Mastering the Revels: Regulation and Censorship of English Renaissance drama

This book offers a detailed reconsideration of the regulation of English Renaissance drama. It is the first study to approach the issue through the role of the Masters of the Revels, who censored most late Tudor and early Stuart plays, relating the control they exercised over the actors to the political context of the court office they themselves held. Four men - Edmond Tilney, Sir George Buc, Sir John Astley and Sir Henry Herbert - held the post during the period when Lyly, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Marston, Middleton, Fletcher and Massinger flourished. Richard Dutton argues that their relationship to the patronage pressures and power politics of the court conditioned the way they perused and allowed the plays brought before them, allowing for a more sympathetic and accommodating censorship about contentious matters than earlier accounts have assumed. This has implications for any historical reading of these plays, since it clarifies the terms on which the actors were permitted to be, in Hamlet's words, the abstracts and brief chronicles of the time , and so to comment on matters of topical interest.