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Shakespeare’s Lack of Care for His Plays | Early Modern and Open Access

By July 17, 2016 No Comments

This is part of a bi-weekly series here at TSS: Early Modern and Open Access regularly showcases peer-reviewed articles (or other resources) of interest to early modernists that are freely available in open access formats.


Andrew Gurr,  “Shakespeare’s Lack of Care for His Plays, Memoria di Shakespeare: A Journal of Shakespearean Studies 2 (2015): 161-76.


Recent insistence that Shakespeare must have wanted his plays to be read runs counter to the fact that he never took any care to get his plays into print. Evidence, from the conditions that evoked the first Quarto of Titus Andronicus to the first Quarto of Henry V, all testifies to his lack of concern with print. No evidence exists to say that he cared as much for his plays as we do now. His change of career in May 1594, from would-be poet to common player, suggests that he then, probably under pressure from the authorities above him, surrendered his ambition to be a major poet, and instead gave himself over to the trade that made him so much more money. A survey of hard evidence supports this view, from what is written about his dyer’s hand in the sonnets to the consistent evidence that it was the company, not the author, who controlled seeing his plays into print. This all endorses the idea that Shakespeare never valued his plays as much as we do.


Author Lindsay

Lindsay Ann Reid is a regular contributor to The Scrivener and Early Modern and Open Access. She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto and is a Lecturer in English at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

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