Records of Early English Drama, North-East at the ICMS, Kalamazoo

Session 411, 1:30pm, Saturday 13th May, Schneider 1125

Sponsor: Dept. of English Studies, Durham Univ.

Organizer: Mark C. Chambers, Durham Univ.

Presider: Alexandra Johnston, Records of Early English Drama

Records of Early English Drama North-East, a five-year project based at Durham University, is researching and collecting all the surviving records of performance from Durham, Northumberland and the three historic Ridings of Yorkshire. The results, to be published in the ongoing Records of Early English Drama series, will provide extensive and robustly-presented detail of one of the last remaining uncharted areas in the field of English performance history up to the Seventeenth Century.

This session will include papers that showcase some of the recently discovered evidence for early drama from the North-East of England, in order to help refine our understanding of the geographical and social contexts in which drama, music and mimetic entertainment was produced across the region. It will include papers by three of the current REED North-East volume editors and will highlight, in particular, aspects of the growing evidence for folk performance in the region. These will feature discussion and analysis of the use of humour in the York civic biblical plays from Yorkshire; Durham Priory and Bishops’ patronage of performance in the city and county palatinate before the Reformation, including a recurring predilection for performance by the marginalized or “other” in late-medieval society; the distinct nature of the Rushbearing ceremonies in the Yorkshire West Riding; and the peculiar political aesthetic identities associated with performance in the important border shire of Northumberland.

Presided by the Records of Early English Drama founder Alexandra Johnston, the session will feature aspects of the latest archival-based research into medieval and Early Modern performance history from the north of England.



Jamie Beckett, Durham University: “Lo, he merys; Lo, he laghys”: Humor and the Shepherds in the York and Towneley Plays

Mark C. Chambers, Durham University: Men of the Cloth and Men in Drag: Ecclesiastical Patronage of the “Other” in Late Medieval Durham

Ted McGee, University of Waterloo: The Distinctiveness of Yorkshire West Riding Rushbearings

Suzanne Westfall, Lafayette College: “I will speak as liberal as the North”: Performances in Northumberland


Plays, Processions, and Parchment: Discovering Festive Traditions in the North East of England

9:00pm, Thursday 11th May, Valley III

Exhibition and drinks reception sponsored by Durham’s Institute for Medieval & Early Modern Studies and co-hosted with the Pontifical Institute.

Details of the original exhibition, held at Durham Cathedral last Spring can be found here:

EDOX: Nicholas Grimald’s The Archprophet: A Tragedy

Nicholas Grimald’s The Archprophet: A Tragedy

Saturday, March 11th, 8pm (duration c. 75 mins)

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford,

with the kind permission and support of the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church

Admission free: all welcome.  To reserve a seat please email

Nicholas Grimald is remembered as ‘the Judas of the Reformation’, a recanter who betrayed the Oxford Martyrs Latimer, Cranmer and Ridley to their deaths. But he was also a Humanist scholar and translator, a prolific playwright, and an enthusiastic writer and collector of English poetry. His poetry features in Tottel’s Miscellany. Two of Grimald’s plays were printed in Germany and have survived: the scriptural dramas Christus Redivivus (1543) and Archipropheta, Tragoedia (1548), which was written in support of his application for membership of Christ Church, Oxford.

Archipropheta is a tragedy of humankind’s entanglement in sin, and the manifold ways in which the impulses of the flesh obstruct and usurp religious duty. The play combines the Gospel accounts of the life of John the Baptist, and his murder at the hands of Herod the Tetrarch, with the details of Herod’s vexed and incestuous family life recorded in Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews. From this scriptural and historical material Grimald creates a five-act Senecan tragedy of thwarted love, jealousy and madness at court. The play culminates in John’s death, gruesomely represented onstage as his severed head is presented to the audience on a platter. It uses a classical Chorus, and alludes extensively to Virgil; for modern audiences, its telling of scriptural stories in classical style will be surprisingly different.

This production will cut down Grimald’s script and present it largely in modern English, with a few passages of Grimald’s Latin incorporated.

Presented by players from Atlantic College, as part of the Early Drama at Oxford project,, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Announcing the Launch of REED Online

The Records of Early English Drama (REED) project is delighted to announce the launch of REED Online (, its new open-access website. The site features REED’s first digital edition of dramatic records for the county of Staffordshire, encoded in TEI. Easily searched with a number of useful filters, online records appear conveniently on the same page as their translations, document descriptions, and any glosses or related endnotes. GIS mapping based on the Patrons and Performances map of historic county boundaries and main roads illuminates significant details further. For students and those new to records research, search tips, an introduction to the research process, and an anatomy of a sample record provide a welcoming guide.

The Staffordshire records, edited by J.A.B. Somerset, are found in scattered collections, but they yield fascinating glimpses of early social and economic history through accounts of public performances, social occasions, royal welcomes, folk customs, and professional entertainments. A few examples highlight the richness of the collection, which includes two royal visits – by Queen Elizabeth in 1576 and, more extensively, King James I in 1615. The records of Tutbury, whose castle was a major administrative centre for the household of John of Gaunt, show us from 1380 a flourishing Minstrel Court while the accounts of Burton Manor, home to Thomas, Lord Paget reveal an Elizabethan household filled with music, playing, and revels. By contrast, Newcastle under Lyme sources record evidence of implacable hatred of players, levying large fines upon persons who allowed playing, and firing the town constable for turning a blind eye. For those interested in tracking the itineraries of professional troupes across the kingdom, new details of performance troupes visiting Stafford and Walsall as well as the private residences of Beaudesert, Blithfield, and Burton will be important.

Staffordshire is REED’s pilot digital publication, with more collections forthcoming on the same website to enable easy cross-collection searching. As REED begins planning for the production of the next collection for the county of Berkshire, the integration of Patrons and Performances data, and the further development of REED Online, it welcomes all comments and suggestions from users. Please send any feedback to REED’s project manager, Carolyn Black, at

REED gives special thanks to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for a Connection grant that has made possible development of our digital publishing framework for REED Online.