the way, this is only a short excerpt of the complex rules and special cases that printers considered. Occasionally, modern typographers have asserted that the wide spaces in older books were due to laziness: rather than making all spaces in a line even, typesetters could just add or remove space from the larger sentence spaces. If anything, the reverse was generally the case. Printers’ manuals for hundreds of years gave detailed advice about which spaces (the em-quads after sentences, en-quads after other punctuation, or interword “thick spaces”) to enlarge or reduce when tightening or loosening a line, even discussing which order to make adjustments and by how much. Various options for introducing small kerns around spaces when certain letterforms were involved to change line spacing is also often discussed in detail. (In some of the printers’ manuals cited below, such discussions go on for dozens of pages.) Whether all hand compositors were sensitive to such small details is a matter of dispute, but skilled typesetters clearly embraced the much greater complexity involved in tightening or loosening a line when many varieties of spaces were involved.


In any case, Luckombe is but one source.  However, even as early as 1728, Luckombe’s rule for beginners was already standard enough to be mentioned by Ephraim Chambers in the first major encyclopedia in the English language, the Cyclopædia, or An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (a book that was published nearly a half-century before the first Encyclopædia Britannica):


[Spaces] are of several kinds according to the Dimensions of the Blanks, or Intervals to be made by them, viz. Quadrats, to fill up a Break at the end of a Paragraph, or the like; M quadrats, which are square, and of the thickness of an m, serving to make the distance after a Period, or between Sentence and Sentence, N quadrats, of the thickness of an n, to be placed after Colons, Semicolons, and Commas; and thick or thin Spaces, to be used between the Words in justifying.  (Vol. 2, p. 876)


There are many, many other sources in guidebooks for printers:

“[I]n regular spacing all points [punctuation marks] should have an n-quadrat after them, except the full point [period], which must have an m-quadrat, as terminating a sentence.” (Caleb Stower, The Compositor’s and Pressman’s Guide to the Art of Printing, London, 1808, p. 10)


“[I]n regular spacing all points should have an n-quadrat after them, except the full point, which must have an m-quadrat, as terminating a sentence.” (Charles Partington, The Printer’s Complete Guide, London, 1825, p. 207)


“In regular spacing, the full point should have an em quadrat after it; the semicolon, colon, and notes of interrogation [question mark] and admiration [exclamation point], should have an en quadrat; but the two latter, where they take the place of the full point, that is, when placed at the end of a sentence, must have after them an em quadrat.” (Cornelius Van Winkle, The Printers’ Guide, New York, 1836, pp. 135–136)


“The best spacing, undoubtedly, is a thick space between every word, an n quad after every colon, semicolon, and f, and an m quad after every period, and point of exclamation and interrogation, when ending a sentence.” (Theodore Gazlay, The Practical Printers’ Assistant, Cincinnati, 1836, p. 22)


“The thick space is, in thickness, equal to one-third of the body of each sized type [i.e., 1/3 em], and has long since been considered the most proper separation for words. . . . A wide-spaced line with only the usual em quadrat remaining after a full point, admiration, or interrogation, or with only a hair space before these two latter, and before a semicolon or colon, is out of proportion.” (Thomas Ford, The Compositor’s Handbook, London, 1854, p. 36)


“The comma requires only a thick space, but the other points should have a hair space before and an en quadrate after them, except the full-point, which should have an em quadrate, as terminating a sentence.” (Thomas MacKellar, The American Printer, Philadelphia, 1866, p. 113)


The last source given here, the first edition of MacKellar’s American Printer, was the standard style guide of its day, running to some seventeen editions before the end of the nineteenth century.


I could go on, since I have not seen a single book on printing in the 1700s or 1800s—English or American—which does not state some form of this rule, if it has any discussion of spacing at all.  And one need only pull any book from that period off a library shelf to see that the vast majority of books follow such a standard.  There is no source for the single-space after a period rule (which during the nineteenth century was generally only found as a minority practice in some French publishing houses; much of Europe also used wide spaces).  The convention was: put wider spaces than word spaces after punctuation, and put an extra-wide space after a period.  End of story.  This had nothing to do with typewriters, or with Victorian mannerisms, since it long predated all of those trends.


