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Early Dance Texts

Dance References in 16th- and 17th-century Sources

Most of the following are primary resources for the study of Shakespearean dance; some are my transcriptions or dance-relevant excerpts I have compiled; others are links to texts posted on other sites. Please see Renaissance Dance Links for secondary resources on other sites.

Table of Contents
Biographies, Autobiographies, and Private Correspondence
Dancing Manuals and Choreographic Descriptions

Conduct and Education Guides
Dramatic Works
Legislation and Regulations

Literary Works

Miscellaneous

Religious and Moral Treatises


Biographies, Autobiographies, and Private Correspondence

Herbert, Edward. The Autobiography of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury. c1643. Ed. Sidney Lee. London: George Routledge & Sons Limited, 1886, 1906. Dance-related passages. Lord Herbert's autbiography, published posthumously. Mentions various dance events and includes Lord Herbert's recommendation of dancing as a suitable activity for a gentleman.

Langdale, Josiah. 'Some Account of the Birth, Education and Religious Exercises and Visitations of God to that faithful Servant and Minister of Jesus Christ, Josiah Langdale.' 17th century. Metaphorical mention of dancing.

 

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Dancing Manuals and Choreographic Descriptions (15th-17th centuries)

Anonymous. "Les Basses Danses de Marguerite d'Autriche" (c. 1495). (link to transcription). An early dancing manual.

Anonymous. "Basse Danse choreographies in the Salisbury manuscript" (c. 1497). (link to transcription). An early dancing manual.

For transcriptions by Joseph Casazza, Lieven Baert, and others, see Renaissance Dance Sources.
For facsimiles of dancing manuals, see the Library of Congress's Burgundian Dance in the Late Middle Ages, Renaissance Dance, Transition From Renaissance Dance To Baroque Dance, and Baroque Dance.

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Conduct and Education Guides

Ascham, Roger.The Scholemaster . 1570. Ed. Judy Boss. 1998. Dance-related passages. An educational handbook that discusses dancing.

Breton, Nicholas. "Necessary Notes for a Courtier". 1618. An appendix to The Court and Country, or A Briefe Discourse betweene the Courtier and Country-man; of the Manner, Nature, and Condition of their liues (London, 1618). From W. C. Hazlitt (ed.), Inedited Tracts (New York, 1868). A FAQ sheet for the courtier mentioning dancing.

Breton, Nicholas. No Whippinge, nor Trippinge: But a Kinde Friendly Snippinge. 1601. Preface by Charles Edmonds. London: Chiswick Press (Isham Reprints), 1895. (link to whole text -- large images).

Castiglione, Baldesare.Il Cortegiano. 1528. Translated in 1561 by Sir Thomas Hoby as The Book of the Courtier. (link to whole text). conduct manual with sections pertaining to dancing.

Cleland, James.The Institution of a Young Noble Man. Oxford: Joseph Barnes, 1607, 1611, 1612. introduction by Max Molyneux. New York: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1948. Vol. 1. Dance-related passages. An educational handbook that discusses dancing.

Elyot, Sir Thomas. The Boke named the Governour. 1531. Ed. Ben Ross Schneider, Jr. 1998. Chapters XIX-XXV specifically address dancing. (link to whole text). An educational handbook that discusses dancing in great detail.

Faret, Nicholas. The Honest Man: or, the Art to Please in Court. Translated 1632. Dance-related passages. A conduct manual with sections pertaining to dancing.

Mulcaster, Richard. The Training Up Of Children. Facsimilie reprint. Amsterdam, New York: De Capo Press, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Ltd., 1971. STC: 18253. Dance-related passages. An educational handbook that discusses dancing.

 

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Dramatic Works

Lupton, Thomas. All for money. Plainly representing the maners of men, and fashion of the world noweadayes, 1578. Dance-related passages. Metaphorical mention of dancing.

 

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Legislation and Regulations

Hooker, John. Orders enacted for orphans and for their portions within the citie of Excester with sundry other instructions incident to the same. Collected and set foorth by Iohn Vowell alias Hooker gentleman and chamberlaine of the same citie, 1575. Dance-related passages. Metaphorical mention of dancing (galliard and pavane).

In progress! Stationers' Register -- a list of titles registered that refer to dancing or similar entertainments.

 

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Literary Works

Kemp, William. Kemps nine daies wonder, performed in a daunce from London to Norwich. 1600. Ed. Richard Bear. 2000. (link to whole text). Autobiographical account of dance marathon fundraiser by the famous actor and clown.

