Act to Restrain Abuses of Players

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The Act to Restrain Abuses of Players (1606) was passed by the English Parliament, and introduced fines for plays which 'jestingly or profanely' used the names of God or Jesus. Plays written after 1606 avoided such terms as a consequence of the act, and new editions of older plays removed profane words.[1] Some scholars have argued that the Act had an important influence on the revision and publication of the plays of William Shakespeare.[2]

Impact on dramatic works[edit]

Many scholars and editors have argued that the act had a significant impact on English early modern drama.[3] The need to comply with the act has been used to explain differences in editions of plays published before and after 1606, such as Othello by William Shakespeare and Volpone by Ben Jonson.[3] However, Barbara Mowat has expressed reservations about the extent of the act's influence. She has highlighted the fact that the act only applied to dramatic performances, and thus changes to printed editions of dramatic works may have stemmed from other influences.[4] These influences may have included changing cultural attitudes towards swearing, alterations made by particular scribes (such as Ralph Crane), and the desire to avoid offending particular individuals, such as Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels from 1624 to 1642.[5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Oxford Companion to Shakespeare.
  2. ^ Mowat 2005, 91-2.
  3. ^ a b Mowat 2005, 92.
  4. ^ Mowat 2005, 97.
  5. ^ Mowat 2005, 101-2.

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