Winerock, Emily. "“The Heaven’s True Figure” or an “Introit to All Kind of Lewdness”?: Competing Conceptions of Dancing in Shakespeare’s England." In The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Dance, edited by Lynsey McCulloch and Brandon Shaw, 21-47. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press, 2019.
There are no extant English dancing manuals from the Shakespearean period, but there are abundant printed and manuscript sources that mention dancing. However, these sources convey mixed messages. The theoretical conceptions articulated by dance’s opponents and proponents in the “debate on dance” do not always correspond well with the evidence of customary practices. While early modern religious treatises decry dancing for encouraging illicit sexual liaisons, court records reveal a greater concern with irreverence and disorder than with wantonness. This chapter utilizes both qualitative and quantitative methods to examine a variety of primary sources—from conduct manuals and anti- dance treatises to consistory court depositions. Aggregating archival evidence elucidates general trends that can help scholars assess and contextualize isolated dance references, specific moments of dancing, and the dance scenes and stage directions of Shakespeare’s plays and those of his contemporaries.