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Home > Early Dance Texts > The Scholemaster



The Scholemaster

-- The following are dance references from Roger Ascham's The Scholemaster, 1570. The sections on dance are quoted from the Renascence Editions text edited by Judy Boss in 1998. The dotted lines indicate a different section of the text. The italics are as in the original text, but I have bolded dance terms for convenience. (link to full text.) -- E. F. Winerock

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From Book I:

Yet, some will say, that children of nature, loue pastime, and mislike learning: bicause, in their kinde, the one is easie and pleasant, the other hard and werisom: which is an opinion not so trewe, as some men weene: For, the matter lieth not so much in the disposition of them that be yong, as in the order & maner of bringing vp, by them that be old, nor yet in the difference of learnyng and pastime. For, beate a child, if he daunce not well, & cherish him, though he learne not well, ye shall haue him, vnwilling to go to daunce, & glad to go to his booke. Knocke him alwaies, when he draweth his shaft ill, and fauor him againe, though he faut at his booke, ye shall haue hym verie loth to be in the field, and verie willing to be in the schole.

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After salutation, and dewtie done, with som other taulke, I asked hir, whie she wold leese soch pastime in the Parke? smiling she answered me: I wisse, all their sporte in the Parke is but a shadoe to that pleasure, that I find in Plato: Alas good folke, they neuer felt, what trewe pleasure ment. And howe came you Madame, quoth I, to this deepe knowledge of pleasure, and what did chieflie allure you vnto it: seinge, not many women, but verie fewe men haue atteined thereunto. I will tell you, quoth she, and tell you a troth, which perchance ye will meruell at. One of the greatest benefites, that euer God gaue me, is, that he sent me so sharpe and seuere Parentes, and so ientle a scholemaster. For when I am in presence either of father or mother, whether I speake, kepe silence, sit, stand, or go, eate, drinke, be merie, or sad, be sowyng, plaiyng, dauncing, or doing anie thing els, I must do it, as it were, in soch weight, mesure, and number, euen so perfitelie, as God made the world, or else I am so sharplie taunted, so cruellie threatened, yea presentlie some tymes, with pinches, nippes, and bobbes, and other waies, which I will not name, for the honor I beare them, so without measure misordered, that I thinke my selfe in hell, till tyme cum, that I must go to M. Elmer, who teacheth me so ientlie, so pleasantlie, with soch faire allurementes to learning, that I thinke all the tyme nothing, whiles I am with him. And when I am called from him, I fall on weeping, because, what soeuer I do els, but learning, is ful of grief, trouble, feare, and whole misliking vnto me: And thus my booke, hath bene so moch my pleasure, & bringeth dayly to me more pleasure & more, that in respect of it, all other pleasures, in very deede, be but trifles and troubles vnto me. I remember this talke gladly, both bicause it is so worthy of memorie, & bicause also, it was the last talke that euer I had, and the last tyme, that euer I saw that noble and worthie Ladie.

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And it maie be a great wonder, but a greater shame, to vs Christian men, to vnderstand, what a heithen writer, Isocrates, doth leaue in memorie of writing, concerning the care, that the noble Citie of Athens had, to bring vp their yougthe, in honest companie, and vertuous discipline, whose taulke in Greke, is, to this effect, in Englishe.

"The Citie, was not more carefull, to see their Children
"well taughte, than to see their yong men well
"gouerned: which they brought to passe, not so
"much by common lawe, as by priuate discipline.
"For, they had more regard, that their yougthe, by good order
"shold not offend, than how, by lawe, they might be punished:
"And if offense were committed, there was, neither waie to
"hide it, neither hope of pardon for it. Good natures, were
"not so moche openlie praised as they were secretlie marked,
"and watchfullie regarded, lest they should lease the goodnes
"they had. Therefore in scholes of singing and dauncing, and
"other honest exercises, gouernours were appointed, more
"diligent to ouersee their good maners, than their masters were,
"to teach them anie learning. It was som shame to a yong
"man, to be seene in the open market: and if for businesse, he
"passed throughe it, he did it, with a meruelous modestie, and
"bashefull facion. To eate, or drinke in a Tauerne, was not
onelie a shame, but also punishable, in a yong man. To
"contrarie, or to stand in termes with an old man, was more
"heinous, than in som place, to rebuke and scolde with his
"owne father: with manie other mo good orders, and faire
disciplines, which I referre to their reading, that haue lust
to looke vpon the description of such a worthie common welthe.

