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Venetian State Papers and English Civic Pageantry, 1558-1642

  • David M. Bergeron (a1)


Attempting to recover what has been a largely ignored and vastly overlooked subject in theater history, Professor Glynne Wickham has demonstrated the importance of the study of civic pageantry as a natural part of the evolution of English drama. Wickham makes a most persuasive case for the significance of these dramatic entertainments as they contribute both technically and thematically to the regular stage of the English Renaissance, and he shows clearly that the whole subject is in need of further exploration in order to counter the neglect it has received at the hands of many scholars. Civic pageantry, as Wickham defines it and as I use the term, refers of course to planned dramatic entertainments, not just color or spectacle, designed to honor the sovereign or magistrate on special occasions. Generally, there are three kinds of pageants: royal entries of the sovereign, the sovereign's provincial progresses, and the annual Lord Mayor's Show in London.



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1 Early English Stages, 2 vols. (London and New York, 1959-1963). See especially ch. in, in vol. I, ‘Pageant Theatres of the Streets,’ and ch. VI in vol II, ‘The Emblematic Tradition.'

2 Malone Society, Collections III: A Calendar of Dramatic Records in the Books of the Livery Companies of London 1485-1640 ,ed. D.J. Gordon and Jean Robertson (Oxford, 1954).

3 Theatre Festivals of the Medici 1539-1637 (New Haven, 1964).

4 The Complete Works of John Webster ,ed. F. L. Lucas (London, 1927), III, 318.

5 Calendar of State Papers Venetian 1558-1580 (London, 1890), VII, I2f. Hereafter all the references to the Papers will be cited by volume and page within the text.

6 Early English Stages ,1, 72.

7 For a further discussion of this tableau see my ‘Symbolic Landscape in English Civic Pageantry,’ Renaissance Quarterly XXII (1969), 32.

8 Sir John Neale suggests in the Introduction to the Yale facsimile edition of the pamphlet (The Queries Maiesties Passage through the Citie of London to Westminster the Day before her Coronation ,New Haven, 1960) that II Schifanoya, whose dispatch is dated January 23, must somehow have gotten immediate access to the pamphlet since it too is dated the 23rd. In fact, Neale says, he ‘must have had a copy of the pamphlet by him when writing the letter’ (p. 14). Then why does the envoy's description close before the complete entertainment is discussed? And he has assuredly added details not included in the published quarto. For him to have gotten a copy of the pamphlet on the day it was printed, read it, and written his full dispatch on the same day is perhaps asking a bit too much of one man.

9 In Overall, W. H., Analytical Index to the Series of Records Known as the Remembrancia (London, 1876), p. 417.

10 Early English Stages ,II, 23.

11 The Works of Thomas Middleton ,ed. A. H. Bullen (Boston, 1886), VII, 302.

Venetian State Papers and English Civic Pageantry, 1558-1642

  • David M. Bergeron (a1)


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