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  • "I desyre to be paid":Interpreting the Language of Remuneration in Early Modern Dramatic Archives
  • Kara Northway

Remuneration—O, that's the Latin word for three-farthings.

—Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost

In the fall of 1602, Anthony Munday was writing similar work for two different bosses: plays for Philip Henslowe and a Lord Mayor's Show for the Merchant Taylors. Every year on 29 October, a Lord Mayor's Show celebrated the inauguration of the new mayor of London. His livery sponsored the show and commissioned scripted theatrical events, or pageants, from the city's leading playwrights. In Henslowe's Diary and all of the London liveries' financial records for the Lord Mayors' Shows (1535–1639), the language used to describe payments reveals different conceptions of remuneration for work done to produce drama. Henslowe's records regard work as "payments" or "wages," but livery records consider it "service" that yields "rewards." Philippe Desan writes, "The essential [End Page 405] question connected with the idea of work in any age has to do with an interpretation of the word remuneration."1 The liveries "interpreted" remuneration by searching their own and other liveries' financial records to discover the original prices paid for work on drama and thus to restrict prices. Not only did the liveries seek out original prices in order to substantiate current prices, but they also utilized their archives to try to identify the original Lord Mayor as one of their own and enjoy political prestige. The liveries' pageants attempted to convey accuracy in assessing financial and political value, as in Munday's 1611 pageant for the Goldsmiths, Chruso-thriambos. However, Munday's 1614 retraction in the Drapers' pageant, Himatia-Poleos, demonstrates the problems of determining worth from the archives, ultimately showing that value was relative when political worth and remuneration were considered. When pageant dramatists involved themselves in assessing financial worth, they experienced severe consequences, as in the 1604 jailing of Thomas Massey in Coventry. Using Munday's and Massey's reactions in art and life to the liveries' archival practices, I argue that far from resulting in a one-sided relationship of manipulating records, both sponsors and writers of drama emphasized and exploited the language of the archives to interpret the value of dramatic work and determine remuneration.

This study distinguishes itself from previous pageant scholarship by closely reading nonliterary in addition to literary texts in order to elucidate the attention given to financial and political value in the production of Renaissance occasional drama. Richard Strier advocates this practice of dual reading in cultural history, which he sees as "highly desirable and informative" because it rids us of the "distinction between 'monuments' and 'documents'—between works and texts."2 He adds that few critics have examined the rhetoric of historical documents in a formalist way,3 but that "surprising insights emerge when such patterns in 'documents' are perceived."4 One rhetorical pattern surfaces in reading financial records for dramatic work, namely, the difference between the descriptions of payments in theater documents and in livery documents. The theatrical records of Henslowe's Diary express a clear understanding that any work done for Renaissance drama, whether artistic or mechanical, in essence was an exchange of money for labor.5 Henslowe gives no sense that any employee would have an obligation to him beyond having [End Page 406] financial debts or being bound to his company. Therefore, money paid to Munday and his collaborators was, in the language of Henslowe's remuneration, "layde out," as in these two entries: "layde owt the 22 of desemb[er] 1597 … to antony monday & mr drayton" and a week later, "Layd owt the 28 of desemb[er] 1597 to antoney monday toward his boocke." When not loaning earnest money for plays, Henslowe "geve[s] vnto" Munday or "pay[s] vnto antony mondaye in fulle payment for a playe."6

Henslowe's payments to nonartistic workers reveal this same philosophy about remuneration. The records for repairs to the Rose Theatre in 1592 and 1595 often refer to payments to workers as "wages." For example, he pays "the carpenters ther wages," "vnto the carpenters … for wages," "for wages to the plasterer," and lots of sums...


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