Drama and the Transfer of Power in Renaissance England

ISBN : 9780199650590

Martin Wiggins
176 ページ
151 x 222 mm

The state is at its most volatile when supreme power changes hands. This book studies five such moments of transfer in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, from Henry VIII to the English Revolution, pazying particular attention to the political function and agency of drama in smoothing the transition. Masques and civic pageants served as an art form by which incoming authority could declare its power, and subjects could express their willing subordination to the new regime. The book contains vivid case studies of these dramatic works, some of which have never before been identified, and the circumstances for which they were written: the use of London street theatre in 1535 to promote Henry VIII's arrogation of Royal Supremacy; the aggressively Protestant court masque of 1559 which marked the accession of Elizabeth I, and the censorship which resulted when the same mode of dramatic discourse spread to more plebeian stages; the masques and entertainments of James I's initial year on the English throne, through which the new Stuart dynasty asserted its legitimacy and individual courtiers made their bids for influence; and the formal coronation entry to London, furnished with dramatic pageants, which London paid for but Charles I refused to undertake. The final chapter describes how, in 1642, a very different incoming regime planned to ignore drama altogether, until some surprisingly contingent circumstances forced its hand.


1535: A Midsummer Night's Apocalypse
1559: The Taming of the Wolves
1603: Sycophancy and Old Clothes
1626: London's Labours Lost
1642: Closedown
Appendix 1: Sir Thomas Cawarden's Masques for Queen Elizabeth I
Appendix 2: William Beeston and Political Theatre During the Short Parliament
1. Expenditure by the London Skinners' Company on the Lord Mayor's Midsummer Pageants, 1535
2. Costumes for the Court Revels on 6 January 1559
3. The Beautiful Hill: Thomas Middleton's verses for the Lord Mayor's pageant of 1626, The Triumphs of Health and Prosperity
4. Sir Thomas Salusbury's Untitled Comedy of a Citizen and his Wife
Map of London


Martin Wiggins is Senior Lecturer and Fellow, and Tutor for Research at The Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham. From 1987-1990 he held a Junior Research Fellowship at Keble College. He has also taught at the University of Reading, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London, and The Roehampton Institute. His research interests cover the full corpus of dramatic works written in the British Isles between the English Reformation and the English Revolution, including both commercial and literary plays, masques and entertainments, and drama in Latin, Greek, Cornish, and Welsh. In 2006, he won the Calvin and Rose G. Hoffman Prize for distinguished work on Christopher Marlowe. He also writes regularly for the Globe's magazine, Around the Globe, on issues in dramatic history.