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General Introduction and User Guide

Welcome to the Online Edition of the Collected Plays of Richard Brome, the outcome of a four-year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All fifteen of Brome’s extant plays are included in the edition, together with his collaboration with Thomas Heywood, The Late Lancashire Witches. Beyond making the canon of Brome’s plays available to readers, scholars and theatre practitioners (they were last presented as a collection in 1873), there was the further aim of exploring the resources of the internet to facilitate wholly new modes of editorial practice. What the user will find here are period texts of the sixteen plays alongside annotated modernised versions; these may be read separately or alongside each other on the screen, allowing readers immediately to perceive editorial interventions. The ambition of the panel of editors throughout has been to render the editorial process as transparent as possible. For the first time ever the editors are visible presences in the edition.
An exciting aspect of this edition made possible by the potentials of online presentation is the inclusion of enacted sequences from all the plays, which are explored in workshop with professional actors and a director (himself a former academic and scholar of renaissance theatre). Passages chosen for such treatment frequently incorporate in the recording discussions between editors and performers and many editorial decisions were informed by this interaction between scholars and theatre personnel. This is a point worth stressing for users approaching the site. Like his mentor, Ben Jonson, Brome was himself a professional man of the theatre and his plays, again like Jonson’s, take on a vigorous life once their theatrical potential is realised through performance.
Our aims are:
  • to appeal to a range of potential readers: literary scholars, theatre historians, theatregoers and above all theatre practitioners, actors and directors (no hierarchy is intended in this listing);
  • to produce an edition that may answer the varying needs of this range of readers and, perhaps more importantly, to arouse sufficient interest and excitement in Brome’s dramaturgy to begin to promote new stagings of his plays. (All but a few have been absent too long from the repertoire of our theatres; working together on the edition actors and scholars alike quickly developed a profound respect for Brome’s artistry, for the integrity of his comic vision, his politics and his theatrical expertise.)
The remainder of this introduction is designed to guide readers to make best use of the edition, as the site is large and incorporates much information. Each of these component features is now commented on in greater detail.

Original Texts

The original text, by which we mean either the original quarto or octavo text of each individually edited Brome play, has been provided to give users a point of comparison with the modern edited text. The original texts can be viewed in isolation, or next to the modern text. The original text provided is not a photo-facsimile (the expense of obtaining copyright clearance eliminated this option), however interested users can access images of the original via Early English Books Online (EEBO), if required.
The original texts presented are instead in the form of a transcription, which aims to be as accurate as is possible, given the technical and visual differences between Early Modern and 21st-century typography. Each text was scanned (from Pearson’s 1873 edition of Brome’s plays) using optical character recognition and basic TEI markup applied by the Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis, Queen's University Belfast; this text was proofread by its respective editor against a chosen copy (base or master) text and further extant copies, initially those copies located on EEBO, but also those extant texts visited in person in various research libraries.
Editors worked individually with members of the team at the HRI, negotiating how to replicate various features of the original quarto and octavo texts, for example the use of long brackets which cover several lines, or the layout of marginal stage directions. We have endeavoured to create transcriptions that are as close to the original copies as possible, but inevitably there have been some features which are impossible to replicate, given the exigencies of computer formatting. Thus the original texts give the user the ‘feel’ of how Brome’s plays are presented in print; those readers who have a specific interest in seeing the exact features are advised to consult copies on EEBO, in the first instance.
Certain features of the original printed texts have been retained, such as the long ‘s’. Each page of text is presented as a discrete unit online: pages are segregated by a horizontal line for clarity, and each page displays its running title, catchwords and signatures (which appear in bold to distinguish them from the text). As is the practice in the printing of Early Modern texts, some pages do not display signatures (usually sigs 5-8 in the Octavo and sigs 3 and 4 in Quarto); these have been added within square brackets for the user’s ease of reference and navigability through the pages. Pictorial material, such as printer’s ornaments, has not been replicated.
Each period text deploys individual line numbering (as opposed to the modern edited texts, which have speech numbers). When users are viewing both versions of the text side-by-side, the texts can be aligned by clicking on any speech prefix; this speech will then be displayed at the top of the page for each text. Where speech prefixes exist in the modern text but not in the original text (for example, where the lines of one character’s speech in the original text have been allocated to a different speaker in the modern text), a LINK will appear.
All prefatory materials (dedications to patrons, poems, letters of praise) are included in the textual introduction for each play (along with a full discussion of the preparation of the original text for modernisation and any specific textual issues). The textual essay also contains information regarding library holdings and press variants.
There are no annotational notes accompanying the original text. These are included amongst the annotations to the modern text, where textual notes record deviations from the original text and textual points of interest. They also include references to previous editions of play texts where relevant (in place of a historical collation).

