chapter  1
Playbooks and Play Texts: Literacy, Education, and Printed Drama
Pages 34

While popular players have come to be associated with literary authors and dramatic texts by the end of the sixteenth century and, for the most part, seem by then to have met many of our now familiar literary expectations, not all artisanal players were necessarily attempting to perform fully scripted plays either then or previously. Many entertainments continued to incorporate a diversity of skills. In its accounting of early records of drama, for instance, the Records of Early English Drama or REED project provides a broad and inclusive definition of “playing” and “drama.” Scholars working in the REED project have surveyed records of payments for a wide array of entertainments from the provinces throughout Britain (as well, recently, as the parishes of London and universities), intentionally supplementing a London-centric and Shakespeare-obsessed history of the drama in order to avoid what Suzanne R. Westfall refers to as accusations of “anti-provincialism.” 2 This history is one informed by evidence of provincial touring rewarded by civic, royal, religious, and household patrons and occurring within diverse private and public spaces. The documents portray above all a gallimaufrey of ballads, bonfires, boy bishops, bull-and bearbaitings, carols, church ales, cudgeling, drinkings, epigrams, evensongs, feasts, fiddlers, games, hoodwinking, Jack a Lents, jugglers, kissing, Lord Mayor’s speeches, Lords of Misrule, Maid Marians, May games, Midsummer “shows,” minstrels, Morris dances, mummings, nutcrackers, orators, pipers, prick-songs, processions, pudding pies, punishments, puppets, revels, Skimmingtons, slanders, taborers, tight-rope walkers, tippling, tumblers, vagabonds, wakes, and Whitsun ales. Without imposing literary or literate value judgments upon such diverse entertainments, the kinds of which were even more diverse than what appears in this highly abbreviated list, we can at least recognize that these entertainments could rarely be defined as scripted drama per se.