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ELIZABETHAN THEATRE. Development of the Elizabethan Theatre. Protestant Reformation Tudor Pageantry Medieval Stagecraft Renaissance Learning and Ideas. The Tudors. Victorious in the Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor defeated Richard III, married Anne of York, and became Henry VII .

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development of the elizabethan theatre
Development of the Elizabethan Theatre
  • Protestant Reformation
  • Tudor Pageantry
  • Medieval Stagecraft
  • Renaissance Learning and Ideas
the tudors
The Tudors

Victorious in the Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor defeated Richard III, married Anne of York, and became Henry VII

HENRY VII ---- Anne of York

Arthur -- Catherine -- HENRY VIII Margaret -- James IV Mary--

of Aragon of Scotland Louis XII of France


Henry VII


Henry VIII


Edward VI


Lady Jane Grey


Mary I


Elizabeth I


the protestant reformation
The Protestant Reformation
  • In order to marry Anne Boleyn, Henry requested an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon from the Pope – he was refused.
  • 1531 Parliament recognized Henry VIII as head of the English Church.
  • Edward VI (ruled 1547-53) and Archbishop Cranmer transformed the Church of England into a thoroughly Protestant Church: Calvinistic
  • Queen Mary (ruled 1553-58) reimposed Catholicism on the English Church – Bloody Mary
  • Elizabeth (ruled 1558-1603) worked out a compromise church that retained as much as possible from the Catholic church while putting into place most of the foundational ideas of Protestantism.
  • Mystery and Morality plays were outlawed as they taught Roman Catholic doctrine  
1588 defeat of the spanish armada
1588: Defeat of the Spanish Armada
  • The disgrace to Spain greatly damaged its prestige
  • England's star was on the rise.
  • Elizabeth took the defeat of the Armada as a sign of divine blessing
  • English patriotism and devotion to the Queen soared to its greatest heights, shown in part by a profusion of literature that included Shakespeare's first plays--patriotic histories of the English monarchy.
tudor pageantry
Tudor Pageantry
  • A hybrid dramatic form of literature, ritual, and politics,
  • Royal entries and aristocratic entertainments -- fashionable literary forms were turned to the service of national propaganda
    • Pageants
    • Parades
    • Masques
  • Composed by the bright young men who haunted the court in hopes of securing political office.

Full of spectacle: music, dance, elaborate

staging, fireworks

influence of medieval theatre
Influence of Medieval Theatre
  • Eager audience
  • Established tradition of theatre and actors
    • Mixing of high seriousness and low comedy
    • Pagan remnants: fairies and sprites
    • Feast of Fools
    • Humanistic debates
medieval concepts of tragedy de casibus tragedies of fortune
Medieval Concepts of TragedyDe casibus: tragedies of fortune
  • Tragedy is less the result of individual action than a reflection of the inevitable turning of Fortune's wheel.
  • Fortune, traditionally female because of the association of women with the moon and changeability, has two faces, one benign, one severe.
feast of fools
Feast of Fools
  • Held between Christmas and Epiphany, particularly on New Year's Day
  • The ruling idea of the feast was the reversal of status.
  • The celebrations were relics of the ancient ceremonies of birth and renewal which took place at New Year and involved a temporary overturning of all values.
  • The Ass, a widespread feature of the festival, was a mixture of Celtic, Roman and Christian traditions, for the Ass is at once a relic of ancient magical cults, a fertility symbol, a symbol of strength and the epitome of stupidity.
  • Rebirth of Classical knowledge and ideals
  • Roman theatre as model
  • Humanistic Ideas
  • Universities
    • Oxford
    • Cambridge
    • Inns of Court
influence of roman theatre
Influence of Roman Theatre
  • 5 act structure
  • Comedy: Plautus and Terence
    • Plots
    • Stock characters
  • Tragedy: Seneca
    • Revenge motif
    • Irony
    • Use of ghosts
    • Violent spectacle
elizabethan stock characters
Elizabethan Stock Characters
  • Senex: old man in authority
  • Miles gloriosus: braggart soldier
  • Shrew: sharp-tongued woman
  • Clever servant
  • Machiavel: political schemer
  • “Calumniator believed” : a liar who is believed
  • Idiotes: a malcontent
  • Pedant: in love with the sound of his own didactic voice
  • Fools and clowns
early senecan tragedies
Early Senecan Tragedies
  • Gorbuduc by Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton
  • The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd
humanism from morality to chronicle
Humanism:from Morality to Chronicle
  • It was the aim of the humanists to educate those who ruled in wise and virtuous government.
  • How do you teach a king? Very tactfully . . .
  • The effectiveness of the morality play was attractive to humanists, who changed the nature of the moral from religion to political virtue without changing the techniques of the drama.
  • A natural medium for the humanists to use in educating the king, for plays were frequently performed at Court.
chronicle or history plays
Chronicle or History Plays
  • Explore the workings and legitimacy of kingship
  • What is a good King?
  • Historical exemplars (Lear, Macbeth, Julius Caesar)
  • Often turn into tragedies
university wits
University Wits
  • University-educated playwrights, noted for their erudition and clever language
  • George Peele(1556-96)
  • Thomas Lodge (1558-1625)
  • Thomas Nashe ( 1567-1601)
  • Robert Greene(1560-92): best known as first Shakespearian critic
  • John Lyly (1554-1606)
    • Wrote courtly plays for companies of child actors
    • Plots framed around elegant debates
    • Euphuistic language
christopher marlowe 1564 93
MA from Cambridge

Established blank verse as dramatic medium: “Marlowe’s mighty line”


