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Drama, English: Elizabethan Drama

Author(s):G. K. Hunter Source:Encyclopedia of the Renaissance. Ed. Paul F. Grendler. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000. From World History In Context. Document Type:Topic overview Full Text: Full Text:
The two phrases most commonly used to describe the English drama of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries--Elizabethan drama and English Renaissance drama--are both unsatisfactory, for neither term fully represents the facts. Elizabeth's reign began in 1558, but not until the 1580s was there any system able to provide the public with a regular schedule of theatrical performances (interrupted only by Sundays, Lent, periods of court mourning, and the plague). And the drama continued to flourish until 1642--thirty-nine years after Elizabeth's death. Invocation of the Renaissance raises other, no less serious, problems. It is true that without the impulse to secular selfexpression created by the recovery of Greco-Roman civilization the plays thus described could not have been written; but a parallel between English popular drama, as found in the drama of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Robert Greene, Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson, Thomas Heywood, John Webster, Thomas Middleton, and John Marston, and a Renaissance drama, represented centrally by such figures as Pietro Bembo, Niccol Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Ludovico Ariosto, can only be justified if we ignore the characteristics of both parties. The Italian efflorescence was sustained by an aristocratic ambition to re-create the culture of Greece and Rome. But the English drama was essentially a bourgeois and commercial enterprise, aiming to achieve success by attracting the plaudits and pennies of the semi-educated masses. Taking these two insufficient descriptions together, in terms of their overlap and contradiction, does, however, allow us to arrive at a fair picture of the role of English performed drama in this period. The dialectic between homegrown tradition and continental innovation evident in the plays mirrors that in society at large in its mixture of parochialism and expansion, its obsession with local heritage coupled to the pleasure taken in novelty, its capacity to admire stasis and at the same time achieve radical change. The drama offered, of course, a sharpened version of the mixture. On the one hand, it endorsed the positive ethos of communitarian, anti-individualist values, piety, patriotism, and xenophobia. On the other hand, it depended for its popularity on its capacity to evoke an exciting counterculture that defied both the preachers who thundered against its immorality from their city pulpits and the civic authorities who thought the whole enterprise a seedbed of revolution and sought continuously to have it closed down. Indeed, the drama did offer a picture of life that looked socially dangerous, providing apprentices and men-about-town with a sense of the possibility of self-assertion (or of comic evasion) that was officially forbidden; yet it did so in terms that the culture in some of its aspects already endorsed.

Producing Plays
The structure of the theatrical profession was well suited to handle this paradox of contradiction inside compromise. The money required to set up commercial playhouses large enough to give a quick return on investment could only come from capitalist entrepreneurs in the city. The continually changing repertory of plays, designed to draw in a regular clientele, required, however, the collaboration of a different cohort. The humanist training provided by Renaissance schools and universities encouraged in the men they produced an intellectual expansiveness, a sense of innate capacity that was bound to be frustrated in the real world of Elizabethan social hierarchy. But university men like Marlowe, John Day, Greene, John Ford, Philip Massinger, Middleton, and perhaps also Heywood, as well as literate printers, scriveners, and journalists like Henry Chettle, Thomas Kyd, Anthony Munday, and Robert Yarrington, were able to find in playwriting not only an outlet but an income considerably beyond anything available in the standard graduate professions of schoolmaster or curate.

