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Saturday, 25 August 2018

Some Important Short Notes On The Jacobean Period (1603-1625)

The Jacobean Period (1603-1625) consists mainly Decadent Play, Revenge tragedy,  The Duchess of Malfi, Volpone or, The Fox and The Cavalier Poets etc. Here, these things are discussed in small areas.
important short notes on jacobean period



Decadent Play

The term "decadence" means "decline". It usually describes a period of art or literature in comparison with the excellence of a former age. It has often been applied to the Alexandrine Period (300 B.C.-30 B.C.) and to the period after the death of Augustus (14 A.D.). In modern times, it is used for the late 19th century Symbolist Movement in France. Declination in the development of drama is also marked in the Jacobean Period in the history of English literature. During the Elizabethan Age, tragedy, comedy and tragi-comedy are produced spontaneously. This period is the period of emotion and impulse. Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Marlowe, Kyd and others are the unabortive creators of this age. But the spirit of this age declines in the Jacobean Age. The dramatists of the age deviate from the tendency of the Elizabethan spirit. Dramas turn from tragic atmosphere to the melodramatic spirit. The Elizabethan tragedians have given emphasis on characterization arousing pity and fear. But in the Jacobean Period, emphasis is given on melodramatic elements as we see them in The Duchess of Malfi.Decadent play has enjoyed some particular characteristic features different from the Elizabethan Age, the Golden Age of drama. Its plot-construction is loose and structurally defective. Besides, bloodshed, horror elements, violent passion and exact picture of a corrupted society are its main features. The Duchess of Malfi written by John Webster who is regarded as the greatest playwright in English literature outside Shakespeare is the powerful product of the Jacobean Period (1603-1625). The play bears the feature of a decadent play. It has some melodramatic elements which make this drama a revenge play.

 Revenge tragedy 

Revenge tragedy is a kind of tragedy modelled on the Senecan tragedy. It is a tragic play in which the tragedy results from the revenge. This kind of tragedy originated in ancient Greece in the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides. The popular elements of this type of drama are-- 
  • A quest for vengeance,
  • Ghosts,
  • Graveyards,
  • Insanity, 
  • Incest, 
  • Adultery,
  • Rape,
  • Suicide,
  • Arson,
  • Play within a play,
  • Sensational incidents and 
  • Horrible murders on the stage. 
Seneca, the great tragic dramatist of ancient Rome, introduces horror elements in a revenge play. The revenge tragedy enjoyed great popularity in the 17th century. In the Elizabethan Age, it was very popular. Later on, its popularity continued in the Jacobean Age too. Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, Marston's Antonio and Mellida, John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, Turner's The Revenge's Tragedy and Shakespeare's Hamlet are remarkable revenge tragedies. Revenge tragedy and Senecan tragedy are almost similar. The difference lies in the fact that revenge tragedy allows murders on stage while Senecan tragedy reports off-stage murders.

The Duchess of Malfi

The Duchess of Malfi written by John Webster who is regarded as the greatest playwright in English literature outside Shakespeare is the powerful product of the Jacobean Period (1603-1625). It was acted by Shakespeare's company and revised a little later. It is a better play than his earlier one, The white Devil. The Duchess of Malfi is regarded as a decadent play. Because the play has enjoyed some particular characterostic features different from the Elizabethan Age, the Golden Age of drama.The plot-construction of The Duchess of Malfi is loose and structurally defective. Besides bloodshed, horror elements, violent passion and exact picture of a corrupted society are its main features. When we deeply study it, we feel that we are in the intense evil. The play is in the tradition of a revenge tragedy made popular by Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy. In The Duchess of Malfi, we find Cardinal and Ferdinand are two wicked brothers. They are revengers. Their only sister is the Duchess who is very young and has become recently a widow. She is in love with a steward, Antonio. Bosola is the tool villain. In fact, the Duchess is one of the finest creations in the Elizabethan drama. No other female character outside Shakespeare surpasses her in vividness and subtlety. Her heroism is revealed when she declares, "I am Duchess of Malfi still". She is brutally killed and after her death Ferdinand exclaims, "Cover her face : mine eyes dazzle. She died young." The Duchess of Malfi is rich in poetry and imagery. It has given a picture of corruption and a corrupted society of the Jacobean Age.

Volpone Or, The Fox

Among the English men of letters, Ben Jonson is a unique figure in many ways. His Volpone is the greatest achievement and his masterpiece. The sub-title of the play is The Fox. It was written in 1605. It is a study of evil portraying a miserly sensualist who takes delight in the adventures of exploitation.Jonson's genius is found best in comedy. He is a classicist and a morality. He is also a reformer of the drama. His characters are "Humour" characters. He is famous for his comedy of humours and beast-fable. Volpone or The Fox is a burning example of this kind. In this play, we are acquainted with Volpone, Mosca, and a series of legacy-hunters including Voltore, Corbaccio, Corvino and Lady Politic Would-be. Almost all the characters in the play represent different beasts or animals. The total world of Volpone is full of evil and greed or avarice. But there are some innocent characters including Bonario and Celia.

The Cavalier Poets

In the seventeenth century, there was a long civil war between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads. Those who supported the king were called Cavaliers. Most of them were lords and their dependents. A group of lyric poets associated with these Cavalier are called Cavalier Poets. Richard Lovelace, Sir John Suckling, Robert Herrick and Thomas Carew were the members of this group. These poets are also called Sons of Ben.Because they were the admirers and followers of Ben Jonson. Their lyrics are trivial, gay, witty and often licentious. Yet they are fresh, passionate and felicitously exact. But at the same time, they are meditative and observant. The Cavalier poets revealed lyrical power of a high order. They are secular in thought. But actually they were royalists. Among them, Robert Herrick was a clergyman in South Devon. The other poets of this group lived at the court of Charles -I. They derived the clarity and lucidity of expression from Ben Jonson. They also derived the control of emotion, felicity of phrase and sophistication in tone. They were influenced by John Donne too.

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