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Shakespeare in Company$
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Bart van Es

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199569311

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199569311.001.0001

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The children’s companies

The children’s companies

(p.195) 10 The children’s companies
Shakespeare in Company

Bart van Es

Oxford University Press

The move of the Chamberlain’s Men to the Bankside coincided with other changes in the theatrical marketplace. A number of new companies established themselves in the capital around the turn of the century: most notably, two troupes of child actors at Blackfriars and St Paul’s. This chapter examines the way that Shakespeare responded, at an ideological and creative level, to these rivals. It makes the case that his commitment to the ‘public’ theatre (as opposed to the ‘private’ halls of the children) became much more pointed during this phase of his career. Shakespeare’s special position as a playhouse investor thus shaped his response to the so-called ‘war of the theatres’ and ‘poets’ war’. While it eschews readings that find encoded personal satire in Shakespeare’s plays of this period, the chapter does argue for an element of polemic in the playwright’s defence of genres such as the morality play, the history play, and domestic tragedy. Shakespeare’s depiction of women is contrasted with that found on the children’s stages. Different perspectives on nationalism and moral instruction are also explored. Overall, the argument is made that plays such as Hamlet, Henry V, and Othello need to be understood as deliberate counter-statements to the competing repertory of the children’s stage.

Keywords:   children’s companies, war of the theatres, poet’s war, repertory, women, nationalism, Blackfriars, Hamlet, Henry V, Othello

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