Writing plays for money was, however, rather shameful, and the professional playwrights were oppressed by the social disgrace of labor undertaken for wages and submitting it to the approval of an audience of artisans. Yet, as it turned out, their humanist ideals were not entirely irrelevant. Eloquence is as much approved in the street as in the senate, and no doubt these reluctant playwrights relished the opportunity to display their linguistic powers and range of learning that looks labored and arcane today, but which they managed to communicate to the public as an exuberance of linguistic fancy, an almost physical projection of intellectual energy, and so a proper coordinate of continuous physical action. In these characteristics the drama of the time fitted in beside other popular entertainments that used the same spaces and attracted the same audiences: fencing matches, bearbaiting, acrobatics (the "feats of activity" for which acting companies were often called to court). All of these were displays of energy that brought about immediate engagement between stage and audience--an engagement that can only be pallidly reproduced when the plays are understood through reading. The account book of Philip Henslowe, the financier who owned the Rose and the Fortune playhouses (as well as bear pits and brothels), gives a marvelously detailed account of the intense activity that was necessary to keep the show running. What Henslowe and the actors were promoting was not, of course, the literary careers of authors (whose names were seldom known to the public). Speed of composition, a knowledge of the acting company's strengths and weaknesses, and a keen eye for the taste of the moment seem to have been the qualities most in demand. The responsibility of the author for his creation had to be sacrificed to the need for a rapid turnover; collaboration and division of responsibilities were common. In these terms, the Elizabethan dramatist worked under conditions very like those of the modern newspaper reporter and with the modern reporter's instinct for the unstructured feelings of a popular audience. A play written in 1624 but now known only through the lawsuit it occasioned gives us our most complete understanding of the methods used to rush out a topical work. Known by three titles, The Late Murder in Whitechapel, The Late Murder of the Son upon the Mother, and Keep the Widow Waking, it deals with two recent scandals, one a domestic tragedy and the other a cruel comedy of a rich widow who is kept drunk and sleepless in a local tavern until she agrees to marry a young fortune hunter. Thomas Dekker, who appears as a regular collaborator in Henslowe's account book, seems to have been in charge of the project. It was he, presumably, who sketched the outline of the plot. He wrote the first and last acts and entrusted the rest to Ford, William Rowley, and Webster, no doubt at the rate of one act apiece. A play of this kind demanded great speed because its commercial success depended on its topicality, on local interest due to fade as soon as the next scandal came along. To drum up support, the actors performed a ballad of the comic story in the street outside the widow's house and invited spectators to come to the playhouse (the Red Bull) and see their neighbors' lives in greater detail.

Plays and Audiences

Plays like Keep the Widow Waking offered theatergoers the excitement that later ages found in newspapers, radio, and television--stories of mishap and disaster disrupting lives very like their own. But the genre of "domestic" or "homiletic" tragedy offered not only spicy details of local lives but also an ethos that is not found in later redactions, an ethos that served to place the sinners inside the community that was watching their story. Plays such as the anonymous Arden of Faversham (15891592), A Warning for Fair Women (1598-1599), and A Yorkshire Tragedy (1605-1608), and Heywood's A Woman Killed with Kindness (1603) depict crime as a sudden slippage in the even tenor of local life (an actual possession by the devil in A Yorkshire Tragedy), as an aberration that suddenly cuts off the criminal from the fellowship of a Christian society. The tragic emotion thus emerges less in the violent deed itself than in the pain of this loss of a self that belongs to the community. Hence, a story's ending in legal punishment is not a sufficient closure of the case but demands the further meaning given by repentance. Confession of guilt and acceptance of punishment (seen as a representation of God's proper vengeance) allow the community to reabsorb the criminal into Christian charity.

It seems improbable that such plays of humble life were much appreciated in the higher strata of society, but it is clear that there was considerable overlap in the tastes of court and city. The court drama of Elizabeth and James never entirely separated itself from the popular drama of London. Elizabeth's parsimony prevented her from paying for players who would perform exclusively at court. The boys' companies of the early years came as close to such exclusivity as the system allowed, but even they showed their plays also in commercial playhouses. At court they were in competition with the adult companies of the great lords who, like their mistress, were willing to patronize acting companies if their wages could be subsidized by the public at large. When, in 1583, a group of twelve actors was "selected as the best out of the companies of divers great lords" to form Queen Elizabeth's Men, their status seems to have been as grooms of the chamber without pay. Their liveries, however, served them well when they toured the country and demanded welcome from civic authorities and permission to charge the public for admission into civic spaces. There is no evidence that their repertory when they played at court differed from that of their commercial performances. The best-liked plays of the period (as judged by the number of recorded performances or republications) seem to modern taste to be without much interest--they are rarely discussed or even reprinted--but their existence can hardly be ignored in a historical survey. The anonymous A Most

