Learning Activities

EMLoT can be used in a variety of ways both to develop lessons for a class to work through and to create activities for independent study. The aim of this section of the Learning Zone is to provide a range of examples of how the material in the database can be used by or with students to develop an understanding of the Early Modern period through its theatrical history and to confront the transmission history of ideas about this place and time.

The EMLoT team hope to develop this section of the Learning Zone. If you are interested in participating in these development or have lesson plans you wish to contribute to the site, please contact us.

Activities for teachers working with a class

1. John Newton (actor, Queen Anne’s Men) court case, 1611. Newton sues a widow for breach of a marriage contract. Eventually, the actor and widow marry.

Event numbers: 27402742274327452747274827507320

Possible teaching subjects: Examining the conflicting testimonies teaches students to evaluate sources for bias, a necessary critical thinking skill for any historical work.

What EMLOT can teach about this event: Studying this case introduces students to striking details of life in early modern London, including the limited rights of women. The combination of celebrity, alcohol, sex, and money in this case provides a number of ways to grab the attention of students in the classroom This case was first written about in a 1998 article. EMLOT emphasizes for students that the recovery of historical information is an on-going process in which new discoveries are still being made. Notes: Connection to Patrons and Performance Web Site (via troupe/patron)


2. Livery record for James I’s entry in London, 1604

Event number: 1441

Possible teaching subjects: This record provides a snap-shot of the acting profession during an important transitional phase, and it illustrates the political use of actors by the royal family.

What EMLOT can teach about this event: The links to other events in EMLOT enables students and researchers to build a profile for each of the actors and officials who appear in this list.

Notes: Shakespeare connection (as a Groom of the King’s Chamber): he is part of a company, not a solitary figure.


3. Control of theatres documents, 1557-1642

Event numbers: 6921321522522623023123223423623723924348749565318052198, and others.

Possible teaching subjects: This omnibus list provides an at-a-glance look at the ongoing struggle to regulate theatres and performers. Plague, obscenity, political commentary, civic unrest, and observation of the sabbath were all reasons to restrain theatres and performers.

What EMLOT can teach about this event: The 'event type' tagging in EMLOT architecture allows students to assemble lists of thematically related events. These tags allow an entry-point to the content of the database for novice and experienced researchers.


4. Privy Council restrains a lewd play at the Boar's Head Inn, 1557

Event numbers: 2396023

Possible teaching subjects: This early example of the official restraint of players illustrates some playing conditions before purpose-built theatres existed in London.

What EMLOT can teach about this event: EMLOT shows that the document relating to this incident was reprinted early and often.


5. Kemp's anecdote about tying thieves to stage pillars, 1600

Event number: 7322

Possible teaching subjects: Crime and theatres were closely associated in the early modern period. This anecdote reveals how acting companies sometimes regulated audience behaviour (given the lack of regular police forces) through public humiliation. The confirmation that pillars were a regular feature of theatres is important evidence for the study of staging. It provides an opportunity to discuss how pillars might have been used in performances.

What EMLOT can teach about this event: This anecdote was printed in 1600, but EMLOT illustrates its rediscovery and recirculation in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Notes: Kemp was a clown so famous that he was able to 'go solo' and leave the acting companies for a series of individual entertainment ventures.


6. Anti-theatrical polemics, 1570s-1640s

Event numbers: 6786987007257917927309, and 7310, and others.

Possible teaching subjects: This selection of events illustrates unofficial negative reactions to the growth of the theatre industry in London. Students will see the gradual change in attitude from general official support of anti-theatrical sentiment to the eventual royal punishment of William Prynne for his critique of stage entertainments.

What EMLOT can teach about these events: This is an additional example of the thematic 'event-type' approach to using EMLOT, but it serves a more important function by showing students that we rely on anti-theatrical sources for a large amount of information about early modern theatre.

Activities for independent learning

  • Compare the respective transmission histories of three documents: i. relating to a 'major' troupe or person; ii. relating to a 'minor' troupe or person; iii. of your choice. In each case, consider such matters as the frequency with which the document has been published, its treatment at the hands of authors, editors and publishers, and the contexts in which it appears. Does the document have a continuous publication history from the late seventeenth-century onward, or is it published for the first time in 1987? Does it tend to be excerpted, or printed in full? Is it a staple of theatre histories, or does it appear only in records collections? Drawing on the information you have collected, discuss the impact of reputation on the construction of historical narrative.
  • Imagine working as a dramaturge on a piece set in 1788: the aim is to follow the efforts of an amateur theatre company to stage an historically accurate production of a Shakespearean play. Identify and discuss the kinds of published material the company might draw on.
  • Survey the publication history of documents for any ten-year period between 1642 and the present: Consider the types of the documents being published, the entities responsible for their publication, the contexts in which they appear, their material presentation, and treatment by authors, editors and publishers. Without consulting external authorities, discuss what the handling of the documents during the ten-year period reveals about the investments and pre-occupations of that decade.
  • Explore the implications of an exposed forgery: The last decade of the eighteenth century witnessed a public uproar over the exposure as fake of a number of recently 'discovered' documents relating to the early London stage. Does the discovery of the Ireland forgeries in 1796 have a discernible effect on the subsequent treatment and dissemination of documentary materials?
  • Investigate the methodologies involved in theatre history: Drawing on examples from the Early Modern London Theatres database, assess and compare the methodological value of any three types of original document for the writing of theatre history.