The Lost History of the Chicago Manual of Style

Aside from the typographers, which have now been shown to be unreliable in their historical knowledge, many modern authorities back up the assertion that double-spacing after sentences is wrong with various style guides, the foremost probably being the Chicago Manual of Style.  The Chicago Manual is clearly one of the most common authorities on publishing conventions in the United States, and it has been popular for many decades.


As mentioned above, one current editor implicitly claimed that large sentence spaces was a fad only in the few decades around 1900, and only in the United States.  That assertion is clearly false.  But it is more interesting to follow the history of the Chicago Manual itself, which this editor could have found enlightening in determining how much of a convention the wide spaces actually were.


The first edition of the Chicago Manual was published in 1906 (then known simply as Manual of Style).  It clearly stated the accepted printers’ rule of the time:


245. Space evenly. A standard line should have a 3-em [i.e., 3-to-an-em, or 1/3 em] space between all words not separated by other punctuation points other than commas, and after commas; an en-quad after semicolons, and colons followed by a lower-case letter; two 3-em spaces after colons followed by a capital; an em-quad after periods, and exclamation and interrogation points, concluding a sentence.  If necessary to reduce, begin with commas, and letters of slanting form—i.e., with a larger “shoulder” on the side adjoining the space; if necessary to increase, begin with overlapping letters—i.e., with “kerns” protruding on the side adjoining the space—straight-up-and-down letters, and points other than periods and commas (in this order).  In a well-spaced line, with a 3-em space between a majority of words, there should not be more than an en-quad between the rest; this proportion should be maintained in increasing or reducing.  To justify a line is to adjust it, making it even or true, by proper spacing. (pp. 83–84)


Note that, as in previous sources, the standard interword space is 1/3 em (or “3-em”) in width.  Thus, in ideal spacing, the sentence space should be triple the interword space.  Again, this rule is more-or-less consistent, going far back into the 1700s, if not earlier.  This first edition also gives details on varying spacing to be wider or narrower when necessary, but it makes clear that an interword space should never exceed an en-quad, meaning that the sentence space should always be at least double the interword space.


All of this can easily be verified by simply looking at most books published before 1900.  Aside from some aberrant French practices, the single interword space after a period is relatively unknown.  (Note here that I am not covering the great variety of practices in the very early days of printing, from wide spacing to those such as Nicolas Jenson’s first Roman typeface from the 1400s, which he chose to set without any spaces around punctuation whatsoever.)


Furthermore, the early editions of the Chicago Manual actually had a large appendix containing specimens of common typefaces in use at the time.  One can see the common practice not just for wide nineteenth-century faces, but also more restrained eighteenth-century faces like Caslon, which included wide spaces after periods, just as William Caslon himself did when he introduced the typeface in the early 1700s.  Many other older typefaces pre-date Bringhurst’s Victorian era excess of black and wide spaces, as well as typefaces that resemble many of the most common body fonts used in computer typography today.


If the Chicago Manual thought it was okay to use large spaces after periods, and it had been common practice among the typographers who invented these typefaces, can we seriously claim that the only right method to set them is with a single space after a period?  I CANNOT BELIEVE THE GALL OF MODERN TYPOGRAPHERS, ARGUING THAT THE PRACTICE OF THOSE WHO CREATED THEIR FONTS IS ABSOLUTELY, UNEQUIVOCALLY “WRONG.”


Might there be other choices?  Of course.  I see nothing absolutely wrong with single spacing, and it may be more appropriate for fonts that have been designed and created in the past few decades.  On the other hand, historical practice of those employing the ancestors of many traditional type families says that modern typographers are all wrong.  In the end, it’s an aesthetic choice, as is just about anything involving any artistry.  But the judgmental idiot typographers should get off their high horses and read some actual history instead of their fairy tales.  Perhaps they should look at some actual historical typesetting in their favorite typefaces.  I have great respect for typographers, but they have no business passing judgment on someone for being ignorant when they themselves have decided to defy the common historical convention (while muttering something about the bloody typewriters).


