The Emergence of Elizabethan ‘ Romantic ‘ Drama


Good morning and welcome to the course on
history of English language and literature. In the previous session we took a look at
the predecessors of Elizabethan drama, we also saw how drama had begun to evolve from
the 11th century onwards through a series of different kinds of plays known as Mystery
plays, Morality plays, Miracle plays and The Interludes. We also saw how the transition was quite gradual
and also how all these changes kept in tune with the changing taste of the English people
as well. In today’s session we will be taking a more
detailed look at how all these changes led to the emergence of a romantic kind of drama
in the English scene, especially during the Elizabethan period and let us begin by taking
a look at a major momentous event that we noticed in the previous session which was
the production and presentation of a tragedy named Gorboduc. We noticed that this was performed in front
of the Queen in 1561 for the first time and this was authored by not Norton and Thomas
Sackville. This had enjoyed a huge popularity and had
ensured a wide audience in the English public during that time and there was also a sense
by which the play Gorboduc had begun to move away from the classic theories and from the
classic elements. So this was initially modeled alongside Senecan
plays. Seneca is being the first century Greek dramatist
but at the same time the display of the Gorboduc begun to show a blend of English and classical
elements. And to go into a bit of the details we begun
this notice that the play Gorboduc had ignored the unity of time and place which was quite
mandatory in the classical period and at the same time they had begun to add some non-classical
dumb shows before each acts. This kind of a frivolity was not acceptable
in the classical tradition because a tragedy had to be in the tragic tone and tragic mood
throughout and there was no allowance for including any kind of comic interludes but
we find that Gorboduc had begun to challenge all those classical notions and this had in
that sense the English play had begun to move away from the classical elements as well. But at the same time it was Senecan to the
core in some of the aspects. Certain formalities like chorus and messenger
the introduction of the chorus the use of the messenger all of that remained the same
and the structure of the play also remained along the Senecan morale. On the whole there was a blend of typical
Senecan tragedy and also an introduction of the new nationalists taste which were coming
into being. So we look at the history of Gorboduc. It was first premiere before the Queen in
1561. This was again published in a proper format
in 1565 but there were lots of mistakes and lots of errors from the production and a better
version appeared in 1570. It was retitled as The Tragedy of Ferrex and
Porrex. So the influence in popularity of Goborduc
was in such a way that even after it was staged into decades, the popularity continued and
people were quite keen to read about the play, quite keep to get copies of the play, so on
and so forth. So however Goborduc also saw that a new kind
of drama, a new kind of romantic drama was getting initiated into the English public. So soon after the production of Gorboduc we
find that there is some dilemma and confusion about what could be the right kind of dramatic
practices to be followed in England and we also noticed in some of the previous sessions
that whether it is in terms of religion, politics, morality, economy whatever it be, English
people had begun to develop their own sense of everything their own idea of all kinds
of practices. This begins to get reflected in the literary
practices and dramatic practices of that period as well. So we find a tussle between the classical
dramatic tradition as well as the emergent national taste and in that sense we find that
the faithful imitation of the ancient model, some of the plays like Gorboduc or perhaps
even many are the tragedies especially, they had forced themselves to cramp into this Senecan
style and also try and display the free spirit of the Elizabethan times. And we also need to talk a little bit of about
Senecan at this point of time because you know we will be coming back time and again
to the Senecan model later especially when we begin to discuss the Elizabethan tragedy
in particular. Seneca was a very influential figure in Elizabethan
times so much so that all of his 10 tragedies together they were published together in a
single addition in 1581 and this had become hugely popular among the aspiring dramatist
and also common people found it very interesting to refer to Senecan to see whether the, how
the contemporary Elizabethan dramatists were either sticking to the principles of Seneca
or how they were departing from the principles of Seneca. So in that sense tussle had begun to emerge
between the classical tradition and the emergent national taste but however we find that over
the decade the national taste triumphs over all other alien influences and this is not
to say that the Senecan influencehad begun to completely disappear. We do find it coming back now and again especially
in the case of tragedy. And what do I mean when I say a national taste? This had a few characteristic features and
first of all the plays which had begun to emerge after Gorboduc, after this confusion
and after this dilemma of whether to go back to the classical or stick to the native tradition,
we find that most of the plays began to cater to the amusement of the miscellaneous unscholarly
