At the start of the seventeenth century a distinction emerged between 'public', outdoor, amphitheatre playhouses and 'private', indoor, hall venues. This book is the first sustained attempt to ask: why? Theatre historians have long acknowledged these terms, but have failed to attest to their variety and complexity. Assessing a range of evidence, from the start of the Elizabethan period to the beginning of the Restoration, the book overturns received scholarly wisdom to reach new insights into the politics of theatre culture and playbook publication. Standard accounts of the 'public' and 'private' theatres have either ignored the terms, or offered insubstantial explanations for their use. This book opens up the rich range of meanings made available by these vitally important terms and offers a fresh perspective on the way dramatists, theatre owners, booksellers, and legislators, conceived the playhouses of Renaissance London.