The Reasons of Misrule Revisited: Evangelical Appropriations of Carnival in Tudor Revels

The Reasons of Misrule Revisited: Evangelical Appropriations of Carnival in Tudor Revels

Hornback,Robert (Oglethorpe University)

Early Theatre, 10.1 (2007): 35-65 (paper), Article 4


The argument here synthesizes an evangelical strategy statement, costume inventories and performance records, a treatise by Martin Bucer, studies of revels at the inns of court, and descriptions of Edwardian Lord of Misrule George Ferrers by an ambassador and a diarist to demonstrate that Tudor occurrences of such Lords emerged and appeared most frequently at court, colleges, and the inns under the zealously iconoclastic influence of Thomas Cromwell and Edward VI. Evidence in fact reveals a marked anti-papist polemical focus in misrule of the Reformation era, belying stubborn, anachronistic applications of a proto-puritan sobriety to the often raucous entertainments of early evangelicals. Consistent with these findings, much evidence reflects a crackdown on misrule under Mary I. Such an examination ultimately complicates our understanding of when, how, and why many puritans subsequently came to reject misrule and laughter alike.

Undoubtedly the most arresting Tudor likeness in the National Portrait Gallery, London, is William Scrots’s anamorphosis (NPG1299). As if modeled after a funhouse mirror reflection, this colorful oil on panel painting depicts within a stretched oblong, framed within a thin horizontal rectangle, the profile of a child with red hair and a head far wider than it is tall; measuring 63 inches x 16 3⁄4 inches, the portrait itself is, the Gallery website reports, its ‘squattest’ (‘nearly 4 times wider than it is high’). Its short-lived sitter’s nose juts out, Pinocchio-like, under a low bump of overhanging brow, as the chin recedes cartoonishly under a marked overbite. The subject thus seems to prefigure the whimsical grotesques of Inigo Jones’s antimasques decades later rather than to depict, as it does, the heir apparent of Henry VIII. Such is underrated Flemish master Scrots’s tour de force portrait of a nine-year-old Prince Edward in 1546, a year before his accession. As the NPG website ex- plains, ‘[Edward] is shown in distorted perspective (anamorphosis) …. When viewed from the right,’ however, ie, from a small cut-out in that side of the frame, he can be ‘seen in correct perspective’.

Click here to read this article from Early Theatre

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons