Elizabethan Drama, 1558-1642: A History of the Drama in England from the Accession of Queen Elizabeth to the Closing of the Theaters - Vol. 2

Elizabethan Drama, 1558-1642: A History of the Drama in England from the Accession of Queen Elizabeth to the Closing of the Theaters - Vol. 2

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Elizabethan Drama, 1558-1642: A History of the Drama in England from the Accession of Queen Elizabeth to the Closing of the Theaters - Vol. 2

Elizabethan Drama, 1558-1642: A History of the Drama in England from the Accession of Queen Elizabeth to the Closing of the Theaters - Vol. 2

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The influence of the ancients on English drama is coeval with the drama itself. But whether in theme, treatment, or style, classical influences were filtered through many foreign channels, imbibing on the way qualities of each, and, even when least so affected, limited and confined in tragedy to one Latin and one Greek dramatist. It has been said that "Euripidean tragedy leavened the dramatic poetry of every cultured nation in Europe through all the centuries while Æschylus and Sophocles fed the worms in the libraries." And if we recall how close a follower of Euripides was Seneca with all his differences and departures from classical precedent, and how far, moreover, later Greek comedy (and through it Plautus and Terence, with "Christian Terence," the School Drama, and the earlier artistic imitations of the Roman dramatists to follow) partook of the nature of that ultimate inspiration, it is not too much to affirm that the Euripidean idea of tragedy is practically all that the Europe of the Renaissance took over from the drama of the ancients. As to variety of channels and influences in England, we have the Alcmæron of Euripides, acted (doubtless in Latin) in 1573, and Hippolytus six years later; we have Euripides translated into Latin by Buchanan, as well as Seneca into English in the Tenne Tragedies, 1559-1581; Euripides by way of Seneca and Dolce, in Gascoigne Focasta, 1566; Seneca by way of Garnier, in Kyd Cornelia; and Seneca popularized and Anglicized--perhaps better re-Italianated-- in Marston Antonio and Mellida, 1599. We may therefore agree with Brandl's distinction of a Euripidean and a Senecan type of classical influence on early English tragedy, and add a distinctively Italian and, for later time, a French Seneca as well. But of these more below.

A word has been said of Buchanan. It was that excellent Scottish humanist who translated the Medea and Alcestis into Latin about 1540, and in so doing contributed one of the influences which effected a transfer from allegory to actual drama in the school plays of his time. Buchanan's biblical plays are almost as Euripidean as these translations. The ground thus once broken, the other Greek tragedians were recalled by the scholars, and we have a Philoctetes translated by Ascham, the princes' tutor, Iphigenia by Lady Jane Lumley, and Antigone by the poet Thomas Watson, between 1564 and 1581, in English or "done into Latin." Nor can these translations be regarded as purely literary exercises; for the lists of plays acted at court, at the universities, and at the . . .

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