THE ENGLISH GENIUS, IT HAS BEEN SAID, IS IMPATIENT OF rule; it cares little for fixed categories, and owes some of its happiest achievements to the union of incompatibles. There is no need to seek evidence from Shakespeare's full and unwithdrawing hand, for the first masterpiece of our stage, the Wakefield Shepherds, is a perfect illustration. In its humour and its pathos, its beauty and its human kindness, its broad intrigue and winning piety, this play eludes classification; and the frequency with which it is described as a farce suggests that even British critics never will be slaves to a systematic dichotomy.

But it is one thing to evade the rigour of rule, and quite another to muddle through without it. In England, as elsewhere in Europe, the serious drama, cradled in ritual and nourished on holy writ, gradually forsook the cathedral for the market-place. Without ceasing to awaken the emotions of faith and the memories of childhood, it broadened to the business of the secular world and began to draw life from the life around it. But it remained severely limited by the character both of its performers and of its subject. Guilds of artificers, presenting in loose association the leading episodes in the story of men and of angels, might indeed produce work of genuine vitality, but they could not discriminate and develop a variety of dramatic forms. Nor, however their homely imagination might play with detail, could they win free from the gigantic cycle of sacred history. Their work was stunted by its dependence upon a traditional plot of unwieldy dimensions and overshadowing interest.

In France, if we may judge from the somewhat desultory pre-fifteenth-century records, the early theatre possessed a wealth of dramatic forms and a range of dramatic invention unparalleled in England. There, where the language of the people had never lost its literary standing, the stage


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
French Farce & John Heywood


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
/ 178

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?