The image of strolling players tramping the highways and byways, pushing a handcart or riding a donkey, is one of the most enduringly romantic images in theatre history. Actors performing in barns, in marketplaces, om stages made from planks and barrels are an iconic idea as old as the theatre itself. Whereas scholars tend to think of Shakespeare's plays being seen by audiences at the Globe or Blackfriars, in fact the spread of Shakespeare's plays around the world owed less to the performance of his plays in well established theatre buildings than to the efforts of strollers, performing in circumstances which were far from ideal, by driven by passionate enthusiasm and tireless optimism. This article will explore the ways in which groups of strolling players carried the torch from the towns and villages of rural England to the marketplaces and palaces of Renaissance Frankfurt or Gdansk, and eventually to other continents. At the same time the strolling players had other important roles in carrying Shakespeare's legacy. They maintained a tradition which was far closer to that of Shakespeare's own company than many of the 'improvements' of later generations, and ensured that Shakespeare continued to be seen as entertainment for all, not just as high art in expensive theatres, or as literary texts in a classroom. By focussing on several key moments in the history of transmission of Shakespeare's plays the author argues that the strollers have sometimes been the guardians of a truer representation of the plays and the writer's intentions than the larger more famous theatres of more recent times.
|Journal||Shakespeare Studies in China|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Dec 2018|