Internet Shakespeare Editions


The Office of the Revels

The main duty of the Master of the Revels was the organization of court festivities and entertainment: to obtain materials and craftsmen for props, wardrobe, and sets, to keep a detailed inventory of all Revels Office property, and to keep track of all accounts. The accounts offer some of the most detailed information from the period about costumes and stage properties.

The Revels Office controlled and censored all plays and masques presented at Court: "calling together. . . sundry players and perusing, fitting and reforming their matters (otherwise not convenient to be shown before her Majesty)"--and in due course the Master of the Revels became the censor of all plays to be performed or printed elsewhere.

Child actors at court

For many years, especially in the earlier part of Elizabeth's reign, one of the major companies of child actors--the Children of the Chapel Royal--were under the control of the Revels Office. In the late 1580s, however, the children seem to have become involved in political matters, and for a time they were disbanded.

They regained public interest at about the time of the "War of the Theatres," when Shakespeare mentions them, somewhat disparagingly, in Hamlet.