Act Three of William Shakespeare’s and John Fletcher’s The Two Noble Kinsmen features a scene, written by Fletcher, in which a Schoolmaster named Gerald teaches his students a Morris dance. Fletcher’s depiction of Gerald and pupils is a rare moment in early modern drama in which the humanist pedagogical praxis is acted on stage. In this essay, I draw on recent scholarship on dance, embodied performance and cognitive ecologies of the stage and classroom to illustrate the way in which the Morris dance functions as a complex commentary on performance ecologies and Humanist pedagogical methodology. I argue that throughout this scene, Gerald teaches his pupils how to dance by using the movements and terminology associated with actio, a performance of rhetoric in which the student used his body to act out his lesson. While actio was supposed to be an embodied experience comprised of both outward gestures and inward reflection, Fletcher satirizes the Gerald’s lack of mental awareness behind his movements, questioning whether rhetorical training could produce genuine, cognitive learning. Reading the Morris dance scene in this way illustrates the complexity of Fletcher’s contribution to The Two Noble Kinsmen. Fletchers undergirds this comedic moment with a serious critique of humanist schoolroom methodology.
"Fletcher’s Schoolroom: Actio and Dance as Humanist Pedagogy in The Two Noble Kinsmen,"
ROMARD: Vol. 59, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/romard/vol59/iss1/5