Monday, March 6, 2017


From an introduction to the Period of Webster's Duchess of Malfi:

The English Renaissance Theater Period has many names but runs from the seemingly stable Elizabethan monarchy to the astonishing execution of an anointed king.

The breakdown generally is:
1. Elizabethan: 1562-1603
2. Jacobean: 1603-1625
3. Caroline 1625-1642

The  main influences in the Period are Seneca, the History Plays of the 1530s, and the Morality Plays, the latter with strong allegorical elements with Vice opposing Virtue, an emphasis upon Catholic beliefs, the sacraments and good works.
Deceit was a specific dramatic component.
Post-Reformation the plays emphasized salvation through Protestant theology and vice was usually Catholicism, often embedded in Catholic religious.
It was a time of significant artistic achievement, a time of Shakespeare, Milton and Donne. Phillip Sydney, Spencer and Bacon. Chapman translated Homer. The King James Bible was written.

Society was changing. In 1582 Drake circumnavigated the globe--and survived. The Armada was defeated in 1588.
And the population changed; it doubled. The merchant class rose at the expense of both labor and the aristocracy. The Protestant Reformation was too much for some, not enough for others.

Drama was a cauldron of activity. Revengers stalked the stage to resolve circumstances not of their making, to reestablish order and norms.
Ennobling tragic struggle had slipped away, leaving all the terror but none of the pity. The hero became the victim of the basest of human qualities; antagonists had no redeeming values other than persistence. Even the hero's friends were poor men without a Horatio or a Kent among them.
The institutions were a reflection of the antagonists.
Conflict and chaos echoed throughout--in the Duchess' case, even from the grave.

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