History of english drama


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History of english drama

  1. 1. History Of English DramaDrama is a literary composition, which is performed by professional actors on stage (ortheatre), before an audience. It involves conflicts, actions and a particular theme. Eye-catching make up, facial expressions and body language of the artists are prominentfeatures of a live performance. Although the art form exists in different countries, drama inEngland deserves special mention, because some of the legendary dramatists, includingWilliam Shakespeare, are associated with it. Go through the following lines and get someinteresting information on the history, background and origin of English drama.Interesting Information On Background & Origin Of English DramaEmergenceThe Romans introduced drama to England, during the medieval period. A number ofauditoriums were constructed for the performance of the art form, when it came to thecountry. Mummers plays, associated with the Morris dance, became a popular form ofstreet theatre during the period. The performances were based on the old stories of SaintGeorge, Robin Hood and Dragon. The artists moved from town to town, to perform thesefolk tales. They were given money and hospitality, in return for their performance. Themystery and morality plays, performed during medieval period - at religious festivals,carried the Christian theme.English RenaissanceThe English Renaissance, a cultural and artistic movement in England country that lastedfrom 16thto early-17thcentury, paved the way for the dominance of drama in the country.Queen Elizabeth I ruled during the period, when great poetry and drama were produced.The renowned playwrights of this time included William Shakespeare, ChristopherMarlowe, Ben Jonson and John Webster. The dramatists wrote plays based on themes likehistory, comedy and tragedy. While most of the playwrights specialized in only one of thethemes, Shakespeare emerged as an artist who produced plays based on all the threethemes.Interregnum (1649-1660)During the period of Interregnum, the Puritans closed English theatres for their ownreligious purposes and ideological reasons. However, the theatres in London were reopenedsoon after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. With the support of Prince Charles II,the theatres continued to flourish in the country. The topical writing of the dramatists andthe introduction of professional female actors to drama (until then, all the female characterswere played by men) gained the attention of the audience.The Restoration gave rise to the inclusion of new genres in drama, such as heroism andRestoration comedy. George Ethereges The Man of Mode (1676), William WycherleysThe Country Wife (1676), AphraBehns The Rover (1677) John Drydens All for Love(1677) and (Aureng-Zebe) (1675) and Thomas Otways Venice Preserved (1682) weresome of the popular plays of the period. Sexual explicitness was the highlight of the comic
  2. 2. plays during the Restoration. Price Charles II and the aristocratic ethos of his courtencouraged such plays, which started from 1660 and continued until 1685.18thCenturyThe Restoration comedy in England, which had started in the later half of the 17thcentury,faded away with the advent of the 18thcentury. Domestic tragedy and sentimental comedybecame the new flavor of the period. Fair-booth burlesque and musical entertainment,which preceded the English music hall, flourished during the period, suppressing thepopularity of legitimate English drama.Victorian Era (1837-1901)Musical burlesques and comic operas competed with the plays written by Shakespeare,during the Victorian Era. The German Reed Entertainments took efforts to give a boost tothe musical theatre in Britain, in 1855. In 1890, the first series of Edwardian musicalcomedies were introduced to the country. Improved transportation resulted in themovement of the audience, who could now afford to travel to the theatres late in the nightas well. The number of potential patrons of English theatre saw a significant growth. As aresult, plays started running for longer duration in the theatres.With time, more and more people started coming to theatres. This resulted in drama being aprofit making business. The increase in the audience resulted in the improvement in theproduction value of drama. The art form recorded consecutive performance, due to theincrease in its popularity. The late Victorian Era saw the growing fame of W. S. Gilbert andOscar Wilde, leading poets and dramatists of the period. The plays written by Wilde hadclose resemblance to those written by the Edwardian dramatists, such as George BernardShaw (an Irishman) and Henrik Ibsen (a Norwegian).Emergence Of New MediumThe Edwardian musical comedy, together with foreign operetta imports, occupied theLondon stage until World War I, when they were replaced by the increasing popularity ofAmerican musical theatre and comedies. Noel Coward, Ivor Novello and theircontemporaries soon replaced the Edwardian musical comedy. It was during this time that anew medium - motion picture - started gaining popularity. Initially, the motion picturescomprised of silent movies.With the passing time, the movies were premiered with sound tracks. This posed achallenge to the live theatre performance, which faced a downfall. In the 1920s, films likeThe Jazz Singer, released with synchronized sound track, made the critics assume that thenew medium would soon replace live theatre. However, the English drama didnt vanishaway altogether. Playwrights continued to exist, though some of the dramatists startedwriting for the new medium.The Present TimeThe majority of musical dramas of the 20thcentury were written by Andrew Lloyd Webber,who dominated the scene during the period. His works gained immense popularity.Consequently, the dramas traveled to Broadway in New York and around the world. Someof them were turned into feature films as well. Postmodernism had a serious effect on the
  3. 3. existence of English drama, in the end of 20thcentury. However, a large number of theatresstill exist around Shaftesbury Avenue, in the western part of London. The RoyalShakespeare Company, operating from Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeares hometown),currently produces most of the plays written by the legendary dramatist.SourceHistory of English Drama.(n.d.). Retrieved fromhttp://lifestyle.iloveindia.com/lounge/history-of-english-drama-4753.html