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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

XII. University Plays

§ 5. Effect of Queen Elizabeth’s visits to the Universities

The golden period of academic drama may be dated from the visits paid by queen Elizabeth to the two universities early in her reign. The visit to Cambridge began on 5 August, 1564, and, in a letter from Grindal, bishop of London, written about three weeks before, the university authorities were admonished to

  • put themselves in all readiness to please her Majestie, to welcome her with all manner of scholastical exercise, viz. with Sermons, both in English and Latin; Disputations in all Kinds of Faculties; and playing of Comedies and Tragedies; Oratios and Verses, both in Latin and Greek.
  • Under the direction of Roger Kelke, “who was by the Vice-Chancellor and Heads of Colleges specially appointed to set forth and teach such plays as could he exhibited before her Grace,” a varied dramatic programme was provided. It began with a performance of the Aulularia of Plauts on the evening of Sunday, 6 August, in King’s college chapel. A “great stage containing the breadth of the Church from the one side to the other” was erected for the performance at the queen’s own cost and so keen was her interest that she remained till the final Plaudite, without betraying the slightest weariness, though some of her suite grew impatient, owing to their ignorance of Latin or their desire for sleep.