The Question of Authority I — From Tilney to Buc, 1603–10
As I have suggested, Jonson’s early career unfolded against a range of repressive measures, including the close restrictions on the number of adult companies and their activities (though with a compensating revival of the boy companies), all aimed at keeping this volatile profession within the circles of privilege and power while the inevitable question of the royal succession loomed. On 19 March 1603, when it was apparent that Elizabeth was in her final illness, the Privy Council ordered the restraint of all stage plays until they should direct otherwise. This order seems to have blended without interruption into the usual suspension of playing within the city during an outbreak of the plague, which began the following month and raged for the rest of the year; indeed, it is far from certain that any further performances took place in London until after a general re-authorisation was made at the end of Lent 1604 (9 April 1604: ES, IV, 336). This must have been a relief to the old Privy Council, since it left them that much freer to pursue their own jostling for position under the in-coming king, without having to worry either about the general disorder associated with plays or about partisan dissension in the theatre. There was also the king’s own sensitivity to take into account.
KeywordsSpecial Commission Privy Council Adult Company Poor Subject Usual Suspension
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