Drama up north: the Queen’s Men and Strange’s Men at the Lancastrian Stanley household, 1587-1590.

Date

2011-11-03

Authors

Richards, Heather Susan

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Abstract

This study offers a comparative repertory-based approach to drama in early modern Lancashire. From 1587 to 1590, the Lancastrian Stanley household accounts record two acting companies’ frequent visits to the Stanley household. The Stanleys were a powerful northern family in the troubled region of Lancashire. The companies, the Queen’s Men and Strange’s Men, were famous, and their patrons, Queen Elizabeth I and Ferdinando Stanley respectively, make their visits to the Stanleys noteworthy. A comparative repertory approach examines how the companies’ repertories treat two contemporary concerns about Lancashire—region and religion. The companies’ repertories treat regional and religious issues differently because of their patrons’ differing political agendas. Strange’s Men’s plays reject characters’ associations to regions and punish religious diversity, and, above all, the plays praise the nobility’s role in protecting the nation. Ultimately, Strange’s Men’s plays promote ideals that suited their patron’s need to demonstrate loyalty to the realm. In contrast, the Queen’s Men’s plays value characters’ associations to regions and allow religious diversity, and, significantly, the plays promote a vision of a forgiving, inclusive monarch. Fundamentally, the Queen’s Men’s plays support Elizabeth I’s campaign to create a unified nation. The implications of this thesis are groundbreaking for the treatment of provincial drama. This repertory-based project demonstrates that Lancashire hosted a lively dramatic tradition and suggests that the Stanley household was a crucial destination for both companies. The discussion of the themes of region and religion shows both patrons negotiated political agendas and religious attitudes in the drama that they sponsored. The repertory-based approach re-examines discounted dramatic material and considers plays as part of overall trends in companies’ repertories. This thesis is the first to extensively compare two acting companies’ repertories and performances in a geographical location outside of London.

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Keywords

Strange's Men, Queen's Men, Lancashire, Early modern drama, Stanleys repertory

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