During the reign of Elizabeth-I in the 16th century, renaissance dramas developed. The feeling, thought and action of the age found the best expressions in the drama. The age witnessed the tremendous development in the drama which culminated in Shakespeare. Unlike the Continental dramas, English dramas drew on medieval theaters. The demands of a popular audience were taken in to consideration.
The audience of the age of Elizabeth was passionate and imaginative. And it was one of the reasons the Elizabethan drama succeeded to a greater extent. Moreover, the playwrights made some innovative experimentation that made dramas evergreen!
The playwrights used a classical act and scene structure and other theatrical devices inspired by Seneca. They mixed together tragedy, comedy, and pastoral and united several plots. They covered great span of time and space, integrated music, dance, and spectacle, depicted violence, battles, and blood and mixed royalty with low-life characters. The subjects of tragedy were always historical rather than mythical. The comedies were pastoral which consisted of elements like nymphs and magic.
It was the rise of drama in England where the Miracle plays, Morality and Interludes were in vogue. It was the age which gave the first true English comedy, Grammer Gurton’s Needle and the first tragedy, Gorboduc.
The Predecessors of Shakespeare; Marlowe, Dramacool Lyly, Kyd, Nash, Peele and Greene brought the drama to the culmination point by offering their unique experimentations. These were Marlowesque, one-man type, or the tragedy of passion, the Court or Lylian comegy, Classic plays and the Melodramas. Marlowe, among these playwrights, occupied a central position who gave four famous plays, Tamburlaine, Faustus, Jew of Malta, and Edward II.
The Elizabethan Age gave birth to a literary genius, Shakespeare whose tragedies Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear and comedies like As You Like It, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night colored the English literature at its best. Elizabethan drama went through the conflict between classic and native ideals.
Shakespeare’s Successors could not keep the spirit of drama and there was the note of decline of drama. It was Ben Jonson whose comedies Every Man in His Humor, The Alchemist, The Silent Woman and the tragedies Catiline, Sejanus showed the real charm.