Robert Detobel

Copyright, licensing and authority

Part 1 (8 chapters)
I. Double standards regarding the concept of ownership (1)
II. Double standards regarding the concept of ownership (2)
III. Double standards regarding the concept of ownership (3)
IV. Double standards regarding the concept of ownership (4)
V. Richard Brome's contract
VI. 1608: The case of  the Children of the King's Revels
VII. The case of the Chamberlain's/King's Men
VIII. Conclusion

Part 2 (16 Chapters)
I. Pembroke's letter of March 1623
II. The letters of the Lords Chamberlain of 1619 and 1637 (1)
III. The letters of the Lords Chamberlain of 1619 and 1637 (2)
IV. Essex' letter of August 1641
V. Precedent
VI. An example of intervention by the bishop of London in 1615.
VII. An intervention by Lord Chancellor Francis Bacon in 1618
VIII. The case of Sir John Bankes, Attorney-General
IX. The letters of the chamberlains again
X. Loss of any control in July 1637
XI. The authority of the Master of the Revels
XII. The Pembrokes and the politics of plays
XIII. The Pavier quartos
XIV. Which plays could have been meant in 1637?
XV. Continuance and legal fiction
XVI. The dates

Part 1 (8 chapters)
I. Double standards regarding the concept of ownership (1)

Bentley divides the dramatists of the period between 1590 and 1642 into
three categories. To the first category , the "amateurs", belong authors
who only occasionally wrote plays, for instance for performance at court
or at the universities. Or who wrote plays not for the public stage but
rather for performance in closed circles, so-called "closet plays". Into
the second category  he places some of the most illustrious and copious
authors, eg Ben Jonson, George Chapman, John Webster. Though they were
professionals living of their pen they were not uniquely playwrights
and, above all, they were not writing for a single theatre company. Only
seven playwrights can be said to belong to the third category: William
Shakespeare (1564-1616), Thomas Dekker (1570-1632), Thomas Heywood
(1574-1641), John Fletcher (1579-1625), Philip Massinger (1583-1640),
Richard Brome (1590-1652 or 1653), and James Shirley (1596-1666). Within
a given period, which does not necessarily cover the whole of their
career, they would have stood in a contractual or contract-like
relationship with one particular theatre company for which they
exclusively wrote during that period which is why Bentley calls them
"attached or regular professionals". According to this division there
were two different categories of professionals but it is only in the
latter sense that the word ought to be understood in the following
"In this period of the highest development of the English drama, the
basic fact in the situation of the professional dramatists is that they
were the employees of the acting companies. The relationship could take
various forms, but it was always the acting company which the dramatist
had to please first; it was the acting company which paid him
eventually; and it was the acting company, which, under normal
circumstances, controlled what we should call the copyright of his play."
The use of the term "copyright" within this context is infelicitous.
Peter Blayney emits a caveat emptor: one should not buy this notion of
copyright without looking closer into it. The warning is given for a
much more appropriate environment, namely in relation to the publisher
of a printed text.  "Modern notions of literary property would not
apply: what is being sold is a manuscript, not what we now call a 
copyright (an eighteenth-century innovation)."  The publisher, once he
had acquired a manuscript, could copy it, that is multiply it by means
of the printing press and sell it. On principle, his copyright (not to
be confused with the inheritable rights of the author in his manuscript)
lasted as long as he lived if he did not sell it to another stationer.
It was itself inheritable and, provided the heir was himself a
stationer, was continued by him. Or it was continued if the widow of the
copy owner re-married another stationer (two stationers involved in
Shakespeare's works so became a printer, James Roberts in 1594 married
the widow of John Charlewood, Richard Field married the widow of Thomas
Vautrollier about 1587). If the heir was not a stationer himself he had
to sell it to a stationer for a consideration. Limitations on the
perpetuality existed, some of which had their source in the author, some
in the right of other publishers. But neither the author nor the
publisher can be said to have controlled the copyright. The granting of
this copyright, the right of the publisher to multiply the book, lay
with the Stationers' Company. However, to a certain extent the person of
the author did matter and exerted a marginal control over the copyright.
No copyright for a work could be given to a publisher if the author did
not consent to publication or to publication by a particular publisher
whom he he had not chosen himself or refused to accept (several
instances from the Register and Court Book of the Stationers' Company
could be given). While it is true that limitations of the copyright
could emanate from the author, to assert he "controlled" the copyright
would be overstating his role. On the other hand, none of the creative
rights recognized in the author were transferred to the publisher by his
purchase of a manuscript.  Which kind of copyright, then, could a
theatre company control? Which kind of ownerwhip could it claim? Which
rights did accrue to them by the purchase of a manuscript of a play?
That the players, the Lord Chamberlain's men, from May 1603 on the
King's men, were the "owners" of the plays is seldom, if ever, mentioned
with quotation marks. It seems to have become so well-received wisdom
that it may look insolent to question it. However, if we look at the
opinions some outstanding scholars have put forward, we cannot help
noting a paradox. Depending on which type of issue is under examination 
the same scholars offer differing explanations hardly reconcilable with
one another.
Walter W. Greg. Commenting on the entrance of The Merchant of Venice in
the Stationers' Register Walter Greg writes: "The unusual form of the
entry and the fact that for over two years Roberts failed to act upon it
have suggested to some critics that its object was to hinder rather than
to promote publication and that it was made at the instigation of the
players. However that may be, the play was re-entered on 28 October 1600
to Thomas Haies: 'Entred for his copie under the handes of the Wardens &
by Consent of mr Robertes.' That this was by a friendly agreement with
Roberts is confirmed by the fact that it was he who printed the ensuing
quarto for Haies the same year; and that the publication had the
sanction, if not of the Lord Chamberlain, at least of his servants, is
implicit in the wording of the entry, since 'A booke called the booke'
almost certainly means that the manuscript presented for registration
was none other than the official prompt-book of the company. It should
not, however, be hastily assumed that this was the copy actually sent to
the printer. The production of the prompt-book would satisfy the Wardens
that the publication was authorized by the owners; moreover, it would
bear the acting allowance of the Master of the Revels, and the Wardens
might be content to accept this in place of an ecclestiastical licence
to print."  Although the point is only remotely relevant here, the whole
argument is deeply flawed as no presentation at all of a book was needed
BEFUDDLED HERE. The entry was not an original entrance but an assignment
or transfer to Thomas Hayes from James Roberts, hence 'by consent of
Robertes'; Roberts had entered it on 22 July 1598. No authorization was
then needed, Roberts had the copyright and all he had to do was to
declare he transferred it to Hayes. NEVER did the wardens look for an
authorization in the case of a copyright transfer. We can even find
cases in which a copyright for which the authority requested by the
wardens had not yet been delivered was transferred to another stationer.
"Moreover copyright in a book for which the enterer was still to acquire
authority was transferable. On August 1, 1603 (III, p. 243), John Hardy
entered a copy and paid the fee of sixpence. The condition 'Provided
that yt be licensed' appears. On August 9, he assigned this copy to
Pavier, 'The seid Thomas pavier to have the same in the lyke manner that
it is entred to John hardy' (III, p. 244)."  What does concern us
immediately here is the phrase "would satisfy the Wardens that the
publication was authorized by the owners". It clearly implies that the
players were the owners against whose will the play could not be
published. Elsewhere Greg deals with the stayed plays of 4 August 1600:
"The staying order came presumably from the Court of the Company, or
else from the Wardens and neither are likely to have been moved by a
mere request from the players; but we know that in 1619 and again in
1637 the Lord Chamberlain himself wrote to the officers of the
Stationers' Company with a view to protecting the plays of the King's
men from unauthorized publication, and it is no rash guess that in 1600
he had recently taken a similar step at a time when the company was
still under his personal patronage."  The interventions of the Lord
Chamberlain in 1619 and 1637 will be the subject of the next subchapter.
We anticipate the answer to the question whether the same Lord
Chamberlain intervened in 1600: it is certainly "a very rash guess".
What matters here is that Greg takes one view regarding the ownership of
the company of players when dealing with the publication history of
Shakespeare's plays and a contradictory view when not dealing with the
publishing history but with the rules governing the Stationers' Company.
In the former case the players are the owners whose consent seems to
have been important to the Wardens, in the latter case the wardens would
have shrugged off such a claim of ownership. Greg is not alone to use
this double standard.

II. Double standards regarding the concept of ownership (2)

Edmund K. Chambers. In his comments on the publication of Troilus and
Cressida in 1609 and the epistle prefacing the second quarto in which
some information on the title page of the first quarto was disclaimed
(on the title page of the first quarto it had been stated that the play
had been acted at the Globe, hence, on the public stage; in the epistle
to the second quarto it was said never to have been acted on the public
stage) Chambers affirms: "The epistle implies that it was not obtained
from 'the grand possessors'; that is the King's men."  So, the players
were the chief owners of the play. Such blunt statements are unusual
with Chambers. Elsewhere in the same work he develops his argument at
greater length. There he denies that the players would even have had an
exclusive staging right of the play by purchasing the manuscript and
suggests their ownership would only be for the manuscript as a material
object. "Various reasons have been offered for the reluctance of the
players to allow printing. Perhaps they thought, as some managers are
said still to think, that the competition of a book would diminish their
takings. It is often held that what they feared was the appropriation of
their plays for acting by other companies. It is, of course, impossible
to hold with Miss Albright, that there was a common law stage-right,
which would have prevented appropriation. A common law right, laid down
by no court, cannot be improvised for argumentative ends. A recorded
action for a wrongly withheld 'book' in Downton v. Slater was merely for
the value of the corporeal book and for damages arising from its
detention, and in fact the court only awarded the value of the book. But
it is reasonable to suppose that there was some comity among the London
companies in the matter." . In other words, the company which first
bought a manuscript did not acquire an exclusive staging right. If
another company did not abide by the unwritten rules of fair-play
obtaining among the different playing companies, as Chambers supposes,
it could perform that play, without any danger of being sued by the
"owners" or "grand possessors". And when the actor Martin Slater left
the Admiral's men and took away a manuscript of that company he was sued
by Thomas Downton, still a member of that company, but only for the
corporeal value, that is, for the manuscript, the naked object of paper.
Only this single paper on which the text stood but without reference to
the text itself. What kind of "ownership" could this have been?

III. Double standards regarding the concept of ownership (3)

Pollard and, more hesitatingly, Arthur Mumby advance the theory that the
players were the owners and that this is the reason why it were they and
not the author Shakespeare who were taking steps to prevent the printing
of their plays. Though it is clear that it would sometimes have been in
the interest of the players to protect the plays they had bought, all
the evidence suggests they could not safeguard their interest by any
legal title. The reason is indicated by Pollard himself when he contends
that the players "had no status"   in the Stationers' Company, which is
saying the same as Greg: that the Wardens or the Court of Assistants
would not have been impressed by any request of the players.
But such affirmations of the legal or rightful ownership generally crop
up like prickly cactuses in a legally barren landscape. They are thrown
in with a sleight of phrase without further elucidation of the legal
conception of ownership. Commenting on the spate of published plays in
the two periods of July 1593 to July 1594  and August 1599 to December
1600 Pollard considers it as "strong prima facie evidence that the sale
to publishers of plays afterwards duly entered in the Stationers'
Register was regulated by their lawful owners."  The same owners who had
no status in the same Stationers' Company!! The pointed proposition,
which comes close to Bentley's phrase on the companies of players
controlling copyright, was considerably whetted down in a later article:
"The peak figures for 1594 and 1600, with their respective aftermaths in
the following year, must be traced mainly to sales by the only
possessors of numerous play-books, the companies for which plays were
written. As to why sales were so high in these particular years Sir E.K.
Chambers has offered neater explanations than those I myself advanced,
viz. that 'in 1594 the companies were reforming themselves after a long
and disastrous 'spell of plague', and in particular the Queen's,
Pembroke's and Sussex's men were all ruined, and their books were thrown
on the market', while for the second large batch of sales 'reason might
be found in the call for ready money involved by the building of the
Globe in 1589 and the Fortune in 1600." Companies of players in the
process of dissolution and in need of cash throwing their plays on the
market are a far cry from their regulating role  Pollard postulated at
his first attempt which brings the core objective of Pollard's
hypothesizing into relief: given Shakespeare's frequent absence from the
publication of his plays, a theory establishing a legal link between the
players' possession of the plays and their publication would eliminate
the author and get rid of the puzzling aspects of the publishing history
of Shakespeare's plays.

