The Elizabethan era saw a great flourishing of literature, especially in the fields of poetry and drama. The Italian Renaissance
had rediscovered the ancient Greek and Roman theatre. This revival of
interest was instrumental in the development of the new drama, which was
then beginning to make apart from the old mystery and miracle plays of the Middle Ages. The Italians were particularly inspired by Seneca (a major tragic playwright and philosopher, the tutor of Nero) and by Plautus (whose comic
clichés, especially that of the boasting soldier, had a powerful
influence during the Renaissance and thereafter). However, the Italian
tragedies embraced a principle contrary to Seneca's ethics: showing
blood and violence on the stage. In Seneca's plays such scenes were only
acted by the characters. The English playwrights were intrigued by the
Italian model: a conspicuous community of Italian actors had settled in
London, and Giovanni Florio had brought much of the Italian language and culture to England.
Earlier Elizabethan plays include the history play Gorboduc by Sackville and Norton, and The Spanish Tragedy by Kyd, which is thought to have been among the sources for Hamlet. William Shakespeare stands out in this period as a poet and playwright. Shakespeare was very gifted and incredibly versatile. He surpassed "professionals" such as Robert Greene
who mocked this "shake-scene" of low origins. Though most dramas met
with great success, it is in his later years (marked by the early reign
of James I) that he wrote what have been considered his greatest plays: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and The Tempest, a tragicomedy that inscribes within the main drama a brilliant pageant to the new king.
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Jan 10th, 2015
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