Writing only shortly after Shakespeare’s death, Thomas Randolph (and/or his reviser F. J.) claim that the world’s most famous dramatist was motivated to write his plays by the ‘Great God of Money’. It is an assertion which would have troubled many early Shakespeare scholars, most of whom were reluctant to see Shakespeare as a commercially driven artist. Indeed, as Douglas Bruster notes, ‘for a long time, most commentators ignored the economic bases of Shakespeare’s theatre’ and when they did mention it ‘they typically portrayed it as regrettable’.2 However, as recent research on the early modern stage has made clear, the world of which Shakespeare was a part was a commercial — as well as a creative — industry; and Shakespeare’s success within it is evidence not just of his artistic talent, but of the commercial ‘nous’ of himself and his fellow players in the company with whom he worked for most of his career: the Lord Chamberlain’s (later the King’s) players.
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