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Daisy Black
and
Katharine Goodland

Between the middle of the fourteenth century and the 1642 closing of the theatres, performance activity in England underwent significant change. At the beginning of this period, there were no dedicated playhouses, nor was there a profitable business in the publishing of plays. Yet England had thriving and durable performance traditions, encompassing pageantry, games, tournaments, street theatre, folk plays, festivals, royal entries, civic biblical cycles, and liturgical church drama. These theatrical practices were not only local and regional but were also carried across much of the island by touring companies before and after the emergence of professional theatres. Without these deeply ingrained, vibrant customs of playing, the professional theatres would have had little chance of success. Over the past twenty years, advances in research have increasingly demonstrated that the diachronic, teleological approach implied by the conventional period categories limits our understanding of the complex theatrical landscape in England during this time. Work by repertory companies, Records of Early English Drama (REED), and scholarship on the Digby, Towneley, and Hegge manuscripts shows these traditions were ‘synchronic’, as earlier practices of touring, staging, and performance continued, and in some cases increased after the advent of London’s professional playhouses. These traditions were also bound in complex ways to the religious alliances of their patrons. The chapters in this volume explore how later dramatists employed earlier modes of staging, costuming, props, characterization, dramaturgy, and tropes which variously performed commemoration, made political and religious statements, pushed the limits of genre, parodying and reforming earlier performance traditions.

in Medieval afterlives