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View on Wiley Online Library. London, Herbert , George. The Temple.

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Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations. Milton , John. Phillips , Edward.

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Vaughan , Henry. Flores Solitudinis The Works of Henry Vaughan. Oxford: Clarendon, Whitney , Geffrey. Leyden, Wright , Thomas. The Passion of the Minde in Generall. Corbin , Alain. Paris: Albin Michel, Dutton , Richard. Basingstoke: Palgrave, Fumaroli , Marc. Paris: Flammarion, Hadfield , Andrew, ed. Literature and Censorship in Renaissance England. Levinas , Emmanuel. Paris: Grasset, Mac Culloch , Diarmaid. Silence: A Christian History. London: Penguin, Maitland , Sara. A Book of Silence. London: Granta, The fact is that the company had fostered a repertoire of politically-charged satirical drama from the time they were resuscitated; this may well have found encouragement under Queen Anne's patronage, and they continued to be controversial whoever was licensing them, at least until they lost the use of the Blackfriars Lewalski, p.

The lines of authority in the Revels Office seem further confused by the fact that in Sir George Buc took over the licensing of plays for the press; these powers were formerly held by clerics of the Court of High Commission, who licensed all other printed books. Buc had held the office of Master in reversion since , but we do not know how he acquired this new authority. It has been supposed that he acted as the ageing Tilney's deputy but there is no evidence of this, and Tilney continued to collect his allowance for attendance at court until his death.

Only then in can we be confident that one man, Buc, was licensing all the London companies, as well as playtexts for the press. He inherited from Tilney a system of licensing and control that did not change in essence until the closing of the theatres.

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Most though not all texts licensed or relicensed after this are more careful see, for example, the differences between the quarto and folio Volpone and Othello ; the manuscript of The Second Maiden's Tragedy , which bears Buc's licence, shows that he was alert to the issue, marking a number of places where such changes were necessary, perhaps expecting the actors to change the others Dutton, , pp.

Herbert later felt his predecessors had not been as scrupulous on these matters as he was, but his changes to Davenant's Sir John Van Olden Barnavelt is another manuscript where Buc's hand is visible; we see a careful method of lightly pencilled markings, some of which are later reinforced in heavy ink, with warning crosses in margins where he perhaps intended to consult the actors Howard-Hill, Where he finds objectionable material he tries to find acceptable alternatives, and seems only to cross it out altogether as a last resort. Buc tinkered, redrafted, but finally crossed out the whole passage.

The outcome was a situation in which Herbert was the client and kinsman of his Lord Chamberlain, the This perhaps helped to maintain a continuity of emphasis and practice in the Revels Office in particular helping to extend a recognition of his authority into the provinces , at a time when the supremacy of Buckingham and later the personal government of Charles I made for a very different political atmosphere from that in which the largely consensual role of the Master of the Revels had evolved.

Herbert had been in office only a year when the most resonant theatrical scandal of the era occurred. Middleton's A Game at Chess was performed to packed houses for an unprecedented nine days in a row, before the protests of the Spanish Ambassador had it stopped. Gondomar and the Archbishop of Spalato were impersonated in some detail, and while other characters were shrouded in the allegory of chess pieces it was evident that they represented, among others, the Kings of Spain and England, Prince Charles and Buckingham.

We know that Herbert gave the play a licence in the usual way, but commentators then and some scholars since have supposed that the play may have been specially sponsored at the highest level. This is unprovable, and probably not a necessary conjecture. England and Spain were on the brink of war, a context in which Herbert would have felt no need to protect Spanish sensitivities as he did over Believe As You List and may have felt that the depiction of the English court was acceptably patriotic. The chess allegory may have looked adequate veiling on paper, but as with The Ball performance was a different matter.