IV. Double standards regarding the concept of ownership (4)

That on principle the sale of a play by the author, if he was
identifiable, - and after 1598/1600 anonymity was on the decrease - had
no legal effect on the author's relations with a publisher is clearly
enough from a statement by the playwright Thomas Heywood in an epistle
prefacing the edition of his play The Rape of Lucrece in 1608 quoted
with bracketed annotations by Bentley:
"It hath been no custom in me of all other men (courteous readers) to
commit my plays to the press: the reason, though some may attribute it
to my own insufficiency, I had rather subscribe in that to their severe
censure, than by seeking to avoid the imputation of weakness, to incur a
greater suspicion of honesty: for though some have used a double sale of
their labors, first to the stage and after to the press, for my own part
I here proclaim myself ever faithful to the first [i.e., Queen Anne's
company] and never guilty of the last."
Heywood's words leave no doubt that it was possible for the author to
sell his manuscript twice, once to a theatre company, once to a
publisher, an impossibility if the theatre company would become the
legal owner by the purchase of the same manuscript. The "legal
ownership" of the acting company counted for nothing with the
Stationers' Company. Notwithstanding Bentley quotes the second part of
Heywood's epistle adding the following comments in brackets:
"Yet since some of my plays [i.e., If You Know Not Me You Know Nobody,
part I, 1605, part 2, 1606, A Woman Killed With Kindness, 1607, and
perhaps others not attributed to Heywood on their title pages] have
(unknown to me, and without any of my direction) accidentally come into
the printer's hands and therefore so corrupt and mangled (copied by the
ear) that I have been as unable to know them as ashamed to challenge
them. This therefore, I was willinger to furnish out in his native
habit: first being by consent [i.e., with the permission of the rightful
owners, Queen Anne's company] next because the rest have been so wronged
in being published in such savage and ragged ornaments."
As with the other authors quoted we meet the same laconic obiter dictum
that the players were the "rightful owners." And again it must be asked:
owners of precisely what? Fortunately, Bentley himself provides us with
a clue:
"The dramatist sold his manuscript to the acting company for which it
had been prepared; after that it was no more his than the cloak that he
might have sold to the actors at the same time."
If the author's manuscript was no longer more his after having sold it
to the theatre company as the cloak he might have sold them at the same
time what then did the company acquire by the act of buying? In the case
of the cloak, evidently nothing more than the mere cloak. What more in
the case of the manuscript than the mere manuscript? The term "rightful
owners", however,  suggests the players owned all the ownership rights
attached to the manuscript.
It was not the case for the manuscript of a play. A manuscript could be
printed and published, copied by means of the printing press. Heywood
tells us that the author could sell a second manuscript to a publisher,
remained full owner in his relationship with the publisher, without any
legal restrictions proceeding from the sale to a company of players.
The right of ownership excludes all other parties from the same
ownership. When a company of players acquired a manuscript of a play
they could stage it. Exclusion, however, there was none: they were
without legal protection against other companies staging the same play.
This was almost certainly the main reason why some companies sought to
withheld a play from printing. A printed play was more readily available
to other companies, and though it seems not to have happened very often,
cases of encroachment by other companies are known. As for publication,
if they wanted to keep the play from printing for a time the surest way
was to arrange for an agreement with the author to that effect. Only one
such contract is known of, that between the playwright Richard Brome and
the Salisbury Court company. It is on the case of Richard Brome and of
similarities between the profile of his publication record and that of
others, including Shakespeare,  Bentley bases his concept of "attached
professional dramatist".
The case proves nothing for Shakespeare of Stratford. It is rather
devastating for him.

V. Richard Brome's contract

In 1635 Richard Brome and the Salisbury Court company entered into a
contract  which was renewed with minor amendments  in 1638. The contract
is not extant but parts of it are known from a suit brought by the
company against the author for breach of contract. In 1635 it was
stipulated that Brome "should not nor would write any play or any part
of a play to any other players or playhouse, but apply all his study and
endeavors therein for the benefit of the said company of the said
playhouse." The clause was reiterated in other words in the contract of
1638: "And that he should not write, invent or compose any play tragedy
or comedy or any part thereof for any other playhouse."  Brome had
infringed this obligation. "The plaintiffs in their bill of complaint
say that Brome 'did sell and deliver one of the plays which he made for
your subjects [the Salisbury Court company] in the said time unto
Christopher Beeston, gentleman."  Brome  admitted to having sold the play to another company but defended his conduct by default of payment on the side of the Salisbury Court
company. One provision concerning publication was not object of the
suit, but fortunately cited:
"should not suffer any play made or to be made or composed by him for
your subjects or their successors in the said company in Salisbury Court
to be printed by his consent or knowledge, privity, or direction without
the license from the said company or the major part of them."
The clause deserves to be spelled out. Brome should not publish a play
he had written for the Salisbury Court company "by his direction". That
is, on his own volition. If he wished to publish one of these plays he
had first to obtain the consent of the company of players. Brome should
not publish a play he had written for the Salisbury Court company "by
his consent", that is, if he was approached by a publisher asking him to
give his consent for the publication of one of these plays, which
implies that the relevant person for a publisher was the author and not
the company of players, he had first to obtain the consent of the
company of players, the players had to consent to Brome's consent. Brome
had to ask the consent of the company of players if he had "knowledge"
or "was privy" to the forthcoming printing of one of these plays either
without having been asked for his own consent or having taking himself
the initiative. The provision aimed at precluding two possibilities,
first the possibility that Brome would not care for a surreptitious
publication of which he had learnt in some way or another, secondly that
he had not given his formal consent to printing but connived at.  The
former possibility is not likely because "it is not that Brome was
averse to publication, for in the three years before his contracts he
had published two plays, and in the the twenty years after his
contracts, twenty of his plays were either entered in the Stationers'
Register or printed or both." But neither case could be used as an
excuse. By the agreement Brome was obliged not to let pass such a
publication : he "should not suffer" it "to be printed". How or when
could Brome obtain knowledge of the printing of one of his plays? One
answer is, by some indefinite rumour. The wardens of the Stationers'
Company would certainly not warn him. And Brome would not have regularly
looked into the Stationers' Register in order to see if one of the plays
he had written for the Salisbury Court had not been entered. Till July
1637 all plays (with some exceptions, mot notorious the FF) were authorized for the press by the Master of the Revels or his deputy. But the hypothesis that the Master of the Revels would
have warned the author is also unlikely. And was even more unlikely
after July 1637 when the authorizing power - which was never a legal,
nor an illegal but an extra-legal authority - was withdrawn from the
Master of the Revels and re-vested, factually (legally it had always
been) in the episcopal censors. The most likely way for Brome to know
that a play was printed was its appearance as book on the bookstalls of
St. Paul's Churchyard, after printing. The provision that he would not
suffer such a play to be printed implies that Brome's, the author's
subsequent objection to such a publication would lead to the
sequestration of the printed play - which indeed would have been the
It should by now be clear that the "rightful ownership" of the company
of Salisbury was without signification to the Stationers's Company. The
author's ownership of the manuscrupt was what counted and the company of
players had, therefore, to act through the author because he could
successfully oppose the printing. He did have, to use Pollard's word, a
status in the company inasfar as his permission or rather non-refusal
was necessary for printing,  not that of the players. Their consent was
only working within the field of the relationship between players and
author but did not extend beyond to the publishing world.

VI. 1608: The case of  the Children of the King's Revels

Another case, though somewhat different from Brome's, illustrates the
not so powerless position of the author. On 10 March 1608 an agreement
was made between the shareholders of the Children of the King's Revels.
" The agreement stipulated that none of the sharers "is to print any of
the play-books, 'except the booke of Torrismount, and that playe not to
be printed by any before twelve months be fully expired' The syndicate
did not hold together long. It will be noticed that, in spite of the
attempt in the articles to bar the printing of plays, these had begun to
reach the stationers again as early as April 1608."  We have again a
striking example of a misunderstanding owed to the neglect of the role
of the author. The agreement was between the sharers, NOT between the
sharers and the AUTHOR. It is simply not exact to state that plays were
soon published "in spite of the attempt to bar the printing of the
plays".  The syndicate of shareholders was composed of "Martin Slater,
who is described as citizen and ironmonger of London, but is, of course,
well known as actor in the Admiral's and other companies. The bill [of
complaint, like in the case of Brome and the Salisbury Court group the
information cropped up in a suit] incorporates the terms of Articles of
Agreement entered into on 10 March 1608 by Slater on the one hand and
Barry, Androwes, and Drayton, together with William Trevell, William
Cooke, Edward Sibthorpe, and John Mason, all of London, gentlemen, on
the other."   Michael Drayton, Mason and Barry were at the same time
authors. Michael Drayton probably never wrote a play for the company; at
any rate he never published one. Barry and Mason did publish plays
written for the company, the former The Turk, entered in the Stationers'
Register on 10 March 1609, one year after the agreement, the latter Ram
Alley, entered on 9 November 1610 and published in 1611. Other plays had
been published before, two before the agreement, three shortly after,
namely " Day's Humour Out Of Breath (1608, S.R. 12 April 1608),
Markham's (and Machin's) The Dumb Knight (1608, S.R. 6 October 160), and
Armin's Two Maids of More-clack (1609)."  But the authors John Day,
Gervase Markham, and Robert Armin were not parties to the agreement and
by no means bound by it. The case and the way it is sometimes commented
upon graphically shows how the confusion created by the representation
of the players as "rightful owners" to whom the author would have lost
any right obstructs the understanding of .

VII. The case of the Chamberlain's/King's Men

Brome's contractual obligations serve as model for Bentley's "attached
professional dramatist", for Thomas Heywood, Thomas Dekker, John
Fletcher, Philip Massinger, James Shirley, William Rowley, and William
Shakespeare. He points out that not only none of the plays written by
Brome for the Salisbury Court company was published during the term of
the contracts but that the same holds true for James Shirley during the
period he wrote for the King's men. Both did publish plays but only such
written before they entered the service of their respective company. If
Heywood, Dekker, and Shakespeare published plays during the period of
their employment by the company it can, on these terms, only mean that
they had received the company's consent.
"Shakespeare's pattern is again like that of the other attached
professionals in that he did not himself take to the printers any of the
plays he wrote for the the Lord Chamberlain-King's Company. When his
plays were published they appeared without any indication of the
author's sponsorship - no dedications, no epistles, no addresses to the
readers, no commendatory verses from friends, not even a list of
characters, and for most of them neither prologue nor epilogue.
Moreover, the multitude of textual studies of his plays during the last
two hundred years have accumulated so many scores of obvious errors in
all the quartos that one can be sure no author proffread the sheets at
the printing house. Nor can it be hypothesized that the numerous errors
may derive from an author who really was interested in the publication
of his plays, but who was temperamentally careless about the dull chore
of proofreading. This cannot have been the temperament of William
Shakespeare, for he did take great pains with his text when he published
his poems. In Venus and Adonis, 1593, and The Rape of Lucrece, 1594, he
not only provided dedications but gave his readers excellent texts, far
cleaner than those displayed in any of his quartos. In whatever manner
Shakespeare's several plays may have come into the hands before 1616
(and the possible methods are various) it is reasonably clear that he
himself refrained from ushering them into print in the fashion of so
many of his contemporaries in these year - ..."
Indeed, about half of his plays were not published during his lifetime.
Otherwise stated, the other half were not only published during his
lifetime but also during the period of his membership of the company, as
actor and shareholder. And, if we accept the orthodox chronology, at an
early date after their staging, to boot. But one theory still fairly
widely held has it that the players would have tried, more often than
not unsucessfully, to prevent his plays from being printed. We cannot
fail to note in how happy a position the Lord Chamberlain's/King's men
were to have in Shakespeare as co-actor and co-shareholder at the same
time an author writing for them on the same or similar conditions as,
nearly a generation later, Richard Brome for the Salisbury Court
company. An author who had earned fame and profile, at last  since 1598.
There would hardly have been need to oblige him contractually. All his
fellows would have had to do is that to which the Salisbury Court
company had contractually obliged  Richard Brome. For Brome there was no
occasion to object against the printing of some plays he had written for
that company, for Shakespeare there were several. He did nothing. His
fellows seem not to have asked or urged him.

