Time and again, early modern plays show people at work: shoemaking,
grave-digging, and professional acting are just some of the forms
of labour that theatregoers could have seen depicted on stage in
1599 and 1600. Tom Rutter demonstrates how such representations
were shaped by the theatre's own problematic relationship with
work: actors earned their living through playing, a practice that
many considered idle and illegitimate, while plays were criticised
for enticing servants and apprentices from their labour. As a
result, the drama of Shakespeare's time became the focal point of
wider debates over what counted as work, who should have to do it,
and how it should be valued. This book describes changing beliefs
about work in the sixteenth century, and shows how new ways of
conceptualising the work of the governing class inform
Shakespeare's histories. It identifies important contrasts between
plays written for the adult and child repertories.
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