Pageants, processions and plays : representations of royal and state power and the common audience in early modern England
This thesis examines certain important aspects of theatrical practice in earlymodern England, as they were manifested in Shakespeare's history plays and pageant literature produced for Queen Elizabeth 1 on procession. This study regards the events marked by these two literary forms as discrete though related theatrical formations, and seeks to examine and question the ways in which Shakespearean criticism and pageant analysis regard both genres as aesthetically equivalent as well as being cultural forms both characterised and linked by their valorisation of state authority. This thesis asserts that such a conceptualisation simplifies the nature of the plays and the pageants as material events, as well as the literature produced for these events. Instead, it argues that a closer examination of the human context in which pageants, processions and plays occurred, and in which the literature for them was performed, enables the construction of an alternative viewpoint. A reprocessing of primary and secondary material while prioritising the fact that a large proportion of audiences who witnessed the pageants, processions and plays were comprised of the common people of early modern England, allows for different perceptions of these cultural events. The presence of these common people has traditionally been either ignored or undervalued and, through a close examination of contemporary records, this thesis proceeds to argue that, as they were the targets of official, dominant ideology, their presence was significant.