Elizabethan Theatre


I. Violation of generic purity and “dramatic unities”:

1. Mingling of the “high” and “low” elements:

2. Ignoring the principles of “unities” of plot, time, space:

II. The emergence of freestanding, permanent public theatre & a rich vital theatrical tradition:

1. The tradition of mystery plays and morality plays: which Protestants resented

2. The tradition of organized wandering companies of players, under noble patronage

3. The “interludes”: staged dialogues on religious, moral, political themes, reflecting the humanistic training of argumentation (approaching an issue from multiple perspectives)

4. Earlier forms of drama taking after sermons: problematic relationship with the Church

5. Source of Classical influence in tragedy:

Seneca’s style as a model for Renaissance tragedy: violent plots, resounding rhetorical speeches, ghosts thirsting for blood
(cf. revenge tragedy like Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy and Shakespeare’s Hamlet) (cf. villain tragedy like Shakespeare’s Richard III and Macbeth; violating Aristotle’s precept against choosing a wicked person as the hero)
6. The history play: often returning back to the theme of killing a king, an ultimate challenge to royal authority)
7. Source of Classical influence for comedy:

Elements like plots based on intrigue, division into acts and scenes, type characters as rascally servant and the cowardly braggart soldier
8. Other types of comedy: romantic comedy (noble characters for whom love conquers all); domestic comedy; City comedy (bourgeois characters in a London setting in a satirical tone); humor comedy (type characters created according the medical theory of humor)

9. music and dance as commonly incorporated into play acting

10. Elaborate costumes for actors but almost no props on stage

III. The Culture of Spectacular Performance in the Elizabethan Age:

IV. The Layout of the Renaissance Theatres and Their Activities:

1. Financially risky ventures:

2. Playhouses located outside the London City:

3. General Hostilities to the Theatre: congested traffic, threat to public health, haunts of criminals like pickpockets or prostitutes, temptation to idleness, theatrical transvestism

4. Repertory Companies: usu. Including an actor-player

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