Performing Early Modern Libel

Expanding the Boundaries of Performance


  • Clare Egan University of Lancaster


early modern performance


This essay focuses on provincial libel cases between private individuals tried at the court of Star Chamber during the early seventeenth century. Libelling saw personal scandals creatively couched in verses, visual symbols, or mock-ceremonies, and read, sung, and posted in early modern communities. This essay identifies a range of ‘manners’ of libel, and compares a libellous ‘Stage plaie’ to a set of libellous mock-proclamations and a ‘book’ of playing card knaves. The essay argues that libels should be understood as functioning on a spectrum of performance. They should therefore prompt an expansion of the boundaries of early performance.

Author Biography

Clare Egan, University of Lancaster

Clare Egan ( is a lecturer in medieval and early modern literature at Lancaster University.





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