Elizabethan legal students behaving badly… and you can take part!
February next year will see the quiet Middle Temple in London return to the 1590s… And 400 years ago, the men who learned, lived and wrote there were often behaving very badly indeed! On Saturday 2nd February, Middle Temple Hall will resound once more with the scandalous lives and the writing talents of some of these men.
It was traditional to celebrate the end of the Christmas season on 2nd February, Candlemas Eve, and for the legal students of the Inns of Court this meant the climax of a festival of misrule – the Revels. Under the madcap leadership of the Prince of Love, students and lawyers at Middle Temple celebrated with dance, drama and banqueting, all trumpeting their manly prowess! This February the spirit of the Revels will return, as Nonsuch Dance and the London Renaissance Seminar combine to enjoy the work of these highly talented Elizabethans.
Take Sir John Davies – later Member of Parliament and Solicitor General for Ireland – before he commenced his eminent career. One evening, after dinner at the end of the 1598 Revels, the Middle Temple records show that he entered the Hall, stormed up to his fellow student and Prince of Love, Richard Martin, and wielding a bastianado, or wooden club, above his head, proceeded to attack Martin with it. Rushing from the Hall after the assault, and leaping into a nearby boat on the Thames, Davies was promptly expelled from membership of the Inn – only to return, apologetic, three years later.
Yet, the same man was esteemed, not only for his legal learning, but also for his poetry – producing a famous work on the nature of dance. Not bad for someone whose physical presence was clearly so hilarious that a fellow student once described him as never walking ‘but he carries a clokebag behinde him, his arse stickes out soe farr’! Oh, and the highly praised poem on dance, Orchestra, was dedicated to Richard Martin – some time after his injuries had mended…
The humour, the writing talent, and the violence of the students of the 1590s are celebrated in the Revels of 2013. As well as seeing the re-enactment of the bastianado incident, the audience will enjoy stories of other lively Templars, and drama by perhaps the most famous of the Inn’s playwrights, John Marston.
There will also be a range of historical dance, in Elizabethan costume, from the famous Nonsuch Dance Company – including ‘La Volta’, loved by Elizabeth I and described by Nonsuch’s director, and co-organizer of the event, Darren Royston, as ‘the dirtiest dancing in Elizabethan England’. Members of the audience will be able to join in some of the more seemly dances!
And just in case you thought we’d forgotten the banqueting, tickets will include a three-course meal and wine in the unique setting of the Elizabethan Hall. Further details and tickets are available via the website: https://middletemple2013.wordpress.com/ or by emailing the conference organizers (firstname.lastname@example.org).