Dramatic Censorship in Renaissance England

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Dramatic Censorship in Renaissance England The attempt of governments to regulate literature and drama dates back to classical antiquity. Satires, superstitious and heretical works, astrological treatises, and other works disagreeable to monarchs or clergy suffered suppression in the days of ancient Greece and Rome. In England, the censorship can be traced at least as far back as the last quarter of the thirteenth century. The rise of provincial companies in Elizabethan England had a profound effect on the organization and control of drama. A large proportion of acting companies made a business of strolling. In doing so, they escaped local responsibilities and made it difficult for any community to hold them responsible for their conduct. A strolling actor was viewed as a potential menace to society because he was masterless, and therefore irresponsible. The law recognized this, and in 1572, a statute was passed requiring traveling players to “be the retainers of some baron of this realme, or … other honorable personage of greater degree,” or to “have licence of two justices of the peace at the least” (Albright 7). It became mandatory for the group of strollers to have a patron responsible for their conduct in order to give license for them to perform. This law was revived throughout the years and over time, became the chief support for opponents of drama. Many individuals had influence over the regulation of theater. Although naturally the sovereign had direct control, their wishes were carried out through the Privy Council, Chamberlain, Master of the Revels, Treasurer, Mayor, and occasionally the ecclesiastical officers. The Master of the Revels was a key figure in the licensing and censorship of professional dr... ... middle of paper ... ...ressing plays, plays were definitely suppressed. Over the next decade, attempts to revive performances were made but this edict practically closed theaters, marking the end of Elizabethan drama. Bibliography: Albright, Evelyn M. 1927a. Dramatic Publication in England, 1580-1640. New York: D.C. Health. Reprinted 1971 Chambers, E.K. The Elizabethan Stage, 4 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1923 Clark, Eleanor G. 1941. ‘Ralegh and Marlowe: A Study in Elizabethan Fustian.’ New York: Russel & Russel Inc. Reprinted 1965 Dutton, Richard. 2000 Licensing, Censorship and Authorship in Early Modern England. New York: Palgrave Gildersleeve, Virginia Crocheron. 1908 Government Regulation of the Elizabethan Drama. New York: Columbia University Press Lee, Sir Sidney. 1916 A Life of William Shakespeare. New York: Macmillan

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