Modern Texts

These observe the original division into acts but new scenes are determined by a general quitting of the performing space by all characters previously onstage. (Brome’s practice varies regarding scene divisions: sometimes he follows the “classical” tradition, which was much favoured by Jonson, of creating a new scene whenever a fresh character entered the stage; sometimes he follows the more modern format, which this edition observes throughout. The textual notes indicate wherever a change has been made to the provision of scenes in the period text.) It is especially to be noted that the modernised texts have speech numbers rather than line numbers (this is partly the result of the computerised processes involving the search engine and partly the result of the modern texts often relineating prose as verse and vice versa). Consequently references in the annotations and essays that follow the format (3.1.line1234) refer to the period text (line 1234 of the first scene of act one), whereas those relating to the modernised text will read differently (3.1.speech 406); by clicking on the speech prefix, one may bring the two texts quickly into alignment if cross-referencing is required.
Punctuation has been effected lightly for rhythm and sense (editors were particularly encouraged to pay attention to the dramatic potential of the original punctuation) . British spelling is observed throughout the edition in line with the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Certain silent emendations, such as ‘then’ for ‘than’, have been carried out, as is the custom in the editing of early modern plays.
Stage directions have again been handled lightly with editorial interventions being signalled by the use of square brackets, particularly in respect of asides; discussion of such interventions is to be found in the annotations and textual notes. In all stage directions the Latin usages of the period text have been translated for clarity (ambo – both; solus – alone; manet – [s]he remains; exit – [s]he exits; exeunt – they exit). Several editors in their textual essays and annotations have questioned whether Brome had a hand in the printing of his works or whether the plays were printed from copies close to Brome’s original drafts, since in several texts there occur a number of unique punctuational devices (rounded brackets; series of dashes of varying lengths), which seem to indicate specific performing practices (the interruption of one character by another; the need for a pause) which would affect the pacing of a scene. Wherever possible, these devices have been reproduced in the modernised text.
The layout of shared lines between two or more speakers is somewhat different from the format conventionally followed in printed modernised texts. This edition has a slight indentation to signify a shared line, which completes a verse line started by the previous speaker.
Character names appear in capital letters for speaking characters in entrance and stage directions (but not exit directions). Cast lists have been based on the original text with additional notes of explanation. ‘Persons of the Comedy’ is used if no cast list is printed in the original. Capital letters in the cast list indicate how a character will appear in speech prefixes: for example in the cast list for The Queen and Concubine, the following appears: Prince GONZAGO   [Son of King Gonzago and Queen Eulalia] KING Gonzago   King of Sicily The capitals indicate that, although both characters are called Gonzago, only one will be referred to by this name (the Prince), while the other will be designated throughout the text as ‘King’.
German, Italian, Dutch and French words have been translated in the annotations as have Latin tags and quotations, but they have been left in the original language in the text and may occasionally be modernised in the spelling. Dialect which occurs in a number of Brome’s plays is retained; if the spelling has been modernised, it is to make the passages more accessible to the reader; the original has not been sanitised.

