The early modern theatre constituted a forum within which all manner of social and political anxieties could be ventilated’. Discuss with reference to two texts studied on this module.
The early modern English theatre, refers to the theatre of England, widely based in London, which occurred during the Renaissance time, between the Reformation and the closure of the theatres in 1642. It includes the drama of William Shakespeare, Thomas Dekker, Ben Johnson and many other world-famous playwrights. The theatre was the most popular artistic expression of this time, because it mirrored every day life and was a micro representation of the trials and tribulation in a larger societal context. The harsh problem of the late sixteenth and the early seventeenth century brought to light by perhaps the most influential author of that time such as Shakespeare, surrounded then by minor authors like Dekker who conjured into plays of great power and eloquence, the plight of the common man. Shakespeare expressed his way of thinking through the comedies like: The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer night’s dream and Twelfth Night and Dekker wrote the famous The Shoemaker’s holiday. Comedy might simply be defined as a dramatic presentation which makes the audience laugh. The geniality in Shakespeare and Dekker was their ability to adapt the issues of that period as a performance on stage. Thomas Dekker introduced in the Elizabethan theatre a particular genre of comedy the so-called city comedy that set in London and reproduced ordinary London life. London is particular interesting in this period. During the sixteenth century London was affected by several problems. The main one was the massive growth of the population; as a matter of fact between the 1550 and 1660 the population of the capital city doubled its size to 200,000 inhabitants. In 1660 most of the English population lived in the countryside and its small market towns. The effect was a city overcrowded, dirty and often dangerous, with a high mortality rate. The greatest problems were the starving and the public hygiene. It was easy to get away with criminal activity in London and many homeless and unemployed people supporting themselves by begging and prostitution. It was the background in which Thomas Dekker wrote The shoemaker’s holiday a drama for the citizens of London. The plot of the city comedy is to deal with the complication of the city and is based on question of morality within the middle class. During the Queen Elizabeth’s reign the Shoemaker’s Holiday was one of the most popular genre because Dekker mixed comic working-class characters with idealized portraits of festive monarchs who were at one with their subjects. The plot revolves around the unrequited love of two youths from different social class. The fathers of both Rose and Lacy do not approve of the characters' love for each other. Lacy is therefore sent to fight in France, although he sends someone in his place and disguises himself as a Dutch shoemaker, Hans. He becomes an apprentice of Simon Eyre and uses this position to be able to find his Rose again and secretly marries her. Meanwhile, another shoemaker, Ralph is sent off to war to the great dismay of his wife, Jane. He is gone for a time, and so Hammon, a gentleman, falls in love with Jane and attempts to woo her. She is not interested, but once shown a (false) document that says her husband is dead, she agrees that if she ever marries again, she will marry Hammon. Ralph later returns from the war with an amputated leg, believing that he will no longer be able to provide for his wife. He is further distraught when he cannot find his wife and later suspects (based on the appearance of her shoe that he once made for her) that she has agreed to marry someone else. He locates her, and when given the choice, Jane returns to her husband. Hammon attempts to buy her from Ralph, but Ralph refuses. Later in the play, Simon Eyre is made sheriff and then Lord Mayor...
Bibliography: * W. Shakespeare, The Norton Shakespeare, S.Greenblatt, 1st ed., W.W. Norton, New York, 1997.
* T.Dekker, The shoemaker’s holiday, A.Parr, 2nd ed.,
* S.McEvoy, The basics Shakespeare,2nd ed., London, pp.51-2, 160-2, 2006.
* S.Wells and L.C.Orlin, Shakespeare. An Oxford guide, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 93-8, 2003.
[ 1 ]. Dekker, Thomas (c.1572–1632), playwright and pamphleteer. His date of birth is generally given as about 1572 from the epistle dedicatory to English Villainies (1632) in which Dekker refers to ‘my three-score years’. He had already hinted at his declining years in the dedication to Match me in London (1631), claiming: ‘I have been a priest in Apollo 's temple many years; my voice is decaying with my age’. In all probability he was born in London, where he lived all his life. Dekker consistently presented himself as the city 's devoted and nurtured son. Writing about London in The Seven Deadly Sinnes (1606), Dekker claimed that ‘from thy womb received I my being, from thy brests my nourishment’ (sig. A3v). Years later, in A Rod for Run-Awayes (1625), he still presented himself as one of London 's sons: ‘O London! (thou Mother of my life, Nurse of my being)’ (sig. Bv).
[ 2 ]. A Midsummer Night 's Dream is a comedy by William Shakespeare It is believed to have been written around 1594 to 1596.
[ 3 ]. A midsummer Night’s Dream IV 1 175-80
[ 4 ]. A midsummer Night’s Dream I 1 169-74
[ 5 ]. Louis Adrian Montrose is an American literary theorist and academic scholar. His scholarship has addressed a wide variety of literary, historical, and theoretical topics and issues, and has significantly shaped contemporary studies of Renaissance poetics, English Renaissance theatre, and Elizabeth I. Montrose was an influential early proponent of New historicism especially as it applied to the study of early modern English literature and culture. He is currently Professor of English Literature at the University of California, S.Diego.
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