Shakespeare's unwritten contract with his audience : a study of his professional practices.
Shakespeare's Unwritten Contract With His Audience, A Study at His
Professional Practices proposes that Shakespeare had a manifesto tor the
theatre as rigorous as that of Ben Jonson whose writings leave lIS in doubt
as to how he saw the function of drama and the dramatist. This thesis
concentrates on the plays Shakespeare wrote after he became a member of the
Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1594 - when he could exercise more control over
his work than his unattached contemporaries. It argues that of equal
importance to what Shakespeare wrote are the choices he had, but which he
chose not to exercise. Alone of his contempories he wrote no authorial
address to his audience or readers; his professional output was unlike any
other Elizabethan or Jacobean playwright and so was his use, or avoidance,
of common theatrical devices and conventions.
This thesis undermines the conventional theory of a 'War of the Theatres'
and proposes that there was a much longer and wider literary debate than
has hitherto been recognised and that Shakespeare was actively involved in
that debate. Further, it argues that Hamlet was his main contribution to
this debate and that Hamlet is essentially a play which expresses
Shakespeare's manifesto for the theatre.
Evidence for the argument is culled from Shakespeare's contemporary rivals,
from pre-Elizabethan drama, from my knowledge of stage magic and from such
details as the number of neologisms which appeared in the language during
the period 1596-1602, when Shakespeare was the sole survivor of the first
generation of identifiable London playwrights and was therefore the man
against whom new writers, such as Jonson and Marston, had to measure