Elizabethan Commercial Playing at St Paul's

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    This chapter reconsiders the commercial culture and playing spaces in which children and scholars performed in Elizabethan London. It situates Paul’s playhouse as one among a network of commercial playing spaces for children’s performance in the 1560s and 1570s, drawing comparisons with the Blackfriars, Merchant Taylors’ School, Trinity Hall, and the Dutton brothers. It focuses on the profitable side of children’s performance, counterbalancing court-orientated discussion of the early boy companies in scholarship. In considering Paul’s seriously as one of London’s earliest playhouses, the chapter explores surrounding social and economic pressures. City Council records show that Sebastian Westcote’s tenure at the playhouse coincided with a range of precepts and restrictions aimed at regulating and limiting public assemblies at “shows” while simultaneously seeking to benefit from profit-making recreational activity. At the same time, the playing profession grew in regularity, reach, and appeal. This chapter accordingly concludes by revisiting London authorities’ disapproval of Westcote keeping ‘plays and resort of the people to great gain and peril.’ It asks how his ‘disorder’ fits into the wider social and economic culture of early commercial children’s performance, which conspicuously reshaped London’s entertainment scene and its regulation and reception.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationOld St Paul's and Culture
    EditorsShanyn Altman, Jonathan Buckner
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
    ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-77267-3
    ISBN (Print)978-3-030-77266-6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021

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