Anyhow, back to the Chicago Manual.  Here are some selected quotations from the subsequent editions:


262. Space evenly. A standard line should have a 3-em space between all words not separated by other punctuation points than commas, and after commas; an en quad after semicolons, and colons followed by a lower-case letter; two 3-em spaces after colons followed by a capital; an em quad after periods, and exclamation and interrogation points, concluding a sentence. (Fourth edition, 1914, p. 101)


By “standard spacing” is meant the ideal space between words ending and beginning with letters of the ordinary rounded forms. . . . For example, the standard for composition such as that in the text of this book would be a 3-to-em space, with an en quad after colons, after exclamation and interrogation points, and after periods ending sentences. (Tenth edition, 1937, p. 8 )


For example, the standard for composition such as that in the text of this book would be a 3-to-em space. . . , with the same spacing as between words, after colons, after exclamation and interrogation points, and after periods ending sentences unless special instructions are given. (Eleventh edition, 1949, p. 8 )


Something significant began to happen around the tenth edition in the 1930s.  The standard rule that had held for two hundred years was beginning to fail.  First, periods were reduced to the status of any other punctuation, merely being granted an en-quad.  But, by 1949, the eleventh edition had adopted the modern standard of a single multi-purpose space for all punctuation.


When the twelfth edition arrived in 1969 (which was perhaps the most significant revision to the Chicago Manual to date), it no longer mentioned anything about sentence spacing at all.  In the brief spacing discussion, everything is about equal spacing, as if there could never be different types of spaces.  It was as if nothing else had ever existed (and other style guides followed suit), which perhaps explains why most active typographers today don’t realize that a standard that lasted for centuries has been completely forgotten.


Instead, the recent editions of the Chicago Manual berate those who try to follow an approximation to the tradition that its own early editions supported, namely the double space after a period.


6.11 Space between sentences.  In typeset matter, one space, not two (in other words, a regular word space), follows any mark of punctuation that ends a sentence, whether a period, a colon, a question mark, an exclamation point, or closing quotation marks. (Fifteenth edition, 2003)


6.7 Punctuation and space—one space or two? In typeset matter, one space, not two, should be used between two sentences—whether the first ends in a period, a question mark, an exclamation point, or a closing quotation mark or parenthesis. By the same token, one space, not two, should follow a colon. When a particular design layout calls for more space between two elements—for example, between a figure number and a caption—the design should specify the exact amount of space (e.g., em space). (Sixteenth edition, 2010)


Apparently the Chicago Manual doesn’t get it.  People like the double spaces.  People want the double spaces.  Whereas the twelfth edition in 1969 could just ignore the problem and assume that those in the know would just space equally, the current editions show a marked attempt to chastise anyone who would disagree.


And, looking at these two recent editions, they’re beginning to sound desperate.  No matter how strongly they word it with however many details, it seems most people still want the double spaces.  AND, BY HISTORICAL STANDARDS, THEY ARE RIGHT.  They aren’t just blindly following some mythical typewriter convention—they sincerely like the double spaces.


Now, I know many typographers are going to say, “That’s not true!  Almost all published matter today—and for the past 50 years—uses the single space convention.  So they might think they like double spacing, but they read it everyday and don’t mind.”


That is a valid point.  But if true, that would show how invisible such things are to most non-typographers.  And if that’s true, why the fuss?  Let people do whatever they want to do in their personal documents and writing, and when it gets published, let typographers “fix” it.  Who cares?  What is the admonishing about?  It’s not like it’s hard to run a script to take the extra spaces out of a document, and a publisher would probably have to do that anyway, since manuscripts get submitted with all sorts of extra tabs, spaces, and other junk in them.


Perhaps there is some sort of collective anxiety among typographers.  Perhaps there’s some secret knowledge passed around when they gather about how there actually used to be a standard for wide spaces that lasted many times longer than the new one, and they don’t want anyone to know.  They want their single spaces—they want control over their fonts.  Who cares what the actual creators of the old typefaces would do?   This is their secret way of imposing their aesthetic will on their old comrades, to whom they are forced to defer as they reuse the fonts again and again and again.


Or perhaps they are scared in recent years because more and more people are self-publishing.  Many of those “ignorant” people probably double-space out of habit.  As typographers lose control, the double-space convention have a resurgence, and where would their arbitrary single-space aesthetic be?


Now then, where did it come from in the first place, if it wasn’t typewriters?


