This essay considers a critical moment in Chester’s premodern dramatic history. In summer 1578, the Shepherds pageant, formerly produced by the Painters and Glaziers Company within the town’s cycle of religious plays, was revived as part of a three-part civic spectacle honoring Henry Stanley, the Earl of Derby. This performance is reconstructed to show how, well after Reformed religion had become entrenched in England, Catholic expressive forms might function in novel ways within civic space, simultaneously supporting authoritative regimes, inspiring new collaborations, and reanimating older religious practices. In this first significant afterlife for the Chester plays, the 1578 staging of the Shepherds, framed by a Terence play and a series of outdoor “triumphs,” placed the pageant in a unique configuration of performances highlighting the intertwined interests of Earl Henry, the Painters, and the city of Chester. In staging intergenerational masculine fellowship on several levels, the performance may also have spoken back against the Puritan view that Chester’s “popish” cycle had been extirpated.

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