Renaissance and Restoration Period (Part I)
My History of English Literature 1 Assignment Part I
Renaissance Drama and Christopher Marlowe
Renaissance drama is a term that embraces Elizabethan drama, Jacobean drama (works written during the reign of James I), and the plays written during the reign of Charles I. it involves three main kinds of theater: public, private and court. Regular playgoing in London, however, began in the 1570s. The Red Lion provided a model for the building pf other renaissance public theaters. In the plays of Christopher Marlowe is the first great dramatist of the Renaissance period.
Marlowe was born in 1564, the dame year as Shakespeare. The son of a shoemaker, he was educated at King’s School in Canterbury and then Corpus Christi collage, Cambridge, gaining his BA degree in 1584. Nothing could have prepared the Elizabethan for the arrival of Marlowe’s first major play, Tamburlaine the Great.Tamburlaine argues that the attractions of kingship are so powerful that they caused even jove, the eldest son of the heavens, to rebel against his father Saturn, just as Tamburlaine is impelled by his aspirating nature. Throughout the plays there is a sense of new words being explored, where human knowledge aspires to new heights, but also a sense of limits and boundaries. In that combination of elements Marlowe’s plays reflect the changing world of the early modern period.
Elizabethan and Jacobean Revenge Tragedy
Nearly all renaissance tragedies incorporate some element of revenge, but the revenge play proper starts Thomas Kyd, author of The Spanish Tragedy. The Spanish Tragedy provided a formula that other plays followed: there is a ghost, a play within the play,
What Kyd devised in The Spanish Tragedy was a structure that permitted the exploration of political and moral question that seems to have no answer. In that sense the play dramatized a central crisis of the renaissance as the era shifted from the old certainties of the medieval world to the new priorities of the early modern world.
The violence of the revenge plays links them very directly to events outside the theatre. There is a sense in which these works seem to be a kind of premonition of the civil war to come, in which those outside the court will take arms against it. There is one elements missing, which is a recognition of the prominence of women in Renaissance drama. In Marlowe and Kyd women are type-cast: Zenocrate is beautiful, while Bel-imperia is fought over by men. As such, they stand at a crucial intersection of cultural change between older social formations and the modern world.