chapter
6 Pages

Introduction

Writers on Elizabethan drama have, until recently, tended to go to literary and printed sources, to philosophic and theological tracts, and too often have turned Marlowe, Shakespeare, and their fellows into Tudor propagandists, apologists for establishment order or 'the Elizabethan world picture'. Certainly we find order restored at the end of many of these plays, but they also expose what Elizabethans associated with 'the politician', corruption wrought by acquisitiveness, and the machinations for power in the courts and cities where the dramas are set. Playwrights like Marlowe used the art of the theatre to depict the theatricality of politics; ceremonies are frequently disrupted to signify the vanity of power sustained by theatrical form. Heroes in these plays tend to be outsiders -lovers, warriors, knaves, or saints-and the sheer energy demanded for the performance of these roles must have raised the consciousness of contemporary audiences against all that is destructive of individuality. 'Energy is Eternal Delight' said the voice of the devil through Blake, and delight may be the prime theatrical response here, a response that subverts the reactions predicted by literary theorists, the fear kindled by tragedy and the moralism of satiric comedy.