VIII. Conclusion

Instead A.W. Pollard, among others, declares the players to be the
"lawful owners." Shakespeare, as author, was a  "lawfuller owner", the
only owner whom the Stationers' Company would have recognized, whose
objections to the surreptitious publication of his plays they would have
fully accepted. The main strength of Pollard's, Greg's and others'
theory lies on the one hand in its having been repeated so often over so
long a time, on the other hand in a certain degree of plausibility. Let
us repeat again, a last time. Regarding the stayed plays in August 1600
(see later) Greg writes: "There can be little doubt that someone in
authority had been making inquiries about plays that it was intended to
print and had given a warning against trespassing upon the company's
preserves."  The invisible hand, however, is clearly visible from the
entry. It is not the Lord Chamberlain's, it is the under warden's. 
There is not a shred of evidence at all that the players would have
tried to intervene with the Stationers' Company, except, possibly, the
three letters written to it by the respective Lord Chamberlains in 1619,
1637 and 1641. But these letters should not be bought at face value
either. Too many question are raised by them (see next subchapter). On
the other hand, it cannot be doubted that players were sometimes
interested in withholding plays from print, most probably the most
successful ones (Brome's plays, for instance, enjoyed great popularity,
nuch to the chagrin of Ben Jonson. Not the theory as such is
implausible, it is implausible for a company with Shakespeare as actor,
shareholder and author. It is this triple function which is fatal to
both Pollard's and Bentley's version. To Pollard's version: if the Lord
Chamberlain's men were looking for ways to prevent premature printing of
Shakespeare's plays the most rational and surest way would have been to
urge the author, their fellow, to complain to the Stationers' Company.
To Bentley's version: if we take seriously the displeasure about the
"diverse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the
frauds and stealthes of iniurious impostors" in the epistle to the First
Folio signed by the players, we cannot but be astonished at the author's
failure to undertake anything against it. It suffices to refer again to
Lewis Lewkenor's epistle : " The former treatise (for though they are
suppressed, yet there are great numbers of them extant)... was by a
fellow, that had stolne a coppy thereof, foysted to the print, in hope
of benefit".
Finally, we may ask whether for any of these "attached dramatists" a
case can be found comparable to A Yorkshire Tragedy and The London
Prodigal? Was ever a play attributed to them which was not theirs,
without any sign of protest? We could not find such a case. The closest
match is a play of James Shirley's, The Coronation. It was wrongly
attributed to John Fletcher in 1640. But it was republished in 1653
under Shirley's name. Nothing is known of a protest by Shirley. But as
the play was entered in the Stationers' Register in April 1639 it is
likely to have been published early in 1640. At that time Shirley was
still in Ireland, absent from London.  It seems as if Shakespeare was
the only author to have others' plays published under his name during
his life-time.
And there still remains the mystery of the Sonnets.

Part 2 (16 Chapters)

I. Pembroke's letter of March 1623

Doubt about the inexistence of any rights of the playing companies or
their manager to interfer with the publication of plays in the absence
of an explicit non-publishing agreement between them and the author are
raised by three letters of the respective Lords Chamberlain in 1619
(William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke), 1637 (his brother Philip, earl
of Montgomery and at his brother's death in 1630 4th earl of Pembroke)
and 1641 (Walter Devereux 3rd earl of Essex).
In fact, there was was a fourth intervention by the 3rd earl of Pembroke
on 3 March 1623, though not on behalf of the players but of his
subordinate, the new Master of The Revels, sir John Astley (also spelled
: Ashley). The receipt of this letter was recorded by the Stationers'
Company as follows:
Plays. This day a letter from my lord Chamberlain was openly read to all
      The Master Printers concerning the licensing of plays, & c, by
Sir John
Ashley. The copy whereof is in the book of letters.

What prompted this intervention? Possibly it was one of Sir George Buc's
last licensings in November 1621 (Arber IV.188.). Buc licensed a work of
the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega, The Pilgrim of Castile. This work,
however, was not a play but a romance. The wardens DID NOT ACCEPT BUC'S
AUTHORITY in this case. They added to the entry that it should not be
printed without "more sufficient authority". In March 1623 this rebuttal
was over a year old. But Pembroke might have feared that the SC would no
longer accept the same licensing power for Astley which they had
accepted for George Buc (this word "accepted" seems a misnomer, but it
is not, see later). Contrary to this record, the book of letters, which
is extant, does not contain the above letter of Pembroke. There is
little reason to believe that it had never been there. There are good
reasons to presume that it was removed after July 1637. From 1623 to mid
1637 the master of the Revels was sir Henry Herbert, a relative of the
Lord Chamberlain. Henry Herbert did not only license plays but also some
other literary works. His last licensing of a play for the press
occurred in April 1637. Then his name disappears from the Stationers'
Register. All plays are licensed by the episcopal censors again. 
Pembroke's letter was no longer relevant, neither actually nor
potentially.  Again, that not the Master of the Revels but the
Archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London (and their deputies) 
were legally empowered to license plays for the press is evidenced by a
letter of the Archbishop (then George Abbot) to the Lord Mayor in 1615.
Abbot claims that he and the bishop of London (then John King) had
authority over all matters "concerning printing and selling of books"
(Court Book C, p. 349).

II. The letters of the Lords Chamberlain of 1619 and 1637 (1)

The three letters of 1619, 1637 and 1641 had no bearing on the scope of
competencies of the Master of the Revels. Of course, if he would have
refused to authorize a play it could not be printed, at least not in
that particular version. But the letters of the successive Lord
Chamberlains are directly targeted at the process of printing, whether
authorized or not. It is required that the printing of the plays of the
Kings' men in 1619 and 1641 and of both the King's and the Queen's Young
Company in 1637 should be subjected to the consent of the players. The
King's and the Queen's Young Company are better known as Beeston's Boys,
after the name of the manager Christopher Beeston who was succeeded by
his son  William. Whereas the letter of 3 March 1623 affected the Star
Chamber Decree of 1586 which had vested the licensing power for plays
(and nearly any other kind of book) in the Archbishop of Canterbury and
the Bishop of London, and by extension their deputies, the other letters
affected the rules of the Stationers' Company for which the only limits
to the right of printing and publishing were the existence of a previous
right of another stationer in the same work or the opposition of the author.
The first letter , written by the 3rd earl of Pembroke, was recorded in
the Court Book under the date of 3 May 1619:
"Hen. Hemmings. Upon a letter from the right honourable the Lord
   It is thought fit & so ordered that no plays that his Majesty's
Players do play shall be printed without consent of some of
The entry is ambiguous. It is not known who this Henry Hemmings was. Was
it a miswriting for John Hemmings, the manager, shareholder and actor of
the King's Men? Or a relative? Does the phrase "that his Majesty's
players do play" mean plays being performed at the time of entering it
in the Stationers' Register?  And who were "some of them"? The letter
might have supplied some clarifications, had it been extant. Contrary to
the letter of 3 March 1623 concerning the powers of the Master of the
Revels it was not openly read to make it known to the whole membership;
and it was not ordered that it be kept  in the book of letters. Which
seems to indicate that the wardens and the assistants did not consider
it to be of particular importance. But at least part of it is preserved
because it is, analogous to legal documents like deeds reciting previous
owners of an estate, and statutes, reciting the relevant previous
statutes, referred to in the letter of 10 June 1637 of the 4th earl of
"Whereas complaint was heretofore presented to my dear brother &
predecessor by his Majesty's servants the Players, that some of the
Company of Printers & Stationers had procured, published & printed
diverse of their books and Comedies, Tragedies, Chronicle Histories, and
the like which they had (for the special service of his Majesty & for
their own use) bought and provided at very dear and high rates. By means
whereof not only they themselves had much prejudice, but the books much
corruption to the injury and disgrace of the Authors, And thereupon the
Masters and Wardens of the company of printers & stationers were advised
by my Brother to take notice thereof & to take Order for the stay of any
further impression of any of the Plays or Interludes of his Majesty's 
servants without their consent."

III. The letters of the Lords Chamberlain of 1619 and 1637 (2)

He goes on:
"Notwithstanding which I am informed that some Copies of Plays belonging
to the King & Queen's servants the Players, & purchased by them at dear
rates, having been lately stolen or gotten from them by indirect means
are now attempted to be printed & that some of them are at the Press &
ready to be printed which if it should be suffered, would directly tend
to their apparent detriment & great prejudice & to the disenabling of
them to do their Majesty's service: for prevention & redress whereof it
is desired that order be given & entered by the Master & Wardens of the
Company of Printers & Stationers,  that if any Plays be already entered,
or shall hereafter be brought unto the Hall to be entered for printing,
that notice thereof be given to the King's & Queen's  servants the
players, & an inquiry made of them to whom they do belong. And that some
certificate in writing under the hand of John Lowen & Joseph Taylor for
the King's servants & of Christopher Beeston for the King's & Queen's
Young Company, or of such other persons, as shall from time to time have
the direction of those companies, which is a course that can be hurtful
unto none, but such as go about unjustly to prevail themselves of
others' goods without respect of Order or good government..."
Not only was the letter of 1637 neither openly read nor ordered to be
kept in the book of letters, there is no trace of the Stationers'
Company having recorded it. And, after all, this is not surprising. But
the problems connected with these two letters will be discussed more in
detail later. One, however, must be mentioned here because this
possibility was no longer available to the Lord Chamberlain in 1641. As
well in May 1619 as in June 1637 nearly all the plays submitted to the
wardens had passed through the hands of the Master of the Revels for
authorization. Why did the Pembrokes not instruct their subordinate who
was, too boot, in regular contact with the players? This was no longer
the case on 7 August 1641 when the 3rd earl of Essex wrote his letter.
On 24 July 1641 Essex had been appointed Lord Chamberlain of his
household by Charles I, not so much because the king held him to be a
loyal subject but rather to watch him closely. The struggle between the
King and Parliament had reached a climax early in 1641 with the
attainder and the subsequent execution of the earl of Strafford. Essex
had voted for the death sentence. When the king rushed into Parliament
at the head of his guard to arrest five parliamentarian leaders his Lord
Chamberlain was dutifully at his side but it was he who had warned them
so that they could flee in time. When early in 1642 Charles I fled from
London to York, Essex, Lord Chamberlain of his Household, remained in
London, and in July 1642 he was declared a traitor at his being
appointed commander-in-chief of the parliamentarian army. It is
astounding that in those agitated days of English history Essex, hardly
a month in office, took the pains to write to the Stationers' Company on
behalf of the players, the more so because there seems hardly have been
any need (see later). He wrote:

