The Records of Early English Drama (REED) series aims to establish the context for the great drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries by examining the historical manuscripts that provide external evidence of drama, secular music, and other communal entertainment and ceremony from the Middle Ages until Puritan legislation closed the London theatres in 1642. REED's sixteenth collection, Kent: Diocese of Canterbury contains the evidence of dramatic, musical, and ceremonial activity in the city of Canterbury and in the towns and parishes of the diocese of Canterbury, taken from the borough records, parish records, civil and ecclesiastical court records, and from personal papers such as wills, diaries, and letters. This collection includes over 4,000 payments to travelling players from the earliest recorded payment in 1272, when the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, paid for entertainment on the feast day of St Thomas Becket, to the last recorded payment in 1641 in Puritan Canterbury for players not to play.
It also features the Canterbury marching watch with pageants, including the pageant of St Thomas Becket; the New Romney passion play; numerous visits of nobility and royalty to Faversham, Canterbury, and Dover, being the main stops along Watling Street between London and the Continent; the activities of waits, drummers, and other civic musicians in the ancient towns and cities of Kent; and extensive evidence from court cases, borough ordinances, and chamberlains' payments of the suppression of dramatic activity during the Puritan years of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As with all the REED volumes, Kent Diocese of Canterbury is transcribed from the original sources, edited, and presented with explanatory notes, translations, and a general introduction. The resulting volume forms the largest collections thus far in the REED series.