2006 Stevens Award for Best New Essay

Martin Stevens Award
Award Year: 

Winner: Palmer, Barbara D. “Early Modern Mobility: Players, Payments, and Patrons.” Shakespeare Quarterly 56, no. 3 (2005): 259—305.

In "Early Modern Mobility," Barbara Palmer challenges the theatrical hegemony of London and demonstrates the vibrancy, professionalism, and high visibility of itinerant acting companies that toured northern towns and great households in the age of Shakespeare (ca. 1570-1642). Touring players, traveling gentry, and the transport of goods and services provided constant interchange between the London metropole and provincial towns (York, Doncaster) and households (Clifford, Cavendish). Drawing on the Records of Early English Drama she and John Wasson gathered for the West Riding and Derbyshire volume, Barbara Palmer demolishes conventional distinctions drawn between London high and rural low theater culture and between medieval and modern playing-styles. Contrary to the traditional view, traveling players almost never performed in inn-yards and taverns, but rather in town and guild halls, churches, and manorial great halls. Barbara Palmer expands our understanding of the ways in which geographical and social mobility complemented one another. She summons the records to show how quickly and efficiently players traveled, how well they were received, how generously they were compensated, and how significantly they, as well as musicians, waits, and fools contributed to the dissemination of news and ideas. Her lively and provocative prose disarms reproof, while her rigorous analysis of civic and household accounts sets high standards for future scholarship.

Awards announcement and presentation took place during the annual MRDS business meeting in May at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.