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					    DRAMA
IN THE ELIZABETHAN
        AGE
• During the reign of
  Elizabeth I, drama
  became the truly
  nation literary
  manifestation of the
  time for different
  reasons:
• 1 the theatres were open to everybody,
  and admission prices were relatively low
• 2 plays could be understood even by
  people who were unable to read and write
• 3 the language used was more alive and
  direct than that of poetry and prose
• 4 a new interest in classical drama had
  been introduced by Humanism
• In the Elizabethan theatre
  the view of the world was
  still based on the idea of
  social order in imitation of
  the divine order.
• The Elizabethan “hero”
  full of passions and
  doubts, however,replaced
  the old allegorical
  character and the
  relationship between the
  laws of man and those of
  nature were emphasized.
• Storms and other phenomena symbolising
  disharmony and chaos in the universe
  were presented as a consequence or
  presage of criminal actions which brought
  chaos and anarchy to society
• Even the language was affected by the concept
  of hierarchy.
• The monarch was often compared to the sun or
  to a lion to stress not only his power, but also his
  unique, irreplaceable role.
• Language was in verse and not in prose.
• The use of metaphors was widespread and
  unlike the French and Italian plays of the time,
  which were mostly written to be read, the
  English ones were written to be performed and
  required actors’ great verbal skill.
 STRUCTURE OF THEATRES
• In 1576 James
  Burbage built the first
  permanent theatre
  outside the walls of
  the City of London.
• Before that year,
  actors had no stable
  home and acted in
  the halls of the
  noblemen’s houses,
  in royal palaces or at
  the inns of Court.
• Permanent theatres
  were circular or
  octagonal
• Within the outer walls
  there were three tiers
  of roofed galleries,
  looking down on the
  stage and the yard
  were the poor
  spectators stood
• Most of the action
  took place on a
  roofed stage (outer or
  apron stage).
• Behind the stage
  there was an inner
  stage hidden by a
  curtain (when it
  wasn’t used). The
  inner stage was the
  place for smaller
  scenes such as
  Juliet’s tomb in
  “Romeo and Juliet”.
• Over the back of the
  outer stage there was
  a third space:upper
  stage used by
  musicians or to
  represent a balcony
  or the walls of a town.
• Characters entered
  and disappeared
  through two doors on
  either sides of the
  curtain, or through a
  trap-door opening on
  the floor of the outer
  apron
• There was very little
  scenery. Simple
  objects were enough
  to symbolise a place
  or the role of an actor:
  so a table stood for a
  room, a bud in a vase
  for a forest, and a
  crown for a king.
• Plays were acted in daylight. They began
  at two o’clock in the afternoon and lasted
  for little more than two hours. To go and
  stand in the yard cost one penny; to sit in
  one of the galleries two pennies. The
  nobles or those who could afford up to 12
  pence could sit on the stage, while the
  “groundlings” gathered around its three
  open sides.
• Actors were very well trained professionals, able
  to play more than one role, skilled in dancing
  and fencing.
• Women weren’t allowed on the stage, they were
  replaced by boy-actors.
• All the actors had to have a patron, whom they
  usually found among the nobles or in the person
  of the queen herself.
• These patrons often gave their names to the
  company they sponsored.
•    The Elizabethan theatre was the product of a perfect
     fusion of traditional and classical elements. Plautus
     influenced comedy while Seneca influenced tragedy.
•    (the revenge theme, sanguinary plots, bloody
     scenes,the presence of ghosts, long monologues)
•    In the Elizabethan tragedies however there was:
1.    no observance of the three unities (space – time –
     action)
2.   a mixture of tragic and comic elements in the same
     play
3.   a deep moral conflict between good and evil.
     THE UNIVERSITY WITS
• The Golden Age of the Elizabethan
  Theatre coincided with the dramatic
  production of playwrights with a university
  education from Oxford and Cambridge
  grouped under the name of the university
  wits. The greatest of them was
  Christopher Marlowe.
   The Tragical
    History of
   Christopher
      Marlowe
February 1564-May 30, 1593
• Born in Canterbury, son of a shoemaker
• Studied at Canterbury thanks to a scholarship
  and took his B.A.1583.
• Became a secret agent for the Queen. (?)
