The Children's Troupes and the Transformation of English Theater 1509-1608 : Pedagogue, Playwrights, Playbooks, and Play-boys book cover
1st Edition

The Children's Troupes and the Transformation of English Theater 1509-1608
Pedagogue, Playwrights, Playbooks, and Play-boys

ISBN 9780367736545
Published December 18, 2020 by Routledge
276 Pages

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Book Description

The Children’s Troupes and the Transformation of English Theater 1509–1608 uncovers the role of the children’s companies in transforming perceptions of authorship and publishing, performance, playing spaces, patronage, actor training, and gender politics in the sixteenth century.

Jeanne McCarthy challenges entrenched narratives about popular playing in an era of revolutionary changes, revealing the importance of the children’s company tradition’s connection with many early plays, as well as to the spread of literacy, classicism, and literate ideals of drama, plot, textual fidelity, characterization, and acting in a still largely oral popular culture. By addressing developments from the hyper-literate school tradition, and integrating discussion of the children’s troupes into the critical conversation around popular playing practices, McCarthy offers a nuanced account of the play-centered, literary performance tradition that came to define professional theater in this period.

Highlighting the significant role of the children’s company tradition in sixteenth-century performance culture, this volume offers a bold new narrative of the emergence of the London theater.

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations


Preface. Schooling the Drama

Chapter One. Playbooks and Playtexts: Literacy, Education, and Printed Drama

Chapter Two. Playbooks in the Henrician Era: Test Cases for a School and Chapel Auspice

Chapter Three. Playing I: Literacy and Oral Performance Practices

Chapter Four. Playing II: The Power of Performance in the School Tradition

Chapter Five. Patronage in the Tudor Era

Chapter Six. Playwrights I

Chapter Seven. Playwrights II: Literary Playwriting and Ben Jonson

Epilogue. Jacobean Reactions and Afterlife

Appendix 1: Earliest Editions of Printed Plays in English 1512-1550

Appendix 2: Earliest Printed Plays in English 1550- 1594



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Jeanne H. McCarthy is Associate Professor of English at Georgia Gwinnett College. She has published extensively on patronage, authorship, and performance in the boy company playing tradition.


"McCarthy’s study remains an important intervention in the scholarship on early modern children’s performance, offering a series of insights into sixteenth century theatrical practice, a number of new avenues for future scholarship, and an insight into the ‘rich conjunction of oral and literate modes’ on which theatre depended."

- Lucy Munro, King’s College London, Early Theatre