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Lecture 8

DART1F93 Lecture 8: The English Renaissance

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Department
Dramatic Arts
Course Code
DART 1F91
Professor
Paul Halferty

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Lecture #8: English Renaissance Thursday, November 7, 2013 11:00 AM Transitions in English Culture: 1485-1642 Context •Began during the reign of Henry VII , who became king in 1485 •Ends with the Puritan's Monarchs •Henry VII (1485-1509) •Henry VIII (1509-1547) •Edward VI (1547-1553) •Lady Jane Grey (10-19 July 1553) •Mary I (1553-1558) •Elizabeth I (1558-1603) - Elizabethan •James I (1603-1625) - Jacobean •Charles I (1625-1649) - Caroline •By 1600 the dominant theatrical conventions were a mix of medieval and new from England Transformations: Religious •By the 16th century the church (and in turn, religious theatre) had been weakened greatly •The protestant reformation had begun Europe in 1517, with Martin Luther's 95 Theses, criticizing such practices as the selling of indulgences (give me $10000 and I'll sort things out with God for you) •In England, Henry VIII's break from the Church in Rome in 1534 leads to bitter controversy and years of unrest •Henry VIII becomes head of both the English church and the head of State •In England the monasteries, once the primary centers of learning, were closed, their wealth seized •When Elizabeth I comes to the throne in 1558 she silences religious cycle plays Transformations: Education and Learning • England's two universities, Oxford and Cambridge, became part of the new establishment •Universities became fertile ground for new ideas, including drama, where classical literature was studied •Humanists performances (plays about people) were flourishing at Cambridge by the 1520s •In 1546 Queen's College at Cambridge mandated the yearly performance of plays and constructed a moveable theatre structure for its main halls •Greater access to learning, fostered by Gutenberg's invention of the printing press (1452) inspiring a 'spirit of questioning' •Erasmus (1466-1536) and other continental humanists went to England Transformations: Economic • At the end of the 15th century, a combination of population growth and commercial expertise were shored up by the stability of secure nation states (that had replaced the former city states) • This fostered the expansion and economic vitality • The market expanded, and, in the process serfdom died • Serfs began to make themselves and have independence • By the end of the 16th century, these trends were firmly embedded in Europe as a whole and in England in particular • The European economy featured new growth in population and an absence of the plague and the accompanying increase in trade • London gradually became a city where sophisticated economic transactions could take place • These activities continue to the beginning of the civil war in 1642, and when parliament closes British theatre • The war continued until 1649, when the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell triumphed and Charles I was beheaded • During the 150 year period form the later 15th century to 1642, English culture was transformed and rose to unequaled heights Transformation form Religious to Secular Theatre: The Interlude • Toward the end of the 15th century, the Interlude developed • A type of morality play that dealt in the same allegorical way with general moral problems, but with more pronounced realistic and comic elements • Short plays performed between meals • Interludes included secular farces, and witty dialogues with a religious or political point • They display a shift from salvation to education in theatrical performance • This shift accompanied by a parallel interest from religious to politics (or religion as politics!) • Interludes were morality plays that abandoned universal moral and religious themes of the older moralities from problems of vice Classical Influences on English Drama • At the heart of the Renaissance was the rediscovery of Classical thought, and texts -- including dramatic texts • Classical influences informed a developing national drama including new themes and new structure, first in comedy and then
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