EN3535 – Fall/Winter 2011/2012 – Elizabeth Pentland
Lecture 2 Part 1 – Titus Andronicus – Sept 20
- Life and context (continued from last week)
o Rival playwrights.
o Shakespeare’s later years.
o First Folio (1623)
- Titus Andronicus (1594)
o Peacham drawing.
o ‘Revenge Tragedy’
Rivalry and Inspiration
- Shakespeare worked alongside other well-known playwrights of the period,
including Thomas Kyd, Robert Greene, Christopher Marlow and Ben Johnson.
o Robert Greene wrote funny pamphlets.
o Christopher Marlowe is master of drama works. His works were a major
influence; Shakespeare strives to imitate Marlow’s verse.
o Ben Johnson was Shakespeare’s rivals. He criticised and resented
Shakespeare’s successes on the stage.
- He learned much from these playwrights (especially Kyd and Marlowe) in the
early years of his career, and was seen by some of them as an ambitious
‘upstart’ or a rival.
- Ben Johnson’s poem celebrating Shakespeare’s contribution to English drama
prefaces the First Folio (1623).
Robert Greene (1558-1592)
- Rival playwright & pamphleteer.
- One of the ‘University Wits’ (along with Christopher Marlowe).
- Earliest mention of Shakespeare in print (possibly an allusion to Titus
o ‘…for there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his
Tygers hart wrapt in a players hyde, supposes he is as well able to
bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute
Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a
Marlowe was famous for his blank verse.
Marlowe implies that Shakespeare is trying to compete with Marlow
and the other playwrights in the theater.
Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)
- One of the ‘University Wits’.
- Famous for tragedies like Doctor Faustus, Tamburlaine.
- Rumoured to have worked for Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, Walsingham. - Murdered in a brawl outside a pub in 1593.
- Influences Shakespeare’s earliest works, including Titus Andronicus and Richard
o Where we see Shakespeare trying to imitate Marlowe’s blank verse and
the tragic hero that Marlow wrote so well.
Ben Johnson (1572-1637)
- Rival playwright.
- Bricklayer’s son, university educated.
- Praised Shakespeare’s accomplishments in a poem that prefaced the First Folio
(Shakespeare’s collected works) in 1623.
- Shakespeare’s ‘small Latine, and lesse Greeke’.
- Poetry was high literature and prose literature was also high literature, theater on
the other hand was a lesser category. It was Ben Johnson that decided that he
would print his theatrical works with this poetic works to heighten the status of
The King’s Men (1603)
- Queen Elizabeth I dies in 1603 and is succeeded by James I (King of Scotland at
o No one knew who was going to be the next queen or king. She died
without being married or having children.
o Her successor turned out to be a distant cousin of Elizabeth – James I.
- Jacobean era begins
o A new culture and a new period in English history begins.
- King James becomes honorary patron of Shakespeare’s theatre company.
o He is a deep supporter of the arts.
- Name of the company changes to The King’s Men.
o Their patron is King James I.
o This means that they will be called upon by the king to perform for him or
for his events.
Shakespeare’s Later Years
- From about 1609 onwards, Shakespeare increasingly occupied with business in
Stratford (as a landholder there).
- Gradually withdraws from London theater scene.
- Continues to write for the stage until 1613, but increasingly in collaboration with
other playwrights (like John Fletcher).
o 1611 – The Tempest.
- Fire at the Globe Theater in 1613; Shakespeare retires.
o Fire was started by using a real cannon on stage to make a ‘real’ effect.
o Theater was mix gendered and different classes.
o It’s as if the fire at the Globe puts an end to his writing.
First Folio (1623)
- Shakespeare dies in 1616, at the age of 53. - His collected works are published by John Heminge and Henry Condell in 1623.
- ‘First Folio’
o A large book made by folding large pieces of paper in half.
- Plays only just beginning to be thought of as ‘literary’.
- Ben Johnson’s ‘work