The Question of Authority II — The Boy Companies, 1604–10
Jonson returned to the public theatre for Sejanus, whose enigmas I outlined early in this book. If we could be more certain of the date of the play’s staging, and of Jonson’s examination before the Privy Council, we might be able to say that this was the first occasion on which they singled out a key individual, the author, for particular attention. The King’s Men who staged the play seem not to have been involved in the enquiry. In previous controversies, as with The Isle of Dogs, dramatists and actors had been held jointly accountable for offences. Sejanus would seem to be the first occasion on which any dramatist was made to answer by the government for his text — that is, treating a play-text as if it were a printed book and treating Jonson as if he were, for example, Dr Hayward. Indeed, the possibility that the examination followed the publication of the play in 1605 rather than its 1603 performance should not lightly be discounted: it would particularly account for Northampton’s central involvement, which is difficult to square with the earlier date. E. K. Chambers points out that Chapman’s verses printed with the play contain compliments both to Suffolk (apparently for his help in freeing Jonson and himself from the Eastward Ho imprisonment, around October 1605) and to Northampton, and the latter would seem unlikely if Jonson had already been called before the Council at his instigation (ES, III, 367).
KeywordsAssure Tated Prefix Lost Verse
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