—An Interview with Roslyn L. Knutson
Today, we’re delighted to speak with Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor of English Emerita at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. She is the author of Playing Companies and Commerce in Shakespeare’s Time (2001) and The Repertory of Shakespeare’s Company, 1594–1613 (1991) and has published widely on theater history. Her essay “What’s So Special about 1594?” appeared in Shakespeare Quarterly’s special issue “1594.”
Are Shakespeare specialists and theater historians laying too much stress on the year 1594—or not enough?
Theater historians, just like other historians, want to construct a narrative from the bits of evidence they have available. And they’ve gotten into the field to begin with because they think some people, or events, matter more than others. When the desire for narrative is added to a set of priorities, the inevitable result is to promote some pieces of evidence above others. One of my friends, complimenting my “1594” essay, emailed me with the tactful observation that “still and all, it  was an interesting year.” Of course it was. But it is hard to find a year when nothing happened of significance to the business of playing. The elevation of 1594 has as much to do with scholars’ fascination with Shakespeare and a cultural belief that politicians saw the playing companies as useful pawns in some power game as it does with any specific event that occurred.