Killed in a brawl



Dido Queen of Carthage

Dr. Faustus

Edward II

Massacre at Paris

Jew of Malta

Christopher Marlowe1564-93
ben jonson 1572 1637
Ben Jonson1572-1637
  • Educated at Westminster School -- no university but the most learned of playwrights
  • Important comedies of humor include: Every Man in His Humor, Volpone, The Alchemist, Bartholomew Fair
  • Wrote and staged court masques with Inigo Jones
  • Celebrated poet and conversationalist: “Sons of Ben”
jacobean tragedy
Jacobean Tragedy
  • A sense of defeat
  • A mood of spiritual despair
  • The theme of insanity, of man pressed beyond the limit of endurance
  • Moral confusion ("fair is foul and foul is fair") that threatens to unbalance even the staunchest of heroes.
  • This sinister tendency came to a climax about 1605 and was in part a consequence of the anxiety surrounding the death of Queen Elizabeth I and the accession of James I.
  • While the Elizabethans affirned life, the Jacobeans were possessed by death.
jacobean dramatists
Jacobean Dramatists
  • John Webster (c.1580-c.1632)
  • Thomas Middleton (1580-1627)
  • Francis Beaumont (c. 1585-1616)
  • John Fletcher (1579-1625)
  • Cyril Tourneur (c.1575-1626)
  • John Ford (1586-c.1639)
acting companies
Acting Companies
  • 1590 -- 1642: approximately 20 companies of actors in London (although only 4 or 5 played in town at one time)
  • More than a hundred provincial troupes.
  • Companies usually played in London in the winter and spring and to travel in the summer when plague ravaged the city
  • Members:
    • Shareholders
    • Apprentices
    • Hired men
boy actors
Boy Actors
  • No women on the English stage in Shakespeare's day.
  • The parts of women were acted by child actors--boys whose voices had not yet changed.
  • Whole acting companies were created with child performers: the Children of the Chapel Royal, and the St. Paul's Boys. The children's companies played regularly at Court.
  • The Puritans, who disapproved of the theatre in general, were particularly scandalized by boys cross-dressing as women.
  • Largely Puritan leaders of the City of London disapproved of the theatres.
  • The Privy Council was wary of the political comment often present in topical plays.
  • Censorship under the direction of the Master of Revels was strict.
  • In 1596 the City Corporation ordered the expulsion of players from London and the closing of the inn-theatres.
  • Theatres moved across the River
types of plays
Chronicle or History Plays




Feast of Fools




Senecan Revenge

De casibus -- turn of Fortune

Fatal flaw


far-away adventures

Any combination of the above

Types of Plays

“The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, hisotry, pastoral,pastoral-comical, histoircal-pastoral, tragical historical, scene individable or poem unlimited.” -- Hamlet

william shakespeare april 23 1564 april 23 1616
William ShakespeareApril 23, 1564-April 23, 1616
  • Born in Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Married Anne Hathaway in 1582 at age of 18
  • 3 children: Susanna (1583) and Hamnet and Judith (1585)
  • 1585-92: “the lost years”
  • 1595 record of membership in Lord Chamberlain’s Men
early works prior to 1594

Venus and Adonis,

The Rape of Lucrece,


Plautine Comedy:

A Comedy of Errors

Courtly Comedy:

Two Gentlemen of Verona

Farcical/problem Comedy:

The Taming of the Shrew

History Plays:

Henry VI: 1,2,and 3

Richard III

Senecan Revenge Tragedy:

Titus Andronicus

Romantic Tragedy:

Romeo and Juliet

Early Works: prior to 1594
lord chamberlain s men
Lord Chamberlain’s Men
  • Originally formed under the patronage of Lord Strange, but when he died in 1594, the players found a patron in Henry Carey, the Lord Cahmberlain.
  • Performed at the Theatre and the Curtain
  • 1599 moved to the newly built Globe. By 1600 they had emerged as the leading theatrical company in London
  • 1603 became the King's Men under a royal patent from James I. The company continued successfully until the Puritans closed the theatres in 1642.
the globe
The Globe
  • Built by the Burbages in 1598 for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men
  • Burned down in 1613 during production of Henry VIII
  • Rebuilt 1614
theatre interiors
Theatre Interiors

Blackfriars Theatre

Sketch of the Swan Theatre

popular success 1595 1600

Love’s Labour’s Lost

A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream

Much Ado About Nothing

As You Like It

Twelfth Night

The Merchant of Venice

Merry Wives of Windsor


King John

Richard II

Henry IV: 1,2

Henry V


Julius Caesar


Popular Success: 1595-1600
a darker vision 1601 1607
A Darker Vision: 1601-1607
  • Problem Plays:
    • All’s Well That Ends Well
    • Measure for Measure
    • Troilus and Cressida
  • Tragedies:
    • Othello
    • King Lear
    • Macbeth
    • Antony and Cleopatra
    • Coriolanus
final works 1608 1612
Final Works: 1608-1612
  • Tragedy: Timon of Athens
  • Romances:
    • Cymbeline
    • Pericles
    • The Winter’s Tale
    • The Tempest
  • Collaborations with John Fletcher:
    • Henry VIII
    • Two Noble Kinsmen

Shakespeare was buried on April 25, 1616 in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, where he had been baptised just over 52 years earlier

    • Good friend for Jesus sake forbearTo dig the dust enclosed here!Blest be the man that spares these stones,And curst be he that moves my bones
first folio 1623
First Folio: 1623
  • The first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays.
  • Included thirty-six plays, eighteen of which had never been published before
  • The editors of the volume, Shakespeare's fellow actors John Heminge and Henry Condell, arranged the plays in three genres: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.