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date: 18 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Early modern theatre history has been enjoying a healthy turmoil during the last fifty years, with scholars offering various and divergent narratives to explain the mounting piles of primary source documents emerging from local record offices and family archives. Nowhere is this revisionism more evident than in patronage studies, particularly when those patrons are not royal households but rather members of the nobility and landed gentry whose seats are in the provinces far from London. At present, the question about gentry household drama has ceased to be not where, but wherefore. Or, more significantly, who benefits? This article explores what we have learned during the past decade about household theatre in the provinces, and presents a few examples of household performances to open a discussion of the motivations of patrons and the rationales of performances. In contrast to the urban public theatre, which staged popular plays with regularity, with thrift, and with profit in mind, the provincial patrons of early modern England counted their profit not in pounds and shillings, but in status and power.

Keywords: England, household theatre, provinces, performances, patrons, plays, patronage, nobility, gentry

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