Renaissance Drama and the English Church Year
Evidence encouraging a new and productive approach to Renaissance drama has long been available in the records of Renaissance court perfon-nances compiled by E. K. Chambers and Gerald Eades Bentley.' Over fifty years ago Chambers noticed the persistent correlation between the dates of dramatic performance at Elizabeth's court and certain liturgical festivals of the English church year.
Whether in Whitehall or elsewhere, the twelve days of Christmas from the Nativity to the Epiphany, were a season of high revels.... Twelfth Night [6 Jan.] itself, with St. Stephen's [26 Dec.] , St. John's [27 Dec.], Innocents' [28 Dec.], and New Year's Day [circumcision], were regularly appointed for plays and masks, which often overflowed on to other nights during the period.... The revels were renewed for Candlemas [2 Feb.] and for Shrovetide [Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday] , either at the Christmas headquarters or at some other palace to which the court had meanwhile removed. . . . Easter, with the distribution of alms and washing of feet on Maunday Thursday, and Whitsuntide, were kept as ecclesiastical, rather than secular feasts. [1: 19-201 Gradually emerging during the sixteenth century, this calendar tradition seems to have peaked in the period 1570-85, continued strong until Elizabeth's death, diminished and changed somewhat during the Jacobean and Caroline periods, and then disappeared completely after 1640.
- 1979 University of Nebraska Press
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