The True Origins of the Single-Space Standard

First, we need to narrow down the historical period.  From the Chicago Manual examples, there was a clear trend beginning sometime in the 1920s and 1930s to reduce sentence spacing, and by the late 1940s, equal spacing was standard enough for a style guide to use it.  Around 1950, some guides still endorsed the old practice, such as the United States Government Printing Office Theory and Practice of Composition (1950):


An em quad is generally placed after the period at the end of a sentence, although this practice is not universal.  (p. 42)


Clearly some around this time were not amused by the emerging practice, as seen in the first edition of Words into Type (1948):


[Spacing of] Sentences.  Until recently the space most used between sentences within a paragraph was the em quad, but many books published in recent years have been set with less space, sometimes the same as between words in a line—a justifier.  Sometimes a nut space [en-quad] or two thicks [2/3 of an em] . . . plus a justifier is the spacing used between a period and a new sentence.


The tendency of some modern book designers to use only a justifier between sentences is not altogether commendable.  While there may be some esthetic advantage to be gained from this close spacing, it leaves little chance for the reader to group words that belong together.  A little more spacing between sentences in textbooks and books of reference is generally to be preferred. (p. 110)


The second paragraph also contains a footnote after the second sentence:


Educators voice the objection that this practice is helping to break down students’ notion of the integrity of the sentence.


Admittedly, the footnote sounds a little strong, like any attempt to blame social decay on some random change in social practice.  Nonetheless, this change clearly had detractors, even voices within the typographic community, as in this standard reference book.  Of course, around this time, we begin to see more “progressive” typographers lament those conservatives who held fast to the wide spaces.


But why did the change occur?  Here, there seems to be no direct historical account, but there are two theories often given.  First, there is the obvious benefit to production cost that comes with reduced spacing.  Less whitespace means less paper, which means fewer pages, which means reduced costs.  Margins became smaller around this time, and standard interword spaces often went from about 1/3 em to 1/4 em.  Is it not surprising that the wide gaps after sentences would have to go as well?


The other theory is that a single uniform space simply required less expertise (and less time) to set.  Before the advent of Monotype and Linotype, hand composition was a complex task that required a real craftsman to solve spacing issues from line to line.  But the new machines made the process much faster and easier, again reducing cost of production.


Along the way, however, it also reduced the expertise required to set the type.  Operators could punch in the letters very quickly, and worrying about different width spaces required time and training to pay closer attention to syntax.  Furthermore, when a line needed to be expanded or compressed, it was easier to simply expand or reduce all spaces in a line, rather than to deal with the aesthetics of how to handle the various width spaces (which had complex rules that can be found in many of the manuals cited above).


The death knell for the large sentence space, still imitated by a few Linotype operators in the mid-1900s with a double space, was more new technology.  Further automation developed in the era of phototypesetting led to a situation where line breaks and extra spaces were truly problematic.  Automatic line breaks could occur between two spaces, thereby beginning a new line with an undesirable empty space.  The solution for programmers was simple: phototypesetters would simply ignore extra white space and treat it as an error.  All white space would be collapsed to a single, multipurpose space.  Spacing was one area where the 1960s marked a great decrease in diversity.  No wonder the subsequent editions of the Chicago Manual couldn’t imagine a world with different types of spaces: such a world was made impossible within the bounds of current technology.


In sum, the primary rationale behind the shift was probably not aesthetic, since printers had accepted the same conventions for centuries.  Instead, it was a move generated by economic concerns.  Publishers wanted cheaper books with less whitespace and less time and expertise to typeset, and the technology they developed required simpler and lazier methods of spacing.


The Situation Today

Nowadays, with computer typesetting, the cost of actually typesetting the text is tiny compared what it was when text was hand-set 150 years ago.  Yet typographers cannot be bothered to do a few global search-and-replaces to insert custom spaces that would approximate the old standards.  (Unicode implements a couple dozen different types of spaces, and most publication software allows for at least a half dozen or more.)  A subsequent proof for special cases would be required, but a few macros could easily take into account many scenarios.


Oh, and by the way, you’ll hear some advocates for single-spacing talking about how modern fonts can take into account the extra spacing needed to the period in the font itself.  But this is also an elaborate lie.  Such kerning after periods would require sensitivity to abbreviations versus ends of sentences, something no font can do by itself.  (Some publishing software and word processors do try.)  Besides, I’ve seen no evidence that most professional fonts actually incorporate kerning pairs involving periods and spaces—in fact, it would be ridiculous to do such a thing, because it would interfere with the spacing adjustments that typographers still do. (I’ve read elsewhere where someone examined over 2000 standard Adobe Opentype fonts and found that only about 20% of fonts kerned period-space combinations, and only about 1% kerned question mark or exclamation points followed by spaces. In all cases where there is kerning, it is negative, i.e., it actually reduces the space after the period, rather than increases it.)