public. This is very important because until then
art and any kinds of relative amusement was primarily meant for a court audience or for
a scholarly public but here we find that drama brings art closer to the common man, away
from the control of the church and away from the graces of the court. And we also find there is an influence of
the patrons who begun to flourish during this time. Most of the dramatic productions become possible
only when the patrons fund them properly or the patrons give them assistants to stage
the plays in particular ways. And here we find that most of the patrons
as well as the dramatists including the common people who are watching the plays, they began
to care more for the exiting and vigorous plots and action rather than going into the
finer details of actions or the principles of drama which we would begin to see a little
later and this also gave the dramatists and the actors a lot of freedom to experiment
with different formats, different kinds of scenes, different ways of shifting between
the emotions, so on and so forth. At this point it is useful to remember that
the Senecan model or the ancient classical model did not allow any kind of shift in tone
or any kind of shift in emotions. One had to stick to the same kind of emotions
throughout the stages of the play, all of these things get challenged and we find that
the English national taste triumphing over the classical traditions and we also find
that the stage becomes freer and less restrictive which allows a presence of lot of new tricks,
magic etc into the dramatic plots. And these sort of spectacles were not encouraged
in the classical tradition. In that sense it becomes quite an important
feature of the Elizabethan times itself. At the same time we begin to notice that biggest
of the overbearing influence of the protestants theme, the catholic theme as well as the popularity of the Mystery plays
begin to wane away during this period and we do not find English public going back at
any point of time to the model of the Mystery plays or the Miracle plays. We only see an advancement of the Morality
plays as we began to notice in the last session. And at this point it also becomes important
to take a closer look at what exactly the principles of classic drama were. And the principle of the classic drama were
loosely based on the teaching of the Aristotle and also on the Latin poet the first century
dramatist and poet Seneca. So there were three elements which would which
would constitute the principles of classic drama. First one being the unity of the subject in
tone and this essentially meant that this fears of tragedy and comedy being maintained
entirely separate as we noticed multiple times in the beginning of the lecture itself that
a tragedy should constitute only tragic elements according to the classical tradition and the
comedy should only constitute comic elements. And a mix of both was not considered acceptable
in the classical tradition of drama and secondly there was little or no dramatic action in
this stage. In the sense there was a war scene or a battle
going on, there would be a voice over which would describe the scene, no kind of action
was shown on onstage. So basically it was a set of narratives one
after the other and no kind of action was allowed. This was understood, it was generally understood
that any kind of overt action on stage would take away the purity and the sanctity of the
play in general. So this when the Elizabethan come to encounter
different kinds of actions and different kinds of plot structures, they also began to find
this a little too boring to begin with and the third one is the unities of time, place
and action. So the entire plot and the entire theme was
constructed in such a way that the unites of time, place and action were never disturbed. In that sense the entire story was always
set on a single day. It was based in a single scene and there was
only a single story line without any sub-plots or minor episodes which meant that any kind
of events which were taking place outside this unity of time, place and action was either
just briefly mentioned by way of narrative or it was included into the dialogue of the
various characters present on stage. So in that sense there was no way in which
the within the classical tradition there was no way in which the plot could move across
centuries or across different time time frames. It had to stick to these three unities. But when it comes to romantic drama we find
that the drama began to challenge all these classical principles which were in place until
then. So this also encouraged a lot of free use
of variety in theme and in tone and we find the Elizabethan playwrights blending in the
comic and tragic elements together. Later we will begin to see how even in Shakespeare’s
plays even in a tragedy there was always some room made for the comic interlude. So even within a comedy there were serious
moments they were very austere things getting talked about. So this blending had taken away the monotony
of the classical tradition. The action the employment of action was a
very significant thing in the Elizabethan drama. We find that Elizabethan drama begun to employ
both action and narrative but there was always a predominance of action over narrative and
everything that happen was always represented in some form or the other in the stage and
they also ensured that the narrative which had predominated in the classical tradition
had completely been replaced by proper action which was happening on stage. This had given a freer expression to the dramatist. it also had encouraged the audience to participate
