Richard Edwards’ “Palamon and Arcyte” and the Semi-Textual Basis of Playing
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Explanations for the non-survival of a play in the early modern period typically begin by assuming that an originating textual artifact must once have existed. There is an additional possibility. In a theatrical culture where dramatic treatments or bits might circulate or might migrate into later plays through means other than textual remnants, spotty textual survivals and traces could reflect practices associated with a still primarily oral culture. Surviving accounts of the lost ‘Palamon and Arcyte,’ for instance, a work by the children’s chapel troupe author Richard Edwards and performed by college students for Queen’s Elizabeth’s visit to Oxford in 1566, suggest that even in the hyper-literate culture of the university and song school, signs of a semi-textual performance practice and transmission appear.