The renaissance theatre in England saw the coming of the Elizabethan drama. The renaissance theatres were those that were opened during the time between Reformation and the closing down of theatres. Queen Elizabeth ruled England from 1558 – 1603, hence the drama of this era came to be known as Elizabethan drama.
Earlier, dramas were based on the bible stories, mystery, or had a moral attached to it and even tried to recreate Greek or Italian drama. However, during the Elizabethan period, drama branched out to political plays, comedy and historical content. It veered away from bible stories and tackled the reality.
The unique feature of Elizabethan drama is that one play was not played twice and certainly not within the same week. A new play was belted out almost every day.
Range of Drama
The theme of Elizabethan drama ranged from history of monarchs or the country including various European countries, tragedy, comedy and something called revenge drama emerged which the audience quite liked.
The historical plays included Richard III and Henry V, both written by William Shakespeare, Edward II by Richard Marlowe and Famous Chronicle of Edward King the First written by George Peele. These were particularly informative and also informative for those who had not or were unable to read about the history of England.
A Larum for London was something like a current event play which was written by an unknown author. It was the very first of its kind to be presented in London and its roots were in the Elizabethan theatre.
Genre of Drama
Comedy was a genre appreciated by the audience. A number of sub genres of comedy drama emerged in the Elizabethan drama. Some of them are the Shoe maker’s Holiday by Thomas Dekker and A chaste maid in cheapside by Thomas Middleton.
City comedy was one of the sub branches of comedies that emerged in the Elizabethan theatre. It contained slick and sarcastic depiction of life in a city, namely, London. Ben Johnson wrote the alchemist which presented society without the rose coloured glasses.
Tragicomedy breathed its first in early 1600s in the Elizabethan drama. The audience loved a good tragedy. And who better than the most eminent of all playwrights, William Shakespeare, to deliver a heart wrenching drama. Titus Andronicus, Othello, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and many more. John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi was received with great adulation.
Elizabethan drama differs from Jacobean Drama as the latter was named during the rule of King James I. Although, Jacobean drama was more like a continuation of Elizabethan drama, it was more intense and more intelligent. The plays became more complicated, tackling burning issues and portrayed more emotions, intensity, and aggression. The White Devil written by John Webster is an excellent example of Jacobean drama.