IV. Essex' letter of August 1641

" The players which are his Majesty's servants have addressed themselves
unto me as formerly to my predecessors in office, complaining that some
printers are about to print & publish some of their plays which hitherto
they have been usually restrained from by the authority of the Lord
Chamberlain. Their request seems both just and reasonable, as only
tending to preserve them masters of their proper goods, which in justice
ought not to be made common for another man's profit to their
disadvantage. Upon this ground therefore I am induced to require your
care (as formerly my predecessors have done) that no plays belonging to
them be put in print without their knowledge & consent. The particulars
to which they now lay claim are contained in a list enclosed, and if any
of those plays shall be offered to the press under another name than is
in the list expressed, I shall desire your care that they may not be
defrauded by that means but that they may be made acquainted with it,
before they be recorded in your hall & so have opportunity to show their
right unto them."
This letter was not recorded by the Stationers' Company either. Like
Pembroke's letter of 1637 it was found in the Lord Chamberlain's Warrant
Books in the Public Record Office. To the letter was joined a list of 60
plays for which the consent of the King's Men should be sought. It was
not until 4 September 1646 that the largest part of these 60 plays were
entered in the Stationers' Register to Robinson and Moseley.  The
majority of plays were plays by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher
published in the Folio edition of their complete works in 1647. Others
were printed still later, a few were probably either not printed at all 
or lost. Only two of the plays were entered in the register earlier, but
only shortly before. Both were written by the courtier sir John Suckling
who, some years before, had committed suicide in France to which he had
fled after an abortive conspiracy to liberate the earl of Strafford from
the Tower in 1641. One play was The Goblin, entered on 24 July 1646, the
other The Discontented Colonel (also known under the title Brennoralt)
on 1 August 1646.  Both were entered to the same Hugh Moseley. To
conclude from it that the order of the Lord Chamberlain had worked would
be simplistic. The demand from 1642 to 1646 was for pamphlets, reports,
letters on the Civil War, the demand for plays was practically zero.
Public theatre performances had been forbidden since September 1642. If
one would argue with Pollard, this would have been the time for the
players to sell their "property". One has to go back to 6 August 1642 to
find a play, The Sophy by sir John Denham, published together with his
poem Coopers Hill.   In the wake of Essex's letter only one play was
entered by a stationer. The situation before Essex's letter is
identical. Between November 1640 and August 1641 only one play is found
in the Stationers' Register, John Day's Parliament of Bees on 23 March
1641.  Essex claimed protection of the plays of the King's Men at a
moment there was little danger of pirating by publishers.

V. Precedent

       It will be noted that the idea of "custom" and "precedent" is
present from the very beginning in the letters of the Lord Chamberlains.
Pembroke's letter in 1637 opens: "Whereas complaint was heretofore
presented to my dear brother & predecessor by his Majesty's servants the
Players..." and Essex in 1641: "The players which are his Majesty's
servants have addressed themselves unto me as formerly to my
predecessors in office..." There is a certain analogy with the formal
method used to legally lay claim to powers attached to an office. In his
Third Reports sir Edward Coke quotes the following example from the
books of assize of the 26th year of the reign of  Edward III :

"it appeared that in a writ of assize the Abbot of B[ury] claimed to
have cognizance of pleas and writs of assize, and other original writs
out of the King's courts by prescription, time out of a mind of man...
and shewed divers allowances thereof, and that King H[enry] I confirmed
their usages, and that they should have cognizance of pleas, so that the
Justices of the one bench or the other [King's Bench and Common Pleas]
should not intermeddle; out of which record (being now above three
hundred years past) it appeared that the predecessors of that Abbot had
time out of mind of man in those Kings' reigns (that is whereof no man
knew the contrary either out of his own memory, or by any record or
other proof) writs of assize, and other original writs out of the King's

       In 1637, when the new Star Chamber Decree was about to be
enacted, the Lord Chamberlain might have fostered some hope that the
power of licensing plays for the press, which his subordinate, the
Master of the Revels, had been exerting for over thirty years, and even
some other literary matter, to which the Master of the Revels had become
accustomed for more or less a decade, would be formally translated from
the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London to his office. We
shall see that there had never been any other legal foundation than the
mere custom of so doing . Anticipating this analysis, it appears that
the letters written by the successive Lord Chamberlains not only served
the players, supposing they actually did serve them, but might have
served the Lord Chamberlain's purposes as well. If this would be so, the
Lord Chamberlain and the players served each other's purposes thanks to
the fortunate coincidence that some publishers were trying
surreptitiously to print plays the King's Men and the King's and Queen's
Young Company wanted to withhold from printing.

VI. An example of intervention by the bishop of London in 1615.

       The example is useful to see how the intervention of an official
who did have legal power to intervene in matters of printing, the bishop
of London (John King), differs from the letters of the successive Lords
Chamberlain. On 14 October 1615 the Bishop of London wrote to the
Stationers' Company :

"These are to require you that you give present order to Okes the
printer... that he proceed not with the impression of the book called
the Concordance of Years which he is in hand with at his and your peril."
The prohibition was unusual in that it was not grounded on some morally
or politically reprehensible contents of the book but purely on the
claim of the stationer Thomas Adams that the publication constituted an
infringement of his copyright. Adams held the copyright in Grafton's
Table of Years. The corporation of the stationers had acquired the
copyright in a similar work, Hopton's Concordance of Years. Having, as
could be expected, not succeeded with his complaint to the Court of
Assistants, Adams had petitioned John King. In a first letter of 14
September 1615 the bishop had enjoined the company not to print Hopton's
version because the additions as compared with Adam's version were not
so material as to justify a separate copyright for Hopton's version.
"Considering that it may be the case of every particular man amongst you
to suffer the like, & that unkindness and breach amongst yourselves may
give occasion to others to offer unto you those wrongs which you would
loathly endure..."
It is remarkable that in this case  the bishop's argument was uniquely
based on the company's own rules. In a letter written two weeks later he
was using the same argument as the Stationers' Company in 1643 when
Parliament threatened to abolish their monopoly or in the first decades
of  the 18th century when the Statute of Anne was putting an end to
their copyright system. Community of printing was harmful, the
annulation of the exclusive publisher's copyright would lead to anarchy.
"I dealt as equally and unpartially as possibly I could on both sides, 
thinking it unfit on the one part, that Mr Adams should print more than
his own Copy or you defraud him of that copy by imprinting some few
additional notes and rules under colour whereof his book should become
altogether fruitless; besides I grounded my self therein upon an order
made by yourselves which you ought not to infringe. This order and
conclusion then made I held to be very just and indifferent and continue
still of the same mind. Notwithstanding I am since informed that you go
onward with the imprinting of that other book contrary to your own order
and my resolution and to the manifest and wilful injury of a brother of

       Still the Stationers' Company was not willing to give in as can
be infered from the injunction in the following October. Eventually,
they had to bow to the bishop's order. On 6 March 1616 it was ordered
that Hopton's Concordance of the Years be definitively entered to Adams
against payment of a certain sum. Spelling out the bishop's argument we
learn that additions to a work could constitute a new copyright if they
were sufficiently substantial; if they were not sufficiently
substantial, as the bishop esteemed in Adams's case, to allow a new
copyright (that is literally “a right to copy or multiply”)would constitute an infringement; moreover, it would not only  signify a breach of the rules the company had set itself but it would
lead to disorder or, to use a term often used in the records of the
company to "disorderly printing". According to the bishop it was the
company's own just principle that a publisher could not make some
additions to a work in which another publisher had a copyright. The
basis for this exclusivity was a certain representation of the original
text. If the new text did not sufficiently differ from the original text
no new copyright could be granted. If the author of a given work was
still alive, the notion of "original", of "true copy",  as it was
alternatively termed, could only root in the author. Only the author
could decide what was the true copy. The principle of exclusivity on
which the copyright system of the Stationers' Company rested was
necessarily tied up with the author's sovereignity over his text. Only
the author could be the source of the true copy or the original. If the
first publisher were free to change and manipulate an author's text at
will, who could prevent another publisher from doing the same with the
text first published? And if he did it, how and by whom else could the
true, original text be established than by the author? Only one case
(Gervase Markham, who wrote a great number of books on husbandry and
horsemanship in which he used the same matter as in previous works) is
known in which the Stationers' Company was no longer prepared to accept
the autonomy of the author with respect to his work because the author's
practices were undermining their copyright system.

VII. An intervention by Lord Chancellor Francis Bacon in 1618

       Francis Bacon, too, intervened in the Stationers' Company, but
within the powers given to the Lord Chancellor by statute 19º Hen. VII,
chapter 7 (that is, in 1503-4): "... for that Master, Wardens & people
of guilds, fraternities, and other companies corporate... often times
... make among themselves many unlawful & unreasonable ordinances..."
they should not make any acts or ordinances, nor execute them unless
"the same acts and ordinances be examined & approved by the Chancellor,
Treasurer of England & Chief Justices of either bench, or three of
them."   For the corporations in the province this task was conveyed to
the justices of the Assizes. This statute remained in effect till the
beginning of the 18th century when the royal charters of the London
corporations were repealed.
Bacon's letter of 18 May 1618 to the Stationers' Company was written
upon a petition to him and Lord Chief Justice Montague by John Jaggard
about certain irregularities in the distribution of the benefits arising
from the letters patent James I had granted the company on 29 October
1603 for two categories of publications:  the Primers, Psalters and
Psalms, on the one hand, on the other the Almanacs and Prognostications.
Primers were prayer books for private use (prayer books for use in the
church were excluded, being the privilege of the King's printer).   The
patent empowered the master, wardens and assistants to make "from time
to time such reasonable laws, ordinances and constitutions ...
concerninge the due execution of these our Letters Patents... and may,
impose, assess, ordain and provide such pains, punishments and penalties
by imprisonment of body or by fines and amercements or by either of them
upon all such as shall offend against such laws, ordinances and
constitutions", always on condition that " from time to time such
reasonable laws, ordinances and constitutions ... concerninge the due
execution of these our Letters Patents... and may, impose, assess,
ordain and provide such pains, punishments and penalties by imprisonment
of body or by fines and amercements or by either of them upon all such
as shall offend against such laws, ordinances and constitutions... the
said laws, ordinances and constitutions be examined and approved by the
Chancellor of England,  Treasurer of England, and the Chief Justices of
either Bench [that is, King's Bench and Common Pleas] ... and be not
contrary or repugnant to the laws , statutes, rights or customs of our
Realm of England, nor contrary to a decree touching Printers and
Booksellers made in the Court of Star Chamber the three and twentieth
year of the reigne of ELIZABETH late Queen of Englande "  The clauses
conveying legislative and judicial powers to the company as well as the
subjection of their ordinances to the approval  of the Lord Chancellor,
Treasurer and both Chief Justices were not particular to James's patent;
they were part of any official approval of the ordinances any
corporation had set up for the organisation of their trade.

This intervention was not about licensing but about by-laws.

VIII. The case of Sir John Bankes, Attorney-General

The letters of the Pembrokes and the earl of Essex were more like the
request of Sir John Bankes on behalf of the stationer Walbank, who held
half a yeoman's share in the English Stock. Bankes asked that this might
be increased to a whole share. So it was. There was no reason for the
company to decline the request. Bankes was a most important man. As can
be seen from the notes sir John Lambe, Dean of the Arches, made in
preparation  of the new Star Chamber decree (which was to be passed in
1637), a revision of the existing press act of 1586 was being expected ,
a matter of vital importance for the company. The company's interest to
satisfy the Attorney-General Bankes was a compelling one. It was Bankes
who set up the new Star Chamber Decree of 11 July 1637, the decree, by
the way, which definitively put paid to any influence of the Master of
the Revels and, as a consequence, of his superior the Lord Chamberlain.
About eight weeks after the enacting of the decree, on 4 September 1637,
the following record was entered into the Court Book:

A gratuity of £20, This day the Court took into their consideration what
given to the King's Mr Attorney for his love & kindness to the Company
Attorney touching about the new decree. Whereupon it was ordered that £20
the new Decree in should be sent him, which the warden accordingly
presented him
Star Chamber with.

