Swiss Association of Medieval and Early Modern English Studies Conference

Drama and Pedagogy


12-13 September 2014

University of Fribourg


Plenary talks (Word document)


Friday 12 September 9 – 10 am

Professor Lynn Enterline (Vanderbilt University)

Drama, Pedagogy, and the Female Complaint

This paper examines the final speeches of several tragic characters – Shakespeare’s Othello, Desdemona, and Venus; Heywood’s Oenone; and Marlowe’s Dido – in light of contemporary pedagogy.  Building on my argument in Shakespeare’s Schoolroom about the performative dimensions of humanist training in imitatio and prosopopoeia, I show that one of the unintended consequences of a grammar school education was to instill a deep-seated association between rhetorical power, “character-making” (ethopoeia), and speeches of lament or complaint uttered by heroines from the Metamorphoses and the Heroides.  Former schoolboys writing at the Inns of Court or for the stage had already become adept at the practices of cross-dressing and cross-voicing at school; and both their minor epic poems and dramatic texts frequently draw on the speeches of such Ovidian heroines as Hecuba, Dido, Niobe, Medea, and Ariadne as exemplary models for the invention of passionate character.  Epyllia are often noted for sounding proto-dramatic; but it is historically and culturally more accurate (and revealing) to remember that minor epic speeches and dramatic soliloquies both stem from early training in prosopopoeia.  Understood in light of such school exercises, the wide-spread presence of Ovid’s passionate female monologues in Elizabethan poetic and dramatic texts suggests that these speeches of complaint allowed former schoolboys not only models for the invention of character, but a means for cultural critique.  In other words, turn of the sixteenth century writers were particularly drawn to imitate precisely the ancient “emotion scripts” that did not reinforce the categories and identities humanists tried to instill in students during a period of increasingly volatile debates about gender, nation, and race.

Biographical note: 

Lynn Enterline is Nancy Perot Mulford Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. Her research revolves around the connections among rhetoric, emotion, gender, and sexuality in Renaissance literature and classical antecedents. Her publications include The Tears of Narcissus: Melancholia and Masculinity in Early Modern Writing (Stanford University Press, 1995) and The Rhetoric of the Body from Ovid to Shakespeare (Cambridge University Press, 2000). Her most recent book, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom: Rhetoric, Discipline, Emotion (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) investigates how Tudor grammar school training in ancient rhetoric shaped Shakespeare’s passions.


Friday 12 September 2 – 3 pm

Professor Alan H. Nelson (University of California, Berkeley)

Shakespearean Drama and Pedagogy: The case of St. Saviours Parish, Southwark

Though the grammar school at Stratford-upon-Avon has been studied extensively, the free grammar school of St. Saviours, Southwark, remains virtually unknown to scholarship. The parish was home to four playhouses: The Rose, the Swan, the Globe, and the Hope; and to Edward Alleyn and Philip Henslowe, both of whom promoted pedagogy even if they were not well-educated themselves. Archival records beginning about 1560 and extending to the present permit the reconstruction of the pedagogical culture fostered and experienced by residents of the parish. Connections with Cambridge and Oxford, and with Stratford, Dulwich, and Cambridge in New England, add to a rich intellectual tapestry. A question remains, however:  did formal education promote or hinder the development of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama?

Biographical note:

Alan H. Nelson is Professor Emeritus in the Department of English at the University of California, Berkeley. His specializations are paleography, bibliography, and the reconstruction of the literary life and times of medieval and Renaissance England from documentary sources. His publications include The Medieval English Stage: Corpus Christi Pageants and Plays (Chicago University Press, 1974), Early Cambridge Theatres: University, College, and Town Stages, 1464-1720 (Cambridge University Press, 1994), and Monstrous Adversary: The Life of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (Liverpool University Press, 2003). He has edited the Records of Early English Drama volumes on Cambridge (Toronto University Press, 1989), Oxford (University of Toronto Press, 2004), and Inns of Court (D. S. Brewer, 2010).


Saturday 13 September 11am – 12 noon

Professor John McGavin (University of Southampton)

Learning and Spectating

Focusing on the pedagogical drama of the mid-sixteenth century and, within that, on plays such as John Phillip’s The Comedy of Patient and Meek Grissill, the talk will engage with a variety of issues around spectatorship. It will broach topics such as —   how far we can derive the spectator’s experience from the extant texts; how the imagined or ‘figured’ spectator shapes and is shaped by the play; pedagogical drama and gender; and the challenges which plays separated from their institutional auspices pose for understanding pedagogy and audience.

