This essay explores how festive practices in early modern England were incorporated into the performance dynamics of the commercial theatre. It takes as its case study the anonymous play George a Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield, first staged at the Rose Theatre in London during the Christmas season of 1593. Rather than depicting holiday customs within the dramatic fiction, the play integrates them into its presentational strategies. Through an examination of three popular traditions—communal feasting, festive combat, and the wearing of livery—this essay develops a theoretical framework for interpreting traces of festive culture beyond the representational narrative. It analyzes the mechanisms through which seasonal pastimes shaped not only the stories enacted in the public theatres, but also the modes of audience participation and the interplay between representation and presentation. The drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries was thus not the culmination of an evolutionary trajectory—from amateur, medieval, religious observance to professional, Renaissance, secular theatre—but an active negotiation with Robin Hood gatherings, May games, and other unscripted entertainments whose performance practices were transformed on the early modern stage.


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pp. 271-297
Launched on MUSE
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