Usurping Authors: A Case Study of Authority Displacement in Richard II
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When a text is published, the author loses authority and the authorial message can be easily displaced and replaced by various interpreters. Playwrights have the difficulty of adding directors, actors, and audiences who will interpret the play, as well as any editors or censors. The addition of these interpreters causes the playwright’s position of author to be usurped by other individuals who re-author the play. Shakespeare’s play The Life and Death of Richard the Second is an example of a text that has been subject to numerous replacing authors. The four most noteworthy performances are the original quarto publication of Richard II in 1597, Nahum Tate’s publication of 1681, Lewis Theobald’s production of 1719, and the Covent Garden production in 1738. Each of these publications displaces Shakespeare’s authority and, instead, submits an altered interpretation of his text.