The Annotations

These are throughout keyed to the modernised text and take the form of commentaries, glosses, notes and textual notes. Symbols above a line of text or adjacent to a particular word or phrase, if clicked on with the cursor, will call up a box which overlays the text, in which is offered an explanation or definition of the material so marked. Glosses offer brief definitions of words, idiomatic uses etc.. Notes give detailed explanations or offer discussion of points in the text, comment on the performance potential or the theatrical context and may give examples similar usages or devices and conventions within Brome’s works or those of his contemporaries. Many of the notes also embrace discussion of the enacted sequences, outlining through the recorded examples the different approaches to a given scene that were attempted and debating the outcomes. Textual notes cover all substantive editorial departures from the copy-text, discuss issues faced by editors in modernising the given text, outline the reasons for serious emendation of the period text and, in the case of those plays where earlier editions exist, may summarise the reasons for interventions by earlier editors and draw comparisons between them in terms of their degree of usefulness or insight. In consequence no separate historical collation of editions is provided. Commentaries are linked to the heading for each act of a play; these discuss Brome’s dramatic structuring, pace, handling of tone. A reader should quickly determine whether to view all of these or a selection. Given the editors’ aim to render the plays accessible to a wide range of readers, the glossing in particular has been thorough. Words are glossed on several occasions within a scene (rather than just once within an act or within the play overall) to assist students who may be asked to work in detail on a particular extract or actors who may select a particular passage as an audition piece (Brome’s plays yield many speeches that would fit that requirement admirably). Many of the notes include bibliographical references to works consulted and a full Bibliography is provided. Similarly all the glosses are arranged alphabetically in a dictionary format as a Glossary for anyone wishing to study Brome’s particular use of language. Editors have encountered numerous examples where Brome’s usage antedates the earliest citation in the OED or in some examples postdate what the OED cites as the latest use (all such instances are recorded and commented on).

The Recorded Workshop Material

This material is generally to be accessed through the annotations, where a particular symbol alongside the note symbol indicates that one or more clips of recorded performance work is included. (The clips may also be accessed through a distinct gallery where they are stored and are grouped according to play-title. Brian Woolland’s essay on directing the workshops also includes access to such material for obvious reasons.)
The enacted sequences deliberately take the form of workshops since they are intended to be seen as exploratory, not as finished performances. Performance skirts were donned to indicate female characters (such roles were sometimes played by men) and the recordings show performers holding scripts; lines may be muddled and an occasional expletive may be voiced by an actor frustrated by seventeenth-century syntax. These episodes are to be viewed as work in progress, a playing with possibilities in an effort to release the dynamism in the dramaturgy. It was never intended that a definitive playing style for Brome’s comedies should be achieved, since that would be too restrictive of future actors’ and directors’ powers of invention. To avoid the possibility that a returning group of actors might fall back on a proven style that had “worked” for them previously, the groups of actors called to the sessions was regularly changed and no actor was called back on more than three occasions. Though the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre have video materials in their archives relating to Brome’s plays that they have staged in the past two decades (A Jovial Crew and The Antipodes respectively), it was decided not to seek permission to use these, since we did not wish to pursue an inevitable contrast with “finished” work. All the actors deployed were from the alumni list of the Royal Shakespeare Company with some who had worked at the Globe. No one involved had worked on a play by Brome before but all had developed experience, tried before audiences, of speaking seventeenth-century verse and a good understanding of the demands of playing from a seventeenth-century script.
The workshops were held for four days twice yearly over a three-year period and all the plays were given roughly similar amounts of playing time. These meetings coincided with the twice yearly editorial conferences, which allowed editors to view each others’ work in progress and to contribute to the discussions about the various scenes being explored through performance. (Such overall knowledge of the progress of the edition allowed editors confidently to make comparisons and contrasts within the canon of Brome’s plays.) It had originally been the plan to involve three actors in each of the workshop sessions and this was the pattern generally obtaining throughout the meetings. Early in the history of the edition, however, the panel of editors became increasingly fascinated with Brome’s ability frequently through his plays to write “big” scenes involving a large cast of performers, all or most of whose characters were given good attention and stage time throughout the sequence. Kindly the AHRC permitted us to reallocate part of our funding to allow the final day of the workshop sessions on five occasions to include a cast of ten performers so that work might focus on such scenes. This allowed us to illustrate the extraordinary variety of effects Brome can achieve with what can be a difficult dramaturgical feat to bring off.
The workshops, meticulously recorded by Peter Hulton of Arts Archive, had a multi-layered purpose: they were a record of the process of exploration that editors shared with actors; the actors had the benefit in a situation akin to the rehearsal room of working in the company of a range of scholars versed in seventeenth-century theatre and drama; individual editors subsequently had access to all the material evolved by this means to inform their discussions of their particular texts so that in their commentaries they can share with users of the online edition the insights they gleaned from watching sequences in rehearsal and explain how this dimension of the research process influenced their interpretation of textual, thematic and theatrical issues. Always the emphasis was and is on playing with potentiality, with possibilities and not on reaching for definitive closure.
When the clips are opened, readers will see that a Brome copyright banner traverses the screen to protect the actors’ rights to their performances, while at the close of each clip act and scene references appear along with a listing of the actors involved in the sequence and the roles that they played. It should be noted that editors and/or the director sometimes asked if they might return to a sequence to pursue practically their further reflections on a given episode. When this occurs and is shown within a sequence of clips, the casting is not necessarily the same as that in the first exploration. On some occasions where only one or two actors were involved in a scene, the director explored its potential by changing the casting amongst the pool of actors then at his command.

