The Queen's Dumbshows
John Lydgate and the Making of Early TheaterUniversity of Pennsylvania Press The Middle Ages Series
320 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 7 illus.
- Published: April 2014
- Published: March 2014
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No medieval writer reveals more about early English drama than John Lydgate, Claire Sponsler contends. Best known for his enormously long narrative poems The Fall of Princes and The Troy Book, Lydgate also wrote numerous verses related to theatrical performances and ceremonies. This rich yet understudied body of material includes mummings for London guildsmen and sheriffs, texts for wall hangings that combined pictures and poetry, a Corpus Christi procession, and entertainments for the young Henry VI and his mother.
In The Queen's Dumbshows, Sponsler reclaims these writings to reveal what they have to tell us about performance practices in the late Middle Ages. Placing theatricality at the hub of fifteenth-century British culture, she rethinks what constituted drama in the period and explores the relationship between private forms of entertainment, such as household banquets, and more overtly public forms of political theater, such as royal entries and processions. She delineates the intersection of performance with other forms of representation such as feasts, pictorial displays, and tableaux, and parses the connections between the primarily visual and aural modes of performance and the reading of literary texts written on paper or parchment. In doing so, she has written a book of signal importance to scholars of medieval literature and culture, theater history, and visual studies.
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Theater History as a Challenge to Literary History
Chapter 1. Shirley's Hand
Chapter 2. Vernacular Cosmopolitanism: London Mummings and Disguisings
Chapter 3. Performing Pictures
Chapter 4. Performance and Gloss: The Procession of Corpus Christi
Chapter 5. Inscription and Ceremony: The 1432 Royal Entry
Chapter 6. Edible Theater
Chapter 7. The Queen's Dumbshows
Chapter 8. On Drama's Trail
"Claire Sponsler's lucid, precise, and highly enjoyable book is the latest entry in a growing list of monographs intent on reconsidering the parameters of "early theatre" in medieval Europe. . . . Her exemplary interdisciplinary work moving between the archive and the repertoire in fifteenth-century England provides both an enviable model to others and a thoroughly engaging trek into uncharted territory. Even for theatre scholars studying different eras, Sponsler's scholarship deserves attention, if for no other reason than that it will change what "early English theatre" means to you."—Theatre Journal
"Claire Sponsler's book offers a fascinating look at what so often either slips between the cracks of modern genre classifications or is left to lie at the edges of the strictly "literary." . . . Her work calls for nothing less than a re-evaluation of the terms, categories and assumptions with which we approach late medieval literature."—TLS
"This absorbing and well-plotted study affords a rare glimpse into the conceptualization, performance, and impact of drama at a crucial time in the creation of an English vernacular literature."—Carol Symes, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
"An impressively researched, perceptive study of a neglected topic by a leading scholar of medieval English drama."—Theresa Coletti, University of Maryland
- Winner of the 2015 David Bevington Award of the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society