An Afterpiece and its Afterlife: a Jacobean Jig [with text]

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Abstract

This essay analyzes and discusses the entire or partial text of a theatrical jig preserved in a bill of complaint filed in the Court of Star Chamber in 1616. The defendant in the libel case, a servingman named George James, claimed in his defense that the verses he was charged with singing were not his invention, but those of a jig belonging to Prince Henry's company of players (and hence dating from before late 1612), and that they had been licensed, for performance and presumably for subsequent publication, by the Master of the Revels. The text of the jig, rhymed lines about a deviant female character, something of a “roaring girl,” is of interest in the contexts of Prince Henry's men's other known repertory, of the scope of theatrical taste and censorship, and of the reputation of the Fortune playhouse, which in 1612 attracted the attention of the Middlesex magistrates for its “lewd” and rioutous jig performances. Full transcriptions of the legal documents and an edited version of the lines of the jig itself supplement our limited knowledge of a popular genre of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century theatrical entertainment, also enjoyed and approved, it seems, in elite circles. [J. H. A.]

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