Biographical note:

John J. McGavin is Professor of Medieval Literature and Culture at the University of Southampton. His publications include Theatricality and Narrative in Medieval and Early Modern Scotland (Ashgate, 2007) and numerous articles on spectatorship in medieval drama. He was Principal Investigator for the Records of Early English Drama project on ‘Middlesex/Westminster: Eight Theatres North of the Thames’ and is currently co-editing the Records of Early English Drama volumes on South-East Scotland with Eila Williamson. He is also writing a book on Spectatorship in Medieval and Early Modern Drama together with Greg Walker (University of Edinburgh).


Saturday 13 September 2 – 3 pm

Professor Michelle O’Callaghan (University of Reading)

Pedagogy and Play: the Inns of Court Revels and Early Modern Drama

Revelling had a pedagogic function, providing training in rhetoric and inculcating civic and professional identities. Recent work on the Inns of Court revels has tended to concentrate on how these legal and civic fictions inform the drama of the period. Less attention has been given to the violence which characterises revelling across academic institutions; it is expressed, in part, through the jocoserious traditions of learned play in which professional identities and pedagogic practices are parodied. The Middle Temple revels of 1597-98 are notable for taking travesty to extremes. Such violent play underpins the formation of identities at all-male educational and professional societies. The influence of these revels on experiments with burlesque in the drama of the early seventeenth century raises questions about the fashion for travesty, particularly in plays produced by the boy companies.

Biographical note:

Michelle O’Callaghan is Professor of English Literature and Director of the Early Modern Research Centre  at the University of Reading. Her research focuses on Elizabethan and early Stuart literature, especially in relation to politics, sociability, and the cultures of manuscript and print.  Her publications include The Shepheards Nation: Jacobean Spenserians and Early Stuart Political Culture (Oxford University Press, 2000), The English Wits: Literature and Sociability in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2006), and Thomas Middleton, Renaissance Dramatist (Edinburgh University Press, 2009). She has recently produced a digital edition of selected verse miscellanies printed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Verse Miscellanies Online, and is currently working on a book project to accompany the digital edition, provisionally entitled Making Poetry: Print Culture and the Verse Miscellany in Renaissance England.


Saturday 13 September 4.30 – 5.30 pm

Perry Mills, Director of Edward’s Boys (King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon)

In the Company of Edward’s Boys (Little Eyases in the 21st Century)

Edward’s Boys comprises students from King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon, “Shakespeare’s School”. In recent years we have been exploring the repertoire of the early modern boys’ companies. We do not pretend to re-create original performance conditions or even “original practices” – whatever that means. Primarily, our intention is to put on a good show. One result has been a major reassessment of the theatrical potential of a number of early modern texts. However, somewhat to our surprise and delight, the productions have challenged modern scholars’ perceptions of a range of performance issues: the effects of boys playing girls; the capacity of children to convey heightened emotion; the dangers of ‘unsuitable’ material in young hands – and mouths.

And we get invited to some great venues.

As a teacher, I have been struck by the development of a company ethos where the boys learn from each other and develop a range of skills, particularly through informal forms of “apprenticeship”. Older boys take responsibility for, and help train, the younger boys. And the youngsters keep everyone on their toes.

Illustrated by film clips and photographs from past productions, my talk will draw on personal experiences of drama and pedagogy to share some of the insights we have gained from the experience.

It may be that the experiences of our school-based boys’ company will offer some ‘glimpses’ into how the Tudor schoolroom informed the early modern stage.

Biographical note:

Perry Mills is Deputy Headmaster at King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon. He taught for several years on the English and Drama PGCE programme at the Institute of Education at the University of Warwick. He has edited The Taming of the Shrew for the Cambridge School Shakespeare series and has written the Cambridge Shakespeare Student Guide on As You Like It. The boy company that he directs, Edward’s Boys, has gained wide acclaim for staging the hither-to neglected repertoire of plays written for the boys’ companies in the early modern period. Productions by Edward’s Boys include Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside and A Mad World, My Masters, Lyly’s Mother Bombie, Marston’s Dutch Courtesan, Dekker and Webster’s Westward Ho, Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage, and most recently, Lyly’s Galatea.





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