The performance of learning: university drama at Oxford in 1566

Marlow, Christopher (2008) The performance of learning: university drama at Oxford in 1566. Cahiers Elisabethains: A Biannual Journal of English Renaissance Studies, 73 . pp. 1-7. ISSN 0184-7678

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The Performance of Learning: University Drama at Oxford in 1566
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This paper considers documentary evidence relating to the performance of Richard Edwards’ Palamon and Arcyte before Elizabeth I at Oxford in 1566. The text of the play itself has been lost; however, eyewitness accounts of its performance are extant, and it is with these that this paper is concerned. By locating the performance in the political and intellectual context of the 1560s, I will argue that evidence suggests that the university authorities used the performance as a means of emphasising the connection between the rarefied world of higher education and the sharp world of pragmatic politics. This concern to demonstrate the instrumentality of learning was perhaps all the more important because Edwards’ play was, unusually for the time, performed in English rather than Latin or Ancient Greek. I suggest that the humanist educational programme was important here because both the interconnection of learning and practice and the importance of performance are central to a humanist understanding of education.
Palamon and Arcyte was not the only performance that took place during the queen’s visit. I will argue, rather, that Elizabeth was herself not unaware of the university’s anxieties, and her magnanimous responses to Oxford’s ceremonies were themselves performances elicited by the ritualistic nature of the visit. This reciprocal display—one of the rituals of royal visits—is also incorporated into the physical arrangements of the performance, and in discussing the prominent onstage position of the monarch during performances at Oxford I will consider how such university performances differ from comparable events at court, specifically the masque.

Keywords:University Drama, Early Modern Drama, Digitised
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:5163
Deposited On:08 May 2012 16:34

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