English Drama from Early Times to the Elizabethans: Its Background, Origins and Developments

English Drama from Early Times to the Elizabethans: Its Background, Origins and Developments

English Drama from Early Times to the Elizabethans: Its Background, Origins and Developments

English Drama from Early Times to the Elizabethans: Its Background, Origins and Developments

Excerpt

This small book is intended to give directions rather than to "cover" its subject. It depends upon a certain limitation of the possible fields of interest in approaching "the drama", and particularly drama "from early times to the Elizabethans". It is partly the business of this introduction to define this limitation, and to make a rational statement of what is elsewhere implicit. It may be regarded as the author's embarrassed appearance before the curtain, burdened with the function which Prologues anciently had, of outlining enough of the Plot to assist the play without killing it; to which there may perhaps be superadded the function of some of Ben Jonson's inductions, viz. to minimize misunderstanding by giving some idea of what the author does not mean.

To different critics one main limitation will appear in opposite lights. One will say that the book treats of Medieval Drama in isolation, while another will say that it does not deal with that drama in itself. Both these partial views are correct. Early drama might be treated in a book which dealt with medieval literature in general, relating drama to the other writings and singings of its times, with the culture backgrounding them all, and with the lives and ways of the people concerned. This would be too much for a work of this size.W. P. Ker work on English Literature -- Mediaeval in the Home University Library (1912) is approximately of the same dimensions, and it excludes the drama completely. But even supposing that by severe compression both dramatic and nondramatic writing could be "covered", the resulting generalizations would be so thin and abstract as to make the work in all probability quite useless to the kind of reader who hopes to learn from it; and -- whether that was so or not -- the effect of the whole would be to imply a dividing-line between "the medieval" and "the Elizabethan" and thereby to frustrate one of the author's purposes in discussing the drama at all. With this the second hypothetical critic can be met. The book does not deal with "medieval" drama in itself, because it is concerned with the cultural continuities which exist within and behind the stage for which Shakespeare, Jonson, Chapman, and Middleton wrote. Its purpose is to give direction in looking for these continuities, and this it attempts by following the metamorphoses of certain themes in different kinds of drama from what will doubtless seem preposterously distant "early times" to . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.