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)
• There are two main types of Jacobean theatre:
o 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 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... [continues]
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