Graduate student contribution

Pageant Book

Until the development of the pageant book in early modern London, all pageant performances were lost forever except to the memories of those in attendance, with each spectator having seen only a portion of the entire show. As Darryl W. Palmer remarks in Hospitable Performances: Dramatic Genre and Cultural Practices in Early Modern England, performance pageantry fades in an instant and we struggle to construct its manners, but when converted into an authorized text that claims to simply report the entertainment Gap in transcription. Reason: (DJ)[…] these texts mystify their own part in a secondary shaping of everyone and everything included in the original performance (Palmer 119-120). In the 1540s, processions started to include dramatic presentations and speeches written by the playwrights of the early London theatres (Manley 212). From James accession in 1604, the printed booklet becomes an invariable part (Johnson 157) of royal and mayoral processions.
David Bergeron points out that earlier texts contain only the speeches given in the pageant—no prefatory material, no elaboration, no description, no marginalia (Bergeron 168), but he asserts playwrights increasingly intend pageant texts for readers (Bergeron 163). Critics argued that the creation of genuine art was not compatible with prescribed content and the audience’s inability to view the show in its entirety (Bergeron 963). Bergeron argues that these texts exhibit a growing self-consciousness as books and that these publications do not obliterate the theatrical performance so much as they complete it (Bergeron 165). Within the pamphlet book, the narrative takes on a continuing life with the reader. The texts ask the reader to pretend that they are at the event. The pamphlet book creates a textual space for the event to recur separately from the past. Bergeron describes a fundamental paradox where as the book seeks to fix the event of the pageant, it apparently liberates the dramatist to create materials not represented in the street entertainment. The playwright adds digressions, descriptions and discourses on other topics and increasingly combines developing customs and writing styles so that readers come to experience the pageant text as an [entire] event itself, resembling but differing from the show (Bergeron 167).
Bergeron divides authorial intrusions into four categories: how the dramatist conducts an imagined dialogue with his readers, how he engages in a dialogue with himself, what materials he adds to the event, and how the dramatist attempts to present the actual performance of the pageant what Paula Johnson has called the rhetoric of presence (Bergeron 168). Each playwright develops a personal style of asserting his authorial presence within the pamphlet book. The manner in which he contributes additional material appears in many forms: dedications, prefaces, explanations, lists, historical accounts, addresses to readers, marginal notes, judgements, personal information, glosses, interpretations, acknowledgements, self-criticisms, and self-justifications. Johnson asserts that the rhetoric of presence, or the playwright’s insertion of his presence as both former spectator and present narrator, keeps the reader in touch with the ephemeral actuality (Johnson 166-167) of the pageant. Bergeron contends that the inclusions of this seemingly extraneous material distances the pageant books from previous criticisms and aligns these publications with other books, thus increasing the pamphlet books’ status in the market place (Bergeron 182).


  • Citation

    Bergeron, David M. Stuart Civic Pageants and Textual Performance. Renaissance Quarterly 51.1 (1998): 163–183. doi:10.2307/2901666.

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  • Citation

    Johnson, Paula. Jacobean Ephemera and the Immortal Word. Renaissance Drama 8 (1977): 151-171.

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  • Citation

    Manley, Lawrence. Literature and Culture in Early Modern London. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. Print.
  • Citation

    Middleton, Thomas. The Triumphs of Truth. London, 1613. Ed. David M. Bergeron. Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works. Ed. Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino. Oxford: Clarendon, 2007. 968–976.

    This item is cited in the following documents:

  • Citation

    Palmer, Daryl W. Hospitable Performances: Dramatic Genre and Cultural Practices in Early Modern England. West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 1992. Print.

    This item is cited in the following documents:

Cite this page

MLA citation

Joslin, Dalyce. Pageant Books. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 05 May 2022,

Chicago citation

Joslin, Dalyce. Pageant Books. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed May 05, 2022.

APA citation

Joslin, D. 2022. Pageant Books. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 7.0). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - Joslin, Dalyce
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Pageant Books
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 7.0
PY  - 2022
DA  - 2022/05/05
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

TEI citation

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