IX. The letters of the chamberlains again

In 1637 and 1641 the Lord Chamberlains could not urge the Stationers'
Company to respect their own rules. The players had no status in the
publishing process. In fact what Pembroke and Essex asked was that the
wardens and assistants adopt a principle, to seek the consent of the
players before publication, was an extension and even a breach of their
own rules. They did not base their request or requirement on any law or
regulation but on a notion of equity. However, if the ownership of the
players had been equitable it would have been possible for them to seek
remedy in an equity court, for instance, the Court of Chancery. But the
equitability was but one posited by the Lord Chamberlains, not a
principle who would have stood a chance in an equity court.
Correspondingly, the tone on which their letters closed was much less
commanding than that adopted by the Bishop of London and the Lord
Chancellor. In 1637 Pembroke's letter closes: "...which is a course that
can be hurtful unto none, but such as go about unjustly to prevail
themselves of others' goods without respect of order or good government
which I am confident you will be careful to avoid. And therfore I
commend it to your speciall care &  if you shall have need of any
further Authority or power either from his Majesty or the council table,
the better to enable you in the execution thereof, upon notice given to
me either by yourselves or by the players I will endeavour to apply that
further remedy thereto which shall be requisite. And so I bid you very
heartily farewell & rest...". Pembroke contemplates the possibility that
the Stationers' Company would reject his request on the ground of
insufficient authority.  And Essex's letter: "Their request seems both
just and reasonable, as only tending to preserve them masters of their
proper goods, which in justice ought not to be made common for another
man's profit to their disadvantage... I shall desire your care that they
may not be defrauded by that means but that they may be made acquainted
with it, before they be recorded in your hall & so have opportunity to
show their right unto them. And thus not doubting of your ready care
herein I bid you heartily farewell & rest..."

X. Loss of any control in July 1637

       The Bishop of London's and Bacon's letters were written on
behalf of a stationer, the letters of the Lord Chamberlains on behalf of
the players who could not prevail themselves of any right regarding the
publication of plays. In February 1627 the occasion was presented to
Philip Herbert, then still only earl of Montgomery, to exert some
pressure on the Stationers' Company on behalf of an author. John
Barclay's roman à clef, Argenis, containing several allusions to
contemporary persons, had been translated for the second time by captain
Robert Le Grys. An earlier translation by Kingsmith Long containing
verses by Thomas May had been entered in the Stationers' Register to
Henry Seile on 19 June 1625. Apparently, king James wanted the
publication of Le Grys's translation with May's verses also included. It
would have infringed Seile's copyright to which the company seems to
have been unwilling. Le Grys had chosen Richard Meighen as his
publisher. To overcome the reluctance of the company Le Grys wrote a
letter to the Lord Chamberlain Philip Herbert, earl of Montgomery.
"Your Lordship that has been pleased to engage me by his Majesty's
command to the printing of my translation of Argenis will I hope lend
your noble hand to the enabling me for obeying that injunction. I am
ready for the press and one of the Stationers' Company Mr Mayne
[Meighen] has undertaken for the more expedition to set two presses or
more to work upon it at once. So as it may be ready by Easter at the
farthest. But because it is not permitted to any to put in print without
either license he desires that your Lordship will know of his Majesty if
it be his pleasure it shall be printed, and signify so much by your
Lordship's to the master and the wardens of the Stationers' Company."
It was not the Lord Chamberlain, though, but the secretary of state
Edward Conway who instructed the company to print Le Grys's translation
with May's verses.
"That the said translation should be printed by you, or any of you of
whom the said Capt' Le Gris shall make choice. And that the verses
joined with the translation already published being translated by Mr
Thomas May should be inserted in the present translation. For which this
shall be your warrant."
From early in 1620s the secretaries of state, first George Calvert,
then Edward Conway, had become accustomed to authorize works on
contemporary history. Barclay's Argenis was a work which fell into this
category. The authority the secretary had become used to exert for books
touching upon contemporary history was officialized thirteen years later
by the new Star Chamber Decree, Par. III: "And that all books of
history, belonging to this State, and present times, or any other book
of state affairs, shall be licensed by the principal secretaries of
state, or one of them, or by their appointment." It is a signal witness
to the autonomy of the Stationers' Company and the respect of it by the
authorities that Le Grys's translation was not entered to the sole
Richard  Meighen but to him and Seile jointly.
Likewise, the earl of Arundel, Earl Marshall, had been authorizing works
on heraldry and related fields since the beginning of the 1620s. This
authority was also passed into the Act of 1637.
Through the Master of the Revels the Lord Chamberlain had been exerting
a similar control over the authorization of plays for double the time the
secretary of state had over books of history, past and contemporary, or
the Earl Marshall for books on heraldry. He might have expected to see
this customary practice, analogous to that of the secreatries of state
and the Earl Marshall,  legally validated by the new Star Chamber Decree
of 11 July 1637. But it was not.

XI. The authority of the Master of the Revels

       The majority of the entries in the Stationers' Register were
under the hand of the Archsbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of London or
one of their deputies; some entries were licensed by the wardens without
previous submission to an episcopal censor; others were under the hand
of diverse persons: an officer of state like the secretary of state or
the Lord Treasurer, a privy councillor,  a judge, an ambassador.

       In November 1606  appears for the first time the name of the
George Buc, Master of the Revels. The play in question, The Fleer, had
been registered for John Trundle in May 1606  upon the condition of
first getting "good authority and licence." This had in the meantime
been obtained and was noted in the assignment record, "aucthorised by
Sir GEORGE BUCKE and Master HARTWELL." From then on, till July 1637, 
the Master of the Revels licensed nearly all plays. Not all though. The
most notorious exception is the registration of Shakespeare's unprinted
plays in November 1623 with view to the publication of the First Folio
which were authorized by the episcopal censor Dr. Worrall. On 10 and 15
January 1620 two plays, Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster and John Day
and Thomas Dekker's The Life and Death of Guy of Warwick were authorized
by John Tavernor, an episcopal censor.   The same Tavernor authorized
masks by Ben Jonson on 20 January 1615. It was still the Star Chamber
Decree of 1586 which regulated the press and the authorizing power
remained lawfully vested in the Archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop
of London or the persons appointed by them. Such appointments occurred
for the first time in 1588 and were recorded by the stationers:

"The name of certain preachers whom the Archbishop of Canterbury has
made choice of to have the perusing and allowing of copies that are to
be printed ... Any of these setting his hand to a copy, to be sufficient
warrant for the allowance of the same to entering into the hall book &
so to proceed withal to printing..." .

Later appointments are not recorded. When the wardens used the word
"authority" in conjunction with some adjective like "lawful", "good",
"better", it was to the authority of the episcopacy they referred to as
can be seen, for instance,  from this entry on 4 January 1602:

master Man Entred for his Copye under th[e h]andes of master PASFEILD
and master         Seaton warden A booke Called A Defence of Tabacco
with a frendly answere to         the late printed booke Called 'woorke
for Chymney swepers'.........................................vjd

master man        Entred for his Copye under the lyke Aucthoritie Tenne
sermons of                master BURTONs uppon the i-2-3-4 verses of the
6 Chap[ter] of MATTHEWE............................................. vjd

Pasfeild's name is not repeated but the second time he is referred to as
"the like authority." Whether the phrase "sufficient authority" also
invariably referred to an episcopal censor is not so sure though likely.
It is not sure because the wardens could consider other authority than
that of an episcopal censor as sufficient. To begin with their own.
Although it does not explicitly appear from any entry it is clear that
the wardens, by their mere decision that no further authority than their
own was necessary, did, in fact, assume authority. But still another
source of authority existed. Many works were  were not authorized by an
episcopal censor, eg in December 1590 two reports on the wars of
religion in France.  On 8 December:

Thomas Nelson/ Entred for his copie under th[e h] handes of the Frenche
                  ambassadour, and bothe the wardens/to be printed in
                  French and Englishe, Ce qui est advenu en la retraicte De
                  Duc DE PARME Depuis le 20 Novembris Jusques au 27 Dudict
       mois 1590....

and on 17 December :

John Wolfe/ Entred unto him for his copie, under the Frenche
ambassadour, and bothe the wardens handes The successe
which fell out in the pursute of the Prince of PARMA,
together with a lettre of the Kinges to the marshall of
    BYRON &c...

The French ambassador had certainly no authority over the English press
and it can be safely assumed that the authority the wardens recognized
him for the reports was due to his specific office. As in the two
following cases, the first on  3 September 1594:

John Danter Entred for his Copie under th[e] handes of Master
            WILBRAHAM and master Binge a ballad entituled a
            Lamentable ballad describing the wofull murder of
            ROBERT BEECHE...

Roger Wilbraham was master of the Court of Requests from 1593 to 1616.
One year before he had authorized another report on a murder. There was
no reason for the wardens not to accept his approval, the matter being
intimately related to his office. Nor that of Sir Thomas Smith on 24
February 1612:

Master Welbye. Entred for his Copy under th[e h]andes of Sir THOMAS
         SMITHE knighte and Master Lownes warden, A booke or
          thinge called, The publicacon of the lotary [i.e. lottery] for

Sir Thomas Smith was treasurer of the Virginia Company.  In all such
cases this authority expressed by the signature of the office holder was
obtained before  the work was presented to the wardens for entrance.
There is no reason not to place into the same category an authorisation
by Lord Burghley for the publication of the papal bull excommunicating
the queen with a Dutch anwer thereto (14 October 1588), by sir Francis
Walsingham of a letter of the former Spanish ambassador Bernardino de
Mendoza (28 October 1588), or by sir Robert Cecil  on the union of Spain
and Portugal (14 April 1600). Or else the only case in which the Lord
Chamberlain authorized a publication. On 13 October 1590 we find the
following entry:

John Wolf         Entred for his copie, The tables and mappes of the
Spaniardes                pretendid Invasion. by Sea/together with the
discription thereof, by
                    booke and otherwise. in all languages under the
handes of the Archbishop of CANTERBURY, the lord Admirall, the
lord Chamberlen of  her maiesties house.

The authorization was given by the supreme censor, the officer of state
responsible for the defence of the country at sea and the Lord Chamberlain as officer responsible for the queen's safety, not  for the printing of plays .

Two other classes of authority must be considered separately. The one
class contains, in fact, only one quite exceptional case and concerns
the divorce of Robert Devereux, 3rd earl of Essex, and Frances Howard,
daughter of the Lord Chamberlain, Thomas Howard, 1st earl of Suffolk,
and her re-marriage to Robert Carr, earl of Somerset, then foremost
favourite  of King James I. It was a political divorce, sanctioning at
the same time the new - and short-lived - ascendance of a faction
composed of the earl of Somerset and the Howards. A jury had been
established to decide on her divorce from the earl of Essex. The
resolution in favor of the divorce was taken with the narrowest possible
majority of seven to five. One of the most resolute advocates was sir
Julius Caesar, chancellor of the exchequer and privy councillor. His
bitterest opponent was George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury. The
following entry of 16 march 1614 looks like a bigwig quartet's defiance
of the supreme censor of the press in his own den. Entered was "under
the handes of the Duke of LENNOX, the earle of SUFFOLKE, the earle of

       "At first sight this seems more ostentation; but closer
inspection reveals the sense of it.  For the poem was Chapman's
ill-conceived allegory [Andromeda liberata] in celebration  of the
marriage of Frances Howard and the Earl of Somerset, wherein, if the
bride figured  as Andromeda and Carr as Perseus, the lady's former
husband, the Earl of Essex, was  by implication cast for the part of the
Orc [in the Greek myth the sea-monster whom  Andromeda should marry].
Chapman's protestations of surprise at the offence taken in some
quarters on the publication of the poem is difficult to reconcile with
his precaution  in placing it under the protection of four members of
the Council, of whom one, Suffolk  was of course the bride's father, and
another, Caesar, had, as a member of the commission on the nullity
proceedings, shown marked partiality to her cause." (Walter W Greg)

