The Theatrical Time Manipulation Company.

The Theatrical Time Manipulation Company.

Lords and Ladies, warlocks of this age of technological wonder, please take a moment from your busy lives and buzzing devices to consider the past. Once shrouded by the time manipulation legislation, the no deal Galaxy E-exit (Earth Exit) has allowed us to take control of our own spacetime. For the small price of £1bn we are allowing you the opportunity to travel back in time to renaissance England:

It is my honour to be able to present to you an exclusive experience of Shakespearean theatre in London! I have had the privilege of going behind the curtain to present to you now: the mechanics of the theatre.

Have you ever wondered how Elizabethan actors (renowned for performing multiple parts of multiple plays in a single week) are actually capable of this? One way they approached this was by using cue lines – a way of writing scripts which only gave an actor a copy of their own written lines, interjected with a prompt word or phrase they would listen out for to known when to come onstage or start speaking. In fact, often actors would never even hear the play in full before it was performed – which is why often there could be confusion or miscommunication onstage. (1)

I am also free to share why you can expect to see so many plays which use a tragic structure – typically ending with the death of multiple main characters. This trend was born due to the fact that many audience members tended to lose interest and leave the play once characters played by well known and liked actors died. This encouraged Shakespeare, along with other playwrights, to begin to group the deaths of the characters in the end scene more and more. Therefore, this version of celebrity and popular culture began to directly influence the structure and conventions of some plays. (2)

Actors in Shakespeare’s time were When you sign up for our Mega Premium Package, not only will you be able to watch up to five plays, but you will also be able to watch the same play under different circumstances. Hurl fruit at Kempe the slow-witted fool (Stern, 67) as he improvises yet another line (67). Then, not even a day later, allow your child to experience the merriment of hurling the very same apple at the so-called ‘wise’ fool Robert Armin during one of his pretentious performances (70). Stare in awe as Richard Burbage nails yet another line (72), and then immediately travel to the very first performance of Hamlet right after Burbage’s death, and join the masses in booing the mediocre replacement off the stage. Witness the theatre of the past, where actors only received one or two rehearsal before being thrust onto the stage to fumble their lines (87); where female characters were preformed by boys, who may, on occasion, sing without missing notes (71). Witness these boys’ journey as they grow from pre-pubescent actors to men (70). Buy our Mega Premium Package today for an incredible 5% discount.


“Once we departed the floating flickering cities of the year 22149, there was a momentary pause. The assistant who took our payments at the beginning of the day before making us wait for however long, assured us everything was okay and that ‘this was normal’. After a few shakes and shudders the lift dropped suddenly. He handed each of us our individual guises, mine consisted of a silk doublet, coloured garters and embroidered gloves. We were told to keep our heads down and hands firmly into our pockets, the whole experience felt strange and alien, not surprising I guess considering the 6-century gap. However, slightly disappointed with the overall experience, the way my fiancé described it made it sound an unmissable opportunity. So far, I have had to hop over numbers of beggars, stepped into puddles of faeces every ten metres and also am now dressed up in all the colours of the old world. It was 1:45 pm and we were slowly walking down Southbank, there was a mass of people outside the front and in my mind, I thought we’d be outside for hours. We paid for the best seats in the house, 4 English pennies, not to just be able to see everything but ‘to be seen as well’, a young man dressed in a waistcoat and perfectly polished shoes offered us tea and ale. Looking around the theatre, I realised quickly it was an open-air theatre, my mind became concerned for the ruffians in the standing area, huddling together for warmth, all of this so they can watch Mr Burbidge prance around.”


The Theatrical Time Manipulation Company cannot be held responsible for the contraction of any ancient diseases, loss of personal belongings, loss of life, witch persecution or visits to the gallows.

Tiffany Stern, ‘Rehearsal, performance and plays’

“Lesser actors may never have heard in full the text of the play in which they were to perform…Actors would be given their separate parts to take home and learn. These parts consisted of their own lines only…” (p76-77)


“The playwright Glapthorne, in his Ladies Privilege (1640), refers to spectators who make the author ‘end his play before his plot be done’: the onlookers had a disturbing tendency to go away before the play was fully over.” (p73)

3 Must-See Attractions for Your Trip to 16th Century South Bank

You will have heard, of course, of 1500s London; after all, its reputation for having bouts of plague, crowds filled with pickpockets and a brothel on every corner definitely precedes it! However, don’t be too quick to dismiss it purely due to these health and safety risks – this week, we have some hidden gems to share that will leave you desperate to plan your next day trip!