Typographers could actually make good use of all those people who still insist on double-spacing.  They could use a find-and-replace to turn those double spaces into custom spaces that provide a nice respite after ends of sentences.  Whether it’s actually double or 1.5 times or whatever would be a matter of taste, considered with the typeface, leading, etc.  But one could argue that it looks better.  Most people think it does.  Regardless of what they don’t notice about standard text, they obviously like how their typing comes out.  Typographers could exploit this syntactical information to their advantage.


Instead, they have created an elaborate myth about how people came to think wider spaces were appropriate (evil typewriters!), and they are the bearers of the one, true method of spacing—which just happens to be the laziest method of spacing and the one that reduces publication costs the most.


I just have to say to typographers: you’ve been had.  The publishers wanted to make you cost less and be less relevant, and you fell into that trap.  And now you want to go around and kick everyone until they conform to your simplistic, lazy standard?  Wow.  Just wow.



P.S. For any non-typographers who made it all the way through this article, if you want to double-space, do it.  If you want to single-space, fine.  Just please don’t try to enforce your view on the world.  Stop judging people.  Because, really, if you’re not a typographer, chances are the stuff you’re producing in MS Word or whatever has dozens of other worse spacing sins than double-spacing your sentences.


How much do you know about appropriate text-block size and position relative to the page?  Do you know anything about appropriate number of characters per line?  What do you know about leading?  Do you really use MS Word’s fake small caps?  Do you know how to kern those “cool” drop caps you throw in into the margins properly?  Did you even notice that Word couldn’t support ligatures until 2010?  Do you notice those nasty collisions that still tend to pop up in Word, particularly around parentheses?  What’s your policy on widows and orphans?  Do you know appropriate places to line-break justified text, including the proper way to handle numbers, conjunctions, etc.?  Do you know how to use non-breaking spaces and thin spaces properly?


Yeah, typography is an art.  Complaining about the way people space their sentences in their own documents is being an ass.



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

Date:         Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Subject:     Spaces


Well, it would appear that I stand corrected. 


I don’t think I was trying to make a case about rightness or wrongness as the Slate article was. 


I was talking about a SHAKSPER house formatting style that I have been following for about as long as I remember. 


Removing the second space after an end-stopped punctuation mark takes a lot of time, and I was making a plea regarding what I considered a method for easing my editorial load.


From now on I will have to consider whether to make any changes in in spacing between sentences and in the use of the triple spaced period ellipsis (. . .) or a pre-composed triple-dot glyph (…). Yes, I received a correction about my position about ellipses too. 


I suppose if the submitter is consistent throughout, then I will not make any formatting changes as I have.


Thanks for the interest and for the corrections.



Plays with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.373  Tuesday, 26 August 2014


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

Date:         August 22, 2014 at 2:06:21 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: RSC


I can supplement Hardy’s review of the five RSC plays presented during the RSC earlier this month: . Because of my having worked over several years with 1 and 2 Henry IV, and because I hadn’t realized that Antony Sher was playing Falstaff until arriving in Stratford, I reluctantly gave up my ticket to The Roaring Girl so I could see both Parts 1 and 2. To me, Part One is the more exuberant and fun play, with the marvelous play-within-the play scene the highlight of many highlights. And Sher was wonderful as a complex and likable Falstaff in both plays. I particularly enjoyed the understated Bardolf in both as well. This production of Part One, however, I think was overshadowed by the Part Two—in part because in Part 1 the Hotspur actor was over the top, his wife Kate underplayed, and the Douglas and Glendower presented as two non-English barbarians, whereas I don’t think it’s inevitable to play them that way. The Prince was fine, I thought, and his role is much bigger here than in Part 2, where he’s kept off-stage for large stretches. There was a good balancing act between the Prince and Falstaff, neither allowed to “take over” the play’s power struggle—at least until the end. Sher was rightly treated as the star in the curtain call. They were certainly the best productions of the plays I’ve very seen.


