Playhouse Law in Shakespeare's World
There is a human face to Shakespeare's theatrical world. It has been captured and preserved in the amber of litigious activity. Contracts for playhouses represent human aspiration: an avaricious hope for profit or an altruistic desire to provide for a family. Lawsuits have preserved the declarations of rights and the righteous indignations as well as the fictions and half-truths under which the Renaissance theater flourished. Leases and agreements preserve the intentions, honest or dishonest, of the men who wrote, performed, and bankrolled the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The period 1590-1623, the limits of the original Shakespearean enterprise, resemble nothing so much as a third of a century of the sort of squabbling, shoving, and place-seeking familiar to every modern theatrical professional.
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