1 – The Theatre 

If you’re looking for somewhere to sit down, relax, and quietly watch a play, then the theatre may be the place for you (seated tickets from only ‘one English penny’)! However, if you are looking for somewhere to eat, make noise, and watch some sort of bawdy jig… then the theatre is definitely the place for you! Every day at around 2pm, you can visit one of the various playhouses (just look for a ‘house with the thatched roof’) and see all kinds of plays. Our insider tip: look out for the flag on top of each theatre, as the colour indicates the genre of the performance (e.g. black for tragedy). Similarly, if you have a favourite playwright, make sure you choose the right theatre – Marlowe tends to write for the Rose, for example, while Shakespeare favours the Swan. Although, if we are being honest, they do tend to copy each other a lot anyway, so don’t sweat it if you find yourself at The Merchant of Venice rather than The Jew of Malta! Similarly, if long speeches of ‘passionating’ aren’t your thing, fear not: ‘food and drink are carried round the audience’ and after all that droning on, the players tend to end the performance by dancing ‘very charmingly in English and Irish fashion’. If Kempe is playing the fool, you’re in even more luck, as he is a ‘noted morris dancer’ and we know how Shakespeare loves to write his parts to suit his actors!  Even if you only get chance to pass by these theatres, their architecture is an attraction in itself: they have been described as having ‘notable beauty’.

Readers Vote: ‘the largest and the most magnificent is… the Swan Theatre!” – Johannes de Wit

2 – The Baiting Houses

If the theatre just doesn’t provide enough murder and gore to keep you interested, head on down the street to one of South Banks many cock/bear fighting arenas. Their ‘circular’ structure with ‘galleries round the top for spectators’ may quite rightly remind you of the theatre. However, in complete opposition to the theatres’ seating plan, here ‘those with wagers… sit closest’ whilst those ‘merely present on their entrance penny sit around higher up’! Although these bloody performances provide ‘a most delightful spectacle’, if paying a visit here is your top priority, make sure to plan your trip during the ‘three quarters of the year’ they are held – otherwise you’ll have to make do with something far less gory – Titus Andronicus, perhaps?

Tourist Review: ‘(the birds) are very large but just the same kind as we have in our country’ – Thomas Platter

3 – Inns, Taverns and Beer Gardens

Last but not least, these establishments are especially perfect if you missed out on one of the others – their patrons are prone to ‘fiddling’ and being ‘rioutous’, so if you mistimed your arrival and had to forgo the play or the animal baiting, there’s always a bit of music and fighting here to help you catch up! Another great attraction is the accessibility of such spaces for women – obviously, you girls can’t act and you’ll no doubt faint at the sight of blood, so here is the place you’ll truly appreciate best. In fact, why not ‘bring three of four other women along and… gaily toast each other’? Sure, maybe that doesn’t sound quite as exciting as the other attractions, but hey, at least here you can interact with a man and it be called a ‘great honour’, rather than a sure sign of adultery, right?

Top Tip: Don’t worry, women can still attend both the theatre and animal baiting shows! Just make sure to go with your husband and keep yourself to yourself, or you may end up as the subject of one of the many ballads you’ll hear in the taverns!

Rose Theatre 1594 Performances

Above is our exclusive sneak peak at the performance schedule at the Rose Theatre this year! Use it to plan your trip accordingly! Our Top Picks are Docter Ffostose (don’t accidentally confuse the players for real devils and run out screaming, though!) and Tamberlen (rumour has it there’s a Tamberlen 2 in production!).

So there you have it: if our guide hasn’t persuaded you, we don’t know what will! Look out for next weeks issue: 7 Signs Your Wife is Having an Affair with your Apprentice and Plotting to Kill You.

Amy Sandbach, Helena Eades, Helena Hussey, Louis Linsey, Ruairidh Watt.



