King-led outlaw defiance, riotous lords of misrule, proud midsummer mock kings, and stately Inns-of-Court princes: in diverse ways all were reflections of the dominant social order in the Medieval and Tudor periods and, as this book shows, all influenced the writings of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Mock Kings considers kingship in the light of contemporary accounts of elected kings in outlaw and rebel groups, and compares them with the phenomenon of
festive mock kings. The result is a complex picture of interrelation between festive and more serious opposition to the dominant order, as well as the discovery of a midsummer mock-king play
tradition. The second part of the book considers the professional theatre from the late 1580s to the mid-Jacobean period, and demonstrates that mock-king patterns, found in less literary contexts, form the structure of many scripted plays. The popularity of some of the minor dramas is understood for the first time when their festive patterns are identified and, by contrast, Shakespeare's genius in transforming inherited structures into complex works of art is
thrown into relief. The book shows that serious reflection on the nature of kingship was maintained throughout Renaissance drama.
`The story of the outlaw bands, especially in the Midlands during Edward III's absences abroad, has been told before ... but is nonetheless fascinating and put usefully to work in this present study ... the book is learned in its depiction of mock rule and evocative in its exploration of a theme in Elizabethan drama.'
`provocative cross-disciplinary monograph... It is a brave and challenging thesis and one which requires a command of a wide range of primary and secondary material. And the breadth of Billington's reference, from medieval games in Cumbria to contemporary graffiti, suggests that she has risen to the challenge ... sheds interesting new light upon familiar and not so familiar plays ... a fascinating general thesis which ... will stimulate further
investigation.' Greg Walker, Times Higher Education Supplement
`...characteristically British scholarly work, diligently researched, apparently exhaustive,...;here, she is concerned to establish a cultural context of iconography and strategy, and she achieves this adroitly and persuasively.'
David Ian Rabey, Theatre Research International
`This is a book which brings together a lot of different material and often makes good sense out of it....Where readers need information and argument they will find much to interest them;...'
Sally Mapstone, Folklore
`We can now see the full scope of Dr Billington's wide-ranging exploration which brings together the disciplines of folklore and English literature, often against a background of politics.'
'Billington's work is ... valuable for its recovery of the popular roots of a pervasive motif in Renaissance drama.'
Lisa M. Klein, Ohio State University, Literature & History, third series 2/1
'the book proposes exciting connections and offers readings which are often challenging and provocative ... The book is to be valued for the enterprise and breadth of its scholarship, for its critical readings of particular plays, and for the stimulating suggestiveness of its thesis ... its approach is challenging and often proves rewarding.'
David Mills, University of Liverpool, Review of English Studies, Vol. 44, No. 176, Nov '93
`The 'ritual' under discussion is the election of a lord of misrule, the 'mock king' figure...Billington's study adds significantly to our knowledge about this practice and locates it within a specifically sociopolitical framework...it may...inspire others to make use of the socio-historical and theatrical materials it introduces and to continue the dialogue.'
Medieaval and Renaissance Drama in England
Outlaws, rebels, and civil war; kings of winter festive groups; summer kings and queens, and kings of fortune; the role of the Sovereign; summer kings in conflict - the popular perspective in "The Troublesome Raigne", "King John" and "The Misfortunes of Arthur"; kings, princes and lords in Shakespeare's platagenet plays; "Tamburlaine" and "Timon" - paradigm and parable; comedy; festive tragedy - "Troilus and Cressida", "King Lear", and "Antony and Cleopatra"; political dissent and drama; moral political criticism through saturnalia in Jacobean drama.