Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




As a consequence of the development of playwriting into an established profession in early modern London, a central paradox emerged: in order to secure a place within this authorial community, and also a place for the profession itself, playwrights needed to work toward the often contradictory goals of self-promotion and of validation of the profession at large. I confront this paradox by examining details about the backgrounds and careers of the twenty-nine professional playwrights working in the years 1580-1625. I use this information to categorize each author's interest and investment in the development of the profession of dramatist by defining four distinct "forms of affiliation," groupings which highlight the ways in which similar backgrounds and professional activities often resulted in like-minded approaches to the "business" of playwriting. I then show how authors from different "forms" worked in collaboration with one another, revised, or adapted each others' material, with primary focus on the many contributors to The Book of Sir Thomas More, Thomas Middleton's collaborative endeavors, and the activities of the members of the group I have termed the "Gentleman Authors," Francis Beaumont, John Ford, and John Marston. This project provides a new lens through which to view authorship in Shakespeare's time. Rather than presenting a "solitary genius" model wherein the playwright scribbles away in solitude, I provide a more accurate depiction of playwriting as a community-based activity, where collaboration was the most common mode of production. Multi-authored dramatic texts are a fruitful resource for inquiry into the ways playwrights cooperated with, and challenged, one another in their sometimes exuberant efforts to gain control and influence within their professional group. We not only find that Shakespeare worked with others, but that all playwrights did in order to meet the demands of the ever-expanding market for plays.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.