Jacobean drama

Definition

Theater

  • The English theater during the reign of James I (1603 - 25).Although Shakespeare was still writing major works untilaround 1611, the leading dramatist of the era was Ben Jonson.Other noted Jacobean playwrights included John Marston, ThomasMiddleton, Thomas Heywood, John Ford, ThomasDekker (c. 1570 - 1632), Cyril Tourneur (c. 1575 - 1626),and Samuel Rowley (c. 1575 - 1624).

    In comedy, the Elizabethan concerns with characterization andromantic love began to give way to a vogue for harsh satire and increasedrealism from about 1610. Jacobean tragedy shows a similar obsessionwith the idea of moral corruption; examples include Webster'sThe White Devil (1612) and The Duchess of Malfi (1619),as well as Beaumont and Fletcher's The Maid'sTragedy (1610). The plays, which are often horrifically violent,display a generally cynical and pessimistic outlook on life. From 1605Jonson collaborated with Inigo Jones to create the extravagantand scholarly court masques beloved by James I and his queen.

    Although James was an enthusiast for the theater, he imposedstrict regulations on companies, specifying in which theaters theycould play. One effect of this was to bring public performances intothe cities of London and Westminster; before 1608 all theaters hadto be outside the municipal boundaries. The leading troupe of theday, the Chamberlain's Men, became the King's Menon James's accession. Similarly the Blackfriars Boy Company becamethe Children of the Revels of the Queen, although the popularity ofchild actors came to an end during the Jacobean era. Other featuresof the period include the growing influence of neoclassical theoriesfrom the Continent (see neoclassical drama), increasinglyviolent opposition to the theater from the Puritans, and a generaldecline in audience numbers.

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