Moreover, the Duke of Lennox was a relative of the king and the Earl of
Marr was James's foster-brother. Without such protection Chapman would
have incurred serious troubles, probably more than he and Ben Jonson
actually experienced for taunting the behavior of certain Scottish
courtiers in the play Eastward Ho. The wardens would have provoked the
ire of the archbishop. But they could benefit from the same cover as
The other class is constituted by those works which from the early 1620s
were authorized by either a secretary of state or the Earl Marshal. On
March 31, 1621 A Table Booke for a Prince was entered by the authority
of the then principal secretary of state Sir George Calvert , on April 5
next A true copy of the Latine Oration of the Polonian Ambassador . On
April 21, 1623 Sir Edward Conway, the other secretary of state,
authorized The Life of Nero . It may not be immediately visible what a
biography of the Roman emperor Nero would have to do with the business
of a secretary of state. To the Jacobeans it was all too obvious. In
1616 sir Edward Coke had been dismissed as Chief Justice of the King's
Bench for his stout opposition to the royal prerogative. The battle
between the vision of abolute kingdom of the Stuart and the Parliament
party was to go on for the next decades, eventually leading to civil
war. Ancient Rome always served as mirror for contemporary history.
Nero's reign constituted one of the earliest and most comprehensive
attempts to establish the absolute power of the emperor, including the
cult of the Sun King (yes, 16 centuries before Louis XIV). Such matter
could have offered a convenient allegory to criticize the absolutist
aspirations of the Stuarts and was therefore well worth the attention of
the secretary of state. The relationship between the Stationers' Company
and the secretary of state had begun tightening three years before. A
delegation of the stationers negotiated with George Calvert the
establishment of a King's printer in Ireland . On March 3, 1619 the
Stationers' Company granted an annuity to someone whom Calvert would
designate, as a sign of gratitude for "the helpe and furtherance of the
right honourable. Sir. George Calvert, Knight, principal secretary to
the state" in obtaining letters patent under the great seal of Ireland
for the office of a King's printer and "the Love and goodwill to the
Company" . On 29 October 1621 the earl of Arundel, Earl Marshall, for
the first time authorized a book with the title A Catalogue of Honor .
From then on Arundel's name regularly appears in the Stationers'
Register as a licensor of works on heraldry, coats of arms, etc. As in
the case of the secretary of state his authority was officialized the
decree of 1637: "And that all Bookes concerning Heraldry, Titles of
Honour and Armes, or otherwise concerning the Office of Earle Marshall,
shall be licensed by the Earle Marshall, or by his appointment."
The licensing power of the secretary of state for books about the
history of England and or with a possible bearing on contemporary
politics and that of the Earl Marshal for books on heraldry and other
matter concerning honour had grown into custom and from custom into
legal force. The Master of the Revels might have expected the same
progress for his own licensing power for plays. With the hindsight of
the Star Chamber Decree of 11 July 1637, however, it is rather in the
category of office-related authority  like that of the French
ambassador, the master of the Court of Request, etc. it ought to be
In two cases the wardens had been reluctant to accept his authority as
sufficient. On May 23, 1614  was entered The Hog hath lost his Pearl, a
play which has caused some trouble because of quips at the late Robert
Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, deceased in 1612, and the Lord Mayor . The
play presented for printing to the wardens was licensed by George Buc
but this license was supplemented by the allowance of the official
censor John Tavernor, secretary to the Bishop of London.  Obviously, the
publisher Redmer and/or the wardens sought the best possible guarantee
against possible peril and did not consider Buc's allowance as
sufficient. In November 1621 Buc authorized a work by the famous Spanish
playwright Lope de Vega , The Pilgrim of Casteel [that is, The Pilgrim
of Castile] or The Fortunes of Llamphilus and Nisa. However, this work
was not a play but a romance. The wardens licensed it only upon the
condition that "more sufficient authority" be obtained.
       "These considerations make it pretty clear that the Master of
the Revels possessed no  real authority to license plays, let alone
other works, for press, and that when the  Wardens allowed copies to be
entered under his hand they were merely accepting his
        assurance that they were devoid of possible offence, just as
they accepted the word of  other experts." (Greg)

After the Star Chamber Decree of July 11, 1637 the name of Henry Herbert
appears only twice in the Stationers' Register. Once on January 29, 1638
for an English translation of Corneille's El Cid, but only in
conjunction with an episcopal censor  (Thomas Wykes or Weekes, a
prebendary of St. Paul's); once on November 24, 1640, but in this case
for a French masque staged before Queen Henrietta Maria .

       "Thus the decree of 1637, by merely reaffirming the provisions
of 1586, put an abrupt  end to the activities of the Master of the
Revels as a licensor of plays for press, from  which we may conclude
that these activities lacked official sanction." (Greg)

Pembroke's letter of 3 May 1619 was recorded in the Court Book, his
letter of  3 March 1623 claiming the right of the Master of the Revels
to license all plays and some other matter was read publicly and
conserved, at least for a while, in the letterbook. The stationers had
to envision the possibility that what had become custom would be
sanctioned by a new Star Chamber Decree. But as seen, some years before
1637 they were in contact with the Attorney-General sir John Bankes who
set up the decree of 11 July 1637. When the 4th earl of Pembroke's
letter was received on 10 June 1637 they probably knew that the new Star
Chamber Decree would render it insignificant. And thought it not even
worth recording. Neither Essex's letter of 7 August 1641.

XII. The Pembrokes and the politics of plays

       The use of plays as a means to mould public opinion had become a
feature of politics from the days of Thomas Cromwell. King John, the
villain in the legend of Robin Hood, was made an English hero by John
Bale, a former priest, who entered Cromwell's and the Henrician
reformation's service. King John had been indicted by the pope. This
sufficed to elevate him into the rank of a precursor of Protestantism. 
Spanish ambassadors were well aware of the instrumentalisation of plays.
As early as in the first year of Elizabeth I's reign, in 1559, the
Spanish ambassador  complained to the queen of the anti-Spanish mood
nursered on the stage for which he cast the blame on William Cecil,
secretary of state.  Francis Walsingham's swearing in of the Queen's Men
in 1583 cannot have been unrelated to his office as secretary of state
and his duty to safeguard the inner and outer security of the Realm.  Of
course, the duty would normally have been fallen to the Lord
Chamberlain, the earl of Sussex, who was mortally ill. But Sussex had a
deputy, the vice-chamberlain Christopher Hatton to whom the duties would
have naturally devolved.
The tradition was carried over into the reign of the Stuarts, in the
first place by the Herbert brothers William and Philip, who held the
office of Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household from 1615 to 1641.
When the King's men staged Thomas Middleton's play A Game at Chess in
August 1624, a big commercial success feeding on the popular
anti-Spanish feeling, the players incurred the king's indignation but
not his wrath.
"Obviously staging Middleton's play aligned the players with the
anti-Spanish party and its hugely populist antagonism to the former
Spanish ambassador in London, Gondomar. The ambassador knew the value of
players as symptoms of popular feeling. He took a large party to the
Fortune in 1621, and the players gave him a banquet in the adjoining
garden afterwards. Since the Fortune's patron then was the king of
Bohemia, husband to James's daughter and the proclaimed leader of the
Protestant forces opposing the Catholics in Europe, it was a rather
heavy-handed piece of Spanish diplomacy. There is no record of what play
the company showed him. In 1624 when Gondomar's English enemies set up
the King's Men to perform a play against him he was out of the country
and Carlos Coloma had replaced him in London. But the memory lingered
on. The company went to great lengths to make their satire specific.
According to John Chamberlain they even secured for use on stage the
special chair made for him to accomodate his fistula."
Gondomar was a friend of James's. The staging of the play had been aptly
scheduled during James's progress in the province and was a box on the
king's ear. The sequels for the players and sir Henry Herbert, who had
licensed it were nevertheless innocuous. The players were forbidden
performances for ten days. Henry Herbert went off scotfree. Both he and
the King's men must have profited from the 3rd earl of Pembroke protection.

       "James grumbled that none of his ministers had cared to report
it to him. There was  certainly connivance at a high level over the
staging, and the main figures responsible are  not far to seek. Henry
Herbert had licensed the play. He worked directly under William,  the
third earl of Pembroke and Lord Chamberlain. William Herbert had known
the King's  Men for many years... As Lord Chamberlain, William Herbert
was perfectly placed to  defend the company and his agent, the Master of
the Revels, before the Privy Council." (Andrew Gurr)
      It cannot be reasonably assumed that the players or even the
author Middleton  would have been the prime movers. Pembroke is known to
have opposed the marriage  between Charles I and the Spanish infante.
That he knew of the play in advance of the   scandal is a more likely theory than that he simply befriended the company in its wake  for their courage in staging such a politically
sharp satire on the Spanish. That  supposition is supported by another
case from ten years later, which shows that the  Pembroke family was by
then well aware of how useful the King's Men could be in  mounting
populist political propaganda. The story behind The Late Lancashire
Witches  reveals manœuvres by Privy Councillors that drew the King's Men
into the activities of  one faction on the Council against another.
Again, it is highly likely that it was a  Pembroke hand which set the
King's Men on to mount a play that was intended to  influence political
This Pembroke was now Philip, 4th earl of Pembroke to whom the King's
men had complained that the Salisbury Court company was infringing their
property by staging a play on witches which would have taken bits from
another play belonging to their repertory.
       "The players must have expected him to help them, because their
play must have been  written with his connivance. The script that
Heywood and Brome were writing was based  in part on copies of the two
most condemnatory depositions in the case laid before the Privy Council.
These depositions, along with four others which in fact convincingly 
refuted the first two, were confidential, and only Privy Councillors had
access to them.  Pembroke himself was one of the very few people in a
position to take out the  documents which condemned the witches and
supply them to the company."

In both cases, A Game at Chess and The Late Lancashire Witches, the
Pembrokes through the Master of the Revels, their relative sir Henry
Herbert. Why not in 1619, 1637 or 1641?
"Pembroke also had a motive. The most ready reason for him to pass on to
the writers the testimonies which damned the witches and to withhold
those which exonerated them was not that he believed in witchcraft but
that he hated Archbishop Laud. Laud was the most powerful man on the
Privy Council, and had been openly sceptical of the charges of
witchcraft from the outset. Dismissing the charges would strengthen his
position on the Council, while convicting them might help to weaken him."
Who used whom? That's the question. Here as well as in the case of the
letters to the Stationers' Company. As Lord Chamberlains the Pembrokes
wielded control over the staging of plays. But in the meantime plays,
additionally to a "spectacle value ", had won a "reading value". As Andrew Gurr
puts it :
       "The Jonson Folio was a harbinger for the new status that
printed playbooks now  acquired. Plays generally became valued
sufficiently seriously to be bought and read  privately  as well as
shared in the playhouses."

Had they not acquired this value before the Jonson Folio? The epistle to
the second quarto of Troilus and Cressida, which might well have been
written by the same Ben Jonson . Or since Meres's "Comparative Discourse
" in Palladis Tamia?
The lack of control of the "reading value" of plays was a lacuna in the
politics of play of the Pembrokes which they sought  to fill.

