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More thoughts on mapping Tarlton

2011 January 16
by Diane Jakacki

The following is a transcription of notes I took at 2am, unable to sleep due to too much brain activity:

In working on the Tarlton project today I started thinking again about how mapping can be used to reframe research questions. The REED references (Patrons and Performanes website) to the Queen’s Men in the provinces sometimes indicate a specific day while other times a period of weeks, months, or even an entire year. I can’t imagine – in fact I’m sure they didn’t remain in one place for so long, so do these records refer to a stipend for return visits? Should be easily resolved. I need to cross-reference those records with the documents listed in the REED volumes. Fortunately there are only around 60 documented performances, so it shouldn’t be too onerous. I found a Google Maps extension for Mediawiki, which I’ll go ahead and install. I’m not sure if it allows for creation of a path (the equivalent of the directions feature). So, what will mapped data tell me about Tarlton? That depends on how many places are named in the Country Jests section. If there’s a reference to Tarlton jesting in Kent, say, then I can look at possible Kentish locations where the Queen’s Men played. Also, if I can find any references to Tarlton interacting with specific members of the aristocracy or the Queen (outside of London) then I can look to see if perhaps the Queen’s Men also performed at the country homes of these people. Still, what does that say about Tarlton? That he was a particular draw on the touring circuit? That’s thin. It could give credibility to the narrative of the Jests. But maybe that link isn’t so important. Maybe the mapping exercise provides another facet of factual biographical information about Tarlton: a way to visualize his relationship with the Queen’s Men over space and time. It would also help – as in the case with the Red Lion incident at Norwich – to provide an understanding of the concept of travelling and touring (I believe Tarlton had to go back from wherever the Queen’s Men had continued on to give evidence in support of his detained colleagues). Is there enough information in the REED files to show a year-by-year touring map? Would people at Rye or Bath or Faversham expect the performers to return every year? Why was the St. Mary’s Guildhall in Coventry only added toward the end of the five-year period?

(Later)
It just dawned on me that I have a solid dataset for Tarlton/The Queen’s Men – at least as far as the parameters are concerned. We know the date in 1583 when the Queen’s Men were formed and we know the date in 1588 when Tarlton died (3 September). He died suddenly, perhaps of the plague, in London (Shoreditch?), which suggests that the touring season was over and potentially Tarlton and the troupe were back performing in London venues. I think we can also surmise that the Queen’s Men were “based” (meaning that they lived and performed primarily) in London, so tours would have begun and ended there. I do remember reading somewhere that Tarlton owned an inn in the country as well as the two in London – was it on the tour route?

Another map to consider is one of London, incorporating places referred to specifically in the Jests (the Strand, Greenwich, Fleet Street, various palaces and dwellings of the nobility where Tarlton performed, the inn and ordinary he owned) to determine what patterns of movement emerge. Are there specific areas of the City he was more likely to frequent? Can we make sense – does it matter – how he got from place to place?

I need to finish transcribing the Jests so that they’re laid out and read to move to the next phase (glossing terms from the OED) – and I really need to consider if I’m going to break the three sections into three wiki pages (I think I will). But the geo-spatial mapping aspects of the project are going to be very important and I need to at least address them in some way soon. If I can suss out one year’s worth of touring data to show what such mapping might begin to demonstrate, it will be helpful.

Onward.

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