Teaching Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay: Essay Evaluations

Para1These comments on selected exemplary essays were written by the course teaching assistant and published here (without the grade) with the permission of both students and TA.1

Hailey (played Bavarian Hostess)

Para2This essay presents a thorough and engaging description of how your group worked together to present a scene from Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. In particular, you do an excellent job of explaining the scholarly materials that informed your group’s perspective on the scene—a perspective that came through very effectively in the performance itself. While you effectively present these critical ideas, however, there are a number of points in your essay where I would have liked to see some more explanation of how, specifically, these ideas affected the choices you made in your performance. At times this is well done (for example, in your discussion of the idea that Burden has contracted syphilis, and his possible links with German Black Magic), but there are other points, indicated in my written comments, I was left wondering how these ideas translated into the decisions your group arrived at (for example, why you chose the specific representation of the Brazen Head you did, or how, specifically, you worked to engage the audience as per Maus’s emphasis on the importance of the spectator to the play). Also, while you present a fairly detailed record of the rehearsal process, I would have liked to read more about which group members contributed which ideas; as well, more about how these ideas evolved through the rehearsal process. You explain how this process happened, but do not give me any of the details of it, which is what I want to hear! Also, there are a number of mistakes in your use of class style (indicated in my written comments) and some errors in spelling and capitalization that work to distract from the ideas you are discussing. That said, I thought that your reflections on how your character functions as a key aspect of the scene (and on how your representation of her supported this position while leading you to a deeper understanding of the play as a whole) were very astute and thoughtfully presented. Well done!

Alana (played Mason/Clement)

Para3This paper presents a thorough and engaging description of the ways that your group worked together to present a scene from Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. You do a particularly great job of describing the rehearsal process, with a focus on how the rehearsals took shape, how different people contributed ideas (and how those ideas were ultimately presented in performance) and what difficulties and problems cropped up during this process. The level of detail and honesty in this part of your paper are impressive. Another strength of this paper is the careful way you explain the rationale behind the choices your group made in your preparations for the performance—your essay clearly shows that decisions about costumes, blocking, props, and characterization came from an informed and thoughtful place. You do not spend as much time on the research portion of your project, however—while you briefly reference a couple of articles and another performance of the play, you do not deal with any more of the articles on your bibliography. What you have written in relation to the scholarship you engage with is great, but I would have liked to see more about how this research contributed to your group’s interpretation of the scene and, as such, to your performance choices. In general, the essay could have used more of a focus on what this overarching interpretive concept was—your essay is supposed to have a thesis that incorporates this interpretive view, but it doesn’t, and perhaps as a result it’s sometimes difficult to make out how the choices you reference contribute to a larger vision of what the scene means or expresses. This is not to say that I can’t make out this interpretive concept at all, but simply that if it were more clearly and emphatically expressed, your essay would be stronger and more cohesive. That said, I really enjoyed your reflections on how your representation of Clement/Mason was carefully conceived to demonstrate his inferiority as a scholar. I’m glad you were able to make it through an experience that was so challenging for you—your group did an excellent job, and you should be proud!

Justin Nusca (played Friar Bacon)

Para4This thorough and well-written paper offers an engaging description of how your group worked to present a scene from Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. This essay does a fantastic job of explaining the overarching interpretive concept for the scene and for your character, showing both the research that contributed to your group’s view of the scene, and how the choices you made with regards to the performance itself worked in service of this view. I was particularly impressed with your discussion of the scholarship you referenced, and how you grappled with this scholarship in order to come up with a cohesive and powerful performance concept. Though you give a good deal of attention to the rehearsal process, and how ideas evolved from rehearsal to performance, one thing this essay lacks is a focus on who, specifically, contributed which ideas. At times you reference individual contributions, but most of your essay is rather general in this regard—and the assignment guidelines did ask you to be specific about such contributions. That said, your focus on your own character was thoughtful and astute, and clearly demonstrated how the time and thought put into the conception of this character before the performance contributed to an effective and engaging representation of the scene.