Pleasant Comedy of Mucedorus, the King's Son of Valentia and Amadine the King's Daughter of Aragon, with the Merry Conceits of Mouse was probably written in the early 1590s. It was published first in 1598 ("as it hath been sundry times played in the honourable City of London"), with an epilogue that makes it clear it was performed before Elizabeth. In 1610 it was revised, given an augmented title page--"Amplified with new additions, as it was acted before the King's Majesty at Whitehall on Shrove-Sunday night"--and in this form republished fourteen times. In spite of this appeal to court-oriented tastes, the Grocer's wife in Francis Beaumont's The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1613) tells the "gentlemen" around her that Rafe, her apprentice, "hath played ... Mucedorus before the wardens of our company" (induction, 27f.). Given the bombast and mockheroics of Rafe's part in Beaumont's play, this is clearly meant to characterize Mucedorus as fodder suitable for tradesmen. Certainly it retained enough popular appeal to be selected for a sanctionbusting tour through Oxfordshire villages in 1652. Yet the lord chamberlain and the master of the revels had clearly thought it appropriate entertainment for the sovereign. What qualities in Mucedorus gave it this broad appeal? Clearly the variousness of the situations it offers must be part of the explanation. An induction introducing the revised version shows this variousness to be a self-conscious device. In it Comedy and Envy (alias Tragedy) argue for control of the stage, each claiming superior dramatic appeal. Comedy must win, for, with sovereigns as benign as Elizabeth or James, Envy cannot be expected to have success; but Comedy can only triumph after a great deal of terror and dismay. If we are looking for characteristics like those of Mucedorus, we probably find them most easily in the romances written by Shakespeare at the end of his career. Of these plays, The Late and Much Admired Play Called Pericles (1606-1608) is certainly the least admired in modern times; yet once again the historical evidence contradicts modern judgment. The modern view is that the extant text of Pericles cannot represent Shakespeare's intention at all faithfully. Yet not only is this the only play in the canon that earned itself a novelistic retelling ( The Painful Adventures of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Being the True History of the Play of Pericles by George Wilkins), but it is the only one of these late plays to be printed in quarto (four times). The episodic structure of Pericles, the stop-and-start "adventures" it offers, and its intermingling of comic and tragic emotions seem once again to provide a formula that, up to the death of Shakespeare at any rate, had power to charm all classes. A play that makes the same point but in quite different terms is Greene's Tu Quoque, or, The Cittie Gallant of 1611, the only known work of one Jo. Cooke, who is known only as the author of Greene's Tu Quoque. In this case the play is not a tissue of romantic adventures but a hardheaded examination of class conflicts in a mercantile London household. A prosperous London merchant is knighted and must give up trade. Frank Spendall, his journeyman, becomes master, lives up to his name, and is thrown into debtors prison. In a second plot another servant is ruined by unexpected wealth, which

leads him this time through foolish social aspiration to general mockery. He hires his former master (now a fallen gentleman) to teach him manners, but he is hopelessly inept. He believes that the cant phrase "Tu quoque" (the same to you) will serve him in every social situation, and it is clear from the title that the comedic actor Thomas Greene used this phrase to create memorable comedy. A 1654 commentary tells us that this was one of the plays that could deter rioting apprentices from attacking the playhouse fabric, since it "could with ease insinuate [itself] into their capacities." But it was also played at court in 1611-1612 and 1624-1625. And its attractive power was sufficiently obvious as late as 1671 to lead a commentator, Edward Howard, to allow that the rude drama of the past was "not so rank but that it may in some degree tread with our present writers" (The Six Days Adventure). The ability to see Greene's Tu Quoque in this light is largely denied to modern readers, but the historical fact of its reputation must be registered as an important witness in the history of Elizabethan drama.

