The Stratford-upon-Avon Studies are a new series concerned with literary and theatrical subjects of major interest. The individual studies are neither regular histories nor collections of critical essays written from one particular point of view; rather they are books for any reader seeking a full and informed participation in the literature and drama of which they treat. Because they are the result of the collaboration of groups of writers with varied skills and interests, each book offers not one guide but several, and reflects many kinds of appreciation. This volume on Jacobean theatre is the first of the series.
A new book on this subject needs no excuse, for the last critical study of such range was Una Ellis-Fermor Jacobean Drama, published in 1936. Since then much has been learned of the theatrical and literary background of the period, and many writers have been reappraised. In editing the present study we have sought to represent this new interest. Some subjects are treated by more than one author and in more than one way and we have not hesitated to include differences of opinion where they seem illuminating. Jonson, in particular, deserves such consideration and so four consecutive chapters present various aspects of his art; Shakespeare is represented by two contrasted chapters, one seeking a new definition of his tragic form and the other discussing his stage-craft by a particular example. Each chapter uses the kind of exposition suitable to its theme, so while Geoffrey Hill scrutinizes single words, Philip Edwards describes and assesses the handling of action and character in one dramatic 'kind'; G. K. Hunter gives detailed literary documentation to the political and social ideas informing plays of the period, while J. R. Mulryne quotes freely from only two tragedies in order to define a special theatrical experience; Maynard Mack, Arthur Brown, and Hunter explore the Elizabethan and medieval origins of Jacobean plays, while the end of the last chapter, by Peter Ure, looks forward to the theatre of Restoration England.