2021 Palmer Award for Best New Essay

Barbara Palmer Award
Award Year: 

Winner: Steggle, Matthew. “John and Laurence Dutton, Leaders of the Queen’s Men.” Shakespeare Quarterly 70, no. 1, (2019): 32–51. 

The entries for this year’s Barbara Palmer Prize show archival research to be a thriving field, and the 2021 winner demonstrates the continued importance of this work. Steggle’s “John and Laurence Dutton, Leaders of the Queen’s Men,” makes a convincing case for the Elizabethan-era theatre Duttons being one and the same as members of the Cheshire Duttons—albeit an “illegitimate scion of a significant regional family,” as Steggle writes. The implications for this named connection are manifold as pertains to acting companies in general and the Queen’s Men in particular. Steggle’s work disturbs the established model of the social status of theatre workers, which has been held to have offered upward social mobility to figures such as Marlowe, Shakespeare and Jonson. This study offers and a new perspective on why companies may have chosen to travel to specific parts of the country, and opens up the pertinence of regional households and patrons. Steggle also brings the case of the Cheshire Duttons to bear on readings of portraits of certain characters from contemporary plays such as The True Tragedie of Richard III and King Leir. In all, this work knits together a compelling argument about drama from multiple non-dramatic sources, with important implications for critical understandings of Elizabethan performance culture.  

Award Committee: Sarah Brazil (chair), Matthew Sergi, and Christina Fitzgerald. Awards announcement and presentation took place during the MRDS business meeting in May, held online by way of Zoom due to the COVID19 global pandemic.