Article

English Renaissance Drama

David Bevington

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online May 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0051
English Renaissance Drama

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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The drama of Renaissance England was truly remarkable and not just because William Shakespeare wrote during that era. Among his colleagues as dramatists were Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, and John Webster, all of whom wrote plays of lasting greatness. Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Edward II; Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy; Jonson’s Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair; Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside and Women Beware Women; and Webster’s The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, to name only some of their accomplishments, are plays deserving of serious comparison with the best of Shakespeare. Then, too, the era produced such brilliant plays as Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday, Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s The Changeling, Philip Massinger’s A New Way to Pay Old Debts, and John Ford’s The Broken Heart. Still other dramatists flourished, the most important of whom, such as John Lyly, Robert Greene, George Peele, and George Chapman, appear in the bibliographical lists below. All this happened within a span of roughly forty years, from the late 1580s to about 1630. Shakespeare, then, was not an isolated phenomenon; he thrived upon the intellectual excitement of the period, the extraordinary success of a popular theater able to accommodate large and eager audiences, the innovative growth of the English language, and the expanding consciousness of the English as a nation of people rediscovering their potential for cultural innovation. Today, Shakespeare is too often read outside of this context. The present bibliography explores the dimensions of an achievement in dramatic art the likes of which the world has seldom seen. Indeed, the phenomenal success of theater during the English Renaissance asks the question “Why did it occur then, and in that place?” The present entry is devoted to this remarkable achievement.

Article.  11068 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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