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Renaissance Drama Notes & Questions

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RENAISSANCE

DRAMA

1. GENRE

TRAGEDY/COMEDY


'The

whole

doctrine

of

comedies

and

tragedies

is


a

perfect

imitation

of

fair,

lively

painted

pictures


of

the

life

of

every

degree

of

man'

(Roger


Ascham).

How

far

do

any

two

or

more

plays

of


the

period

aspire

to

naturalistic

mimesis?


'Jacobean

plays

were

no

longer

simply

tragedies


or

comedies.

The

interlacing

of

cruelty

in


comedy

and

farce

in

tragedy

saw

to

that.'


"The

roots

of

English

Renaissance

tragedy

are


more

likely

to

be

found

in

the

native

morality


play

than

in

Seneca"

-

SPANISH

TRAGEDY?


'And

when

a

man

is

come

to

mature

years,

and


that

reason

in

him

is

confirmed

with

serious


learning

and

long

experience,

then

shall

he,

in


reading

tragedies,

execrate

and

abhor

the


intolerable

life

of

tyrants,

and

shall

condemn

the


folly

and

dotage

expressed

by

poets

lascivious'


(SIR

THOMAS

ELYOT)


'Tragedy

openeth

the

greatest

wounds

and


showeth

forth

the

ulcers

that

are

covered

with


tissue.'(SIDNEY)

Consider

how

tyranny

is


dramatized

in

early

modern

tragedy


'If

we

present

a

tragedy,

we

include

the

fatal

and


abortive

ends

of

such

as

commit

notorious


murders,

which

is

aggravated

and

acted

with

all


the

art

that

may

be,

to

terrify

men

from

the

like


abhorred

practices.'(HEYWOOD)

How

do


tragedians

(actors

AND/OR

playwrights)

of

the


period

'aggravate'

violence

with

'art'?


Aside

from

the

characters

who

populate

them,


revenge

tragedies

are

distinguished

by

the


convoluted

structures

of

deception

and

intrigue


which

constitute

their

narratives'


Ben

Jonson

said

that

a

tragic

writer

should

aim


at

'truth

of

argument,

dignity

of


persons,

gravity

and

height

of

elocution,


fulnesses

and

frequencie

of

sentence"


Write

an

essay

on

at

least

three

plays

from

the


period,

based

on

one

or

more

of

the

following


quotations


"You

can

deceive

men,

but

you

cannot

deceive


worms"

(Revenger's

Tragedy)


"is

not

the

whole

world

included

in

myself"

(A


New

Way

to

Pay

Old

Debts

By

Philip

Massinger)


"We

are

merely

the

star'

tennis--balls,

struck

and


banded

/

which

way

please

them"

--

John


Webster's

The

Duchess

of

Malfi--


"Who

seem

most

crafty

prove

oft

times

most


fooles"

-

A

Maid

in

Cheapside

--

Middleton


"Tis

time

to

die,

when

we

are

our

selves

our


foes"

-

The

Revenger's

Tragedy

V.iii.154


'The

Spanish

Tragedy

is

in

many

respects

the


archetypal

Elizabethan

play.'

Discuss,

with


reference

to

at

least

THREE

plays

from

the


period.


As

the

staple

interest

of

the

comedies

is

dirt,

so


the

staple

interest

of

the

tragedies

is

crime"

is


this

fair

to

comedy

and

or

tragedy?


THEMES


WHAT

IS

TRAGEDY

/

IT'S

FUCTION

-


CATHARSIS?

USE

OF

VIOLENCE

-

DIFFERENCE


TO

COMEDY

-

REFLECTION

OF

SOCIETY

/


POLITICS

-

CRIME

/

TRAGRESSIONS

-


CLASSICAL

INFLUENCE

2. FEMINISM

STUFF

"On

the

stage

they

were

impersonated

by

boys,


on

the

page

they

were

ventriloquised

by

men.


Only

in

the

writings

of

such

female

authors

as


Aemilia

Lanyer

or

Mary

Wroth

do

we

hear

the


authentic

voice

of

English

Renaissance

women"


"Woman

to

Man

/

is

either

a

god

or

a

wolf"

The


White

Devil.

Does

Jacobean

drama

present

less


dualistic

views?

3. POLITICS


To

what

extend

did

either

the

public

and

/

or


private

playhouses

afford

outlets

for

political


opposition


"Twas

somewhat

wittily

carried,

though

we

say


it"

(The

Revenger's

Tragedy"

Does

wit


overshadow

ethics

in

Jacobean

Drama?


Do

you

find

anything

in

the

drama

of

the

period


to

support

the

claim

that

it

is

concerned

with

'a


questioning

of

what

it

means

to

be

human'?

4. STAGECRAFT

/

THEATRE

CONTEXT:


How

do

knowledge

of

playhouse

design

and

or


conventions

of

stagecraft

affect

your


assessment

of

one

or

more

dramatists

of

the


period?


.To

what

extent

has

recent

research

into

the


London

playhouses

changed

understanding

of


the

plays

performed

in

them?


Plays

were

performed

with

a

minimum

of


scenic

and

mechanical

aids,

in

costumes

whose


lavishness

would

surprise

us'

(Peter

Thomson).


What

do

you

think

were

the

most

significant


aspects

of

the

shaping

of

dramatic

work

by


theatrical

conditions?


'Today

I

go

to

Blackfriar's

Playhouse'

(BEN


JONSON).

How

does

an

understanding

of

early


modem

theatres

inform

your

reading

of

the


plays

written

for

them?


THEMES:


PLAYHOUSE


PROPS

/

DESIGN


SHAPING

DRAMA

-


HOW

DOES

THIS

INFORM

THE

PLAYS?


PLAYS

5. THE

FUNCTIONS

OF

DRAMA


Discuss

the

place

of

didacticism

on

the

early


modern

stage.


Write

on

the

interplay

between

truth

and


feigning

on

the

page

and

or

stage

in

this


period.


"Then

is

there

left

no

Mahomet,

no

God,


No

fiend,

no

Fortune

...

"

(Marlowe)


Explore

some

of

the

ways

in

which

early


modem

drama

seems

to

promote


transgressive

thought

and/or

behaviour.


'The

fundamental

unit

of

dramatic

activity,


and

the

ultimate

source

of

dramatic

truth

is,


of

course,

the

human

body.'

(GARY

WALKER)


Do

you

agree

with

this

view

of

early

modem


'dramatic

activity'?


Dekker's

imagination

made

him

one

with

the


outcasts

and

scum

of

the

earth"


The

theater

was

permitted

to

rehearse

the


dark

side

of

Elizabethan

culture;

it

was

a


recreative

spot

where

sedition

could

wear


the

face

of

play,

where

authors

could

make


assertions

as

potent

as

monarchs'

(JONA


THAN

GOLDBERG)

THE

DUCHESS

OF

MALFI

-

WEBSTER

(1613/14)

--

JACO


THE

REVENGER'S

TRAGEDY

-

THOMAS

MIDDLETON

-(1606?

-

JACO)


THE

SPANISH

TRAGEDY

-

THOMAS

KYD

--

1582--1593

--

ELIZ


THE

ROARING

GIRL

-

MIDDLETON

AND

DEKKER

1607--10

JACO


THE

SHOEMAKERS

TRAGEDY:

THOMAS

DEKKER

--1599

--

ELIZ


TAMBURLANE

-

PART

1/11

-

MARLOWE

-

1587--88?

--

ELIZ


DR

FAUSTUS

-

MARLOWE

-

1594

-

97

(PERFORMED

25

TIMES)

-

ELIZ,

PUBLISHED

IN

1604

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