• After leaving Canterbury, he went to live in
  London where he shared a room with Thomas
  Kyd (one of the University wits) and joined a
  group of intellectuals, led by sir Walter Raleigh,
  who met to debate philosophy and religion
• Accused of murder, he was imprisoned but soon
  released.
• Marlowe’s dissolute life, atheism and
  freethinking made him dangerous in the eyes of
  the Privy Council who decided to arrest him.
  Before he could be arrested, however, Marlowe
  was killed. On 30th May 1593, he was stabbed
  to death in a tavern brawl and it is believed that
  his death was not accidental, but “planned” for
  political reasons.
• It is said that Marlowe was an atheist, a
  rebel,a spy, a dangerous and unreliable
  person. But he was also a scholar, a keen
  observer and interpreter of his time, well
  acquainted with court intrigues, the evil
  and the suffering of the human soul and
  the inner conflicts of people wavering
  between Protestantism and Catholicism.
                  Works
• During his short life, he wrote five dramatic
  works:
• Tamburlaine the Great (1586-87)
• Doctor Faustus (1588-89)
• The Jew of Malta (1590)
• Edward II (1591)
• Dido, Queen of Carthage (1593)
• Translations from Ovid and Lucan
• Poems: The Passionate Shepherd and the
  unfinished Hero and Leander
                      Themes
His plays embody the true spirit of the Renaissance,
     concentrating on man as opposed to God. The most
     important themes are:
•    the thirst for power which can be reached through
     political greatness, unlimited knowledge or immense
     wealth
•    Rebellion against restrictive institutions
•    Unlimited ambition
•    The final sense of solitude which overcomes the tragic
     hero when he realizes that unlimited power is
     unattainable.
                  Features
• Marlowe’s works represent a departure from the
  didactic spirit of the Morality Plays and his
  characters are no longer personifications of
  virtues or vices, but are enriched by human
  passions and faults.
• He improved blank verse
• He gave unity and form to the drama: initial
  search for power – ambition – destruction; these
  were no longer isolated scenes but formed the
  complete parabola of a man’s life
• Language rich in hyperbole
• He was the first writer to interpret the
  discovery of the New World in
  philosophical terms. For Marlowe America
  was not so much “conquest” or
  “colonization”, but a new spirit of freedom.
  It was the symbol of the limitless power of
  man and of new horizons open to
  knowledge.
             Doctor Faustus
• It deals with power through knowledge,wheras
  Tamburlaine the Great deals with physical and
  political power.
• The plot was not invented but taken from the
  real history of a reputed German magician,
  Georg or Johannes Faustus, who lived at the
  beginning of the 16 century and whose
  biography was translated into English under the
  title of The Historie of the Damnable Life and
  Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus.
• Marlowe was fascinated
  by this story and decided
  to transform Faustus from
  a necromancer into a
  scholar and theologian
  who, dissatisfied with the
  scientific methods of his
  time, turns to magic. To
  obtain full power he sells
  his soul to the devil in
  return for 24 years of
  pleasure and
  supernatural knowledge.
• As time passes, however, he
  becomes more and more
  aware of the emptiness of his
  bargain: he is still just a man
  bound to die and the only
  reality is now damnation. In his
  final soliloquy, at the
  completion of 24
  years,overcome by fear and
  remorse, he expresses his
  despair and mental agony, but
  it is too late because a host of
  devils appears and carries his
  soul off to hell.
             A Morality Play?
• Doctor Faustus is often regarded as a Morality
  Play,but it is different from the medieval play
  Everyman where Death is a character, God is
  vindictive and the only life possible to reach
  eternal salvation is the one leading to death.
  Faustus does not believe in predestination and
  life after death; according to him theology and
  philosophy (Medieval and Renaissance thought)
  are too restrictive and the only means to fulfil his
  ambitions is a pact with Mephistopheles.
           A “self-made man”
• Faustus reflects the ambition and the
  restlessness of the Renaissance man, who is
  still linked to medieval culture but wants to be
  the maker of his own destiny.
• Faustus is an intelligent learned man tragically
  seduced by a rational power greater than he
  was mortally meant to have. The character of
  Doctor Faustus is, an ideal of humanism, but
  Marlowe shows him to be damned, thus
  satirizing the ideals of Renaissance Humanism.
• Faustus’s downfall is linked to the fact that
  he is and will always be human – thus
  flawed and corrupt.

				
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