Play Houses: Drama at Bolsover and Welbeck
Between 1590 and 1634, a period more or less exactly coterminous with the great age of English Renaissance drama, a group of remarkable houses took shape in the north Midlands of England, on the borders of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. All of them were connected with members of the Cavendish family, and two of them in particular, Bolsover Castle and Welbeck Abbey, passed into the possession of William Cavendish, Earl and later Duke of Newcastle. They thus became not only the principal homes of a leading patron of the drama, but also the settings of a distinct and very interesting group of plays, which can almost be termed country-house drama: Love's Welcome to Bolsover, The King's Entertainment at Welbeck, and Lady Jane Cavendish and Lady Elizabeth Brackley's The Concealed Fancies. Additionally, Newcastle and his wife, Margaret Cavendish, wrote plays both during and after the Civil War that can also be associated with the values and philosophies embodied in the architecture and traditions of the Cavendish houses. This paper explores ways in which these Cavendish houses acted as a setting and a stimulus to drama, and the ways in which the resulting plays were shaped by their physical settings.
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