Documentary evidence as collected by the Records of Early English Drama attests to a rich and varied tradition of theatrical performance in late-medieval and early modern England.
Unfortunately, our understanding of this tradition is hampered by the scarcity of surviving texts, both because some theatrical events would have been improvisational or largely dependent on unscripted spectacle, and because many scripts have simply been lost. However, there is a significant body of scripts and records of performance which has remained largely unstudied by scholars – those relating to the lively tradition of drama within the University of Oxford. Plays were staged within the colleges of the University to celebrate festive occasions and to honour important visitors; Elizabeth I and subsequently James I and Charles I visited Oxford and saw plays organized by the Vice Chancellor and deputies.
The EDOX project is beginning a systematic study of plays written and/or performed in the Oxford colleges between 1480 and 1650. The project will find and edit these plays, freshly translate those that survive in Latin, and make editions available online. Archival research will illuminate the plays’ historical contexts – social, political, religious, educational – as well as details of physical staging. Plays which have particular interest to the history of theatre will be staged, and the experiment of staging will further illuminate the plays’ significance. We produce original films, available online, which document our staging experiments and interrogate the ways in which medium affects our reception of medieval and early modern plays. EDOX will, over time, create a body of informative resources about theatre at Oxford, internationally available on the web.
This body of resources, together with conferences and volumes of essays reflecting on the insights offered, will explore for an international audience the importance of the University of Oxford in the history of English theatre.