Taking a break from my normal writing schedule, I just got a book from the library on a subject that I need to know more about, the Roman Stage. It’s called The Roman Theatre and its Audience, by Richard C. Beacham. Published in 1992 by Harvard U Press, it’s available from Amazon in paperback for $21, but doubtless is also freely available through local libraries (Interlibrary loan) in the original hardback edition. Written in a comfortable and accessible style by an expert in the field of theater design, Beacham can help answer questions about Oxford’s knowledge of the Roman Stage and its playwrights.
If three or more of you are interested, perhaps we could have a sort of online reading group. We could set a deadline for finishing the book, and then begin a series of discussions here––much like the comments that follow one of my blogs, only this time without a blog––about the Roman Stage and its relevance to the public stages that came into being with Oxford’s return from Italy in 1576 and what plays may have been written for them rather than for the Court. This way we would all have the same frame of reference.
If some of you have teaching or other commitments that will ease in June, we could agree to begin at a particular time as well.
How does this sound?
21 thoughts on “Here’s an idea”
When Oxenford returned in 1576, Burbage had already built The Theater having consulted with Dr. John Dee, who put on a spectacular production whillst at Cambridge … Tho I am sure that book on Roman Theater is otherwise worth while
Sonja, On April 13, 1576 James Burbage signed a twenty-one-year lease with the ground landlord, Giles Allen, which was the same day, or almost the same day, that Oxford set sail for England. If, as I believe, his trip to Italy was made largely to learn their techniques for producing plays and building temporary wooden stages, then the arrangements must have been in process while he was gone, agreements made with the patrons long before he set sail.
Note that Burbage’s ODNB biographer calls Allen the “ground landlord,” for the land was all that Allen was allowed to lease, and that had to be with the agreement of the Earl whose property it had been since it was given to his ancestors by Richard II. Having lost all of it but the land on which his city mansion was built when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the 3rd Earl of Rutland still had a great deal to say about the use of the land that once belonged to his family. As Oxford’s first and probably always closest friend since they were teenagers together under Burghley’s roof, he must have been involved in the agreement. There’s no way that something as big and noisy as a theater that held 2 to 3,000 people could have been built without Rutland’s permission so close to his own mansion.
I know of no evidence that John Dee had anything to do with the creation of the London Stage.
Frances Yates in Theatre of the World explored the idea that the Globe was based on the architectural principles of Vitruvius. Since Dee was a big promoter of Vitruvius she believed he influenced the design. There was no known contact of Dee with Burbage and Shakespeare. However, Dee could very possibly have interested de Vere in Vitruvian design principles.
Yes, which I believe is where I first realized the connection between Oxford and the shape of Burbage’s Theatre, that it was round for a reason, because, as Vitruvius explains, it acted like a wooden musical instrument––lute, violin––by amplifying the sound so 2500 people could hear the actors from the stage. But the connection of Vitruvius to Oxford is far more direct than through Dee, for Sir Thomas Smith, Oxford’s tutor, not only had Vitruvius, he had it in four languages! For more on this, try typing Vitruvius in the search field on politicworm.
Sounds good; will try to locate. Our college library also has a slightly later book by him, Spectacle Entertainments of Early Imperial Rome, which I hope / trust isn’t confined to bits about post-Spartacus gladiators and mock naval battles in the purposely flooded Colosseum.
This sounds useful and fun!
Was stuck by the following in today’s UK Guardian newspaper:-
‘A scientific truth triumphs not by convincing its opponents but because its opponents eventually die, said influential physicist Max Planck. For Nobel prize-winning neurologist Stanley Prusiner, the quotation is “so mean” that he doesn’t like to use it. “But it is absolutely true,” he says.’
( Re: Madness and Memory: The Discovery of Prions – a New Biological Principle of Disease
by Stanley B. Prusiner)
This chimes well with some of Stephanie’s recent posts.
What a great idea! May I reblog this? My following is minuscule, however, some may want to be a part.