Molly Greeves, Eden Shaw, Jack McDonald, Victoria Stewart, Victoria Mezzetto


  • Audience suspending sense of disbelief- overacting (less realistic than today- focusing on “passions” (Stern)), boys dressed as “beautiful” women, props and costumes less realistic (Bottom turning into a donkey)
  • Actors focusing on “passions” (Stern) – certain parts of the audience not being able to see/hear as well, focus on big gestures as opposed to subtlety
  • More disruptions to performance due to less preparation, rowdiness of the audience affecting the actors
  • Poorer people having chaotic experience due to weather, drunk people. Noise from outside of the theatre, e.g. pleasure houses, cockfighting, bullbaiting
  • Violence of cockfighting, bullbaiting etc outside the theatre was representative of what people wanted to see, violence
  • The plague- theatre could have been a dangerous experience particularly for poorer people due to the exposure to illness
  • Poorer people encountering things/people on stage that they wouldn’t in real life, i.e. royals, people from different countries (the Swiss Traveller’s account of a play about “diverse nations”)
  • Multiple theatres in one area, added a  competitive element, companies trying to have big names, choosing plays with the most drama
  • Music in the theatre, luring people in, competiting with outside noise and noise of the audience
  • Only in England where women couldn’t act, Swiss traveller’s account that there were men dressed as women shows how a foreign perspective highlights peculiarities about theatre during this time. Less documented by Londoners as theatre was normal part of life
  • Travelling- more exhaustion during play due to journey? Poorer people taking the boat vs rich people taking a carriage
  • Audience had a more personal relationship to the actors (and therefore to the characters) due to seeing them previously in different plays. Attracted people to see their favourite actors



When this thing gets up to 88 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious Shakespeare… 

Great Scott! The streets are filthy and there’s a raucous going on around the corner. It can only mean one thing- we’re in Shakespeare’s London! 

Don’t panic, the abundance of diseases won’t get you (well, no promises…), we’re only here for a short trip to the theatre. We’ve plenty to choose from here on a fine late 1500s afternoon South side of the Thames, with theatres practically fighting for you to knuckle down in their yard and cheer and jeer for the classics such as Doctor Faustus and Julius Caesar. Shakespeare didn’t have a monopoly over drama in London, and there’s a fair amount of competition amongst the playhouses. One of these popular playhouses is Philip Henslowe’s The Rose, which became home to the Admiral’s Men acting company in 1592. With more and more buildings and acting troupes popping up, theatre’s started to get creative to maintain business. Extensions, extra stage levels and added seating were some of the ways in which theatre’s tried to entice more audience members in. 

Henslow’s actually a pretty useful guy; his diaries have told us a fair bit about the theatre industry around here, so we aren’t completely thrown into the unknown. One particularly interesting tidbit is a list of props and equipment the theatre had:

Item, i rock, i cage, i tomb, i Hell mouth… i bedstead.

Item, viii lances, i pair of stairs for Phaethon*.

Item, i globe, & i golden sceptre; iii clubs

Item, i golden fleece, ii racquets, i bay tree.

Item, i lion’s skin, i bear’s skin; Phaethon’s

limbs, & Phaethon’s chariot, & Argus’s head.

Item, Iris’s head, & rainbow; i little altar. . .

i ghost’s gown; i crown with a sun*.

It can be hard to imagine what things had been crafted for performance, given the lack of smoke machines and strobe lights. Yet the Elizabethan theatre did make use of certain effects such as smoke and cannons, they weren’t afraid of pyrotechnics to aid the drama of a performance. Parading a golden sceptre and lion’s skin around on the stage brings a certain regality to a performance, don’t you think? 

If you’re feeling ever so-so, or just want to save yourself the backache, you can cough up a couple of pennies (yes, pennies!) and nab a seat in an upper tier of the theatre. This is where the line between the low and the high class is drawn. Higher seats = better view = better public image. 

The Globe Theatre, built from the remains of The Theatre (England’s second ever permanent playhouse), is the longtime home of Shakespeare’s dramatics, and it’s existed since 1599. Granted, it’s been reconstructed since then into what we can visit in the present day, but this is the birthplace of the ‘box office’. No, really: boxes that collected everyone’s admission were a sure way of determining how successful a certain play was, ie in how much money it actually made the theatre.  Being so famous nowadays, it clearly did quite well for itself. 