 

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Miscellaneous

Browne, Thomas. Religio Medici. (Written circa 1635, published surreptitiously 1642, authorized edition published 1643.) Dance-related passages. Metaphorical mention of dancing (galliard).

Buck, Sir George. 'Of Orchestice, or the Art of Dancing' in The Third Universitie of England, an appendix to John Stow's The Annales, Or Generall Chronicle of England finished and edited by Edmond Howes. London: Thomas Adams, 1615. With other dance-related passages. A section on dancing included in a larger survey of English universities and education.

Douce, Francis. Illustrations of Shakspeare and of Ancient Manners: with Dissertations on the Clowns and Fools of Shakspeare; on the Collection of Popular Tales Entitled Gesta Romanorum; and on the English Morris Dance. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1807. A nineteenth-century scholar's discussion of morris dance.

Florio, John. Queen Anna's New World of Words, or Dictionarie of the Italian and English tongues. 1611. Dance-related passages. An Italian-English dictionary containing several dance terms.

Merbecke, John. A Booke of Notes and Common Places, 1581. Dance-related passages. A collection of quotes and observations on a wide range of moral and religious topics, arranged alphabetically, with small section devoted to dancing.

Rid, Samuel. The Art of Jugling or Legerdemaine. Facsimilie reprint. Amsterdam, Norwood, NJ: Walter J. Johnson, Inc.; Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Ltd., 1974. Dance-related passages. A magic trick manual mentioning dance.

 

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Religious and Moral Treatises

Anonymous. A Treatise of daunses, wherin it is shewed, that they are as it were accessories and depedants (or thinges annexed) to whoredome: where also by the way is touched and proued, that playes are ioyned and knit togeather in a rancke or rowe with them. Arthur Freeman (ed.), reprint. New York: Garland, 1974. An antidance treatise.

Babington, Gervase. A very fruitfull exposition of the Commaundements by way of questions and answeres for greater plainnesse together with an application of euery one to the soule and conscience of man, profitable for all, and especially for them that (beeing not otherwise furnished) are yet desirous both to see themselues, and to deliuer to others some larger speech of euery point that is but briefly named in the shorter catechismes. London: Henry Midlleton for Thomas Charde, 1583. Dance-related passages. Exposition of the Ten Commandments, with dancing violating the 4th and 7th commandments in particular.

Gosson, Stephen. "The horrible Vice of pestiferous dancing" in The Shoole of Abuse, containing a peasaunt invective against poets, pipers, plaiers, jesters and such like caterpillers of a commonwealth (1579). (link to whole text). A treatise discussing the pros and cons of dancing, among other recreations.

In progress! Fetherstone, Christopher. A dialogue agaynst light, lewde, and lasciuious dauncing wherin are refuted all those reasons, which the common people vse to bring in defence thereof. (1582). (link to whole text -- page by page facsimile of original). A treatise discussing the pros and cons of dancing.

Lovell, Thomas. A dialogue between custom and veritie concerning the vse and abuse of dauncing and minstrelsie (1581). (link to whole text -- page by page facsimile of original). A treatise discussing the pros and cons of dancing.

Lowin, John. Conclusions vpon dances, both of this age, and of the olde. Newly composed and set forth, by an out-landish doctor. 1607. (link to whole text). A treatise discussing the pros and cons of dancing.

________. Brief conclusions of dancers and dancing Condemning the prophane vse thereof; and commending the excellencie of such persons which haue from age to age, in all solemne feasts, and victorious triumphs, vsed that (no lesse) honourable, commendable and laudable recreation: as also true physicall obseruations for the preseruation of the body in health, by the vse of the same exercise.
1609. Reissue of Conclusions upon dances, both of this age, and of the olde. (link to whole text). A treatise discussing the pros and cons of dancing.

Northbrooke, John. Spiritus est vicarius Christi in terra. A treatise wherein dicing, dancing, vaine playes or enterludes with other idle pastimes &c. commonly used on the Sabboth day, are reproved by the Authoritie of the word of God and auntient writers (1577). (link to whole text -- page by page facsimile of original). A treatise discussing the pros and cons of dancing.

Stubbes, Phillip. The Anatomie of Abuses (1583), London: New Shakespeare Society reprint, 1877-1879. Dance-related passages. (link to whole text -- download PDF files). A treatise discussing the pros and cons of dancing among other recreations.

 

Table of Contents
Biographies, Autobiographies, and Private Correspondence
Dancing Manuals and Choreographic Descriptions

Conduct and Education Guides
Dramatic Works
Legislation and Regulations

Literary Works

Miscellaneous

Religious and Moral Treatises

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Updated 10 March, 2015