As I mentioned in a posting on the SHAKSPER list last week, I have been
working to update my Biographical Index of Elizabethan Theater, now
rechristened the Biographical Index of English Drama Before 1660.
The new version is now online, at

As before, the Index includes actors, playwrights, patrons, and various
other people connected with dramatic activity in the pre-Restoration
period, roughly 2900 different people in all.  Entries contain basic
biographical information, including a description of the person's connection
to the drama, plus a chronological list of references to published
biographical information about him (or her).  The main differences
from the old version are that the Index now includes:

* People active before 1558, going back to the Middle Ages;
* People active between 1642 and 1660, a period largely neglected by
most theater historians despite its rich dramatic activity;
* All actors in academic plays at Oxford and Cambridge, who were only
partially indexed before;
* All known performers in court masques between 1604 and 1640;
* All known musicians in professional playhouses as well as in court
masques and entertainments, who were only partially indexed before;
* A greater number of employees of the Revels office, especially
from the early Tudor period;
* A greater number of contemporary critics of the theatre, both
positive (e.g. Francis Meres) and negative (e.g. William Prynne), plus
more miscellaneous other people important important for theatre
history who do not fall into any of the other categories.

While I have tried to be as thorough as possible in indexing those
who made their living in the theatre, the Index now includes many
more people whose connection to drama was more peripheral.
I think this is a good thing, since such connections can be illuminating
for attempts to put dramatic activity in a larger context.  It is useful
and interesting to know, for example, that Cardinal Wolsey patronized
a playing company, that magician John Dee directed a comedy at
Cambridge, that the composer John Dowland and his son Robert both
performed in masques and entertainments, or that Thomas Howard,
1st Earl of Suffolk and Lord Chamberlain between 1603 and 1610,
had eight children who danced in Jacobean court masques.

This index is a prolegomenon to a more ambitious work, namely a
Biographical Dictonary of English Drama Before 1660.  That work will
flesh out the index entries with narrative biographies for each person,
along with further details such as exact birth and death dates,
education and apprenticeships, and lists of works by playwrights.
The Index is still very much a work in progress, and I know for a fact
that there are lacunae.  I have made it available to the online scholarly
community so that scholars can use the information it contains without
having to wait for the full Dictionary; however, I also hope that those
using the Index will inform me of any errors or omissions, so that the
final product can be as accurate and complete as possible.  I also welcome
any suggestions for how it can be improved, including information
that people would specifically like to see included.

Dave Kathman
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