in a more active way in the place which have been staged. And thirdly with three unities were not taken
seriously at all by the Elizabethan playwrights. In fact they began to come up with story lines
that would extent over months or years, the change of seasons or even the complete change
of scenery could be incorporated. They introduced sub-plots, minor episodes
and all of that into the story line. So it became a more exciting and more experimental
kind of drama which had begun to emerge and due to this there was this possibility of
variety which could be introduced on stage and its interesting to note that some of the
times when there was a change of scene in plays either it could be in order to represent
a forest a small plant could be kept on stage. So in many ways they began to experiment and
also every single action which was take which was part of the story was incorporated into
the stage practices as well. And here we find that this is the time when
the romantic form of drama began to properly emerge in the Elizabethan times and this is
in fact considered as an achievement of Shakespeare’s predecessors. In that way the predecessors had made a little
easier for Shakespeare to begin practicing Elizabethan romantic drama without having
any direct challenge from the ancient classical models. And in this context it is useful to remember
that there were a set of dramatists known as the universe duets about whom we will be
taking a look at one of their latest sessions. The university which were the ones who began to bring about
a theatrical and practical change in the emergence of English dramatic drama. And to take a further look at the features
at Elizabethan drama, there were basically four kinds of drama not necessary in terms
of generic division but there were four kinds of drama which were prevalent during those
times – comedies, history plays and chronicles, tragedies and also plays which showed a general
interest in politics and the history of the times. The comedies were mostly from Italian or Latin
sources and since the queen or the monarch was the reigning supreme power during those
times and also the plays were heavily funded by the patrons were mostly the courters the
most of the plays had a congratulatory nature, they were it in praise of the patrons or the
ruling monarch. So we do find a lot of references to the ruling
class in most of the plays which were getting produced during that time and also we find
that love and tribulations began to emerge as a major theme during those time. This is in stark contrast with the Senecan
model because most of the Senecan plays were had focused on war and elements of horror
within it. So from that there is a drastic move towards
the final emotions of human life and we find in the Shakespeare plays in general that love
is a major theme that writes throughout most of his plays at different phase and there
were lot of interest in history plays and chronicles and these history plays and chronicles
were also a way in which English public could turn back and look at
their glorious past and also get to know about the life of the kings and other rulers from
the period of the Norman conquest onwards. If we survey the works of Shakespeare relate
to point we would also know that the history plays form a major corpus of his works as
well and the tragedies were mostly based on the Senecan model, they were also melodramatic
and they had incorporated a lot of emotional speeches in that. The stage spectacle were also quite incredible
and in that sense though the tragedies try to fit themselves into the Senecan models,
they moved away in terms of these elaborate stage shows and the elaborate the kinds of
spectacle as well. And most of these tragedies also try to showcase
the darker side of human character. If you remember in the last session we took
a look at the Morality plays which had begun to personify the abstract characters and also
talk about the various ways in which human life is being constituted. So we find this getting advanced in many ways
in the tragedies of the Elizabethan period. There were lot of discussions, lot of deliberations
about melancholic aspect of human life in general which we see in the Elizabethan drama
in general. And most of these place were not distant from
what was happening in contemporary Elizabethan life. So there is a general interest in politics
and history which gets shown throughout the Elizabethan period. We find this not just in drama but also in
the other forms of writings which we would be taking a look at later on. And in these through this through these plays
as they began to reflect the contemporary life and also the state of politics and state
of history in general, this also becomes a tool for the historians to later on to look
at how artists and other common people were responding to be these affairs of the state
in a many different ways. And at this point it is also useful to remember
that by this time Bible ceases to be the only source of dramatic plot. They also borrowed heavily from other languages,
other traditions and also there is during this time that we begin to see the idea of
original plays and original story lines coming into being. So the by this time we noticed that the control
of the church completely goes away and also the theme, the moral structure and everything
related to human life moved away drastically from the theological frame work. So as we begin to sum up its important to
see how the theatre in England had begun to emerge and had begun to evolve at this point