Hugh Grady



Four Plays with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon


[ . . . ]


I thought that I was going to see five plays with the Royal Shakespeare Company this summer, but for some bizarre reason I ordered tickets for THE ROARING GIRL and 1 HENRY IV both on Friday evening, and I had to make a hard decision about which of the two to see.  On Thursday evening, I saw the 2 HENRY IV, which was tremendous, but I had not seen THE ROARING GIRL and had by that time already given my 1 HENRY IV ticket away. So THE ROARING GIRL it was.


My first RSC production of this season was Webster’s THE WHITE DEVIL. I apparently had not seen THE WHITE DEVIL, but I read it as an undergraduate in the 1960s and somehow remembered the plot. (Maybe I remember it from studying for my doctorial comprehensive.) The production opened with the actress who played Vittoria (Kristy Bushell) in her underwear and a hair net entering the stage and proceeding to put on a tight-fitting, shiny, Euro-Trash dress, a long blondish wig, and high heals. The stage filled with wildly dancing men and women in the theater space and a room beyond that could be seen through glass floor length windows. Everyone was similarly attired in late-1970s, early-1980s, Euro-Trash outfits as pounding percussive music accompanied what appeared as a cocaine and alcohol fueled rave. The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC, frequently begins productions with these, to me, unnecessary, extraneous stage business that “sets a tone for the production”. In this case, I imagine that what was intended was something like women put on clothing to create the image expected of them in the society in which they live. The manipulative Flaminio, a role written as a male, was here played by Laura Elpinstone, who was dressed in black pants with a closely cropped punk haircut. Director Maria Aberg was going for a feminist production with strong female characters that was intended to offset the testosterone-driven productions on the main stage. At the Interval, I felt as if there was a distinct disconnect between the difficult text and the production design and conception. A friend was leaving and I did what I seldom do: “'Faith, I ran when I saw others run”.  The opinion of those who stayed was decidedly mixed: some loved it; others hated it. Many of my most ardent feminist friends loved it, and although I think I have proved my feminist credentials, I could not think the same as they from what I saw in the first half of the production.


The following evening, I saw TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (Dir. Simon Godwin) on the main stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. TWO GENTS is not one of my favorite Shakespeares, but this is the second production I have seen in the past few months. I preferred the energy and speed of the production with Fiasco Theater at the Folger Theater: This production seemed a bit uneven and slow at places. The leads were all very attractive young actors: Mark Arends (Proteus), Michael Marcus (Valentine), Pearl Chandra (Julia), and Sarah McRae (Silvia). The initial setting was in a Veronese café, complete with gelato vender, who passed out small samples primarily to young children and attractive women in the audience. Thus, this production too began with extraneous activity that did not seem to me to add to or explain anything that followed. Well, I might as well get to it—the dog, Crab. Mossup was a daughter of the last Crab at the RSC in the Swan in 1998, and she and her understudy Caddy had their own private dressing room, a portakabin close to the Stage Door. During her first scene (2.3), Crab, mysteriously to me, whined throughout Launce’s monologue: “I think Crab, my dog, be the sourest-natured dog that lives: my mother weeping, my father wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling, our cat wringing her hands, and all our house in a great perplexity”. This wailing became a topic of conversation among the ISC delegates in attendance: some praised its moaning on cue; other like me thought it was not intentional. After the show, I went with friends to the Dirty Duck and as it happened a half dozen members of the cast sat at a table next to us, including senior member of the company Roger Morlidge, who played Launce. When I asked if the whining was intended, Morlidge replied that Crab was having one of her worst nights of the run and that the groaning was not intended; about the only cue she hit was the hand shaking; she even ran off stage at one point. Of course, one of the two most difficult moments in the show is the attempted rape of Julia by Proteus. As with the Fiasco Theater production, the attempted rape was reduced to Proteus’s grabbing of Julia and Valentine’s quick parting of them. And the second difficulty is Valentine’s line following the making up of the two friends, “All that was mine, in Silvia, I give thee”; in this as in the Fiasco Theater’s version, the line was as incomprehensive to this viewer as ever.