History Plays
The power of Elizabethan plays to overcome differences of audience is matched by their capacity to use old forms to say new things. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the English history play--a genre that retains even today the ability to entertain millions who know nothing of its local meanings. The old play The Famous Victories of Henry V (1583-1588) provides a clear picture of the simpleminded chauvinism that gave representations of English victories their original popular appeal. The young Henry V in this play is not only the victor over the French; he is also the enemy of all forms of social restriction on individual activities. The transformation of this figure into Shakespeare's Prince Hal marks the extent to which the history play can retain its jingoistic potential while adding an awareness of all the uncertainties that attach to the idea of manifest destiny. The moral ambiguity of Shakespeare's major historical figures, King John, Richard III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, continues to intrigue by its refusal to separate contradictory moral and political judgments and by continually confronting us with central questions: Need a good king be a good man? Do national aims reflect national good or only the self-aggrandizement of leaders? The massively contradictory figure of Falstaff carries the moral anarchies of The Famous Victories of Henry V into a world that can neither accept them nor deny them, thereby allowing the audience both to enjoy and to speculate about what it is enjoying. The careful work of such Tudor historians as Edward Hall, Raphael Holinshed, William Camden, and John Stow made it clear to the age how uncertain was the interpretation of the past and how obscure the relation between God's purposes and state policy. In the historical drama we see a parallel development as portrayals of the military deeds of kings in wars against foreigners and traitors give way to a sentimental concentration on their emotional lives. Edward IV (1592-1599), usually attributed to Heywood, centers on the martyr figure of the king's mistress, Jane Shore, whose personal virtue makes suspect the whole issue of dynastic legitimacy. In plays dealing with "the troubles of Queen Elizabeth," such as Dekker's The Whore of Babylon (1606-1607) and Heywood's two-part If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody (1603-1605), the chief interest is in Elizabeth's miraculous capacity to survive persecution and murder plots. At the same time, though at a more theoretically sophisticated level, a new historiography brought the disenchanted views of Machiavelli and Francesco Guicciardini to bear on English statecraft, requiring the community to notice that political aims cannot be achieved on a basis of moral principles. What seems to be the last of the Elizabethan history plays to deal with a real political situation, Ford's The Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck: A Strange Truth (16291634), draws on Francis Bacon's MachiavellianHistory of the Reign of King Henry VII (1622) and adds to Bacon's skeptical view of kingship a contrast (perhaps derived from Shakespeare's Richard II) between the player king who dominates the stage and the efficient king who runs the country. The theater that celebrates royalty thus becomes a stage for suspicion of theatrical kingship, setting a sovereign who has none of the glamour of rule against a pretender whose rhetoric and bearing define him, in the theatrical vision, as the genuine article. Seeing it in these terms we can understand why Ford's play is often taken to mark the end of thehistory-play genre.

Problem Plays and City Comedies

In every genre, as the Elizabethan era gives way to the Jacobean and Caroline, the drama seems to find the strain of keeping contradiction inside compromise increasingly difficult. Late humanism, with its