The Essays

Each play is accompanied by two essays: one a general introduction situating the play in its cultural, political and theatrical contexts; the other devoted to a discussion of textual and bibliographical issues relating to the creating of a modernised text from extant copies of the period text (modernised versions of the prefatory and paratextual materials where these exist are included with commentary and annotations in these essays). No set format has been followed in the writing of the general introductions: editors possess varying expertise in literary and cultural criticism, performance and theatre history, theatre in practice. That they pursue different lines of enquiry with their particular texts was encouraged to illuminate the rich potential of Brome’s dramaturgy both for study and for staging.

The Additional Essays

While the annotations frequently address performance issues, the architectural features of Caroline playing spaces, and the works of many of Brome’s contemporaries, certain specialist aspects of theatre were not covered in as much detail as we deemed worthwhile. Consequently a number of scholars were invited to contribute papers in the areas of their expertise to give a fuller picture of Brome’s place in Caroline theatre practice. Farah Karim-Cooper writes on Brome’s deployment of cosmetics in his plays with particular reference to The English Moor; Eleanor Rycroft investigates Brome’s extensive interest in the use of beards in a variety of dramatic contexts; Eleanor Collins explores Brome’s contracts with Richard Heton and the company at the Salisbury Court Theatre from new perspectives; Kim Durban, who has recently staged two of Brome’s comedies for Australian audiences, assesses the challenges she faced and her methods of responding to them; and Brian Woolland, who directed the workshops that formed a crucial part of our editorial process, outlines his methodology and examines the insights into Brome’s artistry that the experience brought him. All five essays take the impact of Brome’s comedies in the theatre as their prime focus of attention.

The Search Engine

This facility in many ways fulfils the function in computerised terms of the traditional concordance. It allows readers to pursue individual lines of enquiry. One may call up the usages that Brome deploys of a particular word, phrase or syntactical unit, Latin tag or dialect idiom; the number of lines/speeches assigned to a given character; the frequency with which a specific property occurs in stage directions throughout the play and so on. The search engine is yet a further feature of the site designed to render Brome’s plays in various ways accessible to a wide readership.


Without exception the editors’ respect for and delight in Brome as dramatist and man of the theatre grew and augmented with their continuing involvement in bringing his plays to the awareness of twenty-first century readers and theatre practitioners. The groups of actors involved in the workshops shared the editors’ admiration and were committed to the project wholeheartedly from their first tentative attempts to shift the texts from page to stage. They wondered why the plays were not better known or more frequently performed when they offered such sophisticated and hilarious comedy, rewarding roles that continually take an audience by surprise, and potential for directorial invention. The hope of all involved in the project is that its making Brome’s comedies available in a contemporary format will stimulate further study of them for scholarly purposes and stimulate new and regular performance of his plays onstage. Our aim has been to release the dynamism and vitality of Brome’s comic vision for audiences as diverse in their composition as those who applauded the play on their first showing in the Caroline theatre. In bidding you welcome to the site we are bidding you welcome to a theatrical feast.
Richard Allen Cave
Eleanor Lowe
Contact: Richard Brome Online, ISBN 978-0-9557876-1-4.   © Copyright Royal Holloway, University of London, 2010