After one free evening, I saw the magnificent 2 HENRY IV directed by Greg Doran with Antony Sher, an exquisite Falstaff, on the main stage. Two years ago, after the main stage theater had been redesigned, I saw my first and only production there in 2012: The Chekhov International Theatre Festival / Dmitry Krymov’s Laboratory / School of Dramatic Art Theatre Production’s A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT’S DREAM, or rather an adaptation of the Primus and Thisby scene with enormous puppets in the cast as the woe begotten lovers: With 2 HENRY IV, I had the opportunity to see how well the newly arranged thrust stage works, and it works very well. In addition to Sher, other outstanding performances were turning in by Jasper Britton as Henry IV, Oliver Ford Davies, whose television and film credits are extensive, as Shallow, and Jim Hooper as Silence. Except for Rumour’s Chorus that was presented by Antony Byrne (who later played later Pistol) in the extended-tongue Rolling Stones’ t-shirt, costuming was traditional. The staging was spare but highly effective and allowed for rapid scene changes and pace. The cast was uniformly strong, but I found Elliot Barnes-Worrell weak in the capitulation scene with the rebels and Alex Hassell’s Prince Hal did not seem to me as charismatic as the role requires. I might have felt different if I had seen his performance in 1 HENRY IV. This production was so good that it makes one wonder if this play may not be better than 1 HENRY IV. There is no doubt, however, that Antony Sher’s performance dominated the entire production.


Despite my initial misgivings, the RSC’s city comedy THE ROARING GIRL in the Swan Theatre (Dir. Jo Davies) was highly enjoyable and a triumph for lead actor Lisa Dillon as Moll. THE ROARING GIRL is, of course, a fictionalization of the life of Mary Frith, cross-dresser and pickpocket. Dillon’s swagger produced a Moll as Dekker and Middleton must have intended: she smoked, she fought, she uncovered wrongdoing, and she managed to get the two lovers together. Sebastian (Joe Bannister) has a plot to enable his marriage to Mary Fitzallard (Faye Castelow) and outwit his father Sir Alexander Wengrave (David Rintoul): he will pretend to be in love with a totally unacceptable alternative Moll Cutpurse, who has the reputation of being a thief. In a subplot, Moll frustrates the designs of both Ralph Trapdoor (Geoffrey Freshwater) and Jack Dapper (Ian Bonar). The production is accompanied by a band that is usually in sight and is joined by Moll who sings and, at one point, plays an on electric guitar. This was a terrifically fun production and a wonderful way to end my week in Stratford. 

Forthcoming: Young Shakespeare’s Young Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.372  Tuesday, 26 August 2014


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

Date:         August 26, 2014 at 7:30:59 AM EDT

Subject:    Young Shakespeare’s Young Hamlet 


Upcoming from Palgrave Macmillan:



From The Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection 


Young Shakespeare's Young Hamlet: 

Print, Piracy, and Performance

By Terri Bourus


ISBN: 9781137465610

Pub October 2014


Publisher’s Description:


One of the most vexing textual, theatrical, and interpretive puzzles in Shakespeare studies is the existence of three different versions of Hamlet. In this groundbreaking work, Shakespeare scholar Terri Bourus argues that this puzzle can only be solved by drawing on multiple kinds of evidence and analysis, including history of the book, theatre history, biography, performance studies, and close readings of textual variants. Combining the history of print culture with practical theatrical experience and special attention to Hamlet’s women, Bourus presents here a case study of the “dramatic intersections” between Shakespeare’s literary and theatrical working practices. In the process, she reshapes our assumptions about the beginning of Shakespeare’s career and his artistic evolution.


TLS Review of Two in the Oxford Shakespeare Topics Series

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.371  Tuesday, 26 August 2014


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

Date:         August 24, 2014 at 12:06:43 PM EDT

Subject:    TLS Review of Two in the Oxford Shakespeare Topics Series


[Editor’s Note: The following appeared recently in The Times Literary Supplement. If you are not a TLS subscriber and would like a copy of the complete review, please make a request to me by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . -Hardy]


Shakespeare and the Eighteenth Century 

Michael Caines

232pp. 978 0 19 964237 3 


Shakespeare And the Victorians 

Stuart Sillars

232pp. 978 0 19 966808 3 

Oxford University Press. 

