An Introduction to Tudor Drama

By Frederick S. Boas | Go to book overview

IV
STAGE-PLAYS AT OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE

LONDON had the monopoly of Inns of Court plays, and was the chief, though by no means the only, centre of school performances. The third branch of Elizabethan academic drama had its home not in the Capital, but in the two Universities. In the annals of the English medieval stage Oxford and Cambridge play a surprisingly small part. No extant Miracle or Morality play is associated with them, though the account books of Magdalen College, Oxford, include expenses for what appear to be liturgical plays in the Chapel, and a drama on St. Mary Magdalene in 1506-7, probably acted in the Hall. There are earlier entries in the King's College, Cambridge, account-books from 1482 onwards of payments for Christmas plays, but there is nothing to indicate whether they were religious or otherwise.

There is more trace of the mummeries so dear to the Middle Ages, in which a mock dignitary, ecclesiastical or secular, was invested with temporary authority and the insignia and pomp of office. The most remarkable of these was the Boy-Bishop, the choir-boy who on the feast of the Holy Innocents or on St. Nicholas Day, exercised episcopal functions. Provision was made for him in the statutes of New College, Oxford, and King's College, Cambridge, and there is other evidence of him at All Souls and Magdalen, Oxford.

We hear at New College and Magdalen also of 'the Christmas Lord', who held sway over the merry-making at the Nativity season. He was in office also, in the middle of the sixteenth century in the more recent

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