Tuesday 15 November, 5.45 – 7.00 pm
Gatsby Room, Chancellor’s Centre, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge
‘[T]hough Ramme stinks with cookes and ale,/ Yet say thers many a worthy lawyers chamber,/ Buts vpon Rame-Alley’: An Innsman Goes to the Playhouse’
Combining ideas of early modern sense perception with research on the Inns of Court, London topography and theatre history, this paper is an experimental journey to a performance of Lording Barry’s ‘Ram Alley’ at nearby Whitefriars. It considers the sensory interactions between audience and dramatic locations: playing space, imaginative locus and surrounding city.
This paper brings the two areas of research together, and builds on Jackie Watson’s recent article on the nearby Ram Alley for the Map of Early Modern London. It imagines a day in 1607, or perhaps 1608. An Innsman – call him Francis, for sake of argument – leaves his lodgings in Middle Temple to visit the nearby Whitefriars Theatre, where Lording Barry’s Ram Alley is being performed by the Children of the King’s Revels. Using ideas from performance and theatre history, London topography and audience studies, as well as work on the Inns as sites of social mobility, legal and wider learning, and homosocial networks, my paper will reconstruct likely elements of Francis’ journey and his experience of this particular play.
In the quotation from the Induction to Every Man Out of his Humour which forms the title of this paper, Ben Jonson’s language plays with the conjunction of hearing, tasting and understanding. Barry may not have had such lofty ambitions for his comedy, but in its intertextuality, its precise location and its evocation of the early modern legal world, it aims directly to play with the familiarities and to engage the senses of ‘Francis’ and his fellows.
Organised jointly with the Wolfson College Humanities Society.
Jackie Watson completed her PhD at Birkbeck College, London, in 2015, with a thesis looking at the life of the Jacobean courtier, Sir Thomas Overbury, and examining the representations of courtiership on stage between 1599 and 1613. She is co-editor of The Senses in Early Modern England, 1558–1660 (Manchester University Press, 2015), to which she contributed a chapter on the deceptive nature of sight.
Recent published articles have looked at the early modern Inns of Court, at Innsmen as segments of playhouse audiences and at London topography. She is currently working on a monograph with a focus on Overbury’s letters, courtiership and the Jacobean playhouse.