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Home » » Discuss the main features of the Elizabethan drama focusing on Shakespeare
The English drama reached its meridian between 1590 and 1614 when Shakespeare was at the peak of his dramatic career. His predecessors -Marlowe,  Kyd, Greene, and Lyly paved the way and Shakespeare marched on taking English drama to a level that could not be surpassed till today  The main features of the English drama of that time are - revenge themes,  ghastly melodramatic scenes,  inner conflict,  hero-villain protagonists,  tragic-comedy, presence of ghosts and use of blank verse.

Tragedies in the Elizabethan period were deeply influenced by the Seneca revenge tradition.  Thomas Kyd introduces it in English drama through his The Spanish Tragedy.  Shakespeare's revenge plays,  particularly his much controversial but even perplexing tragedy  Hamlet an example of the popularity of revenge themes in Shakespeare's time. Kyd's innovations of madness in characters,  real or feigned,  soliloquy, and play within the play also became popular in this period. Shakespeare used all of them in his great tragedies like Hamlet,  Macbeth, and Julius Caesar.

Presenting the protagonists with conflicting emotions was another important feature of the Elizabethan dramatic tradition. Marlow's Dr. Faustus is a bright example of this tradition. Shakespeare's tragic heroes go further in the display of inner conflicts.  For example,  Brutus,  Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello suffer intensely for wavering between conflicting emotions. Their complexities tear their souls apart showing the eternal conflicts of mankind.

The Elizabethan tragedies are marked by melodramatic scenes. The then audience expected these thrilling scenes in which murder, bloodshed,  and outburst of excessive emotions were shown on the stage.  The play of Kyd and Shakespeare show them profusely. Thus, we have ghastly murders in Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth,  and Othello. This tradition of melodramatic scenes was taken from Seneca. However, in Seneca's plays the ghastly activities were not shown on the stage,  they were reported. But in the Elizabethan period, those melodramatic scenes on the stage became popular.

The use of supernatural elements in the plays is another important factor of the Elizabethan drama. The theatre houses were built in such a way that they could present ghosts and supernatural horror.  Dr . Faustus, Hamlet, and Macbeth are a few examples of this tradition. Similarly, the creation of hero-villain protagonists was popular in this age. Marlowe's concept of the hero-villain tragedy seems to have influenced, Shakespeare. Both Macbeth and Richard III have hero-villain protagonists. The Elizabethan comedies,  like tragedies, have distinct features. Robert Greene, John Lyly, and Shakespeare entertained the Elizabethan audience with their comedies. The comedies of this age are marked by romantic settings, engaging plots, lively characters, and diverting dialogues.

In comedies,  Shakespeare makes use of romantic love among young men and women. They laugh in happiness,  they wean in despair, and they burst out in passionate utterances. The comedies show Shakespeare's unique uses of wit and humor. Delicate feelings,  youthful charms, a sense of beauty, and sincere trust dominate his comedies. One remembers in this regard Beatrice and Benedict, Rosalind and Orlando,  Celia and Oliver,  Portia and Bsssanio. However, Shakespeare's comedies,  though having a dream-like atmosphere, are not bereft of realism. His plots are rooted in realism lying just beneath the surface of the romantic world.

One more distinct feature of the Elizabethan plays is the use of blank verse. Major parts of comedies and tragedies are written in black verse. Major parts of comedies and tragedies are written in blank verse.  The mighty lines of Marlowe and the grand dialogues of Shakespearean tragic heroes are all put in brilliant blank verse. The specialty of Shakespearean blank verse is that it rises and falls with the passion and mood of the speakers.

Finally,  the plays of the Elizabethan period have so distinct characteristics that they are, by their own virtues, separable from other English plays.  Shakespeare's vision of life, his objective observations, his unique skills in characterization, his grand blank verses, his negligence to three unities, his wit and humor and most of all his affinity with realism have distinguished his plays from others.

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Anowar Hussain(Aanu) said...

Really nice and helpful.. thank you

Anonymous said...

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Obaidul Haque said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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