Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 October 2019
As Richard Dutton shows in the volume’s opening chapter, Richard Edwards’s Palamon and Arcite (1566) is not extant, but we know more about its performance than we do about virtually any other play in the early modern period. These accounts tell us at least three important things about early Elizabethan court theatre, Dutton explains. First, they spell out in particular detail a fact that we in a sense know but need constantly to bear in mind about court performance: that the Queen shared the stage with the performers and was as much on display as they were. Second, that despite the strict attention to formal hierarchy in the placement of the audience, the atmosphere was far from stuffy or hidebound; the Queen and her guests treated the performers with an informality that reminds us of the courtly shows in Love’s Labours Lost and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And third, that early Elizabethan court theatre could be remarkably realistic in style, unlike much of the staging in the commercial theatres later in the reign.