The English Theatre during the Tudor Era
The English Theatre during the Tudor Era
The rule of the Tudor dynasty in England, extended from 1485 to 1603, was established after The War of the Roses between House of York and House of Lancaster. A period of unusual isolation for England from the Continental trends, Tudor period witnessed the developments of drama from the religious plays to Interludes in royal courts and from there to the regular drama in the Theatres. Drama began as an offshoot of the practices of the church and was thus religious in intention. It developed through the Tudor period acquiring a secular character by substituting moral teaching for purely religious instruction.
The characters underwent a corresponding change: they were no longer Biblical figures, as in the case of Mystery plays, but personified virtues and vices. The some famous examples of these moral plays, or Morality Plays, as they were called are Everyman, a late fifteenth century work of unknown authorship and The Castle of Perseverance. Another important development in the English theatre during the Tudor period was the Interlude. It was the transitional form between the Morality play and the regular drama, in which the allegorical characters were displaced.
Unlike moralities they were meant for amusement and entertainment. It was John Heywood who rendered interludes a definitive place in the development of English drama. He was a court musician and provider of amusements to Henry VIII. The interludes were dramatized at feasts and celebrations to entertain the court and the nobility. Heywood’s well-known interlude Four P’s (about 1520) represented an amusing dialogue passed between a Palmer, a Pardoner, a Pothecary and a Pedlar. Heywood continued his position in the Tudor court during the reign of Edward VI and Queen Mary.
In due course of time, the interlude dissociated itself and became independent species of drama that was true to life and more regular in form. The influence of new learning prompted the performances of Latin plays of Terence and Plautus in schools and colleges. The next step was to create English plays on the classical model. The result was the first regular comedy in English, Ralph Roister Doister by Nicholas Udall, produced during the brief reign of Edward VI. It was followed soon after by Gammer Gurton’s Needle, of doubtful authorship, performed at Christ’s College, Cambridge.
In the following years several Senecan Tragedies were translated in to English, which provided the model for the first English Tragedy written by Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton. It was performed before Queen Elizabeth in 1561. It was followed by Tancred and Grismunda in 1568 and Misfortunes of Arthur in 1587. Another popular drama form that was inspired from Seneca during this period was the revenge tragedy. Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (1586) established this kind of drama in England.
The rest of the Elizabethan age saw the golden age of English Drama with the rise of the playwrights who were commonly called ‘the university wits’ and of course, William Shakespeare. The Tudor period saw the growth of Dramas from the royal courts to the theatres. With the advent of the Interludes, the demand for the entertainments of this kind led to the formation of small companies of actors maintained in the houses of noblemen. They wandered from place to place performing in inn-yards market places etc. First of the permanent theatre, which was called ‘The Theatre’ was built in Shoreditch in 1576.
It was followed by the establishment of eight playhouses in London. The most famous of these early theatres were ‘Rose’, where the plays of Marlowe were performed; ‘Globe’in Southwark and Shakespeare’s ‘Wooden O’, where his masterpieces were first performed. The Art of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci The era of Renaissance saw the zenith of the European arts of painting sculpture, architecture and literature that was not surpassed in any age. Italy was the epicenter of the Renaissance the chief characteristic of which was humanism.
It was a system of vision which extolled human worth and dignity, expressing deep faith in his great creative potential, proclaiming liberty and absolute rights of the individual. The works of veteran Italian artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Davinci announced the aforesaid spirit of Renaissance and their works are often considered synonymous with the Renaissance art. Humanism and Renaissance found brilliant expression in the realm of painting, sculpture and architecture. The artists of the time made use of biblical subjects, but their interpretation had little to do with the traditional religious attitude.
Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and Michelangelo’s Pieta are examples. Often described as the archetype of ‘the Renaissance man’, Leornado Davinci is regarded as one of the most talented people ever lived, on account of his genius in several fields. Like all Renaissance artists, he looked upon art as an imitation of life. He is praised for stylistic innovations, especially his understanding of anatomical structure of human body in order to represent movement. The interest in human anatomy to find the mechanism underlying the gestures and expression was a feature of the Renaissance artists.
Da Vinci’s interpretation of biblical episodes had the scent of human life, with all its earthly beauty and vigor. Annunciation, which is thought to be one of the earliest completed works by Da Vinci, portrays the Humanist face of Virgin Mary. Physical aspects of man’s existence were given prominence rather than that of the religious. He is best known for two paintings: Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. The latter was yet another attempt by Da Vinci to humanise the biblical episode of the last meal shared by Jesus with his disciples before his capture and death.
His mastery of depicting the expression is evident in the smile of Mona Lisa that baffled the centuries. Da Vinci’s contemporary, Michelangelo was also a multifaceted genius who proved his expertise as a painter, sculptor architect poet and engineer. His out put in every field during his long life was phenomenal. Two of his best known works, Pieta and David were sculpted before he was thirty. In spite of his low opinions about painting he contributed two important works in fresco: the decoration of the ceilings and alter walls of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican.
He drew the subjects from Christian mythology but giving it an intense human interpretation thereby catching the spirit of Renaissance. These paintings, for example The Last Judgment and The Fall of Man are among the most works of art in the world. One of his greatest contributions to architecture was the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Michelangelo’s Pieta, carved in 1499, is another epitome of the Renaissance humanism. It is a representation of Mary with the dead Christ across her knees. Following the popular theme at the time he depicted the woes of mother and son as human beings and not as religious symbols.
Many depictions of Mary and Christ as a child at that time represented Mary and Jesus as loving human beings. Michelangelo viewed art as something that sprung from inner motivation and from culture. While Da Vinci’s art sprung from the observation of nature and of man, Michelangelo saw nature as an enemy to over come. According to him every stone has a sculpture in it and the job of the sculptor was to chip away all that was not a part of the statue. References Dev, Arjun. (1997). The Story of Civilization. Vol. 1. New Delhi: NCERT.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 25 November 2016
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