Watch out for pickpockets as you muscle your way into the land of the ‘groundlings’ (us folk that hang out in the theatre’s yard), the theatre going experience wasn’t quite as policed as it is today. One familiar thing, however, is the chance to purchase yourself some refreshments. You needn’t wait until any interval, as food and drink is available during the performance. Try not to spill your hazelnuts on your neighbour. You’ll need them to throw about when your favourite character kicks the bucket (spoilers!). We’re a pretty rowdy bunch, and I bet you two pennies that a good few people will leave the theatre before the end. You couldn’t imagine doing that in modern times, but here, once a main character dies, some people have simply had enough. Pass the tissues. 

If you’re still bloodthirsty (weren’t all those murders enough?), we can head out into the streets and follow the squawks and cheers to the cockfights. The setup actually looks a bit like a theatre, giving us a great view of the violence once more, but instead of passionating, there’s a lot of pecking. Some traveller’s accounts have told us that people would be there to take bets, so maybe you can even make your money back and we can do all of this again tomorrow. I hear they’re performing a second part to Tamburlaine. See you in the pit! 

Platter on Playhouses and Sketchy Sketches: What was Shakespeare’s London?

Sophia Kypriotis, Luke Mulligan, Becky Callaghan, Elli Brown, Kelly Corcoran

Drawing on foreigners account of entertainment in Shakespeare’s London, we divulge how much truth can be extracted…

Thomas Platter 

What sort of entertainment was Shakespeare and his theatre company having to compete with? 

“Thus daily at two in the afternoon, London has two, sometimes three plays running in different places, competing with each other, and those which play best obtain most spectators.”

Shakespeare and his theatre company were having to compete with multiple theatres, companies and plays, all of whom were attempting to draw in the largest crowd and offer plays that were intriguing and enjoyable enough to get the audience to come south of the river. 

“There is also in the city of London not far from the horse-market which occupies a large site, a house where cock-fights are held annually throughout three quarters of the year (for in the remaining quarter they told me it was impossible since the feathers are full of blood) and I saw the place which is built like a theatre (theatrum).”

“Every Sunday and Wednesday in London there are bearbaitings on the other side of the water, and I ferried across on Sunday the 8th of September with the Earl of Benthem and my party, and saw the bear and bull- baiting.” 

Shakespeare had to compete with highly popular violent sports. In order to win the attention of the crowds, he had to match the blood lust that audiences gained from viewing cock fighting, which could explain why many of Shakespeare’s plays depict acutely violent acts. Since cock fighting and bearbaiting didn’t appear to occur as regularly as theatre performances, violent plays may have been introduced to satisfy the audience’s cravings for brutality. 

How useful is it to have a foreign perspective on Shakespearean London?

This perspective offers a more objective account of Shakespearean London as the author is unfamiliar with it and therefore views the situation through a lense that doesn’t normalise what they encounter. 

“With these and many more amusements the English pass their time, learning at the play what is happening abroad; indeed men and womenfolk visit such places without scruple, since the English for the most part do not travel much, but prefer to learn foreign matters and take their pleasures at home.” 

Due to Shakespeare’s plays often being set abroad, it feeds the English interest in forgein matters without them having to travel to those countries. 

It would be helpful and interesting to compare Platter’s account with an Londoners/Englishman’s account of the same entertainment; one can assume they would pick up on and focus more closely on different elements, which in turn comments more broadly on their culture and customs. 

Platter’s account is useful for gaining insight into Shakespeare’s entertainment because he offers an alternative perspective on the experience of going to the theatre, however it is limited as he may not pick up on English nuances and thus can’t offer a complete and cohesive account; which is only comparable to Swiss entertainment culture. 

How similar or different is this world from our own? 

“There are a great many inns, taverns, and beer-gardens scattered about the city, where much amusement may be had with eating, drinking, fiddling and the rest, as for instance in our hostelry, which was visited by players almost daily. And what is particularly curious is that the women as well as the men, in fact more often than they, will frequent the taverns or ale-houses for enjoyment.”

Despite the extreme forms of entertainment on offer e.g. bearbaiting, this world is not entirely different from our own. The traveller and citizens of London are merely looking for a way to be entertained. The frequenting of beer-gardens by more than one gender is relatable to the present day.

