1st Edition

Playbooks and their Readers in Early Modern England

By Hannah August Copyright 2022
    286 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    286 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is the first comprehensive examination of commercial drama as a reading genre in early modern England. Taking as its focus pre-Restoration printed drama’s most common format, the single-play quarto playbook, it interrogates what the form and content of these playbooks can tell us about who their earliest readers were, why they might have wanted to read contemporary commercial drama, and how they responded to the printed versions of plays that had initially been performed in the playhouses of early modern London. Focusing on professional plays printed in quarto between 1584 and 1660, the book juxtaposes the implications of material and paratextual evidence with analysis of historical traces of playreading in extant playbooks and manuscript commonplace books. In doing so, it presents more detailed and nuanced conclusions than have previously been enabled by studies focused on works by one author or on a single type of evidence.


    1 Who read plays?

    2 Why read plays?

    3 How were plays read? Part One: Extractive reading

    4 How were plays read? Part Two: Using, marking, annotating


    Appendix: Professional play quartos with Horatian title page mottoes, 1598-1659


    Hannah August is Senior Lecturer in English at Massey University in New Zealand.

    "August’s book looks afresh at evidence of playbook reception from prefaces to prices to marginalia, finding compelling new things to say about book history, theatre, gender, and reading. Brilliantly written and expertly researched, this is authoritative and transformative." 

    Emma Smith, Hertford College, University of Oxford  

    "Based on an immense and impressive body of archival evidence, and juxtaposing printed dramatic paratexts and manuscript sources, Playbooks and their Readers in Early Modern England offers a complex, nuanced, and illuminating picture of early modern dramatic reading practices. It is essential reading for scholars of early modern drama, readership studies, and book history."

    Heidi Craig, Texas A&M University 

    "This is a careful and sophisticated investigation of an important topic […]. [August] has command of a vast array of material and shows that playbooks had a wider potential appeal and were marketed to wider audiences than we might have thought."

    Laurie Maguire, Magdalen College, University of Oxford