Provincial playing places and performances in early modern England, 1559-1625
Most studies of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre focus upon the drama and playhouses of London. However, if we are to have a fuller understanding of English Renaissance theatre and its place in early modem English culture, the wider world of regional English drama must also be taken into account. Playing places and vernacular play performances outside early modern London and its liberties are therefore made the subject of this thesis. The dissertation offers the first detailed account of regional playing spaces and their use for play performances in English in the Elizabethan and Jacobean period. The thesis opens with an introduction in which provincial playing and staging conventions are discussed in general. Each subsequent chapter concentrates upon playing practices and performances in a representative space, focusing upon buildings (and the grounds of buildings) used for regional dramatic performances (e. g. town halls, schools and colleges, country houses). The chapters are illustrated with transcriptions from primary records and case-studies of known performances in specific spaces. I have supplemented study of published and unpublished dramatic records transcribed for the Records of Early English Drama Project (based at Toronto University) and the Malone Society with extensive primary research amongst those Elizabethan and Jacobean records yet to be transcribed or printed. Visual evidence is also included, furnishing a visual archive for scholars of early modem theatre spaces in England. Research in many archives remains to be done. The survey of early modern English provincial theatre offered in this dissertation is therefore introductory. The aim has been to provide a starting point for those studying this rich and under-researched aspect of English Renaissance dramatic culture in the future.