Johann de Witt

What architectural information does this sketch and the text give us? Why are the theatres on the outskirts of the city?

  • Open air; reliant on daylight 
  • Stage juts out into the groundlings; imerse experience for audience; fits more people into the theatre to view the play
  • Circular; beneficial for acoustics; greater perspective on offer, instead of just straight on; often the audience can see more than the actors on stage and therefore preempts events in the play-actors didn’t have the full script so the audience may know what may happen before they do 
  • High tier seating; maximise seating available and offers a better viewing experience; reflective of class and hierarchy. Thomas Platter: “where he not only sees everything well, but can also be seen” 
  • Columns; remistant of Roman and Ancient Greek places of entertainment, reflecting the classical allusions within the plays performed and causes the audience to feel of greater importance 

What does the sketch and text tell us about the social history of a play? Where are the audience? What is the purpose of the flag and the man at the top of the building? What are the alternative entertainments on offer?

  • Seating reflects class and hierarchy
    • the higher the seats the better the view and greater the comfort, and can also be seen by more and thus demonstrates their higher status. 
    • The groundlings were eyelevel with the stage and thus had a more reduced perspective than those seated higher up 
  • The flags were used to advertise the genre of the play on offer, for example tragedy was symbolised by a black flag. This would have enabled those looking for a quick source of entertainment to choose which theatre they wanted to go to by looking at which flag was raised. 

Quincey comments that “There are four amphitheatres in London of notable beauty”, including “the Rose and the Swan”, underlining the competition between theatres and companies, supporting Platter’s account of entertainment in London. He goes onto mention that “There is also a fifth voted to the baiting of beasts, where are maintained in separate cages and enclosures many bears and dogs of stupendous size, which are kept for fighting, furnishing thereby a most delightful spectacle to men.”. This may offer an understanding as to why Shakespeare’s plays often contained so much violence; he was competing with bearbaiting to draw audiences in and therefore he reflected this violence in his own plays.

Both the text and the sketch are copies held in a notebook by de Witt’s friend, Van Buchell: he used this notebook between 1592-1628 to keep copies of poems, quotations, and observations. How might this affect the reliability of this source? 

Due to these being copies and not first hand evidence, there leaves room for human error; he may have mis-quoted, mis-seen the original sources, or they may have been damaged and thus cannot be authentically interpreted. Furthermore, he may have interpreted and amended the original sources to fit with his own understanding and hence cannot be seen as a completely reliable portray of Shakespeare’s Show Business.


Entertainment in London

Group: Abi Dickson, Ellie Simmonite, Leanne Francis, Sophie Hamilton, Soso Ayika & Raveena Mehta

  1. What can this tell us about the experience of performing and being in the audience of early modern plays?

Thomas Platter’s account of entertainment in London depicts theatre as being something that was highly reliant on the weather, light, and travel and evolved over time.

We learn that theatre was highly invested in with “two, sometimes three” plays occurring throughout the day in different locations – some taking place across the river. The plays were in competition with each other and the least popular, something “that was ‘damned’ or ‘hissed’ after first performance” (Stern, Tiffany. p.63), would no longer be performed. Competition was also significantly increased by the fact that “as the city was so small, potential audience for the theatre was also small” (Stern, Tiffany. p.62), necessitating increased violence in certain theatre productions to appeal to those attracted to, for instance, performances of bear baiting. 

The lack of technology during the era of Elizabethan theatre meant that plays were typically performed around lunchtime when there was more light, and actors would often over-exaggerate their gestures for those in the audience who were short-sighted. Tiffany Stern tells us that “large gestures will have been very important, for corrective spectacles for short sight did not exist.” (83) In regards to costumes, a social ladder is highlighted as actors (those lower in society) would purchase their expensive and elaborate costumes from serving men, who would receive these outfits as gifts from deceased lords or knights. 

We also learn that the layout of theatres differed: playhouses were constructed “on a raised platform” so that everyone had a good view, whereas other galleries offered better seating for those who were willing to pay, perhaps as a way to divide the upper from lower class. Those who could not afford seating paid one penny to stand for the entirety of the performance.

Platter also says that plays were used to teach the public about what was happening abroad: “the English for the most part do not travel much, but prefer to learn foreign matters and take their pleasures at home.” This suggests that theatre served various purposes, such as entertainment and education.

