graphic Shakespeare and the Book

The Playhouse in Printing House
Dramatis Personae

Jonson, Workes (1616): pp. 355, 438

Jonson's Workes (1616) was a bold endeavor, one in which tried to turn subliterary plays into literary works. As one poet later queried, "Pray tell me Ben, where doth the mistery lurke, / What others call a play you call a work" (Wit's Recreation [1640], sig. G3v). But in turning his plays into "workes," Jonson did not try to distance his plays from their theatrical origins. The last page of each play in his Folio-here, The Poetaster and Sejanus-records the year the play was first performed, the company that performed it, and "The principall Comœdians" or "The principall Tragœdians." Among the more interesting players listed for Sejanus are "WILL. SHAKE-SPEARE" and the editors behind the Shakespeare First Folio, "JOH. HEMINGS" and "HEN. CONDEL."

Shakespeare, First Folio (1623): list of principal actors

The Shakepeare First Folio contains a list of players, but unlike Jonson's Workes, it does not name the principal actors for each play nor any of the playing companies for which he wrote. Instead the Folio simply records "The Names of the Principall Actors in all these plays" without connecting them to particular roles, plays, or companies.

Massinger, The Roman Actor (1629): A1v

Individual play quartos almost never included lists of players, but in 1629 four plays were printed with such lists: John Ford's The Lover's Melancholy, Lodowick Carlell's The Deserving Favorite, James Shirley's The Wedding, and Philip Massinger's The Roman Actor. Note that the female characters at the bottom of the list were played by male actors.

Beaumont and Fletcher, A King and No King (1676): A2r

On the post-Restoration stage, women actors began to play female characters. The list of players for Beaumont and Fletcher's A King and No King (1676) shows that the three main female roles were played by "Mrs. Corey" (Katherine Corey), "Mrs. Cox" (Elizabeth Cox), and "Mrs. Marshall" (Rebecca Marshall).

Images: Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Technology: Columbia Center for New Media Teaching & Learning