A Study of Patriotism in the Elizabethan Drama

A Study of Patriotism in the Elizabethan Drama

A Study of Patriotism in the Elizabethan Drama

A Study of Patriotism in the Elizabethan Drama

Excerpt

Everyone knows that the Elizabethan Drama bore the stamp of Elizabethan patriotism. Most people believe that the Drama profited by the impression. They regard the Elizabethan Age as analogous to the Periclean Age of Greece, the Augustan Age of Rome, the time of the Medicis in Florence, the time of Louis XIV in France,--all periods of heightened national consciousness, all periods of high achievement in art,--and they conclude that upon art patriotism must be a fortunate influence. A certain distrust of these easy generalizations has prompted me to undertake the following study. I have wondered whether the word "patriotism" was always intelligible, whether its meaning might not vary with different speakers or hearers, whether, in fact, Elizabethan patriotism had ever been studied in sufficient detail. It is certainly idle to discuss the effects of patriotism so long as there remains any uncertainty about the meaning of the term. The following pages represent my contribution to its better understanding.

I have set certain artificial limits to the subject in order to keep it within a manageable compass: I have considered patriotism only as it found expression in the drama, and only in so much of the drama as can be assigned to the reign of Elizabeth. In this limitation there are grave disadvantages. For a full understanding of Elizabethan patriotism one should make a thorough study of all forms of Elizabethan literature and all primary sources of Elizabethan history. A task so vast I have not tried to perform.

These chapters cannot, therefore, pretend to be final versions of history. The evidences of patriotism that they present require vigilant testing in the light of other contemporary documents. They should, however, be of value to any historian of the Elizabethan Age who wishes to take illustrations of popular opinion from the drama. And the literary critic who is interested in appraising the effect of patriotism upon literature will find here, I hope, all the material for his study that the Elizabethan Drama can furnish.

The plays which I have taken into account are those assigned by E. K. Chambers, in The Elizabethan Stage, to the years of Elizabeth's reign. Since the popular attitude to the sovereign is of some impor-

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