European Theories of the Drama: An Anthology of Dramatic Theory and Criticism from Aristotle to the Present Day

By Barrett H. Clark | Go to book overview
Save to active project


English literary criticism is derived partly from the ancients, and partly from the Italian scholars. Recent research has revealed many Italian sources drawn upon by Sidney and Jonson. The earliest formal treatise touching upon literature in England is Leonard Coxe Arte or Crafte of Rhetoryke, written about 1524; this was derived in part from Melanchthon. Thomas Wilson Arte of Rhetorike followed in 1553. More important still is Roger Ascham Scholemaster ( 1570) which contains the first reference in English to Aristotle Poetics. George Whetstone's Dedication to Promos and Cassandra ( 1578) is a curious criticism of the drama of other nations and an attempt to reconcile Platonism and the drama. The English stage was at several times the subject of controversies between the dramatists and their adherents, and the Puritanical element. The first of these controversies called forth a number of interesting attacks and defenses, among them three or four of some value as criticism of the drama. In 1577 John Northbrooke published his Treatise wherein Dicing, Dauncing, vaine Playes or Enterluds, with other idle Pastimes, &c., commonly used on the Sabaoth Day, and reproued by the Authoritie of the Word of God and auntient Writers. Then followed Stephen Gosson The Schoole of Abuse ( 1579), another attack. Thomas Lodge replied in his Defence of Poetry, Music, and Stage Plays ( 1579). Later in the same year Gosson published his A Short Apologie of the Schoole of Abuse, etc. Henry Denham A Second and Third Blast of Retreat from Plays and Theatres appeared in 1580. Gosson Playes confuted in five Actions, etc., was published about 1582. About this time Sir Philip Sidney wrote his Defence of Poesy, or Apologie for Poetry (published 1595), a reply to the Puritan attacks on the stage. Three further attacks may be mentioned: Philip Stubbes' The Anatomie of Abuses ( 1583), George Whetstone's A Touchstone for the Time ( 1584), and William Rankins' A Mirrour of Monsters ( 1587). William Webbe A Discourse of English Poetrie ( 1586) is a more ambitious formal treatise on writing, while Puttenham Arte of English Poesie ( 1589) furthered the work of classification and introducing foreign-- chiefly Italian--meters and forms. Sir John Harington's Apologie of Poetry ( 1591) was, like Sidney's similar work, a defense against the Puritan attacks. When Sidney Defence was published in 1595, it was already fairly well known, as it had circulated in manuscript for some years. It is rigidly classical in its remarks on the drama, and follows the Italian Renaissance scholars in demanding greater verisimilitude, and an adherence to the Unities. It is curious to note the absence of any such declaration of independence as Lope de Vega New Art among the Elizabethan dramatists, most of whom were directly opposed to all formulas. The greatest critical treatises of the period were classic in tendency, and the two most important--Sidney's and Jonson's--are directed against current practices in playwriting. Bacon's remarks on the drama--in the Essays, the Advancement of Learning, and the De Augmentis--could be condensed into one or two pages. The dramatists themselves had comparatively little to say of their art; a dozen Dedications and a few Prologues of Jonson,1 Chapman,2lb /> Fletcher,3 Marston,4 Middleton,5 Hey

Prologue to Every Man in His Humour (printed 1616). To the Readers in Sejanus (printed 1605); Dedication to Volpone (printed 1607); Prologue to Epicœne (printed 1609).
Dedication to The Revenge of Bussy d'Ambois (printed 1613).
Preface to The Faithful Shepherdess (printed 1609).
To the General Reader, in Sophronisba (printed 1606).
Preface to The Roaring Girl (printed 1611).


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
European Theories of the Drama: An Anthology of Dramatic Theory and Criticism from Aristotle to the Present Day


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 503

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?