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Forms of Oblivion: Losing the Revels Office at St. John’s


This essay investigates the collective forgetting of the site of the Revels Office from 1560 to 1607: the Hospital and Priory of St. John of Jerusalem, Clerkenwell. It argues that as a space of rehearsal and theatrical transaction for generations of city actors, the Great Chamber at St. John’s deserves to be remembered. To that end, Sherman gathers draws on texts by John Stow, Thomas Heywood, and William Shakespeare, as well as on the Revels account books, the Loseley survey of lead, and artifacts unearthed in recent archaeological excavations. Together, these permit the partial reconstruction of a place central to Elizabethan drama. To explore why the Revels Office at St. John’s has been occluded in our cultural memory, the essay discusses the theories of Paul Connerton, Mary Carruthers, and Maurice Halbwachs on collective forgetting. It concludes that different forms of oblivion have converged in producing this loss, ranging from willed displacement to shifting social frameworks to the erasure of labor for the sake of promoting the sprezzatura of performance.

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