London Street Theater

Anne Lancashire

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

London Street Theater

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
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In London from 1500 (and long before) to 1642, street theatre — involving the city's major thoroughfares and including among those the river Thames — was a significant part of urban life for the majority of the city's inhabitants: in its major manifestations not only entertainment but also a participatory ritual of civic affirmation, and/or of national politics intertwined with civic participation in international trade and diplomacy. The three most significant kinds of street theatre, during this period of approximately 150 years, were the Midsummer Watch, the Lord Mayor's Show, and the royal entry. All three theatrical forms were city-sponsored, occasional, and thoroughly inclusive in their entertainment display, political aims, and city-wide audiences. The pageantic royal entry was as much a self-defined genre as was the Lord Mayor's Show, with particular kinds of pageants recurring, sometimes in relation to particular locations, but varied to suit the specific entrant and occasion. Bridge pageantry, for example, habitually involved one or more giants as city gatekeepers, along with a choir of singing, costumed children.

Keywords: London; street theatre; entertainment; Midsummer Watch; Lord Mayor's Show; royal entry; pageants; pageantry; politics; civic participation

Article.  9564 words. 

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

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