Volume Thirty-Six (2014): Summaries

Matthew Sergi

Beyond Theatrical Marketing: Play Banns in the Records of Kent, Sussex, and Lincolnshire
METh 36 (2014) 3-23.


It has generally been taken for granted that audience-building 'advertisement' or 'marketing' was the primary purpose behind the proclamation of banns for early plays. This article, however, reconsiders the extant records of banns in Lincolnshire, Sussex, and eastern Kent, arguing that these are best understood as fundraising appeals, ceremoniously and publicly delivered to those donors who were likely to help cover production costs, or to otherwise provide financial support to the subsequent plays or their parishes. Rather than competing to win potential audiences, these banns seem to be traces of a large-scale and long-term series of collaborations, manifesting and maintaining a network of mutual good will.


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James McBain

Recycling Authority: John Bale at Magdalen?
METh 36 (2014) 24-47.


This paper considers evidence for REED's suggestion of a performance of Bale's Three Laws at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1560/1, before developing to examine why the play might have been a particularly suitable choice at that time. With the recent election to the Presidency of the radical Protestant Laurence Humphrey, the College sought to position and present itself as at the forefront of reform. More broadly, the paper suggests the potential value of speculation as a way of beginning to explore the numerous lacunae in the records of dramatic performances.


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Tamara Atkin

‘The Personages that Speake’: Playing with Parts in Early Printed Drama
METh 36 (2014) 48-69.


In a recent article, Emma Smith and I have traced trends in the form and function of character lists in plays printed before 1642. The purpose of this article is to focus on the corpus of play texts printed before the establishment of commercial theatres in London in the 1570s, with a view to delineating in more detail the ways character lists were used to appeal to different kinds of readership before the era of professional playhouse plays and playing.


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Clare Egan

‘Now Fearing neither Friend nor Foe, to the Worldes Viewe these Verses goe’: Mapping Libel Performance in Early-Modern Devon
METh 36 (2014) 70-103.


Libel — the spreading of a message in order to defame a person — was a common offence in the provincial communities of early-modern England. The surviving records of these libels, which were tried in the court of Star Chamber, have been studied by historians for evidence of popular political engagement and levels of literacy; however, by plotting examples of libel from the Star Chamber records for the county of Devon onto a map of the contemporary landscape, it becomes clear that these libels should be seen as public performances devised by and enacted in provincial communities. Furthermore, mapping libels shows that these communities had an acute awareness of the potential that precise locations held for targeted, yet widespread dissemination. This article interprets libels in relation to the deliberately public and socially significant spaces of roads, boundaries and buildings in which they were performed and discusses the outcomes of digitally mapping a small sample of cases.


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Alexandra F.Johnston

The Puzzle of the N.Town Manuscript Revisited
METh 36 (2014) 104-123.


This article presents a new hypothesis about the nature of the manuscript of the N.Town Plays. It argues that this collection of plays that vary widely in size, subject matter, staging, and genre was written down by a scribe who was following the scribal rules of compilatio laid down by Vincent of Beauvais for the creation of manuscripts that we would call anthologies. The rules dictated that the arrangement of material must be in strict chronological order following the scriptural account. This forced the scribe to ignore the structure of the individual plays as written and arrange the episodes so as to follow the Biblical order. This process blurred the uniqueness and power of many episodes.


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