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A cultural history of the early modern Lord Mayor’s Show, 1585-1639

The London Lord Mayors' Shows were high-profile and lavish entertainments that were at the centre of the cultural life of the City of London in the early modern period. The Show was staged annually to celebrate the inauguration of the new Lord Mayor. The London mayoralty was not simply an entity of civic power, but always had its ritual and ceremonial dimensions. Pageantry was a feature of the day's entertainment. This book focuses on the social, cultural and economic contexts, in which the Shows were designed, presented and experienced, and explores the Shows in textual, historical, bibliographical, and archival and other contexts. It highlights the often-overlooked roles of the artificer and those other craftsmen who contributed so valuably to the day's entertainment. The Show was the concern of the Great Twelve livery companies from the ranks of one of which the Lord Mayor was elected. The book discusses, inter alia, the actors' roles, the props, music and costumes used during the Show and looks at how important emblems and imagery were to these productions. Pageant writers and artificers took advantage of the space available to them just as dramatists did on the professional stage. From 1585 onwards the Lord Mayor's Show was with increasing frequency transmitted from event to text in the form of short pamphlets produced in print runs ranging from 200 to 800 copies. The book also demonstrates the ways in which the Shows engaged with the changing socio-economic scene of London and with court and city politics.

Bringing the Shows to life
Tracey Hill

, as Paster comments, that, unlike masques, Shows were not presented in entirely appropriate venues: ‘with all the visual and acoustical difficulties of an open-air procession’, she writes, ‘the pageant poet faced severe handicaps’.5 The dimensions and acoustics of the locations of the pageant stations varied too, from open spaces like Paul’s Churchyard to narrow streets like Soper Lane, off Cheapside, to cramped conditions like the river banks. Pageant writers and artificers took advantage of the space available to them just as dramatists did on the professional stage

in Pageantry and power
Political and contemporary contexts of the Shows
Tracey Hill

civic self-fashioning of the first decade of his reign’.27 Thus for the later pageant writers the figure of ‘Fame’, although repeatedly associated with Queen Elizabeth throughout her reign, was not an exclusively monarchical image but one which could readily be borrowed to praise the City and its mayors. Some years later, Munday may have made a rather compromised attempt to genuflect to the new sovereign in The triumphes of re-united Britania but this was not the mayoral Shows’ usual mode.28 In their treatment of the Crown, the Shows can be seen to express a potentially

in Pageantry and power
The writers, the artificers and the livery companies
Tracey Hill

’s Diary and other contemporary documents demonstrate that those pageant writers who had personal experience of dramatic collaboration prior to their involvement in the Shows include Dekker, Munday, Middleton, Heywood and Webster: Hirschfeld calls Dekker, in particular, a ‘veteran collaborator’.76 In some cases they had worked with each other at the Rose and/or Fortune, as I discuss further below. In all these cases (bar that of Munday, whose involvement in mayoral pageantry began unusually early), writing Shows came late to the dramatists’ careers. Working in tandem

in Pageantry and power
Critical and historical contexts of the Lord Mayor’s Show
Tracey Hill

Protestantism, and Protestantism of a radical flavour to boot (Londini speculum, sig. C4v). The celebration of the Lord Mayor’s inauguration itself, which traditionally took place on the day after the feast of St Simon and St Jude, can thus in general terms be traced back to the early medieval period (the first procession took place in 1215). It has even more historically remote links with the triumphal entries and processions of classical Roman times. Indeed, many pageant writers made explicit reference to the Roman triumph as a prototype for the London mayoral Show (Dekker

in Pageantry and power
Ellie Reid

, Barnett spoke of ‘his strong belief in the good effect which the children's pageant is bound to have’. 82 Yet the same report acknowledged that it was impossible to say how far the pageant's writers had succeeded in making the idea of citizenship presented in the various episodes ‘sink into the minds of performers and audience’. Adults were keen to find evidence of the positive impact on the children, one teacher stating afterwards that the hundreds of children

in Pasts at play
The Show from street to print
Tracey Hill

from street to print 239 on the Water and Land) [are] here fully expressed’ (sig. A1r; my emphases). Similarly, in Londons tempe, Dekker’s title page claims that ‘All the particular Inuentions, for the Pageants, Showes of Triumph, both by Water and land [are] here fully set downe’ (sig. A1r). These instances resemble the way in which in this period play-texts were almost invariably printed with some variant of ‘as performed by X company at Y playhouse’ on their title pages: in both cases, a kind of authority is being claimed. However, of the other pageant writers

in Pageantry and power
Rachel Willie

Tatham’s status as writer of pageants for the lord mayor’s shows, it comes as little surprise that the key points of Monck’s dealings with London are critiqued. As Wiseman has observed, Tatham’s career demonstrates a certain degree of ‘political pragmatism’.33 He successfully negotiated the transition from republican to monarchical government and continued to write pageants into the first decade of the Restoration.34 Monck’s actions feed into the mythologising of the city and therefore deserve to be minutely recorded by the city’s playwright. As a pageant-writer

in Staging the revolution