Drama up to Shakespeare Viva

Q.1. How will you narrate the birth of Modern Drama?
Ans. Modern drama began in the hands of the Church, and to understand its origin we have to consider why it was that the Church nourished it. In the days of the declining Roman empire the theatre had sunk very low in morals and art, and one of the chief forms of popular amusement consisted of gladiatorial combats, which were cruel and degrading exhibitions of men fighting with beasts. But around the ceremony of the Mass, and in particular around the festivals of Christmas and Easter, the church gradually developed her ritual into elaborate piece of dumb show, to accompany and illustrate the lesson of the day.

Q.2. How did the Churchyard replace the Church?
Ans. As the plays became more and more popular, and as each dramatic tableau became more elaborate, the churchyard replaced the church itself as the theatre. Soon there were too many performers for them to be all clerics, and as the lay people came to take part, so the native language and the humour of the laity insisted on creeping in. At length drama passed out of the hands of the Church altogether.
Q.3. What do you understand about Early English Religious Drama?
Ans. In pre-Conquest English literature there is nothing that we can really call drama. In the later Old English literature we find dialogues, such as one between the Body and the Soul, which indicate a slight dramatic
tendency, but that is all.
Q. 4. What were the various stages in the development of drama up to the Earliest Regular Drama?
Ans. There were four stages in the development of drama up to the Earliest Regular Drama. Firstly, there were Miracle or Mystery Play. Secondly, Morality Plays became popular. Thirdly, the Interludes made further development of the dramatic art. Finally, the Masque played a very important role in the development of Drama.
Q. 5. What is the contribution of the Miracle Play in the development of drama?
Ans. In fact, we cannot imagine that the drama properly developed from them. The Miracle Plays have less dramatic characteristics. They have elementary characterisation, a good deal of vigour, and abundant rough humour, but there is little sense of structure, and the medium is generally doggerel verse. Plot, form, and appropriate expression have yet to be discovered.
Q. 6. What was the contribution made by the Morality Play?
Ans. The Morality play registered a further advance. In such plays virtues and vices were presented on the stage as allegorical creations, often of much liveliness. Abstractions such as Justice, Mercy, Gluttony, and Vice were among the commonest characters. An important feature of this class of play is the development of characterization. It is almost crude; but it is often strongly marked and strongly contrasted, with broad farcical elements. The favourite comic character was Vice, whose chief duty was to tease the Devil.
Q. 7. How will you comment upon ‘The Masque’?
Ans. The Masque was another dramatic form which developed in England in the time of Henry VIII. The earliest mention of the Masque by name in England is in Hall’s Chronicle under the date 1512, and he speaks of it as Italian in derivation, but a similar thing had almost certainly existed in England earlier under the name of a “disguising”.
Q. 8. What were the causes of the birth of the Earliest Regular Drama?
Ans. Despite the healthy and various developments of the drama in the first half of the sixteenth century, neither singly nor in combination was any of the various strains to bring about the birth of the Elizabethan drama. The New Learning was to play the decisive part by leading men back to the Latin classical drama for their models.
Q. 9. What was the influence of the Roman dramatists Plautus and Seneca on the Regular Drama?
Ans. The models on which the new drama was based were Plautus and Seneca. Plautus gave us the earliest comedy and Seneca the earliest tragedy. Neither, however, was to serve for long as more than a source of general inspiration; such classical plays were too academic, and the great popular, romantic Elizabethan drama only arose when the dramatists broke free from these trammels. But nevertheless the influence of Plautus and Seneca was a vital factor in the birth of the English drama; from the study of their works there arose a heightened conception of the dignity and possibilities of drama as an art, and a greater sense, indeed a new sense of dramatic structure of the division into senses and acts.
