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‘Hear My Tale or Kiss My Tail!’ <i>The Old Wife's Tale, Gammer Gurton's Needle</i>, and the Popular Cultures of Tudor Comedy

Andrew Hiscock

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199205882
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199205882.013.0045

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 ‘Hear My Tale or Kiss My Tail!’ The Old Wife's Tale, Gammer Gurton's Needle, and the Popular Cultures of Tudor Comedy

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The comedies, farces, and romances composed during the Tudor period continue to invite audiences to reflect upon the politics of popular representation in the same way that jest books, ballads, cony-catching pamphlets, and prose narratives did for an evolving publishing market in the sixteenth century. Ultimately, the cumulative effect of surveying the currents of received thinking among self-crowned arbiters of literary and cultural taste in sixteenth-century England may be that, in returning to these play texts, jests, and ballads from the period, we are also drawn to ponder the ways in which Tudor comic narratives can uncover the seemingly irrepressible appetite in society for a kind of cognitive shorthand when dealing with members of a social status group and, indeed, the ways in which the undertaking of comedy itself may rely upon such operations of reduction, elision, and erasure. Moreover, when we take into consideration the enormously buoyant markets for broadsides, jest books, and crime narratives as the Tudor period unfolded, it becomes all too possible that sections within the wider populace might be found to be actively investing in foreshortened and/or grossly distorted narratives of popular representation which often circulated within official culture or elite milieux — milieux from which members of this ‘wider populace’ might be partially or wholly excluded.

Keywords: comedies; farces; Tudor period; narratives; popular representation

Article.  7392 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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