XIII. The Pavier quartos

The nine quartos of Shakespearean and pseudo-Shakespearean plays
published by Thomas Pavier and printed by William Jaggard in 1619 seems
to fit the target of Pembroke's letter of May 1619 like a glove.
Pembroke wrote that no tragedies, no comedies and no chronicle histories
should be published without previous consent of the King's men because
they would suffer damages and the versions would sometimes be so maimed
as to wrong the author. Among the nine quartos were three of
Shakespeare's chronicle plays: 2 and 3 Henry VI, published in one volume
under the title The Whole Contention, and  Henry V; three comedies: The
Merchant of Venice, A Midsummernight's Dream, and The Merry Wives of
Windsor; two tragedies: King Lear and Pericles;  the two remaining plays
were ascribed to Shakespeare though they are not his: A  Yorkshire
Tragedy and Sir John Oldcastle. The author Shakespeare was doubly
wronged, first, by publishing plays under his name he had not written,
secondly because some of the quartos had been published in bad texts.
However, had these issues, generally called Pavier quartos, been first
issues Pembroke's phrase about the "disgrace" of the author would have
been understandable. But all of these quartos had been published for the
first time 10-20 years before. There seems no point in preventing a
wrong which had been going on  for one or two decades, if not by
supplying good texts to replace such quartos as King Lear or Merry
Wives. But this did not happen until the First Folio of 1623 the printer
of which was precisely the same William Jaggard. And the Lord
Chamberlain Pembroke had no legal means to call in plays duly authorized
and long published. The problem is that there are hardly any plays
shortly before May 1619 for which Pembroke's assertion applies that they
had actually been printed and published, as this is the clear contention
in the letter. In the last five years before 1619 practically no plays
of the King's men had been entered and/or printed, except two plays of
Beaumont and Fletcher's, A King and No King, entered in the SR on 7
August 1618 and printed in 1619, most probably before the month of May,
and The Maid's Tragedy, entered in the SR on 28 April 1619, 5 days
before Pembroke's letter. If Pembroke's intervention would have aimed at
preventing the publication of this play the date of the letter could be
explained. It would have served as a kind of legal injunction. But then
it did not achieve its goal.The play was printed the same year,
apparently within the normal space of time after its entrance (which
could vary from 3 to 6 months). What is more, three other plays of the
King's men were printed after May 1619, two of Beaumont and Fletcher's
and one of Shakespeare's. All were published by one and the same person,
Thomas Walkley. In 1622 was published a quarto of Othello. In 1621
Thierry and Theodoret, but this play was not entered in the SR, so there
is no way of knowing whether the wardens asked the consent of the
players. It is possible that the play had been licensed by the wardens
without entrance; it is more likely that it was not presented at all to
them. Only one of these plays was a bad text "to the disgrace of the
author", Philaster, re-published 2 years later in a corrected version by
the same publisher.
Hence, it is difficult to discover what would have prompted Pembroke's
letter and what would have been the impact. And why did he send his
instructions to the Stationers' Company? It should be borne in mind that
except for three plays all the plays presented to the wardens had before
passed through the hands of the Master of the Revels for licensing, not
licensing for the stage but for the press (two separate acts). Why did
the Lord Chamberlain not instruct his subordinate to give particular
heed to the plays of the King's men and to require the prospective
publisher first to obtain the consent of the players? As the Lord
Chamberlain did in 1634 with regard to the staging of The Late
Lancashire Witches? The answer that this would have meant transgressing
the borders of the Master of the Revel's competence and that the direct
authority of the Lord Chamberlain were a better deterrent is not
convincing. The Master of the Revels, when forestalling his license for
the press,  could also invoke the authority of his superior.
All these puzzles may explain why A.W. Pollard's interpretation could
prevail for so long a time. His analysis was subscribed and summarized
by E. K. Chambers: "There was, however, one reprinting enterprise, the
nature of which it has been left to the acuteness of recent
bibliographers to establish... The Contention and Pericles have
continuous signatures and were clearly designed for issue together...
Successive investigations by Professor Pollard, Dr. Greg, and Mr. Niedig
have demonstrated that, in spite of the apparent variation in the dates,
all the ten reprints really appeared in 1619." The bibliographical
evidence for the printing having been done in 1619 is: The Merchant of
Venice was not printed on James Roberts's press, though the title-page
states that is was printed by Roberts in 1600;  the watermarks in 1619
were different from those of previous years, and some of the quartos are
dated 1600 and 1608. "Finally, it has been shown, by accurate
measurements and by recurrent flaws in the letters, that the lower parts
of all the title- pages, except that of Midsummer-Night's Dream, must
have printed off from the same setting of type, which remained
undistributed, while the actual titles were altered above it. The
argument as to the dating seem to me conclusive. The other aspects of
the transaction leave more room for conjecture."  Despite such
subsisting doubts Chambers adopt the viewpoint that Pembroke's letter
was directed against Pavier's and Jaggard's enterprise. "It was nothing
to Pavier and Jaggard that they were reprinting bad texts and ascribing
to Shakespeare plays that were not his. Perhaps Shakespeare's fellows
viewed such proceedings with less equanimity. On 3 May 1619 a letter was
addressed by the Lord Chamberlain... We do not know how far Pavier and
Jaggard had gone before this bombshell fell. They may have issued all
then plays the continuous signatures and perhaps the idea of a
comprehensive volume, had separately issued those dated '1619', and had
the rest ready in print... The explanation is not wholly
satisfactory..."  But the hypothesis of a planned comprehensive
publication which would have been thwarted by Pembroke's letter is a
main pillar of Pollard's theory. As B. Roland Lewis points out, it rests
on very slender evidence, namely on the continous signatures in The
Whole Contention and Pericles and the existence of a few volumes
containing all the nine plays. As to the former argument, The Whole
Contention was, effectively,  published as one volume and there are no
other continuous signatures than for Pericles. The extrapolation looks
too bold. And the extant collections are not contemporary but bound at a
later date.
They were not publications by Pavier.  The variations in the
dates cannot be taken as evidence for fraudulent publication; the
argument has lost most of its momentum since it was shown that the
title-pages of first editions were often kept standing, in some cases
even maintaining the original year though the printing was carried out
many years later.
One of the main objections to Pollard's and Greg's theory is left
unaddressed by Chambers. Why would Pembroke have written a letter which
was without effect and which he must have known not to have any effect
for lack of both legal authority and of practical utility, the plays
having been in circulation for many years? And why did he not chose the
way via the Master of the Revels which seems to have been much more
promising?  Or why did he not address his prohibition to Jaggard
directly with whom he seems to have otherwise been on good terms?
Jaggard dedicated some publications to Pembroke and Montgomery. Jaggard
was further the printer of the playbills and in regular contact with the
players as was his predecessor James Roberts whose business he took over
in 1606 or 1608.

XIV. Which plays could have been meant in 1637?

The same questions arise regarding the letter of his brother in 1637.
The injunction is somewhat different in that it does not relate to plays
already printed but only about to be printed. It is therefore not
necessary to look for possible candidates before 10 June 1637, the date
of the warrant. At first glance, there seems a good general reason for
the letter, as publication of plays peaked in the period 1637-40. The
letter purported to protect the plays of two companies, of the
Kings'men's for whose plays the consent of John Taylor should be asked,
and the Beeston's Boys which would have to be subjected to the consent
of Christopher Beeston.
What happened with the plays of the latter company after June 1637?
Bentley seems to be at pains to localize the target of the letter: "It
demonstrates that the Beestons [Christopher and his son William] had
retained a large part of the repertory of the Queen's company at the
Cockpit, and it is probable, as has been suggested, that the Lord
Chamberlain's order was directed primarily at Queen Henrietta's company,
who are not likely to have resigned themselves to their loss with the
best grace. It may be, however, that Beeston was also seeking protection
from the King's men who seem to have played Monsieur Thomas, the Fathers
owne sonne of the list."  The explanation is not at all convincing. The
King's Men formally were servants of the King's household and, as a
consequence, the Lord Chamberlain of the King's Household was (still)
their superior. Why address the Stationers' Company and not the King's
men directly? What, as seen, the Lord Chamberlain effectively did in
1639. Further, Bentley's hypothesis is based on the assumption that the
companies formed during Charles I's reign were still organized along the
lines of Elizabethan and Jacobean times. But it is probable that the
plays were not the property of the company as a whole but of William
Beeston personally and then of his son William, just as in the the case
of William Heton, the manager of the Salisbury Court company on whom
Gurr remarks: "This new impresario had never been a player... In July of
the same year he contracted Richard Brome to write for the company... It
is a symptom of the rising status of managers and impresarios that
Brome's contract was with the playhouse manager, not with the company."
The Beeston's Boys started in February 1637. Their repertory between
this date and the closing of the theatres in September 1642 contained
some 57 plays of which 20 had already been printed before 1637, 10 were
printed in the 1650s, a few are no longer extant or bear uncertain
titles. Between June 1637 and mid 1640 were published 19 plays. Of these
19 plays 8 were by James Shirley. Between 1636 and 1640 Shirley was in
England. All 8 plays were published by Andrew Crooke and William Cooke,
either jointly or by one of them. "The publication of Shirley's plays
while he was in Ireland, far from being the crass betrayal of an absent
poet by his publisher - as has been frequently postulated - has been
analysed by Stevenson ('Shirley's Publishers') as more probably the
result of a publishing agreement with Cooke and Crooke, who jointly or
separately published sixteen of Shirley's plays or revisions in the four
years of his absence, 1636-40."  Two of these revisions, plays of
Beaumont and Fletcher's, were also published in this period. "Another
writer of plays who showed no hesitation in offering them to the
printers shortly after performance was Thomas Nabbes."  Nabbes is
present with only 1 play in the Beeston's Boys' repertory.  The
publication confirms the preceding statement: it contains a dedication
by the author. But so do 5 other plays
(by John Ford, Henry Glapthorne,
Joseph Rutter), indicating that the authors edited their work
themselves. There was no obligation for an author not bound by any
written or oral agreement to a company or a manager to ask their consent
for publication. And a fortiori no need to address the wardens. Only 4
plays are left over. One was by Henry Glapthorne, used to edit his plays
himself. One was the already noted Monsieur Thomas by Beaumont &
Fletcher for which the playwright Richard Brome wrote an epistle. This
leaves us with two plays for which the consent of the players could have
been asked.  The first is Robert Davenport's A New Trick to Cheat the
Devil, for which the publisher wrote a dedication. And, finally, the
anonymous (written by "T.D") Bloody Banquet which was, however, not
entered in the SR despite the Star Chamber Decree of 1637. It almost
certainly came never to the view of the wardens. It remains a mystery
which kind of plays the Lord Chamberlain could have meant and which
plays the players would have feared to be surreptitiously printed.
Nearly all of them were printed at the author's own initiative. There
was no way for the players to object to it and no room left to give
their consent.
The case of the King's Men is not wholly the same. In the 1630s a change
had occurred in the composition of the authorship of their repertory.
"The different repertories began to divide socially... Massinger and
Shirley, both professionals, were caught up in 1630 in a conflict
mounted by the amateur poets of the court, William Davenant, Thomas
Carew, and their friends, who fought for and eventually took over the
Blackfriars for their own plays."  Of the 13 plays from the King's Men's
repertory published from July 1637 to September 1642 no less than 9 were
written by courtiers, 2 by Philip Massinger and Henry Glapthorne with
dedications by the author. The 2 remaining plays were by Francis
Beaumont and John Fletcher, dead authors. Here the protection could have
been necessary. If so, the players were not asked for their consent and
the warrant to the wardens of the SC was bootless. The first edition of
Rollo was printed surreptitiously. The play was entered in the SR on 4
October 1639 as written by "J.B" - probably meaning  "John Beaumont". On
the title-page the initials of the authors were given as "B.J.F". The
second edition printed the next year by the printer of the University of
Oxford, outside the influence sphere of the London SC, was a corrected
copy ascribed to John Fletcher. As the authors were dead, we might
assume the players could have had control of it. But it was pirated! The
other play was also printed at the press of the University of Oxford,
beyond the control of the wardens of the London SC.
Protection by the Lord Chamberlain and consent by the players might
conceivably also have been needed for plays by courtiers in the case
they did not care for the publication. What happened with these 9 plays?
The first was a play by sir William Berkeley, in America probably better
known as the first governor of Virginia and for the quelling of the
Nathanael Bacon rebellion. The title was The Lost Lady. The play was
entered to John Okes on 5 March 1638 and transferred to John Colby on 24
September 1638.
"These entries record transactions such as frequently took place in the
business activities of any member of the Stationer's Company, and one
must be chary of interpreting them too freely. Nevertheless, the fact
that only a single copy has survived of the edition printed by Okes when
he possessed the full rights of the play, and the further fact that that
copy has the special interest of containing corrections which one is
justified in believing to have been made with the author's authority,
suggest that this edition was suppressed. If that were so, Berkeley
would have arranged with Colby for the publication of a more
authoritative edition, and Okes would have been forced to transfer his
rights to Colby. Okes, however, still remained the printer of the book.
The fact that dramatic pirates were still active as late as 1638 is
suggested not only by the various injunctions the King's Men secured
from the Lord Chamberlain to prevent the printing of their plays but by
a statement in the address To the Reader in Jasper Mayne's City Match
(1639) : 'understanding that some at London, without his Approbation or
allowance, were ready to print a false, imperfect Coppy, he was loth to
be libell'd by his owne worke', and therefore consented to publish an
authorized edition." (Papers of American Bibliographical Society).
City Match, precisely, was another play from the repertory of the King's
Men. It was also published at the university press of Oxford -
anonymously, no name on the title page, no signed dedication, but a
prologue in which are apparent "the arrogance of the amateur" Another
play was by Henry Killigrew, the first edition of which is also
considered to be pirated. It was entered in the SR in March 1638 and
printed the same year as The Conspiracy. In the second edition this
title was substituted by what is likely to have been the author's
original title, Pallantus and Eudora. "The text of this edition was
revised and a good deal rewritten, but much of the original prose,
though unaltered, is here printed in verse."  The remaining 5 plays are
Arviragus and Philicia (1639) by Lodowick Carlell, a courtier, keeper of
the Royal Park at Richmond; Aglaura (1638) and The Discontented Colonel
- or Brennoralt - (1638) by sir John Suckling; The Royal Slave (1639) by
William Cartwright, printed in Oxford; The Queen of Aragon (1640) by
William Habington; and The Sophy (1642) by sir John Denham. Sir John
Suckling's Brennoralt was entered in the SR on 5 April 1642. At that
time , Suckling had already fled to France following his involvement in
the abortive attempt to liberate the earl of Strafford from the Tower
and maybe already dead (the date of his suicide is not known exactly,
the year appears to have been 1642). Denham's Sophy was published
jointly with his poem Coopers Hill, but not edited by himself. So much
for the deterrent effect of the Lord Chamberlain's letters on pirates
claimed in Essex' letter of August 1641.
In all these publications there is no trace of the players, no more than
in all the records of the Stationers' Company. In by far the most cases
the authors were taking care of the editions. In some cases the authors
were dead and their plays were edited by others, either another author
or a publisher. Some plays of dead authors or courtiers were published
surreptitiously. The reality of a necessary consent of the players
begins to appear as a mere pretext, a fiction. And that it probably was.

