chapter  3
Lower-class theatre communities under the early Stuarts
Pages 13

I Given the social split that became overt by 1642 between the backers of Parliament and those who upheld the King’s right to rule absolutely, it is more than a little surprising that such a division is nowhere apparent in the drama of the years up to the split. Any political binarism will accumulate multitudes of reasons for people joining one side rather than the other, but the usual identification of Puritanism and London with the parliamentary side and noble and gentry status and rural residence with the royalist side reveals multitudes of anomalies and creates its own obviously unhappy lumpishness. Most of London’s inhabitants gave their support to the business of theatre, while the court was always most conspicuous in supporting theatre against the hostility of London’s Lord Mayor and the puritans. Even the King’s officer who served as censor, the Master of the Revels, who might be supposed to cut out anything obviously subversive before 1642, can be seen tolerating surprisingly anti-authoritarian topics in the plays. There is much in the plays that can be seen as hostile to royal authority, and many details that implicitly criticize royal tyranny, but nobody thought to use plays to proclaim the need for a popular rising against the King.