citizen comedy

Definition

Theater

  • Elizabethan and Jacobean plays that satirized the manners,social customs, and financial dealings of London's new prosperousmerchant class. This popular genre attracted such leading playwrightsas Thomas Dekker, Philip Massinger, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton,Thomas Heywood, Francis Beaumont, and John Fletcher.

    The period was one of economic and social upheaval in whicha trading class of entrepreneurs developed into an established middleclass. Accordingly, citizen comedy is characterized by plots aboutsocial-climbing and greed, with characters marrying for money, trickingheirs out of their fortunes, and dreaming up schemes to get rich quickly.There is much good-natured moralizing.

    Typical examples of the genre include The Shoemaker'sHoliday (1599) and Old Fortunatus (1600) by Dekker, EastwardHo! (1605), a collaboration between Marston, Jonson, and ChapmanBeaumont's The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607), and Middleton'sA Chaste Maid in Cheapside (1611).

    The political conflict between Charles I and Parliament ledto darker themes in citizen comedy and its decline prior to the CivilWar and Interregnum.

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