Shakespeare is a towering presence in English and indeed global culture. Most readers in the English-speaking world, and many beyond, know his name and have at least a passing familiarity with his work. Yet considered alongside his contemporaries he was not an isolated phenomenon, but the product of a period of astonishing creative fertility. This was an age when new media – popular drama, and print – were seized upon avidly and inventively by a generation of exceptionally talented writers. In her sparkling new book, Helen Hackett explores the historical contexts of English Renaissance drama by situating it in the wider history of ideas. She traces the origins of Renaissance theatre in communal religious drama, civil pageantry and court entertainment and vividly describes the playing conditions of Elizabethan and Jacobean playhouses. Examining Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson in turn, the author assesses the distinctive contribution made by each playwright to the creation of English drama. She then turns to revenge tragedy, with its gothic poetry of sex and death; city comedy, domestic tragedy and tragicomedy; and gender and drama, with female roles played by boy actors. The book places Renaissance drama in the exciting and vibrant cosmopolitanism of sixteenth-century London.
About the Author
Helen Hackett is Professor of English at University College London. Her previous books are Shakespeare and Elizabeth: The Meeting of Two Myths (2009), Women and Romance Fiction in the English Renaissance (2000) and Virgin Mother, Maiden Queen: Elizabeth I and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (1995).
Table of Contents
• A Note on the Text
• Introduction: Renaissance and Reformation
• English Drama Before the 1590s
• How Plays Were Made
• Sex and Death: Revenge Tragedy
• Playing With Genre: City Comedy, Domestic Tragedy, Tragicomedy
• Playing with Gender: Boy Actors, Female Performers, Female Dramatists
• Epilogue: The Afterlives of Renaissance Drama