Plays and Playcoats: A Courtly Interlude Tradition in Scotland?


Sarah Carpenter


While early sixteenth century England saw the flourishing of the dramatic form of the courtly interlude, the lack of surviving play-scripts has made it hard to determine whether Scotland shared a similar tradition. This paper explores the evidence of court expenditure on dramatic activity in the Scottish royal Treasurer’s Accounts, to assess what further light it might throw on the nature of court performance under James IV and V. An analysis of the various references to “playcoats” addresses the fabric, design, personnel and contexts associated with them, in order to establish what might be revealed about the role and function of dramatic performance in the royal court of Scotland. This evidence is compared with the one surviving eye-witness account of a Scottish courtly interlude, the Linlithgow performance of 1540. The costume evidence and the performance report illuminate each other, pointing to the possibility of a lost tradition of Scottish courtly interlude. The discussion builds on records of the material evidence of performance to expand our understanding of Scotland’s early theatrical traditions, and to explore the possible relationships between Scottish and English court drama in the early sixteenth century.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.