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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19203

Title: The Beestons and the Art of Theatrical Management in Seventeenth-century London
Authors: Matusiak, Christopher M.
Advisor: Astington, John H.
Department: English
Keywords: early modern English drama
theatre management
theatre history
business history
London history
patronage
Shakespeare
Issue Date: 2-Mar-2010
Abstract: This dissertation examines three generations of the Beeston family and its revolutionary impact on the developing world of seventeenth-century London theatre management. Like other early modern businesses, the Beeston enterprise thrived on commercial innovation, the strategic cultivation of patronage, and a capacity to perpetuate itself dynastically. England’s mid-century political crisis disrupted the family’s commercial supremacy but its management system would endure as the de facto standard structuring successful theatre business long after the Restoration. Following a critical introduction to the early history of theatrical management, the thesis’s four chapters chart the creation and institution of the Beeston management model. Chapter One examines the early career of Christopher Beeston, a minor stageplayer from Shakespeare’s company in the 1590s who set out ambitiously to reshape theatrical management at Drury Lane’s Cockpit playhouse in 1616. Chapter Two analyzes Beeston’s later career, particularly his unique appointment as “Governor” of a new royal company in 1637. New evidence suggests that the office was a reward for service to the aristocratic Herbert family and that traditional preferment was therefore as important as market competition to the creation of the Caroline paradigm of autocratic theatrical “governance.” Chapter Three explores the overlooked career of Elizabeth Beeston who, upon inheriting the Cockpit in 1638, became the first woman in English history to manage a purpose-built London theatre. New evidence concerning her subsequent husband, Sir Lewis Kirke, an adventurer to Canada, ship-money captain, and Royalist military governor, indicates political ideology motivated their joint effort to keep the Beeston playhouse open during the civil wars. Chapter Four addresses the question of why the larger Beeston enterprise eventually collapsed even as the management system it refined continued to support later theatrical entrepreneurs. During the Interregnum, contemporaries anticipated that William and George Beeston, Christopher’s son and grandson, would eventually dominate a renascent London stage; however, managers such as William Davenant and Thomas Betterton ultimately adapted the Beeston system more efficiently to the political environment after 1660. Thereafter, exhausted patronage, lost assets, and the abandonment of family tradition marked the end of the Beestons’ influential association with the London stage.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19203
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of English - Doctoral theses

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