Q. 10. How do you evaluate the Regular English Tragedy ‘Gorboduc’?
Ans. The first regular English tragedy on Senecan lines was Gorboduc, acted first in 1562 by and before the members of the Inner Temple, and written by Sackville and Norton. Thus it resembles the first comedies in being written by scholars on a classical model and for the entertainment of a cultured audience. Gorboduc tells how an early British kind divided his lifetime between his two sons; how one son killed the other who was the mother’s favourite; how the mother in revenge killed the murderer; and how the enraged people rose up and killed both father and mother. Thus the theme, in the play’s own words, is “Blood asketh blood, and death must death requite,” a theme of revenge, of Nemesis, an inexorable fate exacting recompense. It is, in essence, the theme of what is generally known as Senecan tragedy.
Q. 11. Who were the University Wits?
Ans. Some young intellectuals of the age of Elizabeth were associated with Oxford and Cambridge. They made a glorious contribution to the dramatic art of the age of Elizabeth. They were Shakespeare’s predecessors. The chief University Wits were George Peels, Robert Greene, Thomas Nash, Thomas Lodge, Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe.
Q. 12. What were the common characteristics of the University Wits?
Ans. Well, sir, these plays had several features in common. Firstly, there was a fondness for heroic themes, such as the lives of great figures like Mohammed, and Tamburlaine. Secondly, heroic themes needed heroic treatment; greatfulness and variety; splendid descriptions; long swelling speeches, the handling of violent incidents and emotions. Thirdly, the style also was heroic. The chief aim was to achieve strong and sounding lines. Finally themes were usually tragic in nature. The dramatists were, as a rule, too much in earnest to give heed to what was considered to be the lower species of comedy.
Q. 13. How will you make the critical appraisal of ‘The Spanish Tragedy’ of Thomas Kyd?
Ans. The Spanish Tragedy marks a distinct era in the development of English tragedy. This play got immediate reputation. It completely captured the hearts of the late sixteenth century. Its fame is attested to by the allusions and references given in the pamphlets of the time. He was the first exponent of the species of play called The Tragedy of Blood which gave rise to a host of similar plays including Shakespeare’s Hamlet. These plays are usually bombastic and tragic, which degenerate into melodrama.
Q. 14. How will you discuss Marlowe’s dramatic activity?
Ans. The period of Marlowe’s dramatic activity comprises six brief years, from 1587 to 1593. Yet during those six years he wrote six splendid plays all reflecting his essential spirit and nature, all full of power, passion, poetry. Each drama centres round some overmastering passion—wild, intemperate passion that grows and develops till it destroys itself. The lust for empire, lust for lucre, the lust for knowledge, the lust for beauty—these form the backgrounds as well as mainspring of each play. In all those, Marlowe reveals himself as ‘the greatest discoverer, the most daring and inspired pioneer, in all our poetic literature, as the writer of genuine tragedy and genuine blank verse, as one who prepared the path and made straight the way for the advent of Shakespeare. In all these are evident qualities of terror and splendour, intensity of purpose and sublimity of note; imaginative daring and lyrical magnificence. In all these is illustrated his individualistic conception of tragedy, the classical Greek conception modified by the Renaissance spirit, the conception which portrays “the struggle between the overweening soul, typically Renaissance in its insatiable ambition, and the limitations which it seeks to overcome.”
Q. 15. What are the important works of Christopher Marlowe?
Ans. His chief dramatic works are Tamburlaine the Great, The Second Part of Tamburlaine the Great, The Jew of Malta, Edward II, Doctor Faustius and Didi, Queen of Carthage.
Q. 16. How will you comment upon ‘Dr. Faustus’?
Ans. Doctor Faustus has been praised for its high poetry and its mastery of blank verse. This is, of course, undeniable, but that accounts only in a minor way for the greatness of the play, a greatness that has survived through the shifting centuries. The secret of the significance and appeal of the play, then, must be sought elsewhere. Call it what we may—hidden meaning, symbolism, undying appeal, universal interest—there is an unmistakable something in Doctor Faustus which raises it beyond the level of a melodrama and makes it a play of profound significance and permanent appeal. As long as man forgets not the far-flung horizons of the mind and ceases not to respond to the silver lure of the stars of knowledge sparkling there, as long as man refrains not from sympathising with those who fight heroically against the forces of Nature and Fate and fall in the very act of fighting, so long will Doctor Faustus its significance and appeal to him.
