4/08/2019

Major features of English Drama with reference to Shakespeare.

The Elizabethan Period is regarded as the Golden Age of drama. It is no exaggeration to say that the Elizabethan drama is the
supreme achievement of the genius of the English race. Only the Greek ancient drama can be compared with it. It can offer only a
close parallel to it. It is composed of the works of supreme geniuses like Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Yet in sheer splendour and intensity, Elizabethan drama stands supreme and unapproachable. It
is also superior to the other of the same type in range and variety. It is distinguished with its special trends from the dramas of the other
ages. The Elizabethan dramas are marked by their variety and range, innovation. characterisation, classical influences, artistic qualities stage-performances and popularity.

The Elizabethán dramas may rightly be compared to a web of many colours. A host of the great Elizabethan dramatists was in the
task of weaving this complex and many-coloured web. Kyd, Marlowe. Greene, Lyly, Peele, Ben Jonson and others were
remarkable. They wrote tragedies, comedies, tragi-comedies revenge plays, melodrama etc. Many of them were of real genius but
they were unlucky in their time. Being born in the Age of Shakespeare, they had been eclipsed and overshadowed by the
blinding light. Because Shakespeare was the great miracle of genius.

Shakespeare came in the ripeness of time when the English drama had needed a supreme genius to give it direction and energy
He found the raw-materials of the English drama in a mess. But they his supreme powers, he turned them into finished products. He turned the baser metals into gold. He was no conscious innovator or theorist on drama. He took drama as a thing o unsouled forms
lacking lustre eyes, brain and meaning. But by his supreme genius he reformed its shapes with grace and virtue. He breathed life into it
and the drama was reborn. This is what his genius had done for the Elizabethan drama. He made it a thing of beauty and hence a joy for
ever. Herein lies the distinctive quality of his creative genius.

Elizabethan drama is the fruitful product of the Renaissance. Renaissance elements are abundantly found in the dramas of
Shakespeare. Love of beauty, love of power and wealth and love of knowledge and learning become the striking features of As You Like
It. Twelfth Night, Hamlet, King Lear and The Tempest.

Elizabethan dramas are influenced by the classical play Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Seneca and Aristophanes had
influenced them to a great extent. Elizabethan tragedy was influenced by Seneca to a great extent. Seneca influenced it more
than Sophocles and Aeschylus. He was a Roman dramatist. Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton produced the first tragedy in English.literature, Gorboduc in the style of Seneca. Thomas Kyd wrote his
famous melodrama, The Spanish Tragedy following the style Shakespeare wrote Richard-III, Hamlet and Macbeth being
influenced by Seneca. He seems to be aware of the dramatic output of Seneca well. He uses general machinery and speeches of Seneca in his plays.

Elizabethan dramas are original. They deal with universality Shakespeare is original and universal. But he is a great borrower. He has borrowed freely from older plays. Yet we find his deep and profound understanding of human nature. His dramas are a great
river of life and beauty. The characters of Shakespeare have permanent hold on the human mind. They seem to be the common
species. His characterisation is a rare gift in the field of the Elizabethan drama. He touches the human heart and moves us to pity
and sympathy. His observations about life and its different facets are very meaningful and significant.

Treatment of love is another important feature of the Elizabethan dramas. Shakespeare stands supreme in this respect. His
dramas mainly deal with love theme. The principal characters of Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra are violently
passionate and sentimental. They become so for the sake of love. His comedies are too replete with love theme. Love at first sight becomes the common characteristics of his romantic comedies. The Elizabethan dramatists tended to give moral lessons
Christopher Marlowe gives us a striking moral lesson in his famous tragedy, Doctor Faustus. He shows here how Faustus has been
damned for his vaulting ambition. Faustus gives up religion and wants to be a superman. He does not hesitate to sell his soul for
learning magic and earthly voluptuousness. Shakespeare teaches us the great lesson of sympathy with our fellow-mortals of all kinds and classes. His power of insight and imagination is rich and creative. He
is also able to impress us for his language and style. His language is grand and majestic. He is romantic like other Elizabethan dramatist.

However, in context of our delineation, we may say that the Elizabethan Age is the Golden Age of drama. The dramas in this period stand supreme and unapproachable. They are superior to the other of the same types in range and variety. They are marked by
their variety and range, innovation, characterisation, classical influences, artistic qualities, stage-performances and popularity
Kyd, Marlowe, Greene, Lyly, Peele, Ben Jonson and many others are remarkable playwrights. But they had been eclipsed and overshadowed by the blinding light of Shakespeare. He was the great miracle of genius. He represented the period.

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