University Wits and English Drama

Topics: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Tragedy Pages: 3 (1215 words) Published: October 7, 2008
In the process of development, English Drama had already passed through religious, moral and artistic period when towards the closing years of the 16th century it fell, for further development, into the hands of a group of well educated scholars who are generally referred to as University Wits. They were responsible for providing Shakespeare the right foundation so as to raise English Drama to the highest point and make it the greatest literary force of the Elizabethan age. In the tradition of Drama that was received by the University Wits there was a marked tendency of realism in comedy and tragedy, and the consequent casting off of the personified characters of the Morality plays. But at the same time there was an attempt on the part of neo-classicists to give decorum and dignity to Drama, which gave rise to certain artificiality in diction and characterization. Looking at the English Drama before the coming of University Wits Allardyce Nicoll comments that the classical tragedy lacked emotion and movement; the tragic-comedy, in which there is a mingling of diverse elements, was a bit chaotic; the true comedy as in Roister Doister united Terentian and English ideals; and there was a crude sort of farcial comedy in the native interludes of Heywood. It was the endeavour of the University Wits to fuse all these characteristics. The great merit of the University Wits was that they united the different traditions – the classical and the native – that were prevalent in England. The classicists had form but no fire, and the popular drama had interest but no form. They succeeded in doing so with their poetry, passion and academic training. Their academic training and the translations of classical plays, the result of Renaissance’s revival of learning, brought the University Wits under the spell of great Roman dramatist like Seneca, Plautus and Terence. But the nationalism, individualism, hopes and aspirations of the Elizabethan age did not all them to slavishly follow...
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