The History of Morris Dancing, 1438-1750

The History of Morris Dancing, 1438-1750

JOHN FORREST
Volume: 5
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 456
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442681453
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  • Book Info
    The History of Morris Dancing, 1438-1750
    Book Description:

    Careful, detailed, and encyclopedic, The History of Morris Dancing, 1458-1750 is an essential reference work for specialists in English drama and social historians of the period.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8145-3
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. LIST OF TABLES
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xv-2)

    This book has been growing and developing in my head for over thirty years, although I was not really aware of what I was embarking on when I first began collecting and sorting primary materials. At the outset I started gathering snippets of source materials unsystematically just for the fun of having the information. What I really wanted was a great big book that had the whole history of morris dancing laid out in it in exquisite detail, backed up with copious exotic quotations, my odds and ends of data being a poor substitute for me until the real thing...

  7. 1 Theories of Origin
    (pp. 3-27)

    Few modern academics have been willing to undertake a thorough analysis of morris dancing in its historical context because the field has been hopelessly dogged by a series of preconceptions imposed upon it by folklorists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These preconceptions stem from an almost obsessional concern fortheorigin of the dances, which quest has in turn led generation after generation of devotees into extravagant flights of fantasy. As a prelude to the analysis of the historical materials it is useful, therefore, to consider why the concern for origins has been so perennially attractive, where...

  8. 2 The Contexts
    (pp. 28-46)

    With the advent of microcumputer technology and database management software Michael Heaney and I were able not only to create an electronic archive of morris dance sources, but also to index and access data from the files in sophisticated ways. The first product of the database and archive was the annotated bibliographyAnnals of Early Morris(Heaney and Forrest 1991). Those readers interested in the technical aspects of the construction of the database and archive, including the principles of inclusion and exclusion employed, should consult the original or appendix A.

    In the indexing system for the early morris database there...

  9. 3 Earliest References
    (pp. 47-56)

    That is the sum total of primary material relating to morris (or morisk) in the fifteenth century. A number of inferences may be drawn from these sources and a few conjectures appended, but it is as much a matter of declaring whatcannotbe inferred.

    To begin at the beginning, Alice Wetenhale’s will does not say much, but it provides a few clues to get started with, and is important in the context of the other sources. The fact that the image of a morris dance is mentioned in a will at all is significant. The executor of this will...

  10. 4 Royal Court
    (pp. 57-91)

    Royal interest in and support of morris dancing took two distinct directions at the time of the Tudors. Some morrises were performed as integral components of disguisings and masques enacted in large banqueting halls before the court during seasonal revels; others were part of urban processions honouring dignitaries or providing some holiday pageantry and mirth. Although both types had royal patronage, this chapter deals only with the former, and chapter 5 incorporates the latter; the division of interest here is based initially ontype of venue. The main idea is to explore the dance in different physical environments on the...

  11. 5 Urban Streets
    (pp. 92-139)

    Throughout the period of record covered by this work, morris dancing was popular in cities, but there was a particular span of time, roughly from 1520 to 1580, when urban street settings predominated. Subsequently the focus shifted from cities to smaller towns and villages. As is true throughout the evolution of morris dancing in Britain, urban street morris cannot be characterized as a single phenomenon, or even as a series of clearly related dance types. The events at which morris appeared varied in kind of location, sponsorship, duration, and basic justification, all of which affected the dance. Even so, there...

  12. 6 Church Property
    (pp. 140-185)

    Church sponsorship of morris dancing is unique in that it has a clear terminus in the 1630s following its heyday around 1540 to 1570 (whereas dance events at all other venues continue, sometimes sporadically, sometimes regularly, to the end of our period once they have appeared). This state of affairs is due to a complete reversal of church policy towards morris dancing from active encouragement to vigorous prosecution of both the dance and of the events of which it formed a part. Paradoxically, therefore, the church was largely responsible both for the great diffusion of morris dancing into the countryside,...

  13. 7 Church Proscription and Prosecution
    (pp. 186-214)

    The church’s reversal of policy towards morris dancing from active support to rigorous prosecution marked a significant turning point in the evolution and diffusion of the dance. Nothing could be more dramatic than the evidence presented in figure 23 (p 173), which documents the absolute number of morris events over our period, superimposed with statistics concerning church prosecutions. The key point to notice is that in the 1601–30 period church prosecutions reached their zenith, and in the following period (1631–60) there was a calamitous decline in dance events.

    Although the turnabout seems almost instantaneous and dramatic, the theological...

  14. 8 The Public Stage
    (pp. 215-258)

    Morris dances appeared in plays performed on the public stage from the late Elizabethan era to the Restoration, with a high point of popularity around the time that the dance was being rigorously prosecuted in the countryside. In fact, one might even speculate that the interest of urban playwrights in the dance heightened Puritan animosity to it by linking it to another activity with a sulfurous reek. Certainly, a number of the plays including morris contain strong polemical, anti-Puritan sentiments. However, it would be an overstatement to imagine that the public stage as a ‘venue’ had anywhere near the importance...

  15. 9 Rural Locations
    (pp. 259-292)

    Examination of the seriation graph of venue (figure 2, p. 29) and the distribution maps of dance events (especially figures 5–8, pp. 37–40) might well give the impression that the ‘rural’ morris began in the late sixteenth century as a new breed of dance, but it is more accurate to think of it as a continuation of, and development from, the church-sponsored morris. As chapter 6 shows, it was local churches that first encouraged the spread of morris dancing into the countryside and, subsequently, it was the centralized church hierarchy that banned the dance and the events that...

  16. 10 Assemblies and the Country Dance Hall
    (pp. 293-324)

    To those whose main experience of morris dancing has been through the contemporary folk dance revival, it may seem odd to see a chapter concerning country dance halls included in a work devoted to the morris. It is an axiom of this revival that spectacular dances (typified by morris) and social dances (typified by country dances) are categorically distinct in every way possible. This position derives ultimately from Cecil Sharp himself, who makes it crystal clear in his introduction toThe Country Dance Bookthat as far as he is concerned the two types have virtually no points of contact...

  17. 11 Private Premises
    (pp. 325-350)

    It is patent from the seriation curves that with the termination of financial support for morris dances by the church, patronage from private individuals (and, sporadically, from a few private groups) came into its own and, no doubt, prevented the complete demise of dancing in the countryside. This chapter concerns the contributions made to the upkeep of morris dancing by the private sector, focusing especially on the role of private individuals. As always, the prime concern isvenuerather than strictly patronage per se, but in the case of performances at the country estates of rich individuals, venue and patronage...

  18. 12 Endings
    (pp. 351-362)

    In attempting to build an evolutionary or developmental model to suit morris dance data, it is clear from the wealth of data in previous chapters that a simplelinear, orreplacement, model is wholly inadequate. It would clearly not be correct to say, for example, that royal court morris was superceded by urban morris, which in turn was replaced by church-sponsored morris. Although chronological seriation may give that initial impression – each having its heyday – the substantive details of the histories of the three types show a great degree of interplay between them, as well as a degree of...

  19. APPENDIX A: Methodological Issues: The Early Morris Database and Archive
    (pp. 363-375)
  20. APPENDIX B: Visitation Articles Banning Morris
    (pp. 376-385)
  21. APPENDIX C: Mr Isaac’s Morris 1716
    (pp. 386-391)
  22. APPENDIX D: Extant Churchwardens’ Accounts
    (pp. 392-394)
  23. Notes
    (pp. 395-404)
  24. Bibliography
    (pp. 405-420)
  25. Index
    (pp. 421-439)