Master of the Revels

Definition

Theater

  • Formerly, an official who was in charge of court entertainments in England.The first appointment was a temporary one for Henry VII's household. Sir Thomas Cawarden was the first permanent master of the revels, serving from 1545 to 1559;his duties included censorship of the public theater and supervising the festivities for Elizabeth I's coronation in 1558. In James I's reign Sir Edmund Tilney (1579 - 1610) did little more than license theaters for £3 a month and read plays for 7 shillings each. His nephew, Sir George Buck (1610 - 22), banned publication of several plays by George Chapman. Sir Henry Herbert was appointed in 1622 and served for 50 years, leaving extensive records that provide valuable information about the theater of his day. The activities of Sir Thomas Killigrew, a theater manager who misused the office to restrain rival theaters, helped to bring about the Licensing Act of 1737 (see licence), which abolished the Officeof Revels and made theatrical censorship the direct responsibility of theLord Chamberlain.
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