Brome’s plays hit the digital stage

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Richard Brome, one-time secretary and assistant to Ben Jonson, wrote numerous comedies in a range of styles that were popular from the late 1620s until the closing of the theatres in 1642. A new Web site is making his collected works, in both period text and modern versions, available digitally to scholars and the public. The site contains a full glossary, bibliography, stage history, and search engine. Most of the material contained in the site is printable and access is free. (Courtesy: U. Sheffield)

U. SHEFFIELD (UK)—The collected works of dramatist Richard Brome, which have not appeared in a complete edition since 1873, are now available through a fully-searchable Web site.

Richard Brome Online launched March 1, marking the culmination of a four-year effort to digitise the collected works and to provide wide-spread access for scholars, theatre practitioners, and members of the public.

The project was a collaboration between researchers at the University of Sheffield and Royal Holloway, University of London.

Brome, one-time secretary and assistant to Ben Jonson, wrote numerous comedies in a range of styles that were popular from the late 1620s until the closing of the theatres in 1642. Sixteen of these (fifteen exclusively by him, and one written in collaboration with Thomas Heywood) saw print in the seventeenth century. Until now they have not been reissued in a scholarly collected edition, though several plays have been individually edited.

Each play is offered in Richard Brome Online as a period text and in an annotated, modernised version and is accompanied by both a critical and a textual introduction. The site contains a full glossary, bibliography, stage history, and search engine. Most of the material contained in the site is printable and access is free.

Two highly innovatory features of the edition are a result of the online format. Both period and modernised texts can be viewed independently or summoned on screen side-by-side for comparative reading and viewing.

Uniquely, the annotations to the plays give access to a wealth of extracts explored in workshop by 22 professional actors, drawn chiefly from the alumni lists of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe. More than 30 hours of such performance work is included on the site, divided into 640 episodes illustrating the theatricality and stageability of the plays.

The site includes prints, maps, a glossary, and bibliography, alongside enacted sequences and texts which will all be connected together and readily searchable.

“The project has demonstrated the effectiveness of using an online, collaborative research environment in order to build a new type of scholarly edition,” says Michael Pidd, digital manager for the Humanities Research Institute (HRI) at the University of Sheffield. “This environment not only overcame the problems of location but also altered the editorial process itself because it gave editors 24/7 access to each other’s work.

“To truly understand Brome’s work, we need to see it alongside other materials such as art work, performances, and bibliographies. By bringing all these materials together in one searchable website, we are able to go beyond the confines of a book and allow researchers to maximise their understanding of Brome’s work, by seeing it in the context of other sources from the period.”

The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the U.K.

University of Sheffield news: www.shef.ac.uk/mediacentre/

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