Bevington Award - 2005
David Bevington Award for Best New Book in Early Drama Studies
This year's Bevington Award is presented to two outstanding contributions by two influential scholars of early drama. Both books represent the fruits of a lifetime's research, both are extraordinary repositories of information and analysis, and each will stimulate further investigations into the study of theatre, at both reaches of our increasingly well-cultivated field.
In The Shakespeare Company, Andrew Gurr provides a masterful overview of the day-to-day workings, accommodations, negotiations, and strategies that made the acting company responsible for the commissioning, staging, and eventual publication of Shakespeare's plays "the only effective democracy of its time in totalitarian England." His account spans one of the richest theatrical half-centuries in history, beginning in the year 1594, when an up-and coming provincial playwright and bit-player named Will Shakespeare joined the company led by the bravura actor and entrepreneur Richard Burbage, to 1642, when the English theatres were closed and "the Shakespeare Company" (known, at various times, as the Lord Chamberlain's Men, the second Lord Hundsdon's Men, and the King's Men) was dissolved. It is an exciting and intensely practical book, explaining in clear and exquisite detail how Shakespeare collaborated with his colleagues, how they managed their finances, what their relations were to their patrons, how conditions of performance and other considerations shaped their repertory, and how they adapted and marketed the plays that have come down to us and those that have not. By de-mystifying the quotidian aspects of Shakespeare's artistry, and that of his collaborators, it will encourage everyone to think freshly about these plays, and about the livelihood and legacy of their players, for a long time to come.
In Die Anfänge des weltlichen deutschen Schauspiels, Eckehard Simon combines the results of many years' patient labor in local archives with an intense appreciation of the larger contexts in which the records of medieval drama must be situated and understood: with respect to the critical controversies that have shaped and divided scholarship undertaken on the Continent, in England, and North America; in relation to the rich but fragmented evidence for the Latin and vernacular performance traditions of medieval Europe; and with careful attention to the specific cultural, social, political, economic, and religious conditions that gave rise, in the fourteenth century, to a new type of indigenous, world-embracing drama in many German towns. In so doing, he not only provides a compelling introduction to this phenomenon and its several manifestations, but he generously guides and encourages the work of future generations by surveying a vast amount of territory in a highly systematic manner, providing the reader with a catalogue and compendium of available sources, offering invaluable insights on the way that plays were conceived, performed, and received; and documenting the different occasions, circumstances, and problems to which Carnival plays, topical sketches, and large-scale theatricals offered various responses. This book commands the attention of all those engaged in the study of drama in the later Middle Ages, as well as those interested in the relationship between medieval communities and their dramatic means of expression.