Drama & Literature of the Elizabethan Period

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The drama and literature of the Elizabethan period was very different from the drama and literature of the modern day. It differed greatly in the aspects of theatre and its subjects, language, poetry, and the role of women in literature.

During the Elizabethan period the most common subjects of theatrical performance were moralities and mystery. The morality plays entertained the audience while teaching of the goodness of God and the dangers of sin. Most of the morality plays focused on a central figure - always a male - which represents all of humanity. He is confronted with a situation which involves a moral decision. One of the most popular characters in the moralities, called the Vice, disguised himself as a virtue and went about playing tricks on both virtues and vices alike. Slapstick comedy was a big part of this act as well. The prominence of vices in moralities due to our human nature of finding vices more interesting than virtue becomes typical of later moralities, where the vices take up most of the time on stage. Mysteries reflected the power of drama both to entertain and to educate due to their popularity. The mystery plays tended to take place over an enormous span of time and the location was constantly changing.

Following the time of moralities and mystery came English history, tragedy, and comedy. The medieval view of tragedy differed from that of classical literature in which tragedy was more of the inevitable turning of Fortune's wheel rather than the result of individual action. Romances, plays which dramatized stories, were represented by the stories of King Arthur.

Not only were the styles of plays different, but the language was different as well. Pronunciation was one of the main differences as it differed significantly from the English we know. Vowels were undergoing a "vowel shift," which has given us the many different accents we speak today. Because of this, there are a number of words that don’t rhyme when we speak them,...
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