of time. We had begun to notice how performances were
staged initially within the church and then they moved towards the the outside of the
cathedral and gradually the shift is towards the towns square and then there are also these
travelling pageants who begin to perform within the boxes which were installed within moving
vehicles. So drama in general in terms of performance,
in terms of stage it goes through all of these stages and by the time we reached the Elizabethan
period we noticed that there are these travelling companies who are emerging mostly funded by
their trade guilds and merchants and they also staged their shows in barns and yards. So there is a way in which art comes closer
to the common man and it is no longer part of the church or part of the court as we have
reiterated many times. And at this time it is an interesting fact
remains that actors were not recognized as a professional during those times. In fact they were mostly at the mercy of their
guilds, in fact it was the trade guilds who were funding many of these stage shows and
also they were at mercy of their patrons. It is for a long time in fact in England it
continues to be in the same way. So that the actors were their lives were quite
uncertain. They had to be at the mercy whoever were funding
their lives and their stage performances, so they also had to stick to certain kinds
of certain kinds of they also had to show political and economic affiliation to whoever
was in power and whoever was funding them and only much later we begin to see that acting and the
performances they begin to be commercialize at a later stage as well And we find that Britain also England in general
they begin to feel the need for these permanent playhouses rather than the travelling stages
or the travelling companies. So initially two playhouses begin to be erected,
this is by the end of the 16th century. They were known as the theater and the curtain. This is roughly around the time 1576-77. So if you remember in the last session we
noted that there was at one point an Edict which came into play which ruled that none
of the playhouses could be could be housed within the city of London, so they had to
move outside the city of London to prevent various socio-political issues. One of them being the spread of the plague,
there was also this issue of discipline which had to be taken care of. So the city council the town council in general
felt that if these playhouses were put up inside the city it would led to a lot of law
and order problem. So in order to prevent that most of the play
house initially were set up outside the city limits and we find that series of playhouses
come into being during this times. There is Fortune Rose in 1587, Swan 1591,
Globe in 1599, Red Bull in 1605 and Hope in 1614 and all of these are playhouses they
were funded heavily by the patrons. The actors were not getting a proper wage
for what they were doing but their general livelihood was taken care of these by these
patrons and they also owned many of their land and the the play houses which were being
put up there and all of these theaters were built outside the city limits and in order
to avoid any kind of tussle with the ruling council. There were also private playhouses inside
the city limits but this did not cater to a general public, this was only for a smaller
and wealthier audience and also because of the class differences that existed during
that time. There was always a group of high class, wealthy
audience who did not want to mingle with the low class commoners. So some of the patrons had even set up a few
select playhouses within the city but on and off they ran into major problems with the
city council because of the law and order issue because the people were thronging over
there to get an entry into these playhouses as well. So these some of these private playhouse include
Paul’s Boys which was prevalent from 1576-84 and Blackfriars which had a very short life
in the 1600. So this is how the scene of the playhouses
were like and at this juncture it is very useful to remember that one of the playhouse
companies known The Lord Chamberlains Men which later begun to be known as the Kings
Men, this was in fact Shakespeare’s company which initially began to make theatre and
acting as a mode of professional kind of an activity. So in this session we have already noted how
various socio-politico elements had also come into being to aid the emergence of Elizabethan
romantic drama. So this was an very important phase in history
of England in general because from this time onwards we do not find Elizabethan we do not
find English drama going back to the standards of the classical drama. On and off there is an influence, there is
a revival of the classical elements but otherwise we find that a proper, native English tradition
gets institutionalized from this point of time onwards. In the following sessions we will be taking
a closer look at who the major playwrights of the period was. Who the major Elizabethan playwrights was,
the most important one being Shakespeare. We will also be looking at how all of those
influences together began to project Elizabethan times as the golden period in literature not
just in England but also in terms of world literature. This is all we have for this lecture. Thank you for listening.

9 Replies to “The Emergence of Elizabethan ‘ Romantic ‘ Drama

  1. thankyou so much mam …it is very useful lecture to understand the depth of english literature and thankyou for your effort and time which you are giving to make this vedio

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