I am indebted to the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Huntington Library, the NEH, and Oglethorpe University for their generous financial support of the research underpinning this essay.
The Emergence of Henrician Drama “in the Kynges absens”
Article first published online: 15 MAY 2009
© 2009 English Literary Renaissance Inc.
English Literary Renaissance
Volume 39, Issue 2, pages 231–266, Spring 2009
How to Cite
Mccarthy, . J. H. (2009), The Emergence of Henrician Drama “in the Kynges absens”. English Literary Renaissance, 39: 231–266. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6757.2009.01046.x
- Issue published online: 15 MAY 2009
- Article first published online: 15 MAY 2009
This examination of dramatic patronage in the Henrician era explores and accounts for the relative disengagement of Henry VIII from the drama. Far from buttressing the image of an enthusiastic patron of court and household plays, key details in diplomatic reports, revels accounts, and play texts demonstrate the tenuous connection between Henry and the drama. Henry appears to have seen none of the period's surviving plays and none can be attributed to his support. Rather, court plays can first be associated with Wolsey, and when they again became prominent in the late 1530s, they appeared under Cromwell's, Cranmer's, or Catherine Parr's patronage. Others, including his albeit frugal father Henry VII, churchmen, educators, noble women, courtiers, and his heirs, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, were quicker to recognize the drama's persuasive power, and can be credited more directly with encouraging an emergent humanist drama in school and secular plays. By contrast, Henry's quixotic entertainments embodied a return to a medieval chivalric aesthetics. His insular and quasi-dramatic revels, even those involving William Cornish and chapel children, suited a king who appears to have only tenuously embraced the Renaissance, promoting instead a late flowering of traditional medieval court pageantry and conventional participatory disguisings. (J.H.M.)