XV. Continuance and legal fiction

The principle of continuance pervades many branches of the law. On the
procedural level it is necessary for the plaintiff not to let his claim
subside by non-appearance, "for when a plaintiff leaves a chasm in the
proceedings of his cause, as by not continuing the process regularly
from day to day, and time to time, as he ought to do, the suit is
discontinued".  Similarly, a claim of ownership to an estate or an
office, should it not be discontinued, has to be repeated in certain
intervals. In a letter of 7 May 1603 the 17th earl of Oxford writes to
sir Robert Cecil:
" I understand by Mr Attorney that he has reported the state of my title
to the keepership of Waltham Forest, and of the house and park of
Hauering... Till the 12th of Henry the 8th my ancestors haue possessed
the same, almost since the time of William Conqueror, and at that time,
which was the 12th  year of Henry the 8th, the king took it for term of
his life from my grandfather... since which time, what by the
alterations of princes, and wardships, I haue been kept from my rightful
possession, yet from time to time, both my father and myself, we haue,
as opportunities fell out, not neglected our claim, twice in my time it
had passage by law... I haue been thus long dispossessed, but I hope,
truth is subject to no prescription, for truth is truth though never so
old, and time cannot make that false which was once true. And though
these threescore years both my father and myself have been dispossessed
thereof, yet has there been claims made thereto many times within those
threescore years, which I take sufficient by law to avoid prescription
in this case."
The same principle obtained in the case of a corporation of either type.
English law draws the distinction between a "corporation aggregate of
many"and a "corporation sole". The former type is the more familiar one,
that which is generally simply called a corporation: a guild, a
foundation, a partnership, etc. The king, on the contrary, was
considered to be a corporation sole. The notion was introduced to
separate the rights of an individual from the rights which accrued to
him by office tenure. In Fulwood's case (1591) a certain person had
entered into a recognizance for orphanage money with the chamberlain of
the city of London and his successors. At a later date he had entered
into another recognizance with another individual who executed it and
seized half of the debtor's houses. Thereupon the chamberlain's
successor sued in the Queen's Bench (1591). The issue was whether the
chamberlain of London could sue for the recognizances to his
predecessor, there being no relation of inheritance between them. In a
report based on sir Edward Coke's Reports it is stated that the
chamberlain of London was entitled to sue for recognizances contracted
by bis predecessor because he was a corporation sole:
"... for succession in a body politic is inheritance in the case of a
body private... It was therefore argued, the chamberlain of London being
a corporation sole, that his successor could not have the recognisance
which had been acknowledged to his predecessor; nevertheless the court
resolved that the successor should have it, for in this case the
corporation of the chamberlain was by custom; and the same custom which
created and made him a corporation in succession for this special
purpose concerning orphanage enabled his successor to take such
recognisances, obligations, etc., as had been made to his predecessor."
       If the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household, as officer a
corporation sole, lay claim to licensing plays for the press it was
necessary in order for the claim as corporation sole, the claim made for
the office, not to be discontinued to create a uninterrupted chain of
precedents, of records documenting the claim to have a right to giving
directives to the Stationers' Company, a document which main import
should be to show that the predecessors in office had not neglected to
do the same. A simple request of the players to the Lord Chamberlain to
protect their plays would not have necessitated the reference to the
predecessors, as both the 4th earl of Pembroke and the earl of Essex did
from the start, - the fact that there was no such reference to the
predecessors of the the 3rd earl of Pembroke makes it plain that none of
his predecessors had ever made such a claim: Robert Carr, earl of
Somerset, Thomas Howard, earl of Suffolk, or George Carey, Lord Hunsdon.
Had the Lord Chamberlain actually had the power to which he lay claim
there would have been at first a reference to the act in question and
then perhaps a reference to the predecessors.

       The claim would not be discontinued if each of the successive
office holders documented this claim at least on one occasion during
their term. Which is what happened. There was only one such letter by
each of the three successive Lord Chamberlains.  At least we have an
explanation for the somewhat surprising fact - which seems to have
struck no scholar thus far - that while there was continuous piracy of
plays, for example, it be remembered, the year after the third
Pembroke's letter, the play Philaster in 1620, there was no intervention
by the Lord Chamberlain. The other puzzling circumstance, namely, why no
attempt was made through the Master of the Revels, who from 1607 to 1637
checked the overwhelming majority of plays before they were submitted to
the wardens, is, in this light,  self-evident. Of course, to document a
control over some business of the Stationers' Company the instructions
had to be given by writing to them, not to the Master of the Revels. The
Lord Chamberlains did not have the competence of the Archbishop of Canterbury
or the Bishop of London, nor that of the Lord Chancellor and the Lord
Chief Justices with respect to the legal validity of the company's
ordinances and by-laws. No publisher, printer, or bookbinder ever
petitioned him. His only ingress into the business of the SC were the
Master of the Revels and the playing companies, more particularly the
players who as nominal servants in the household of the king were under
his supervision.  It was not illegal to affirm that the players had a
property right in the plays of their repertory. That assertion was not
substantial to the real purpose that the Lord Chamberlain claimed right
of control in the SC. Only, such a right was without any legal
consequences for publishing and printing. Would they have incurred
damages by the surreptitious printing of the plays of their repertory
they could either have complained to the Court of Assistants or sued for
damages in an equity court. But as Greg (see above) remarked, the
wardens and assistants would not have been impressed by such a request.
Even the request of the Lord Chamberlain did not spur them into
obedience. In an equity court the players would have been nonsuited for
lack of credible legal title to the plays. So the pretended property
title in the letters of the Lord Chamberlains was hardly any more than a
fiction. Could a claim relying on a fiction be legally valid? And why
did the earl of Essex appended a list of 60 plays to his letter? As
shown, in the period in which he wrote his letter there was nothing to
fear from piracy. An almost complete breakdown of play publishing can be
observed. There was no demand at all. A possible answer is that his
predecessors could afford being extremely vague and general about which
plays were concerned as they still had a foot in the Stationers' Company
through the long-standing licensing activities of the Master of the
Revels constituting a customary basis. But in July 1637 these activities
had ceased.  Essex' affirmation of the Lord Chamberlain's authority over
the press is flatly contradicted by the loss of any such influence in
July 1637.

XVI. The dates

       The second point which need to be answered is: if the Lord
Chamberlains were addressing the Stationers Company primarily on their
own behalf and not on behalf of the players, why then did their
intervention occur at that particular point of time: in May 1619, in
June 1637, in August 1641?

It is important to repeat that there is no trace of the letters of 1637
and 1641 in the records of the Stationers' Company. They were not added
to the letterbook, their receipt was not even registered in the Court
Book. They were discovered in the Lord Chamberlain's warrant books. The
letters the 3rd earl of Pembroke wrote in May 1619 and on 3 March 1623
were recorded and kept in the letterbook but obviously they were removed
later. In 1619 or 1623 the wardens and assistants had to reckon with the
possibility that the custom of the Master of the Revel's licensing of
plays for the press would pass into law as was the case for the
licensing of books on history and contemporary politcs by the
secretaries of state or of books on heraldic and related subjects by the
Earl Marshal. However, once this possibility could be definitely ruled
out with the enactment of the second Star Chamber Decree there was no
need longer to conserve them.
The letter of the 4th earl of Pembroke bears the date of 10 June 1637,
one month and one day before the Star Chamber Decree was passed. As
preparations for it must have started as early as 1634 and maybe earlier
and, as seen, the SC was in contact with the Attorney-General who in the
preamble of the decree is named as the ultimate author of the decree, it
is likely that on 10 June - in April 1637 sir Henry Herbert authorized
his last play - they were informed about the return of authorizing power
to the episcopate with nothing left for the Master of the Revels.
Pembroke's invitation to the Stationers " if you shall have need of any
further Authority or power either from his Majesty or the council table,
the better to enable you in the execution thereof, upon notice given to
me either by yourselves or by the players I will endeavour to apply that
further remedy thereto which shall be requisite" might have been a last
attempt to challenge Archbishop William Laud at the Privy Council and to
have sanctioned his intervention either by a majority of councillors or
directly by the king. Another possibility is that he expected to leave
the office after the new decree.
Which is likely to have been the reason why Essex in 1641 and Pembroke
in May 1619 wrote their letter. As already stated, the earl of Essex
owed his appointment by Charles I less to his loyalty than to his
disloyalty. As Lord Chamberlain he had to be near the king who could
both watch him and hope to win him over to the cause of the Royalists.
Essex wrote his letter to the Stationers' Company two weeks after taking
up his office. It seems likely that he did so at the demand of his
predecessor Pembroke who must have known that Essex's career as Lord
Chamberlain would probably be short-lived.
As for William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke, he, too, must have
envisaged the possibility of leaving the office of chamberlain to the
king in May 1619. In April James I. fell seriously ill and expected
himself to die. A change of sovereign was often accompanied by a
reshufflement of officers. It was in 1626, soon after Charles's
accession he changed to the office of Lord Steward, his brother taking
his place as Lord Chamberlain. Moreover, there were rumours in April
1619 he would take office as Lord Treasurer after the fall of the earl
of Suffolk. If they wanted to upheld the Lord Chamberlain's claim to a
control over printed plays, all three Lord Chamberlains had a reason to
ensure the continuance of this claim by creating a written record of
interference with the Stationers' Company at the time they effectively
so did.