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And, I do not meene, by all this my taulke, that yong Ientlemen, should alwaies be poring on a booke, and by vsing good studies, shold lease honest pleasure, and haunt no good pastime, I meene nothing lesse: For it is well knowne, that I both like and loue, and haue alwaies, and do yet still vse, all exercises and pastimes, that be fitte for my nature and habilitie. And beside naturall disposition, in iudgement also, I was neuer, either Stoick in doctrine, or Anabaptist in Religion, to mislike a merie, pleasant, and plaifull nature, if no outrage be committed, against lawe, mesure, and good order.

Therefore, I wold wishe, that, beside some good time, fitlie appointed, and constantlie kepte, to encrease by readinge, the knowledge of the tonges and learning, yong ientlemen shold vse, and delite in all Courtelie exercises, and Ientlemanlike pastimes. And good cause whie: For the self same noble Citie of Athenes, iustlie commended of me before, did wiselie and vpon great consideration, appoint, the Muses, Apollo, and Pallas, to be patrones of learninge to their yougthe. For the Muses, besides learning, were also Ladies of dauncinge, mirthe and ministrelsie: Apollo, was god of shooting, and Author of cunning playing vpon Instrumentes: Pallas also was Laidie mistres in warres. Wherbie was nothing else ment, but that learninge shold be alwaise mingled, with honest mirthe, and cumlie exercises: and that warre also shold be gouerned by learning, and moderated by wisdom, as did well appeare in those Capitaines of Athenes named by me before, and also in Scipio & Cæsar, the two Diamondes of Rome.

And Pallas, was no more feared, in weering Ægida, than she was praised, for chosing Oliva: whereby shineth the glory of learning, which thus, was Gouernour & Mistres, in the noble Citie of Athenes, both of warre and peace.

Therefore, to ride cumlie: to run faire at the tilte or ring: to plaie at all weapones: to shote faire in bow, or surelie in gon: to vaut lustely: to runne: to leape: to wrestle: to swimme: To daunce cumlie: to sing, and playe of instrumentes cunnyngly: to Hawke: to hunte: to playe at tennes, & all pastimes generally, which be ioyned with labor, vsed in open place, and on the day light, conteining either some fitte exercise for warre, or some pleasant pastime for peace, be not onelie cumlie and decent, but also verie necessarie, for a Courtlie Ientleman to vse.

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From Book II:

Foure men onely whan the Latin tong was full ripe, be left vnto vs, who in that tyme did florish, and did leaue to posteritie, the fruite of their witte and learning: Varro, Salust, Cæsar, and Cicero. Whan I say, these foure onely, I am not ignorant, that euen in the same tyme, most excellent Poetes, deseruing well of the Latin tong, as Lucretius, Cattullus, Virgill and Horace, did write: But, bicause, in this litle booke, I purpose to teach a yong scholer, to go, not to daunce: to speake, not to sing, whan Poetes in deed, namelie Epici and Lyrici, as these be, are fine dauncers, and trime singers, but Oratores and Historici be those cumlie goers, and faire and wise speakers, of whom I wishe my scholer to wayte vpon first, and after in good order, & dew tyme, to be brought forth, to the singing and dauncing schole: And for this consideration, do I name these foure, to be the onelie writers of that tyme.


Copyright 1999-2015 E. F. Winerock
Updated 10 March, 2015