Grant Winestock (played Burden)

Para5This paper offers a fascinating consideration of the character Burden in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay—rather than rendering him secondary to Bacon, as the scene itself (and much scholarship) does, your essay demonstrates how this character is a complex one that works to highlight both the positive and negative aspects of Bacon’s character while himself representing a new, modern kind of understanding of the world. Linking this character and scene to the play as a whole, you show how Burden, while largely an unsavoury character, is a key figure in the audience’s understanding of Bacon’s flaws, and his eventual repentance. One thing I found a bit confusing, though, was your treatment of nationalism and German influence in the scene and in the play. You argue that by linking Burden to a German paramour, his integrity is called into question (thereby supporting Bacon’s obsessive interest in the wall of brass) but at the same time claim that Burden is contemptuous of what Germany represents—magic and superstition, something linked to Bacon. You also claim that Burden’s interest in a German woman makes him more open-minded and modern than Bacon. These ideas are all very interesting, but I felt that they were very complicated and sometimes a bit at odds with each other—and they were certainly a bit too complex to come through effectively in performance. That said, your discussion of how Burden acts as a reprimanding father-figure to the naive and childlike Bacon (and Miles) was excellent, and demonstrated how your group’s careful thought and research contributed to an effective and engaging performance. I also thought your discussion of how Burden is aligned with modernity and Bacon with the medieval was really excellent, and this idea was well-expressed through the associated performance choices you reference. Your incorporation of scholarship into the essay demonstrates how your group’s view of the scene evolved from a careful consideration of these sources, as well as the ideas that group members contributed. One thing the essay lacked, however, was more emphasis on which group members contributed which ideas—at times you reference specific contributions, but more often you simply state that the group as a whole decided to incorporate a certain concept without indicating where the idea originally came from (the assignment guidelines did ask you to be specific about such contributions). Overall, though, this was an excellent consideration of the performance, and of how your character in particular contributed to your group’s view of the scene, and of the play as a whole.


1.Despite an excellent audience reception and superb performances from all 5 students in this group, Jamilla (the Theatre student who played Miles) did not submit the final essay, having decided earlier to drop the course, but without leaving her group in the lurch. Her integrity was much appreciated.


Helen Ostovich

Helen Ostovich, professor emerita of English at McMaster University, is the founder and general editor of Queen’s Men Editions. She is a general editor of The Revels Plays (Manchester University Press); Series Editor of Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama (Ashgate, now Routledge), and series co-editor of Late Tudor and Stuart Drama (MIP); play-editor of several works by Ben Jonson, in Four Comedies: Ben Jonson (1997); Every Man Out of his Humour (Revels 2001); and The Magnetic Lady (Cambridge 2012). She has also edited the Norton Shakespeare 3 The Merry Wives of Windsor Q1602 and F1623 (2015); The Late Lancashire Witches and A Jovial Crew for Richard Brome Online, revised for a 4-volume set from OUP 2021; The Ball, for the Oxford Complete Works of James Shirley (2021); The Merry Wives of Windsor for Internet Shakespeare Editions, and The Dutch Courtesan (with Erin Julian) for the Complete Works of John Marston, OUP 2022. She has published many articles and book chapters on Jonson, Shakespeare, and others, and several book collections, most recently Magical Transformations of the Early Modern English Stage with Lisa Hopkins (2014), and the equivalent to book website, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context containing scripts, glossary, almost fifty conference papers edited and updated to essays; video; link to Queenʼs Mens Ediitons and YouTube: http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/index.htm, 2015. Recently, she was guest editor of Strangers and Aliens in London ca 1605, Special Issue on Marston, Early Theatre 23.1 (June 2020). She can be contacted at ostovich@mcmaster.ca.

