chapter  5
Patronage in the Tudor Era
Pages 34

Few critics have been willing to address the role of patronage on the developments in the theatrical marketplace in the final decades of the sixteenth century. On the one hand, patronage is associated with service, with hampering creative innovation, with frustrating hopes, with imposing political or utilitarian expectations, and with exacting obedience and submission to elites. It is regarded as anti-popular and thus as something to escape. Such is especially true in regards to understandings of the impact of Elizabeth I’s monarchic patronage on the theater. 2 Harold N. Hillebrand has suggested, for instance, that, at most, her revels calendar indicates that the queen simply “looked with favor on the [boy] company.” 3 More broadly, she is thought to have disappointed poets like Spenser and Lyly. Patronage, especially court patronage, is in such disrepute that, as Andy Kesson aptly observes, G. K. Hunter’s description of the playwright John Lyly as a “court writer” for Elizabeth I has “tainted” his reputation and “circumscribed” discussions of his influence. 4 On the other hand, when patronage is incorporated into the current narrative of the development of the drama, and particularly of the developments in the popular and the children’s performance traditions, it tends to confirm critical faith in the existence of a long and continuous popular playing tradition of playbooks.