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Reviews John R. Elliott, Jr., andAlan H. Nelson (University);Alexandra F. Johnston and Diana Wyatt (City), eds. Oxford: Records ofEarlyEnglish Drama. London and Toronto: The British Library and University ofToronto Press, 2 vols., 2004. Pp. ? + 1307. $300.00. Sitting down with a new REED volume is always an education in itself. Oxford: REED provides invaluable material to theater historians, scholars of the early modern period, and those interested in the town and gown of Oxford and its surrounding area. The seventeenth volume in the Records of Early English Drama series contains 508 pages of primary records covering 360 years from Archbishop Pecham's Register in 1284-5 (in which he calls for the celebration of divine office to "be sung precisely") to the 1642-3 St. John's College Short Book entry of a loan of thirty shillings to "lohn Stacye" (musician).1 With just over 60 percent of the extant records from the time of Shakespeare, Oxford: REED also has much to offer Shakespeareans, in concord with the series' overall mission "to establish the context for the great drama ofShakespeare and his contemporaries by examining the historical manuscripts that provide external evidence of drama, secular music, and other communal entertainment and ceremony from the Middle Ages until Puritan legislation closed the London theatres in 1642."2 The four masthead editors have commendably provided researchers the most complete picture to date of drama, music, and ceremony in this famous English city so clearly central to the cultural and intellectual history ofthenation.Partneredwith itscomplementary"sister"volume, Cambridge:REED (1989),researchers can nowalso directlycompare and contrast Oxford to Cambridge in ways never before possible. As is customary with the hefty red REED editions, the primary records themselves (the first volume) comprise less than halfofthis incrediblyvaluable resource. Oxford: REED includes a varied and detailed "Editorial Apparatus" (the second volume), which places the records in context and helps the reader to make sense of it all. With so many of the Oxford records in Latin, for instance ;the"Translations"section serves an essential function to scholars today, 93 94Comparative Drama many of whom, as Jonson suggested of Shakespeare in the First Folio, know "small Latine, and less Greeke." As an ancient university town, Oxford was a very different place from, say, Bristol, whose merchant venturers traded in markets worldwide (see Bristol: REED, xvi-xx). The editors point out that Oxford's economy"was based on the service trades and was thus dependent upon the University for its prosperity" (586). They assert that the Oxford city fathers as "consumers rather than producers of culture . . . seem not to have ventured into sponsoring pageantry or drama" (615) in the manner of a city like York, where guild-sponsored civic religious drama flourished. Oxford: REED includes extant records from twenty Oxford colleges, with St. John's, Magdalen, and Christ Church providing over 80 percent of the two hundred college performances during the 157-year period from 1485 to 1641. Cardinal College, in sharp contrast to the "big three," yields a singular record from 1528-9 regarding a comedy; indeed, only twelve of the twenty colleges have surviving records of"plays, disguisings, shows, and other college performances " (846), events we today equate with dramatic performances. The first record ofcollege plays survives from Magdalen College at Christmas 1485 (30), although as early as 1361 the Exeter College Rectors'Accounts deal with a play in the parish of Long Wittenham on the "day of the Beheading of St John the Baptist" (7). The Chronological List of College Performances contained in appendix 8 (846-52), an invaluable collection of data compilation from the records themselves, includes information on the known performative events, including those typed as follows: player, play, interlude, comedy, tragedy, musical pastime, spectacle, history, tragicomedy, show, boy players, masque, mumming, sporte, merriment, pastoral, and mock-show. Researchers always find fascinating the precise and overlapping meaning ofthese terms. John Bale's Three Laws, for example, is the likely text described in the 1560-1 Magdalen College Libri Computi. Annals calls this spectaculo an "Anti-Catholic Mystery ," while Bale himself deemed it a "comedy." Oxford: REED translates spectaculo (103) in this case as "show" (973). An even more interesting word appears in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 93-99
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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