The Dutch Church: the dissolution and its tragic aftermath

It is convenient for historians to conceive of history in neat discrete categories, but all too often that approach both obscures continuities and suggests that events are less brutally random than they are. There are, for instance, many ways of writing about the influence of the English Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries on … Continue reading The Dutch Church: the dissolution and its tragic aftermath

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Shakespeare, Catholicism and pre-Reformation festive culture

It is hard to overstate the volume and variety of entertainers whom one might have encountered on England’s roads in the early 1500s. But then, it’s a phenomenon that we’re viewing through the filter of what occurred later, around the turn of the century and after, when theatrical and performance culture was forcibly narrowed, shaped … Continue reading Shakespeare, Catholicism and pre-Reformation festive culture

Richard Tarlton: the greatest star of the Elizabethan theatre

I have written elsewhere – see for instance my post on the life of Thomas Kyd – on the way in which the more or less arbitrary survival of documentary evidence distorts our ideas about the shape and richness of Elizabethan culture. And for us, looking back, the theatre of the period looks like a … Continue reading Richard Tarlton: the greatest star of the Elizabethan theatre

Thomas Kyd: fragments of a life

The life and work of Thomas Kyd offer a perfect example of the problems posed by the erosion of evidence over time – see my post here – since what little we do know seems wholly arbitrary in its survival, yet also hints at the enormity of what we have lost. Kyd, a prosperous scrivener’s … Continue reading Thomas Kyd: fragments of a life

The Mayor of London and Lord Strange’s Men

Hobbinol’s excellent post on the Elizabethan theatre and the plague has reminded me – somewhat tangentially, I accept – of one of my favourite anecdotes from the Tudor theatre. Perhaps anecdote is the wrong word. In some respects it is a pretty insignificant event, but I think it reveals a great deal about the tensions … Continue reading The Mayor of London and Lord Strange’s Men