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A Renaissance Reading List:

Being a Partial Catalog of those Texts Necessary to
the Proper Education of the Festival Performer, Arranged by Subject.

History and Shakespeare

Shakespeare Alive By Joseph Papp and Elizabeth Kirkland. Bantam, 1988.
A book all about everyday life in Elizabethan England. Much of the information regarding the common folk is universal to any period. This was my bible when I was just starting out, and I have given more copies of this book to friends than almost any other.

The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Renaissance England, By Kathy Lynn Emerson. Writer’s Digest Books, 1996.
Tidbits galore about all aspects of daily life!

Elizabethan Life in Town and Country, By Muriel St. Clare Byrne. Barnes & Noble, 1961.
The title says it all. Out of print, alas, but fairly common in used-book shops.

The Lisle Letters ed. By Muriel St. Clare Byrne. Penguin, 1981.
This is a collection of letters from the 1530’s and 1540’s. Wonderful both for getting a sense of both the language and the time.

Freeing Shakespeare's Voice by Kristin Linklater. Theatre Communications Group, 1992.
Primarily a guide to speaking the text in Shakespeare, this book is nevertheless valuable to us for its analysis of verbal techniques used in period English.

Historical Novels

Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman. Trophy Newberry, 1994.
Diary of a medieval girl.

The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman. Trophy, 1995.
Story of a beggar girl who is taken in by a midwife.

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray. Viking Press, 1953.
The story of a minstrel’s son.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.*
Depiction of the Merchant classes and their interaction with the church.

The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George. Ballantine Books, 1986.
A fictional journal of Henry VIII.

I am Mary Tudor by Hilda Lewis.
Another fictional autobiography, this time of Henry’s eldest daughter. Excellent for day-to-day noble life, and for the conflicts of the Reformation.

I, Elizabeth, by Rosalind Miles
Still another fictional autobiography. This one is about (who else?) Elizabeth I.

Nicholas Cooke by Stephanie Cowell. W. W. Norton and Co., 1993.*
An excellent depiction of life in Elizabethan and Jacobean London. Fabulous for language!

My Brother, My Rival, by Richard Burton.
Hard to find, but worth the hunt. A novel told from the perspective of a fictional younger brother of William Shakespeare.

* Recommended for mature readers.

Costume Books

Patterns of Fashion by Janet Arnold.
This is a set of patterns made from study of actual garments. Lots of picture and Period images, too. Great Stuff!

Elizabethan Costuming by Janet Winter and Carolyn Savoy.
This is one of the first books on costuming designed specifically for Renaissance Faires, and it is still one of the best. Lots of good advice on how to make clothes, instead of mere costumes.

Tudor Costume and Fashion by Herbert Norris.
This book gives no details on how to build costumes, but it is an exhaustive source of description of Period dress in both England and France. Included are many wonderful details and illustrations.

Back to the History Page.
Back to the Costume Page.