The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0407  Wednesday, 10 October 2012


From:        Steve Urkowitz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 10, 2012 9:47:02 AM EDT

Subject:     Textual Studies Strand “Two Hours Traffic?”


I thought to break some of the unspoken behaviors of the community by letting folks know about an essay of mine that the good people at Shakespeare Bulletin brought out in their most recent issue.  It addresses the question, “Did Shakespeare’s Company Cut Long Plays Down to Two Hours Playing Time?”  


First promulgated by Alfred Hart in the 1930s and 40s, and then revived by Stephen Orgel in the late1980s, adopted by Andrew Gurr in the late 1990s, and reinvigorated by Lukas Erne in the last dozen or so years, the idea that Shakespeare’s long plays were always cut down to be performed in about two to two-and-a-half hours rests on essentially silly fantasies about Early Modern expectations  for invariable playhouse brevity and (in the case of Orgel’s immensely influential and provocative essay, “The Authentic Shakespeare”) on simple oversights in calculating arithmetical sums.  My essay reinterprets much of the evidence previously cited in the length-of-performance debates and brings in fresh material from a number of Records of Early English Drama (REED) volumes.


You can view the opening paragraphs of my essay at:




including what may be the very first citation in recent Shakespearean textual studies of a work co-authored by Milton (“Uncle Milty”) Berle. 


And you may even get the whole issue as a free sample if you are interested in subscribing. 


“Go. . . , Subscribers !”  



Steve Unmodestowitz

Professor Demeritus

English and Theatre

City College of New York


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