Retro Guide to Literature: A History of English Drama

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Retro Guide to Literature: A History of English Drama


The history of English drama is quite rich and there are a lot of things to discuss and explore here. The English people were not aware of the drama or the existence of theaters until Romans brought them to England. This happened during medieval times, so the drama had quite a few years to emerge and develop into what it is today.

The playwrights, the authors who created and wrote the dramas and plays, were inspired by folk tales and not only. Some works of literature were really haerd to write, but also some iconic English playwrights. William Shakespeare might be the most iconic English author, but Oscar Wilde could be just as popular as The Bard. So, the history of the drama is rich and we will shortly explore its inception and development in the next few fragments.

The Inception

How did the drama reach English territory? Well, in medieval times, the Romans built these amphitheaters where actors could play different plays. This is the moment that marks the development of the theatre or drama period. Actors were traveling from town to town to play incredible and catchy plays in the streets, and gather money for their performance. The plays were mainly about topics related to the era, such as Dragons and Saint George. In exchange for their performance, the actors were even able to get accommodation from locals. And this is the inception of drama on the territory of England. It happened quite a lot of time ago, so it changed over the years.

Read students essays about English Drama

The history of english drama is a topic that is discussed in most academic settings. This is an important part of the literature and an example of how different literary genres have emerged and developed differently in parts of the globe. Of course, the drama has experienced a different development in the territory of other countries, so if you want to discover more about English Drama, then you could read more literary essays on english plays to be more educated in that question?  England gave the world one of the most iconic poets and playwrights, so there is a lot to discover not only about the Bard, but about this piece of retro history of literature. Professional writers have explored this topic and shared their discoveries in many essays on this topic, so you could take inspiration from them.

Miracle and Mystery Plays

Well, the next phase of the development of English drama was focused on stories inspired or taken from the Bible. As religion began to spread across Europe, actors were taking essential and crucial stories that are described in the scripture and performing them in the streets. They were mainly focused on miracle and mystery plays, meaning the life of saints, important events from the Bible, and so on. It is important to note that when these plays began to contradict or confront what the Church was teaching, they were excluded from the Church and were played outside of it.

The Renaissance

However, the Renaissance is a period known in the entire world for its flourishing of ideas, creativity, and ingenuity of artists. This was an iconic development period not only for the English drama but also for the literature and painting domains as well. And this is the period when William Shakespeare, one of the most well-known and acclaimed English playwrights, stood out. He has written 38 plays that focus on a diversity of genres, such as comedies, tragedies, or history. Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, and many more are just a few of the iconic plays the Bard has written and they are still played even during these modern times. Jon Webster, Thomas Dekker, and Ben Jonson are other iconic and emblematic playwrights from the Renaissance period.

Restoration Comedy

It is important to note that Puritans have eliminated drama from the church, even though it emerged in those liturgical plays. The next period is called the restoration comedy, where plays focused on different themes than before. This allowed playwrights to emerge, but it also offered women the opportunity to play in English dramas. This was also a period when the closet drama emerged when they were played only for small groups of people and not on stage.

Ending Note

But the English drama has developed even more and it has adapted to modern times. Now, we rarely see theater plays in the streets, but on the TV. and the drama is not as similar as some might think with the emerging ones. We can now watch a drama TV series on TV and the topics are very different. Three Girls is a TV drama broadcast on BBC One and it explores the sexual abuse children go through, so quite an actual topic nowadays.

Vendy Adams is a content writer. She usually writes on topics related to history, movies, and books. Vendy’s favorite English author is Ernest Hemingway.

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