preference for Seneca over Cicero and for individual over public statement, as well as its taste for satire and the skeptical view of life found in Montaigne's essays, leads those playwrights attuned to intellectual fashion to shift the terms of their compromise with the popular audience. In the early Tudor period, stories of the prodigal son had provided basic material for grammar-school study and performance of plays. The model provided classical structure and Christian morals since it used the basic plot of Terence but evaded his suspect morals by turning angry fathers into the Father in Heaven and construing his denouements as a discovery of Christian repentance and forgiveness. The pattern reappears in seventeenth-century plays of erring husbands and of naive country gentlemen caught in the nets spread by slick city merchants. In plays about husbands the pattern of rebellious sons and forgiving wives and fathers is given an extra twist, since the young man unwilling to submit to the restrictions of family and matrimony does so because he is the kind of macho male that the culture especially admired. The anonymous play Captain Thomas Stukeley (1596) provides a good example of the moral ambiguity that results. Stukeley needs money for a military career. His dazzling prowess convinces his best friend that he should cancel his own betrothal to an alderman's daughter so that Stukeley can step into his place. Stukeley marries the daughter and immediately takes off with her dowry (as does Bertram in Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well). But even on the battlefield, ambiguity cannot be evaded: Stukeley's desperate search for individual glory leads him into the service of the pope and Philip of Spain, and he dies in a contest between obscure Moorish factions in North Africa. Is he to be admired or condemned? The divided valuations that this play (and others like it) seems to require indicates that the "problem play" is not simply a Shakespearean genre but an aspect of the history of Elizabethan drama. The city comedies of Middleton, Dekker and Webster, Jonson, Marston, and Richard Brome illustrate the same development of moral ambiguity, created this time by the changing economic and social structures of London society, which require that the battle between good and evil be replayed as a survival of the fittest. These plays show the traditional nobility of the fighting man and lover stranded in a world that refuses to accept traditional valuation. Though they characteristically allow the hero (or gallant) to win at the end of the action, he can only do so by seeming to join his enemies, entering into the mind-sets of the usurers and con men who surround him. By playing their game more skillfully than they do, and gaining the advantage of surprise that he can play it at all, he finally gets the girl and recovers his estate. But the contradictions between social and economic value systems, gallantry and money, traditionalism and innovation, are not resolved. The hero finds it the better part of valor, for instance, at the end of Middleton's Michaelmas Term (1604-1606), to retreat from the city to the world of the manor house and the peasantry. The Witch of Edmonton (c. 1621) by Dekker, Ford, and Rowley offers another interesting model of how popular subjects could persist and, at the same time, change. It has the same moral pattern as the domestic tragedies discussed above but ends with another ambiguous judgment. The domestic action is set this time not in the crowded streets of the city but in the village of Edmonton. Here, once again, the devil walks abroad seeking to seduce those caught in social desperation. He appears, characteristically enough, as a natural part of the village scene, in the apparently unthreatening guise of a black dog (in all these plays, ordinary life and the eternal verities are but a hairbreadth apart). Once again there is no possibility that those who succumb to the devil's suggestions for an easy option can evade punishment. But this time the social structure is also implicated. The "witch" (Mother Sawyer, whose history is taken from an actual witch trial of the time) has indeed accepted the devildog as her familiar. But the grandees of the village who preside over her trial are themselves revealed as guilty, and she seizes the opportunity not to repent but to convict her accusers. Their imposition of narrowly economic judgment and their intolerant self-righteousness have made the shield of a Christian community powerless to protect the weak.

Changes in the Playhouses

The Witch of Edmonton, like Middleton's city comedies, operates on material very similar to the popular drama of earlier years, but the action is seen from a point of view more challenging to received

