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Item “to the litle god xvj d”: Late Medieval Festivity and its Reform, 1450-1642

Stephen Bos

The larger part of the scholarship has concentrated on late medieval festivity in the rural Scholarship on late medieval festivity has largely concentrated on the rural environment and on position of this festivity in social relationships. The study of English rituals and entertainments in the urban environment has, however, been considerably neglected. In addition, the scholarship on the reform of traditional festivity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has for the most part been included in the study of the ‘reformation of manners’, has concentrated on the puritan element of the suppression of traditional festivity, or has focused on the countryside as well. This study will therefore set out to redress this by comparing thirteen of the most populous English cities and will attempt to establish what the nature of traditional festivity was, and will consider the attitudes of the authorities towards this after the Reformation. It will endeavour to reveal the general pattern was of both issues in the English urban environment. The first chapter will deal with questions like: who organised and financed the festivities, who participated and who were involved in the events, what happened during the events, what may have been the function or larger meaning of the occasion, and what tells us this about urban culture? The second chapter would, then, consider questions like: when did festive drama decline, and what were the motivations of the authorities or people in authority to tolerate, regulate, or suppress popular festivity? Largely based on the use of the Records of Early English Drama, this thesis will reveal that around mid-­‐sixteenth century the main religious expressions of the borough were destroyed by the Edwardian and Elizabethan Reformations, and virtually removed communal celebrations from the calendar. At the end of the sixteenth-­‐century and in the early seventeenth-­‐century, in the so called second Reformation, a number of customs were primarily attacked by the Corporations, and some even totally suppressed. The civic elite seems to have been motivated by an incentive of good governance, local circumstances and a godly conscience. This study has outlined the process of toleration, decline, and suppression of various custom, and encourages not to think not in linear processes of decline, but to pay attention to individual attitudes towards various customs.

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