Yes, of course. We’ll wait a few days to begin, once everyone has the book.
Count me in. Just ordered a copy from Amazon.
Excellent, Francis. Since you’re buying the paperback, perhaps we should all buy it rather than get it from the library because otherwise we probably won’t have the same page numbering, and so, literally, won’t be “on the same page.” Is that all right with you others?
Reblogged this on crafty theatre and commented:
Interested in Roman theatre and its influence over English Renaissance theatre? Fascinated by the Shakespeare Authorship Question and intrigued with the foremost claimant, Edward Oxenford ( aka De Vere)? What possibilities emerge in attempting to unravel the influence of the Roman stage over the Elizabethan one when accepting the Earl of Oxford ( aka Oxenford, aka De Vere) as Shakespeare?
A new conversation in the making at Politicworm with Stephanie Hopkins Hughes, a towering Oxfordian. Please consider.
Thanks for setting this up Stephanie! I’ve ordered the book from Amazon and am excited about digging into these sources from Oxford’s point of view. This will be a refreshing break from the ad hominem rubbish on facebook. BRILLIANT!
I’m going to have to figure out how to set up a separate page so we can discuss the book apart from the blog and other pages. Meanwhile, let’s all buy the paperback, so we can all be on the same page. Also that way we don’t have to worry about finishing the book before having to return it to the library. I’ve no doubt it will be a useful addition to our libraries.
Stephanie, it is a good idea, and I’d like to take part, but pressures of work will probably interfere. However, I’d be very interested in the conclusions that emerge. At present, I doubt if any of the plays were written for the contemporary publc stage (although the poet knew he was writing for a posterity which in due course would involve the public). Belief in the importance of the Elizabethan public stage’ is IMHO largely a hang-over from Stratfordianism. The theatrical tradition emerged entirely from performances at royal courts and in aristocratic houses. As an illustration see the DNB life of Philip II (available free for another few days at http://www.oxforddnb.com/public/lotw/) which states:
” . . . Mary was most anxious that her husband be royally entertained. She ordered her players to do the best they could, despite their protestations that the king had already seen all their productions as well as many others ‘fair and rich beyond the seas’. Eventually, on 25 April , a revival of a ‘Great Mask of Almains, pilgrims, and Irishmen’ was ‘shown before the queen’s majesty in his highness’s court at Whitehall’ (Feuillerat, 245, 225). . . ”
The attitudes of these players to their audiences and to their work would have had little in common with those in the public theatres around 1600. It is the former that should concern us, not the latter. De Vere would have seen the 1557 players in his own house as a child, and started to write for them when young — as he tells us in Hamlet ” . . Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times . . “
Paul: There’s no doubt that by the 1570s plays had begun to migrate from the Court to the public, first on the little stage at the chorister’s school at Paul’s Cathedral and the theater inns, then after 1576, at Burbage’s big stage in Shoreditch and the private stage in the little school set up by Farrant in the Revels offices at Blackfriars. I don’t see how there can be any argument about this.
I’m working on setting up a simpler means of creating a discussion group. (Perhaps on FaceBook? ) Once I’ve got that figured out (suggestions are appreciated) I’ll announce it in another blog. Meanwhile, those who are interested, please obtain the recent paperback edition of the book,The Roman Theatre and its Audience, by Richard C. Beacham.
Stephanie, you write: ” . . by the 1570s plays had begun to migrate from the Court to the public . . . I don’t see how there can be any argument about this.”. Name any canonical play — the more we study it, and the greater it is, the more we can see that it was written (primarily) for a royal and aristocratic audience. Stratfordians are necessarily blind to this. Those who foisted the Stratman upon them intended exactly that. I see the ‘argument about this’ as crucial to Oxfordianism and I am beginning to think that ‘the public audiences’ were essentially mythological.
