chapter  4
Playing II: The Power of Performance in the School Tradition
Pages 32

If we can detect a distinctive flourishing of the literate, literary, book-centered theater emerging in Edward Alleyn’s transitional and hybrid performance practice, it appears to be more closely related to a text-based performance of drama that had long been prevalent in the schools and chapels than to the popular tradition generally. Even prior to the sixteenth century, the educated children’s playing tradition had been pioneering a bookish performance practice. This tradition was beginning to acquire the power to reshape the popular drama and advance the embrace of the play text because of patronage but even more so because of the porous boundary between educative institutions, the theater, and popular culture. After all, the grammar school and even the song school were hardly populated by elites; the former was a commonplace in the villages throughout the countryside, and both drew their schoolboys and schoolmasters from the general population. Performance in the school tradition was thus far from a distant force or a mere disciplinary instrument encouraging enculturation in “academic,” literary snobbishness; instead, it was a place where new practices capable of unleashing new performance effects were being developed, sometimes locally, in a context free of the pressure to meet market desires. Not yet possessing a distasteful “highbrow” desire to “limit” the pleasures of performance that some modern critics tend to ascribe to it, 1 the humanist school tradition was pioneering a different kind of drama tied to the book.