Post-Shakespearean Dramatists and declining of drama during post-Shakespeare period

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Post-Shakespearean Dramatists
Introduction -

Post Shakespearean drama/Jacobean drama (that is, the drama of the age of James 11603-1625) was a decadent form of the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The Elizabethan age was the golden age of English drama.With the turn of the century the drama in England also took a turn. It does not mean that there were no dramatists left. There certainly was a large number of them, but none of them could come anywhere near Shakespeare.Just as after Chaucer, poetry in England suffered a decline, similarly after Shakespeare had given his best (that is, after the sixteenth century) drama also suffered a decline. With the passage of time it grew more and more decadent, till with Shirley in the age of Charles I the old kind of drama expired and even theatres were closed (in 1642) by Puritans. Long says "It was inevitable that the drama should decline after Shakespeare, for the simple reason that there was no other great enough to fill his place."

Factors Responsible for the decline of Drama during the postShakespearean period – 1)
2)
3)
4)
5)

The Change of Patrons
6) Down fall in Dramatic Technique
Moral Decline
7) Poor Characterisation
Unnatural Themes
8) Other Channels of Expression
Lack of Genius
9) Opposition by the Puritans
Exhaustion of Creative Spirit
1) The Change of Patrons - One of the reasons for the decadence in Jacobean/Post-Shakespearean drama was its loss of national spirit and patronage. In the Elizabethan period, drama was patronised by feudal lords. From the time of James I, dramatists depended on the king and the queen and royal domination. Dramatists wrote plays to cater to the taste of the court, so the theatre was cut off from common life.

2) Moral Decline - Loss of a national appeal was the growth of immortality in the drama. The low standard of the audience frequenting the theatre was responsible for the steep decline of moral standards. To please this riff-raff, unpleasant themes such as incent and sexual infidelity were freely adopted. Chastity was a virtue scoffed at by dramatists. The standard of morality suffered and with it came the decline of drama.

3) Unnatural Themes – The post-Shakespearean dramatists were interested in dramatising unnatural

themes. Illicit and incestuous love captured their imagination and such subjects as the life of prostitutes and whores began to have an appeal to them as can be seen from the titles of the plays produced during this period The White Devil, and The Honest Whore were the popular plays of the time. In the field of tragedy, dramatists were attracted by the stories of murder, horror and blood. The dramatists of this period had a morbid taste for murder and madness.Webster and Tourneur revelled in bloodshed and horror in their tragedies. Marston, Ford, Shirley were “deliberate dramatic sensation mongers.” 4) Lack of Genius – It was inevitable that the drama should decline after Shakespeare, for the simple reason that there was no other great enough to fill his place. Just as Chaucer’s successors failed to maintain the greatness of Chaucer, Shakespeare’s successor had little of the genius of Shakespeare. In the hands of his successors comedy became eccentric and tragedy lost its epic grandeur. Ben Jonson failed in the field of tragedy.

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5) Exhaustion of Creative Spirit – Shakespeare in spite of borrowing his material from different

sources had the creative imagination, and in his hands the borrowed material ‘suffered a sea-change into something rich and strange.’ After Shakespeare this creative spirit in drama began to decline and all that the dramatists could do was to attempt satirical comedies with good deal of criticism about the prevailing tendencies of the times. Critical and creative genius may sometimes appear together, but it is more usual for a critical spirit to appear when the creative spirit has begun to be exhausted, and the highest creative genius is as a rule...
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