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New research into historic drama on the London stage - and in schools

Published: 2 July 2012
Professor Ros King

New research by Professor Ros King compares an unusual school play and a popular London drama, both staged at the beginning of the 17th century.

Apollo Shroving was written for performance at Hadleigh Grammar School in Suffolk during the early Stuart period by schoolmaster and epic poet William Hawkins, who had ambitions to teach at Cambridge. By contrast, The Roaring Girl by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker was a comedy staged at the popular Fortune Theatre with one of the characters being a boisterous cross-dressing female thief.

“School drama through the ages could be an interesting new seam of research,” explains Ros who has published several books on Shakespeare . “They can combine high culture and popular culture with local issues in a particular place and it is interesting to compare them with public performances of plays at the time.”

Both plays bring a comic version of the place in which they are being staged to life on the stage. Apollo Shroving (despite its mythical topic) is set in a school, while the main character in Middleton and Dekker's play is a portrait of Mary Frith, a notable cross-dressing 'roaring girl' who (unusually for that time) had herself performed music on the Fortune stage.

Ros’ research into “disgust and delight” is part of a collaborative research project into Community making in Early Stuart Drama based at Äbo University, Finland.

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