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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: March 2008

13 - Working playwrights, 1580–1642

Until the mid 1580s, most commercial drama was written by players for their playing companies. A few players became known chiefly as playwrights: William Shakespeare, Benjamin Jonson and Thomas Heywood. By the late 1580s there were also authors who devoted a significant part of their time to playwriting. The individual careers of Shakespeare, Thomas Dekker and James Shirley illustrate different combinations of the factors that define the work of playwriting during the years 1580-1640. Shakespeare was the ideal model of solo composition, for he was believed to have written most of his plays, and all of the best ones, by himself. It would be easier to identify individual hands in collaborative projects if the playwrights had assigned pieces of the plays by established patterns. Playwrights also wrote non-dramatic literature. Daniel, Drayton, Lodge and Shakespeare wrote sonnet sequences; Christopher Marlowe, Lodge, John Marston and Shakespeare wrote epyllia; Jonson and Marston wrote satires; Jonson wrote epigrams.
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The Cambridge History of British Theatre
  • Online ISBN: 9781139054058
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