Early (Pre-1590) Boy Companies and their Acting Venues

Michael Shapiro

in The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697861
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Early (Pre-1590) Boy Companies and their Acting Venues

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)


Show Summary Details


Acting by boys in early modern England originated in grammar schools and religious institutions. At some point in Elizabeth's reign, some boy choristers performed with sufficient regularity and perhaps also with sufficient skill to be called companies. After the most successful adult troupes began to find more or less permanent homes in London in inns and taverns and after 1576 in specially built large, open-roofed playhouses, the major boy companies performed in halls in their own institutions and briefly in a small indoor playhouse in Blackfriars. Court performance was the crucial factor in the development of the early boy companies. On January 17, 1566, the pupils of the Westminster grammar school performed a play called Sapientia Solomonis before Queen Elizabeth. Grammar school troupes such as the Westminster pupils also performed plays at the early Tudor court. The Master of the Revels was responsible for the plays to be performed at court. The legacy of the pre-1590 boy companies is twofold: their work influenced subsequent playhouses and subsequent playwrights.

Keywords: England; boy companies; grammar schools; plays; Sapientia Solomonis; playhouses; Queen Elizabeth; court performance; Master of the Revels; playwrights

Article.  8095 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.