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Thursday, June 07, 2007

More university drama

Continuing my sudden and unexplained interest in university drama (see our currently woefully monologic reading "group" about FS Boas in the sidebar), I'm looking at the Malone Society Collections XIV, an edition of seven Jacobean academic plays contained in two Folger manuscripts, edited by Suzanne Gossett and Tom Berger. There's a manuscript version of Ruff, Band, and Cuff, which appeared in print in 1615 as Band, Cuff, and Ruff; a play called Heteroclitanomalonomia (yep, that's right) about grammatical parts fighting each other, similar to Bellum Grammaticale; a play involving the elements of a Christmas dinner; and a debate between Gown, Hood, and Cap.

But my favorite has to be Preist the Barbar, Sweetball his Man, which the editors tells us, straight-faced and deadpan, "is a comic sketch about shaving in college ..." (138). Man, I love plays about shaving; it's right up there with tragedy as my favorite genres. Apparently, the Preist is "one Henry Preist, a successful barber and scholar's servant in Cambridge in the early decades of the seventeenth century" (139). Have you ever considered writing a literary tribute to your barber or hairdresser?

Why were university students so obsessed with animating objects and abstractions? In the shaving play, the sweetball in question is "a ball of scented or aromatic substance" (OED) used in the barber's trade. It seems like everywhere you look in university drama, there are bands, gowns, nouns, verbs, ears, tongues, caps, boots, spurs, not to mention legions of food: wine, beer, ale, tobacco, pepper, salt, vinegar, mustard.

All of this makes one thing abundantly clear: university plays are way, way more bugged out than professional drama.

 Scribble some marginalia

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