The business clearly did not over-awe them, since in December they staged The Spanish Viceroy now lost, but Yet again, however, no one actually suffered the harsh penalties which potentially lay in store either for libeling someone important on stage or for flouting the licensing regulations. Although dramatists and actors spent relatively brief periods in prison, no one involved in the theatre in the period suffered the grim mutilations of John Stubbes or William Prynne, or the prolonged imprisonment of John Hayward, for their transgressions in print Finkelpearl; Kaplan.

Which is a testament of sorts to the effectiveness of the Revels Office as an instrument of regulation, but also to the general good-will of the court towards the actors it patronised. One effect of the growing identification of the leading companies with the court, which clearly affected Astley and Herbert's terms of office, was the emergence of gentlemen or courtier playwrights, who were in a position to challenge the authority of the Master of the Revels.

Astley had problems with a play by Lodowick Carlell, a courtier with connections.

Was it Astley's own idea to refer the play to Pembroke, or had these veterans of the King's Men presumed on Carlell's influence to go behind his back? We do not know, though it must be significant that the normal machinery of perusal, allowance and payment is followed, despite Astley's misgivings. Note, that the poett makes it the speech of a king, Don Pedro kinge of Spayne, and spoken to his subjects' Herbert, p. The passage in question which Herbert carefully transcribed concerns royal taxation without Parliamentary sanction, transparently a very sensitive issue during Charles I's personal rule.

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The wonder is that Herbert did not simply rule the passage, or even the entire play, out of court. Even so, there were no recriminations: Massinger was not to be punished for what he very likely thought. There is no evidence of any dramatist of the period being punished for his ideas, opinions or intentions. And the Masters of the Revels were adept at preventing that from happening too often.

It is that which made them, perhaps paradoxically, such an important element in the cultural formula which produced early modern drama. Without their protective presence, giving the theatrical profession a degree of creative and expressive space albeit within well defined limits , it is unlikely that the plays they licensed could have been as intellectually, socially and politically vigorous as so many of them actually were. But, just as it was misleading to see the early survival of the Elizabethan theatres simply as an assertion of courtly tastes over entrenched Puritan attitudes in the City, it is also a mistake to see what happened in as the revenge of Parliamentary Puritans, now able to impose their will.

Licensing, Censorship and Authorship in Early Modern England

If a leading Parliamentarian like John Pym resisted a ban on playing as an infringement of the players' trade, and the House backed him, it is difficult to see what finally happened as the act of a vengeful Puritan Parliament. The whole business underlines the complex mix of political, economic and social pressures within which the theatres had operated up to this point. In all probability it was the reaction of the actors themselves to the loss of courtly patronage and protection which turned a temporary prohibition into a state of affairs that lasted 18 years.

Those who had controlled them also parted company in ways that underline how complex were the affiliations in the Civil War. In Henry Herbert joined the royalist Parliament at Oxford but never, as was once supposed, fought for the king ; by late he seems to have decided that the royalist cause was lost, and by he had made his peace with Parliament in London. His kinsman and superior, Lord Chamberlain Pembroke, sided however reluctantly with Parliament from the start.

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Only as positions hardened did a vindictive anti-theatricality overtake Parliament: in they chose to regard the old legislation against masterless players as applying to all of them; the next year they ordered the demolition of all the playhouses. It often has to be inferred from actions they either did or did not take, while anything they put into writing may need to be seen as a negotiating posture in relation, say, to the City of London authorities rather than as a settled will.

In fact, it is probably a mistake to assume that they were consistent in their approach to these matters, which almost certainly never figured very highly among their most pressing concerns, or that they were all of one mind about them. Certain Councillors appear to have taken more of an interest at certain junctures, and perhaps nudged policy in a particular direction for a time. But the effects may only have been temporary. In fact, rather bewilderingly, nothing came of the first order at all, while the terms of the latter unravelled somewhat in subsequent years.

Nevertheless I want to argue that this was a decisive watershed, not in every particular but in laying down a framework of policy for handling the actors which would essentially remain in place down to the closing of the theatres in And, as I shall argue, the actors and dramatists recognised this significance in the ways that they alluded to it in the plays of the period.