Platter’s account also indicates that the theatre was a place of networking where the wealthy could be sociable and perhaps flaunt their wealth: ‘if he desires to sit in the most comfortable seats which are cushioned, where he not only sees everything well, but can also be seen’. This tells us that people would pay extra money in order to show themselves off around their peers.

2. What strikes you as the most unusual aspect of Elizabethan theatre? 

Food and drink was offered to members of the audience who could afford it. This could be considered ‘unusual’ as it seems like a relatively modern concept: one we still use today.

Elizabethan theatres and other venues were not only used for plays but for other forms of entertainment, such as ‘bear baitings’ and ‘cock fights’ which occurred throughout the year.

Members of the public would pay to watch these animals “wound each other to death”, often betting on the one they thought would win. Sometimes the ‘cocks’ would be given brandy before a fight, adding to the “wonderful pleasure” of the violent display. Platter also describes how much money was circulating due to this violent sport: ‘I am told that stakes on a cock often amount to many thousands of crowns.’ Bears would be bound by a rope and ‘baited’ by a group of “great English mastiffs” every Sunday and Wednesday. He graphically describes how the animals were treated outside of the baiting pits, for example describing how the bears’ teeth were ‘broken short’ so that they could not injure the dogs. The place was described as “evil-smelling because of the [lungs] and meat on which the butchers feed the said dogs.” These activities made theatres incredibly unhygienic places with no regard for animal welfare, which differs from the theatres we visit today.

Platter states that “women as well as the men, in fact more often than they, will frequent the taverns or ale-houses for enjoyment.” Despite being unable to perform in plays, women were able to visit inns and taverns throughout the city and drink wine with men.

Battle of the Petticoats

Ladies and gentlemen, today, and only today, we present to you a fight of extraordinary forces. A clash of ladies the likes of which has never been seen before. For today not two, but four dames will step into the ring. In the red corner, from Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde, we have the ladies Rosalynde and Alinda. In the blue corner, coached by Shakespeare himself, As You Like It’s Rosalind and Celia. Who is the superior female character? Who is the true strong, independent woman who don’t need no man? Let the Battle of the Petticoats begin!

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Renaissance Book History: A Trip Back in Time

One thing is for sure, and that’s that printing during the Renaissance was a meticulous system.

This week, our lectures and a visit to the Newcastle library archive have taught us a LOT about early modern books and their complex composition. In this post, I will first venture into the world of a professional printing work space, discussing step-by-step the process of turning an author’s manuscript from ink on a page to a real, saleable print. Secondly, I will discuss our trip to the library archives, comparing the books we looked at with contemporary examples and considering other useful information.

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Readership – Then and Now

The group was this week tasked with discussing the rather ominous topic of contemporary and Elizabethan readership. Conversation regarding our own reading experiences is all well and good, after all, but how can one truly get into the mindset of individuals who went about their lives centuries before our own? When reading through the Peter Stallybrass and Roger Chartier’s Reading and Authorship: The Circulation of Shakespeare 1590-1619, we identified several names of friends and associates of Shakespeare, with Sarah, Hannah and Phoebe tackling the various readers specifically and Jack deciding to look more in depth at the role of commonplace books for the everyday Shakespearean reader.

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A Most Splendid and Educationall Blogg Concerning Those Things Of Theater Historie; Wherein All Things Written Shall Be Deserving of a Terrifick Mark

Dost thou wish to be a learned person? Dost thou wish to learn of those things concerning theater historie? Then hurrah! For thou hast found the right place, dear scholar! (But seriously, read on for this week’s blog – it’s guaranteed to be a thrilling experience).

Continue reading A Most Splendid and Educationall Blogg Concerning Those Things Of Theater Historie; Wherein All Things Written Shall Be Deserving of a Terrifick Mark

Theatre History: Contemporaneous documents and what they can reveal

That’s a long-winded title but bear with me, it gets more fun.

As a round-up on studying Elizabethan theatre history, we’re looking at 2 areas: How the nature of performances was shaped by rehearsal practicalities (Harriet) and what we learn about Shakespearean theatre from contemporaneous documents (Lucy). In this post I’ll be touching on the latter topic.

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