Paperback, £16.99 each 


Kean as Lear from Folger Shakespeare Digital Library


How Shakespeare has continually been reinvented 

By Lois Potter 


The various publications in the Oxford Shakespeare Topics series, aimed at both the general reader and the academic one, have generally been successful at combining conciseness and readability. Shakespeare and the Eighteenth Century, by Michael Caines, and Shakespeare and the Victorians, by Stuart Sillars, are part of a sequence that also includes Shakespeare and the Romantics by David Fuller. Though the series has a basic format – each volume ends with suggestions for further reading and has a useful year-by-year chronological appendix – authors have clearly been allowed to work out their own way of shaping an enormous mass of data. 


Caines opts for a mainly chronological approach, focusing as much as possible on major figures (Alexander Pope, Lewis Theobald, Samuel Johnson, David Garrick), but he also looks at themes such as “Shakespeare Abroad” and various aspects of forgery and fantasy. A particularly interesting chapter, “As Shakespeare Says”, accumulates evidence of the increasing practice of removing characters from their original context. As is clear from his striking opening sentence, this began early: “The eighteenth century, at least as far as two female friends were concerned, began with Caliban on the throne”. It turns out that Princess (later Queen) Anne and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, sometimes referred to William III by this name in their correspondence. In fact, the practice seems to have started in Shakespeare’s lifetime, since Sir John Falstaff was being used as a code name, also in private correspondence, as early as 1599. Shortly after the revolution in 1688, an anonymous verse satirist wrote that Mary II, James II’s other daughter, was worse than Goneril. A more sympathetic poet might have compared her to Cordelia, since Nahum Tate’s version of King Lear ended with the restored king abdicating in favour of his daughter and son-in-law. 


Sillars also looks at allusion, primarily in literary contexts; by the end of the nineteenth century, he suggests, the frequently comic misappropriations of lines from the plays mean that “Shakespeare is being welcomed into the Victorian parlour like a rather remote, distinguished relative but someone who, as one of us, can still relax when off duty”. His structure is largely generic rather than chronological, though his discussions of scholarship, performance, the other arts, fiction and poetry are framed by an initial chapter on the celebrations in 1864, in which Shakespeare was seen largely as a moral force, and a final chapter on the fin de siècle, where aesthetic and iconoclastic responses begin to compete with the established myths. 


[ . . . ]


Comparison is not especially useful here, however, since the readership for this series will depend on personal interest or academic requirements. Both authors give a good account of the history of Shakespeare editions: the first recognition that there existed different versions of the same play; the “conjectural emendation”; the abandonment of the view that every edition had to be a variorum, listing every previous editorial view; and the resulting assumption that there was a basic consensus about the text, which lasted until almost the end of the twentieth century. Caines offers specific examples of the treatment of the text by early editors, though he could have said more about the fascinating notes to the acting editions. Sillars, who notes the importance of German scholarship, reveals that Edward III was already being treated as a canonical play in the “Leopold Shakespeare” of 1877, based on the text of Nikolaus Delius. 


Probably readers of books like these will be most pleased to have their attention drawn to unknown or underrated figures who would benefit from further research. They will find a good many. Caines describes, for example, an interesting defence of actors, ascribed only to a “Strolling Player”; poems inspired by the erecting of Shakespeare’s statue in Westminster Abbey in 1741; and a novel by Karl Philipp Moritz in which the protagonist undergoes an epiphany when he first reads Shakespeare. Sillars, who seems to have listened to a good deal of Shakespeare-inspired music, writes perceptively about the solo songs of Hubert Parry and Charles Stanford, which he singles out as the best treatments of Shakespeare texts in the period; describes two little-known novels – The Manchester Man by Mrs. G. Linnaeus Banks and The Actor Manager by Howard Merrick – which use quotations as “a way of establishing a bond between text and reader”; and makes a good case for the originality of Charles Knight as editor and biographer. He agrees with recent feminist scholarship in revaluing some of the tales in Mary Cowden Clarke’s often ridiculed The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines as “remarkable pieces of writing”, and suggests that Madame Vestris should be placed alongside William Charles Macready, Samuel Phelps, Charles Kean and Henry Irving in the list of important actor-managers. An interesting touch is his inclusion of a set of exam questions on As You Like It from the 1870s. As he says, “few present-day students would find them straightforward”. Unlike some earlier studies of Shakespeare’s afterlife, neither book makes fun of earlier, and inevitably dated, interpretations and adaptations. Both authors clearly recognize that much of what now seems modern will soon look equally ridiculous. 


[ . . . ]



Oxford University Merchant from Folger Shakespeare Digital Library

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