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THE MANUSCRIPTS OF SHAKESPEARE'S PLAYS

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2010

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Summary

IN our last paper we tried to reconstruct, in a reasonable and human manner, the story of how the Company of Players to which Shakespeare belonged met, as best they could, the successive attempts to pirate his plays. We found them after each piracy trying to protect certain plays, presumably those which they were then acting, by causing them to be entered on the Stationers' Register, so that no pirate should be able to obtain the copyright of them. That these entries in several instances were not followed by the appearance of an edition seemed to justify us in believing that their sole object was to defeat the pirates. On the other hand when the company had in their possession plays still saleable, but not being performed, still more when the theatre was closed owing to plague, or the number of performances was restricted in deference to Puritan complaints, we held that it might have been good business to sell plays to the best advantage, more especially if the pirates had been busy and there was any uncertainty as to what plays they had got hold of. We submitted on these lines that the company sold during Elizabeth's reign and the first year of James I eight plays by Shakespeare to friendly publishers, and in three other cases asserted their rights after a piracy by putting out better texts.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010
First published in: 1967

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