What was John Truslove playing at in church?

New Year is a time when we traditionally let our hair down – but back in 1615, in an age of Protestant censure, one might have expected people to behave more conservatively, especially in a church. Not so, says Dr Diana Wyatt, as in the latest Flower of the Month from Records of Early English Drama North East she reports on an intriguing detail in the archives flagged up by colleague Dr Gasper Jakovac.

The archival document in question is the Archbishop of York’s Visitation Book for 1615. Records of Early English Drama North East explores how and where early plays were performed, but in an age before newspaper reviews and the like researchers need to hunt for ‘flowers’ of evidence buried in seemingly mundane records, like account books or, in this case, a regular inspection of local parishes made by the Archbishop’s officers. This reports on what would have been, at the time, highly inappropriate conduct on 1st January:

Officium domini contra Johanem Trusloue de Wawne ffor that he and six others whose names are vnknowne did Act a play in Skipsey Church vpon New yeares day last after Eueninge praier

Or, to translate, the accusation is that:

Johnathan Truslove of Wawne and six others whose names are unknown acted a play in Skipsea Church on New Years Day after evening prayer

This raises a number of peculiar questions: who was John Truslove? Why, if he himself lived in Wawne, some miles away from Skipsea, was he in Skipsea church at all that New Year’s Day? Why perfom a play with six anonymous actors? Was he being challenged for performing in the church itself, even without actually disrupting evening prayer? Or was the content of the play held to be offensive?

To follow Diana Wyatt’s hunt for some tentative answers, visit the full blog over at Records of Early English Drama North East.

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