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Women of the upper classes in early modern England were expected to have proficiency in music and dance. These ornamental skills were a sign of ‘accomplishment’ and were useful commodities to possess on the marriage market. As early as the late sixteenth century, entrepreneurial proprietors had opened boarding schools to provide instruction in these arts. This paper discusses who typically ran these boarding schools and reconstructs the types of training the girls received, drawing on school records, letters, and newspaper advertisements. Gleaning evidence from surviving manuscript and printed librettos and plays as well as musical scores associated with schoolgirl performance, I then consider how these entertainments showcased ‘accomplishment’, as girls performed before audiences of parents, potential suitors, and other spectators. Finally, I consider the class-related and sexual anxieties that sometimes emerged as daughters of noblemen and well-to-do merchants received instruction from and sometimes performed with occupational musicians and dancing masters.

Professor Amanda Eubanks Winkler is Chair of the Department of Art and Music Histories and Professor of Music History and Cultures at Syracuse University. She is a cultural historian and musicologist whose research focuses on English music of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and twentieth centuries. Her publications include O Let Us Howle Some Heavy Note: Music for Witches, the Melancholic, and the Mad on the Seventeenth-Century English Stage (Indiana UP, 2006); Music, Dance, and Drama in Early Modern English Schools (Cambridge UP, 2020); two editions of Restoration-era theatre music; and, with Linda Austern and Candace Bailey, an essay collection Beyond Boundaries: Rethinking Music Circulation in Early Modern England (Indiana UP, 2017). She was a long-term fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library and from 2017-2020 she was the Co-Investigator with Richard Schoch on Performing Restoration Shakespeare, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, UK. Her most recent book, co-authored with Schoch, is Shakespeare in the Theatre: Sir William Davenant and the Duke’s Company (Arden Shakespeare/Bloomsbury, 2021).


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