Close tutorial

The event which forms the focus of this approach, the riot which took place on Shrove Tuesday 4 March 1616/17 [Learn more about split dates], will be illustrated in a number of ways. By the end of this series of lessons the user will understand as much about the process of historiography as s/he will about EMLoT.

A split date is used to represent the fact that in this period New Year's Day was the 25th of March. Therefore any dates between January and March we would regard as being part of the later year, but they would see as part of the earlier year.

The focus initially is on primary sources and facilitates an understanding of historical research. Original sources are available in their original form and as transcriptions. Images of the original can be expanded for careful study of these documents by simply clicking on the image.

Once all of the important early sources are displayed and their chronological sequence made clear through a timeline of the period the focus shifts to transmission history in the 20th century, illustrating how information is translated into knowledge by individual scholars through interpretation at specific moments in time. The interrelationship between these accounts and the sources is made clear visually.

The aim of the Learning Zone is to illustrate not only the purpose and scope of the Early Modern London Theatres database but also its limits. This series of explanatory slides draws on research that incorporates material from a range of related sites to illustrate and expand on the information available in the database. The aim then is to show how a combination of EMLoT and these other resources can help you develop your research.

Our current understanding of this event

Throughout much of the early modern period it was not uncommon for London apprentices to engage in massive mischievous violence on Shrove Tuesday, a holiday when city officials would often look the other way while the young men of the city let off steam. The Shrove Tuesday riot of 1616/17 holds a special interest for theatre historians, however, because the apprentices destroyed a theatre, the Cockpit, newly built by Christopher Beeston. The Cockpit was a smaller and more expensive indoor theatre occupied by Queen Anne’s Men, who had recently abandoned the larger, cheaper outdoor Red Bull theatre. One of the questions to keep in mind as you review the documents in this tutorial is whether the theatre was an intended target of the rioters, or whether it was collateral damage from the widespread destruction of that day.

Mark Bayer addressing the Cockpit riots in ‘Moving UpMarket: Queen Anne’s Men at the Cockpit in Drury Lane, 1617’, Early Theatre 4 (2001): 138-48 suggests that the theatre was the target.

‘The local apprentices who formed their audience base at the Red Bull took matters into their own hands and rioted to protest the theatrical troupe’s abandonment of the neighborhood’(138).

In order to investigate how this understanding of the event came about it is essential to return first to the primary sources available to describe the riot.