morality. The small elite playhouse in Drury Lane called the Phoenix, where the play was performed, also has a role in this story of change. Small playhouses like the Phoenix and the Blackfriars were enclosed, expensive, and provided seating for all; they were places where, as we learn from Marston's Jack Drum's Entertainment (1600), "a man shall not be choked with the smell of garlic, nor be pasted to the barmy jacket of a beer-brewer." In all aspects they were like the courtly playhouses of Elizabeth's reign, where choirboys presented plays (such as those by John Lyly) destined for the attention of the queen but open to a paying public on the pretext that they were only showing rehearsals. These early boys' playhouses were closed down from 1590 to 1600 (presumably because of some political indiscretion). When they reopened, they had to operate in a different, more crassly commercial world and with an eye to young men-about-town, especially the young gentlemen of the Inns of Court, rather than the courtiers of Whitehall. This inevitably meant a change in repertory from Ovidian tales of gods and heroes, nymphs and shepherds (with delicate implications of court life), as in the plays of Lyly, to a satiric and ironic treatment of the cultural controversies of the City (in such plays as Jonson's Poetaster [1601] and Dekker and Marston's Satiromastix [1601]). It seems, however, that the artificial mode in which the behavior of adults was represented by choirboys aged twelve to sixteen was as appropriate to one repertory as the other. If what Rosencrantz tells Hamlet is true of current theatrical history, the success of this "aerie of children, little eyases that cry out on the top of question," was such that in 1601 or so the adult companies found it hard to survive. Perhaps they could only do so by co-opting some of the qualities of their rivals. The 1608 transfer of the Blackfriars playhouse from the boys to the King's Men marks a convergence of the two theaters, boys and men, as does the 1604 "theft" of Martson's The Malcontent by the same King's Men, who were, it would seem, looking for a repertory that was both popular and elite (and perhaps found one in the works of Shakespeare). That convergence was itself a subject of tension is made clear in Beaumont's The Knight of the Burning Pestle. The action begins with an assumption that a play by the boys called "The London Merchant" is about to be performed. Gentlemen are sitting on the stage (as they did only in these "private" playhouses). But then the situation that has been set up is interrupted by the appearance of a grocer and his wife. They climb on to the stage, pay for stools, and take the gentlemanly privilege of criticizing the play. The grocer assumes that "The London Merchant" will be a satire on tradesmen like himself and proposes an alternative in which his apprentice, Rafe, can demonstrate the capacity of citizens to engage in chivalric adventures (as in Heywood's The Four Prentices of London [1592-1600]). The resultant action, as scenes from both plays are performed alternately, enforces a parodic view of both plots, so that the tensions embodied in the actual playhouse are absorbed into the fictional structure of the play. No such compromise was available to halt the ongoing "gentrification" of the drama in real historical time. The big arena playhouses, built to cater to a mass audience--the Theatre, the Curtain, the Rose, the Globe, the Fortune, the Red Bull--were by their size and shape committed to broad effects suitable for a socially mixed audience (some sitting, some standing). To keep the thousands of spectators coming to the plays required not only a system that offered a different play every afternoon of the week and a new play once every two weeks but also a variety of tragic, comic, and historical effects inside each play. By the first decade of the seventeenth century these playhouses seem no longer to have been the money spinners they once were. After the construction of the Red Bull in 1605 or 1606, no more large playhouses were built in London. The fashion in playgoing was now for smaller, "private" houses like the Blackfriars; the Whitefriars (occupied 1607-1613); the Phoenix and Cockpit in Drury Lane (in the newly fashionable West End), which opened in 1617; and the Salisbury Court, which opened in 1630. The old arena buildings, particularly the Red Bull, the Curtain, and the Fortune, came to be identified with violent lower-class audience behavior, noisy overacting, and sensationalist drama, so that when drama historians of the next generation looked back on the pre-1642 theatrical scene they saw it as divided along class lines, with private playhouses representing the defensible dramatic tradition and arena playhouses representing the taste of "citizens and the meaner sort of people."

