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Jacobean Theatre

By | December 2010
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Jacobean theatre refers to the sub-classification of English Renaissance theatre during the reign of King James I (1603-1625). It is a dark and disturbing literary form, spiritually gloomy, grotesquely violent and often shockingly obscene.

• This theatre style evolved from its preceding, more widely known predecessor called Elizabethan theatre. • Sexuality was very prevalent in Jacobean performances, along with a heightened sense of violence and general immoralities/perversities • As the economy declined, so did the delicacy of theatre – there was a “tendency to blame the audience for a decay of taste”. (Brown, 194) • Performances moved from outdoor to indoor, because of the changeable weather • Boys’ theaters made a comeback

• This is one of the roots of burlesque – back when burlesque still meant grotesque humour and not a classic type of strip teasing o Pipe-smoking, beer-drinking, entr’acte dancing, music, and tumbling accompanied the performances o The play was a prelude to further past time (kind of like a pre-drinking) Style

• There are two main types of Jacobean theatre:
o Revenge Plays
o Tragicomedies
Revenge Plays
• Revenge plays were very obscene and violent
• The main character was called the Revenger
o It is a hero avenging an unfair or cruel death – they are fueled by hatred and vindication Tragicomedies
• Tragicomedies tend to fall under the grotesque side – it has dark humour and are very sexual in nature

Important Plays and Playwrights
• The two most produced Jacobean revenge plays are John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil • Other revenge plays include:
o Ben Jonson – Every Man Has His Humour, & The Poetaster o Thomas Dekker – Lust's Dominion, The Witch of Edmonton, & The Virgin Martyr o William Shakespeare – Othello, Macbeth, King Lear (and many more)...

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