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What’s So Special about 1594?


The year 1594 has been considered special by theater historians because it has seemed that order was restored after perceived turmoil in theatrical commerce since 1587. This essay challenges that perception of 1594 as special by showing the problems in a popular hypothesis about a duopoly; it presents evidence that the number of plague deaths in London was not large in 1592, reinterpreting the role of Pembroke’s Men in the alleged turmoil of 1593 and demonstrating the stability of Sussex’s Men in early 1594. It concludes by questioning a cluster of premises about the duopoly and the Chamberlain’s Men—that the company was fully formed in 1594, that Shakespeare and his plays immediately joined the company, and that the company engaged the Admiral’s Men immediately in commercial rivalry from its Shoreditch location of Burbage’s Theatre.

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