Closing the Theaters

The crisis that destroyed the drama in 1642 was related to this division in the theatrical scene. The ambiguities and obliquities that had long sustained the theater's compromises allowed it both to suggest and to deny relevance to contemporary political life, so that the battles with the censor (the Master of the Revels) appear as an almost necessary part of the process of playwriting. Gentrification meant a more direct relation to the political classes and so a narrowing and sharpening of the focus on politics. The most talked-about theatrical event of the reign of James--the production of Middleton's A Game at Chess (1624)--was a nine days' wonder for just this reason. The play offered the kind of intervention in contemporary politics precisely forbidden in the first year of Elizabeth's reign, 1558, but perhaps in this case condoned or even encouraged by the authorities. It was the scandal of being apparently invited to participate in the mysteries of state that drew thousands to wait in line for admission to the Globe. The play did indeed contain scandalous lampoons of figures normally treated with deference but the real political issue between England and Spain in the matter of Prince Charles's "Spanish marriage" was in fact rendered in the play mainly as an old-fashioned allegory of good and evil. It was less what the play contained than the fact that people saw the actors as part of the political scene that marked the new and dangerous status the playhouses were acquiring. A Game at Chess was a onetime event, though a portent of much more. A more common theatrical response to the dangerous proximity of players to politicians was a retreat from challenging formulations. The drama of John Fletcher and Massinger, Shakespeare's successors as playwrights-inordinary to the King's Men, shows a withdrawal from the general to the particular, solving political issues with individualistic answers. Massinger's A New Way to Pay Old Debts (1621-1625) rewrites Middleton's A Trick to Catch the Old One (1604-1607), another of the city comedies for boys discussed above, in which a landed gentleman finds himself bankrupted by city usury and can only recover his estate by out-tricking the tricksters. In Massinger's handling of the story for adult actors, the anarchic pleasure Middleton's hero takes in trickery has largely disappeared. The appeal of a noble nature in distress, the concomitant emotions of shame, despair, and gratitude, and a sharp distinction between the generous and predatory classes now control the action. Fletcher is the more innovative of this pair and is often seen as the creator of prevailing standards in later drama. In The Faithful Shepherdess (1608-1609) he introduced to the English stage Giovanni Battista Guarini's concept of tragicomedy as a form that "wants death ... yet brings some near it," so cutting the thread of inevitability that holds together the individual and the situation in the best drama of the preceding age. Where Fletcherian dramaturgy excels is in dramatizing situations of passionate indeterminacy, as when characters are faced with incompatible demands on their loyalty and are incapable of taking any action that would help. That eventual solutions are achieved by legerdemain did not weaken the age's admiration for the rhetorical power of these high moments, as when Philaster must both love and seek to kill Princess Arethusa or when, in A King and No King (1611), Arbaces must believe that the woman he passionately desires is his sister. The Maid's Tragedy (1608-1611) turns on a political point that demands political action, since the villain of the piece is the king; but political impropriety is avoided, in spite of noisy threats of regicide. Evadne, the king's mistress and the immediate source of all the misery and despair, is persuaded that she can cleanse her soul by killing her royal partner in crime, so leaving the courtiers (and the audience) able to retain the comforting standard belief that God forbids regicide but will himself stir up a scapegoat who can carry away the guilt of killing an anointed monarch. Fletcher was the most admired playwright of his time, and after the puritan Parliament had closed the playhouses in 1642, he was remembered as a model of a vanished civilization in which refinement of feeling could resolve contradiction in personal rather than political terms. The folio volume of Beamount and Fletcher plays published in 1647 under the auspices of the former King's Men was designed as a ghostly memorial to the living playhouse and the Caroline courtly culture it had come to reflect. There is little in the thirty-eight prefatory verses by leading gentlemen-poets of the time, however, to indicate

their awareness of how the theatrical tradition they praised had grown out of a ferment of real alternatives. That was a history they did not understand and could not have wished to understand.

Bibliography Primary Works With the exception of the anonymous plays A Warning for Fair Women, edited by Charles D. Cannon (The Hague, Netherlands, 1975), and The Famous Victories of Henry V, edited by Geoffrey Bullough, in Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, vol. 4 (London, 1966), and Jo. Cooke's Greene's Tu Quoque, edited by Alan J. Berman (New York, 1984), all the plays mentioned here are accessible in one or another of the following anthologies. Drama of English Renaissance. Edited by Russell Fraser and Norman Rabkin. 2 vols. New York, 1976. Elizabethan and Stuart Plays. Edited by Charles Read Baskervill, Virgil B. Heltzel, and Arthur Hobart Nethercot. New York, 1962. English Drama, 1580-1642. Edited by Tucker Brooke and Natheniel Burton Paradise. Boston, 1933. The Shakespeare Apocrypha. Edited by C. F. Tucker Brooke. Oxford, 1908. Secondary Works Bentley, Gerald E. The Jacobean and Caroline Stage. 7 vols. Oxford, 1941-1968. Chambers, Edmund K. The Elizabethan Stage. 4 vols. Oxford, 1923. Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespearian Playing Companies. Oxford, 1996. Hunter, George K. English Drama, 1586-1642. Oxford, 1997. RELATED INFORMATION Related Document:

Shakespeare's Macbeth: Macbeth and Banquo encounter three witches (Act I, scene 3) Tragicall Historie of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus by Marlowe, title page
Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition) Hunter, G. K. "Drama, English: Elizabethan Drama." Encyclopedia of the Renaissance. Ed. Paul F. Grendler. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000. World History In Context. Web. 17 Feb. 2013. Document URL

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