Q. 17. What are the characteristics of Marlowian Tragedy?
Ans. Marlowe’s conception of the tragedy is classical Greek conception modified by the spirit of the Renaissance. We have the grand heroic central figure who towers to great heights, who insults Divine Providence, and who falls with a crash. But Marlowe’s heroes are no longer demi-gods or men born to high places; the conquering Tamburlaine is of quite humble origin, and Barabas the Jew and Faustus rise to no worldly height.
Q. 18. How far Marlowe’s plays were different from the Medieval Theory or Tragedy?
Ans. He deviates from the medieval theory that tragedy invariably represents a falling into misery or adversity from prosperity or happiness. Marlowe conceived of tragedy as concerning itself not merely with a life and death, or a bloody crime, or a reversal of fortune, but with the heroic struggle of a great personality, doomed to inevitable defeat.
Q. 19. How will you differentiate between the tragic art of Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe?
Ans. There is a large element of the universal in Shakespeare. Marlowe has it in a very limited measure. Shakespeare’s knowledge of human nature and his portrayal of human character are immeasurably subtler and profounder than those of Marlowe. Taking into account the mingled strands of good and bad that go to fashion the fabric of human life, Shakespeare always presents the ultimate triumph of the inexorable Moral Will, whereas Marlowe exhibits a hunger and thirst for unrighteousness. A calm-eyed moral vision fills everything that Shakespeare has written with the charm of artistry and the grace of charity. Such a thing is not there in Marlowe’s production. There is a much difference between root and flower, and flower and fruit. But the difference is not negative and contradictory. Marlowe and Shakespeare represent the Prologue and Epilogue of English Drama in the Renaissance age.
Q. 20. Do you agree with the statement that “Had there been no Marlowe, there would have been no Shakespeare”?
Ans. Marlowe and Shakespeare were born in the same year. Unfortunately, Marlowe expired early and his dramatic art is not in bulk. But in his short span of life Marlowe wrote his masterpieces while Shakespeare was quite silent. Thus Shakespeare had the advantage of having Marlowe’s work before him for guidance and inspiration. Shakespeare served as a sort of apprentice to Marlowe although some critics feel that this statement has been exaggerated. But this fact is authentic, according to my views. Shakespeare modelled his Richard II on Marlowe’s Edward II. He had taken hints for his Merchant of Venice from The Jew of Malta. Moreover, Shakespeare learnt the secret of wielding blank verse successfully as a vehicle of dramatic expression from the material innovations of Marlowe. Thus he has been considered as the Young Apollo of the age, as the Morning Star of song, as the Young Titan of the stage, as the Muses’ darling and as the master of the Mighty line.
Q. 21. What was the influence of Seneca on pre-Shakespearean drama?
Ans. English tragedy did not develop from the miracle play but from the classical models of Seneca. Being the Latin dramatist, born in the first century, writing for a sophisticated, aristocratic audience, he had produced tragedies notable for the horrors which filled them. The chief characteristics of his works are their exaggerated character-drawing, their violently rhetorical language coupled with emotional hyperboles and a wealth of epigram. He became so popular in Cambridge that all his plays were translated by 1581.
Q. 22. Summarise the evolution of the English drama up to the days of Shakespeare.
Ans. The first stage of Shakespearean “drama was concerned with the Church. It represented events of sacred history and lives of saints. These were called Miracles and Mystery Plays. The next stage into the development of the drama was the Moralities. Side by side with the Moralities, there sprang up another kind of dramatic composition known as the Interludes. In the third the Reformation hastened the change from the Morality play to the modern drama. The first regular drama was written by Nicholas Udall. The final stage was the contribution of the University Wits who were Greene. Kyd, Peele, Lyly and Marlowe.
Q. 23. What do you know about the Romantic Drama?
Ans. The English dramatists after a few experiments on the classical model began completely to disregard the three unities. The only influence of the classical drama can be seen now in the dignified form and the mode of expression—the two characteristics which are found in the dramas of Shakespeare in their highest excellence.

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