Janelle Jenstad

Janelle Jenstad is a Professor of English at the University of Victoria, Director of The Map of Early Modern London, and Director of Linked Early Modern Drama Online. With Jennifer Roberts-Smith and Mark Kaethler, she co-edited Shakespeare’s Language in Digital Media: Old Words, New Tools (Routledge). She has edited John Stow’s A Survey of London (1598 text) for MoEML and is currently editing The Merchant of Venice (with Stephen Wittek) and Heywood’s 2 If You Know Not Me You Know Nobody for DRE. Her articles have appeared in Digital Humanities Quarterly, Elizabethan Theatre, Early Modern Literary Studies, Shakespeare Bulletin, Renaissance and Reformation, and The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. She contributed chapters to Approaches to Teaching Othello (MLA); Teaching Early Modern Literature from the Archives (MLA); Institutional Culture in Early Modern England (Brill); Shakespeare, Language, and the Stage (Arden); Performing Maternity in Early Modern England (Ashgate); New Directions in the Geohumanities (Routledge); Early Modern Studies and the Digital Turn (Iter); Placing Names: Enriching and Integrating Gazetteers (Indiana); Making Things and Drawing Boundaries (Minnesota); Rethinking Shakespeare Source Study: Audiences, Authors, and Digital Technologies (Routledge); and Civic Performance: Pageantry and Entertainments in Early Modern London (Routledge). For more details, see janellejenstad.com.

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is LEMDO’s Consulting Programmer and Designer, a role he assumed in 2020 after three years as the Lead Developer on LEMDO.

Kate LeBere

Project Manager, 2020–2021. Assistant Project Manager, 2019–2020. Textual Remediator and Encoder, 2019–2021. Kate LeBere completed her BA (Hons.) in History and English at the University of Victoria in 2020. During her degree she published papers in The Corvette (2018), The Albatross (2019), and PLVS VLTRA (2020) and presented at the English Undergraduate Conference (2019), Qualicum History Conference (2020), and the Digital Humanities Summer Institute’s Project Management in the Humanities Conference (2021). While her primary research focus was sixteenth and seventeenth century England, she completed her honours thesis on Soviet ballet during the Russian Cultural Revolution. She is currently a student at the University of British Columbia’s iSchool, working on her masters in library and information science.

Martin Holmes

Martin Holmes has worked as a developer in the UVicʼs Humanities Computing and Media Centre for over two decades, and has been involved with dozens of Digital Humanities projects. He has served on the TEI Technical Council and as Managing Editor of the Journal of the TEI. He took over from Joey Takeda as lead developer on LEMDO in 2020. He is a collaborator on the SSHRC Partnership Grant led by Janelle Jenstad.

Navarra Houldin

Project manager 2022-present. Textual remediator 2021-present. Navarra Houldin (they/them) completed their BA in History and Spanish at the University of Victoria in 2022. During their degree, they worked as a teaching assistant with the University of Victoriaʼs Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies. Their primary research was on gender and sexuality in early modern Europe and Latin America.

Peter Cockett

Peter Cockett is an associate professor in the Theatre and Film Studies at McMaster University. He is the general editor (performance), and technical co-ordinating editor of Queen’s Men Editions. He was the stage director for the Shakespeare and the Queen’s Men project (SQM), directing King Leir, The Famous Victories of Henry V, and Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (2006) and he is the performance editor for our editions of those plays. The process behind those productions is documented in depth on his website Performing the Queen’s Men. Also featured on this site are his PAR productions of Clyomon and Clamydes (2009) and Three Ladies of London (2014). For the PLS, the University of Toronto’s Medieval and Renaissance Players, he has directed the Digby Mary Magdalene (2003) and the double bill of George Peele’s The Old Wives Tale and the Chester Antichrist (2004). He also directed An Experiment in Elizabethan Comedy (2005) for the SQM project and Inside Out: The Persistence of Allegory (2008) in collaboration with Alan Dessen. Peter is a professional actor and director with numerous stage and screen credits. He can be contacted at cockett@mcmaster.ca.



The LEMDO Team is based at the University of Victoria and normally comprises the project director, the lead developer, project manager, junior developers(s), remediators, encoders, and remediating editors.

QME Editorial Board (QMEB1)

The QME Editorial Board consists of Helen Ostovich, General Editor; Peter Cockett, General Editor (Performance); and Andrew Griffin, General Editor (Text), with the support of an Advisory Board.

Queenʼs Men Editions (QME1)

The Queen’s Men Editions anthology is led by Helen Ostovich, General Editor; Peter Cockett, General Editor (Performance); and Andrew Griffin, General Editor (Text).