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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

Chapter 6 - Jacobean Royal Premieres?

from Part II - The Jacobean Tradition


Chapter 6 challenges the orthodoxy that plays were essentially premiered on the public stages prior to their performance at court. Jason Lawrence focuses on the royal performances of Othello and Measure for Measure at Whitehall in late 1604, in an attempt to modify some critical statements about these plays. It is Lawrence’s contention that the court performances of both of these plays were effectively prepared as royal premieres for the king. The two new plays share a common source in Cinthio’s prose Hecatommitti, and Lawrence demonstrates how the significant alterations and additions made in each case engage directly with the interests of the new monarch, suggesting that Shakespeare was, at least partially, dramatising stories from his new-found Italian source with these royal performances in mind. Lawrence shows that, in each case, any prior performance might have been intended primarily as a rehearsal for the court appearance. The length of Othello in particular fits with Richard Dutton’s argument about the preparation of longer play texts specifically for Jacobean court performance, although, significantly, in this case it would be for a brand new rather than revised play.