ELIZABETHAN DRAMA CHARACTERISTICS
The English dramas have gone through a great transformation in the Elizabethan period. So we should know about the Elizabethan Drama characteristics.
The chief literary glory of the Elizabethan age was its drama. The firstly regular English comedy was Ralph Roister Doister written by Nicholas Udall. Another comedy Gammer Gurton’s Needle is about the loss and the finding of a needle with which the old woman Gammer Gurton mends clothes.
The firstly English tragedy was Gorboduc, in blank verse. However, the first three acts of Gorboduc written by Thomas Norton and the other two by Thomas Sackville.
Mainly the University Wits contributed hugely for the growth of Elizabethan drama. Further, the University Wits were young men associated with Oxford and Cambridge. They were fond of heroic themes.
However, the most notable figures are Christopher Marlow, Thomas Kyd, Thomas Nash, Thomas Lodge, Robert Greene, and George Peele.
ELIZABETHAN DRAMA CHARACTERISTICS
Christopher Marlow was the greatest of the pre-Shakespearean dramatist. Marlow wrote only tragedies. His most famous works are Edward II, Tamburlaine the Great, The Jew of Malta, The Massacre at Paris, and Doctor Faustus. Marlow popularized the blank verse. Ben Jonson called it “the mighty line of Marlow”.
Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy is a Senecan play. It resembles Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Its horrific plot gave the play great and lasting popularity.
However, the greatest literary figure of English, William Shakespeare. He was born at Stratford-on-Avon on April 26, 1564. He did odd jobs and left to London for a career. In London, he wrote plays for Lord Chamberlain’s company. Shakespeare’s plays can be classified as the following
CLASSIFICATION OF SHAKESPEARE PLAYS
1.The Early Comedies: Firstly in these immature plays the plots are not original. Secondly, the characters are less finished and also the style lacks the genius of Shakespeare. They are full of wit and wordplay. Of this type are The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
2.The English Histories: These plays show a rapid maturing of Shakespeare’s technique. At the same time, they are improving the characterization. The plays in this group are Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V.
3. The Mature Comedies: The jovial good humour of Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night. The urban worldwide comedy of Touchstone in As You Like It. And the comic scenes in The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing etc. are full of vitality. Certainly, they contain many comic situations.
4. The Sombre Plays: In this group are All’s Well that Ends Well, Measure for Measure, and Troilus and Cressida. These plays show a cynical attitude to life and are realistic in the plot.
5. The Great Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear are the climax of Shakespeare’s art. These plays stand supreme in the intensity of emotion, depth of psychological insight, and power of style.
6. The Roman Plays: Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus etc. follow the great tragic period. Unlike Marlow, Shakespeare is relaxed in the intensity of tragedy.
7. The Last Plays: The notable last plays of Shakespeare are Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest.
DRAMATIST OF ELIZABETHAN PERIOD
The immense power and variety of Shakespeare’s work have led to the idea that one man cannot have written it all, yet it must be true that one man did. Thus Shakespeare remains as the greatest English dramatist even after four centuries of his death.
Another dramatist who flourished during the Elizabethan period is Ben Jonson. He also introduced the “comedy of humour’’, which portrays the individual as dominated by one marked characteristic.
He is best known for his Every Man in his Humour. Other important plays of Jonson are -Every Man out of His Humour, Volpone or the Fox, and The Alchemist,
John Webster’s The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi are important Elizabethan dramas. Further, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Middleton, Thomas Heywood, Beaumont and Fletcher etc. are other noted Elizabethan playwrights.
You can also read the Evolution of The English Language.