Yes, absolutely the plays were written for an educated audience, some for the Court (mostly the comedies), others for the “gentlemen of the Inns of Court,” probably his favorite audience. But they certainly did migrate to the public. We have evidence that early versions were performed by the Queen’s Men on the road and by the Lord Strange’s Men at the Rose. But the question is a good one, and deserves a better response than I can provide off the top of my head. I will examine it as best I can and address it when I have more time. That’s a promise.
We really should rush(encourage strongly) the scientists to build a “time-travel machine” so we can get to London in the years 1550 and 1623 to really find out what was going on with the writers and stagers of Shakespearean plays… come on… we’ll never know since there was so much happening politically, socially, culturally, intellectually, financially, secretively… in London, Venice, Rome, Florence. Paris, Madrid, etc .,
It was the beginning of something great and there were women involved–look at all the Emilias in Shakespeare’s plays, the recurring names are also a key to something…something was going on and no one has the answer. There was more than one writer… and one or more was a woman and some were foreigners, European Protestants escaping the infamous Inquisition in Italy, France, Spain, and other European countries. Theatre was well advanced in Italy and other European countries! Why isn’t there more research done to connect the explorers such as Caboto and other Venetians like Florio and Emilia Lanier who was also writing and working with Lady Pembroke, another possible contributor to the Shakespeare Canon!
The Sidneys, the Walsinghams, the Howards, and the De Veres knew what was going on and someone should look at the interlink between these family and their link with the Cecils,
Sal, you wrote “It was the beginning of something great and there were women involved–look at all the Emilias in Shakespeare’s plays,” Yes indeed, they were all named for Emilia Bassano, sister to the Bassano brothers, whose family of Italian musicians (probably Marranos, Spanish Jews fled to Venice and from Venice to the Court of Henry VIII) formed the core of Elizabeth’s huge team of musicians, specifically her recorder consort. You’ll find much about this in an article I wrote for The SOS Newsletter in 2000, New Light on the Dark Lady.
You wrote: “the recurring names are also a key to something…something was going on and no one has the answer.” You’ll find this addressed in that same article.
You wrote “There was more than one writer… and one or more was a woman . . .” Indeed, several women wrote and published at that time, among them Emilia (often spelled Aemilia), who has been credited with being the first woman to publish under her own name, and the first to publish a feminist manifesto. Another was Mary Sidney, Philip’s sister, who (I believe) wrote two of the most famous plays of the Jacobean period. Due to her social role as a Countess, she could not follow Emilia and publish under her own name, so she used the name of her coachmaker’s son. You’ll find more about her in an article I published in The Oxfordian in 2003, No Spring till Now: Mary Sidney and the John Webster canon. You continued, “and some were foreigners, European Protestants escaping the infamous Inquisition in Italy, France, Spain, and other European countries,” probably the reason why the Bassano patriarch agreed to take his family to cold remote England at King Henry’s invitation.
You continued: “Theatre was well advanced in Italy and other European countries!” It was more advanced in Italy and to some extent also in France (though not yet in Spain or Germany), one of the major reasons (in my view) why Oxford was so set on spending time in both countries. That this is the case is suggested by the fact that shortly after his return, the first two successful yearround, purpose-built stages ever built in England began operations, thus founding a theater industry in England.
“Why isn’t there more research done to connect the explorers such as Caboto and other Venetians like Florio and Emilia Lanier who was also writing and working with Lady Pembroke, another possible contributor to the Shakespeare Canon!” Not sure where you got the idea that Emilia and Mary worked together, I see no evidence of that, and certainly no evidence that either of them wrote anything that we regard as by Shakespeare. Each had her own style and her own very different subject matter. I should also note that his other great love, Ann Vavasor, was also a gifted poet. (I don’t know who Caboto is, John Cabot? If so, what would he have to do with English literature?)
“The Sidneys, the Walsinghams, the Howards, and the De Veres knew what was going on and someone should look at the interlink between these family and their link with the Cecils.” Someone has. If you will take the time to read more widely in the pages and articles on this blog you’ll find answers to other questions as well.