Filología Inglesa

Teatro Inglés II


Some considerations on theatre

“Theatre is dead”, this is a paraphrase of a succesful exclamation made by Nietzsche who had said “God is dead”.

Nietzsche said that God was dead because of his radical philosophical humanism thought. Nietzsche, who died in 1900, marked a kind of attitudes for human beings to face our cappacities, our existente. That's the background to understand his ironical paraphrase.

We will analize the presence of theatre, the phenomenon of attending theatre performances is scarce. Theatre going is not usually in our present times.

  • Role = papel

  • To play a role = desempeñar un papel

  • Femme fatale = a man falls madly in love with a woman. She knows he's madly in love with and plays with him.

  • Archetype = arquetipo. The common characteristics of their attitude are repeated. P. ej: Don Juan.

  • Stage = escenario

“Life's a stage” is an aphorism in which we all act to recognize that we also act a life. When we do not act sincerely we're acting. The frontier between theatrical acting and real life is very slim. We don't go around proclaming our deffects, showing us off in the way er are. We introduce an element of correction to project an image that is don't real. We addopt a theatrical attitude.

There's a theatre play (obra de teatro) in the 20th century where a dramatist or play wright (a person who makes plays) called Eugene Unesco (Romanian) wrote The Lesson in which a target class is performanced. The teacher says continuously absurd things that inicially were accepted by the students, the result is a total disaster.

With the word dramatist we have a word of great ethimology “drama” which means “action”. In our studies we establish a difference between theatre and drama. In theatre plays action happens, the dramatist tells us the actions that happen in the stage. Theatre is when the written text is performanced in the stage. The word theatre has a greek ethimology; it means “what is seen”.

Drama is the text, and when this text is produced the result is theatre. Theatre is destinated to an audience, the attending public.

In our studies of theatre, theatre is dead for us, we've very few opportunities of seeing a theatre performance.

From the reading of the text Everyman we can image how the written words can be an action on the stage.

Acting individuals are known as characters (personajes). A theatrical caracter is for example Don Juan Tenorio who can be trusted (reconocido, que se corresponde con características de personas reales), Don Juan is an archetype, he appears in reality.

The point is that when we refer to Don Juan we can see him in different European drama we see how he is a collection of Works. The dramatists tells the idea of this characters.

Words come theatrically a person whom we can imagine in real life (hombre alto, atractivo, etc.). Don Juan is sexy, he has sex-appeal.

The problem of characters made of words is to create verosimilar characters who seem to exist in reality.

The problem we have is that the quality of theatre doesn't depend on the text. It depends on the stage.

Our imagination can create an image of Everyman. However long or short the reading has been, the imagined figure of Everyman has appeared in our minds that is the proof. Don Juan appears as an imagined figure.

A final observation about theatre

Theatre requires the interaction of characters. Action is the result of the relationships that the characters apport.

Don Juan is a caracter who establishes the action.

Protagonist has got a greek ethimology, it means “the first to act”. All action implies `reaction' Protagonist vs. Antagonist.

Don Juan vs. Doña Inés: it's a moral play. Don Juan is a weacky man, only interested in seducing as many women as possible; one of his challenges is seducing the most important woman of Sevilla without any concern. His decision transforms in an action. He provokes the opposite action that he intended because Inés falls totally in love with him. Don Juan provokes doña Inés' love and her love provokes Don Juan's death. It's a tragedy (tragedia).

In Everyman we can see how life and theatre are connected. It's a metaphore. The protagonist of Everyman is every man.

Las relaciones que establece con otros personajes permite el desarrollo de la obra, en estas relaciones se producen incidentes que al final constituyen la obra.

The action that Everyman does is to beg for company; that's a human necessity. We know the experience of disappointment. Everyman asks for help and he's sistematically disappointed, frustrated. The most important character of the play is the main protagonist: Everyman; and the main antagonist is Death.


- Theatre what is seen

- Theatre play obra de teatro

- Theatre performance representación de la obra de teatro.

- Drama action “the written text”

The quality of the character is to be believed.

- Theatre goer the special public who go to the theatre.

Characterization, the creation of believable characters is important in theatre; when the performance starts, we, as spectators are able to believe the characters or not. We got to suspend our disbelieve. We establish a mental relation that makes us believe the action is real. It is when we're emotionally shocked.

Everyman is the confrontation with Death. It's a 15th century theatre play. Its dramatic situation is the same as we can experience in the 21st century. The dramatic action is the result of Everyman's death.

La muerte de Evan Lilich the Leo Tolstoi es una versión del mismo conflicto humano.

We know the characters in theatre through two elements: the action and their inner ideas which are manifestaded through a theatrical device which is called soliloque (soliloquio) or monologue. A soliloque requires an interruption of the action because the actor tells his inner ideas. The spectators get to know how the actor thinks in his intimacy.

The natural theatrical speech is the dialogue. In theatre happens something that does not happen in real life.

Un actor es escuchado por los personajes y estos responden con sus acciones.


Theatre is based on two things:

1.- Characters the people who inhabit the action.

2.- Plot the story of the actions that characters do.

Theatre has always varied between two functions:

1.- Entertainment

2.- Instruction teaching something to the audiences (classes also try to teach you, the problem of teaching is also teaching and entertainment).

Something that prof. Núñez would like us to learn is the concept of CHRONOLOGY (which must be DATES when something happened/took place). Núñez would like to insist on some dates:

As far as theatre is concerned, it is important to remember the 5th B.C. century which marked a combination of Greek classical theatre .

The beginning of culture and civilization started in 10.000-5.000 B.C.

`Mask' means `person' cappacity of putting on different masks depending on the situation. The mask of tragedy is the mask of sadness; the mask of comedy is the mask of joy.

Tragedy etimologically has something to do with `chivo expiatorio' (SCAPEGOAT) - sacrificial animals - purge. The protagonist is killed; his death is obtained. The actions destroy the evil action with the actions of `destiny' and `responsibility'. Finally, the death of the protagonist provokes the calm of the gods.

Comedy comes from `comos' state of exaltation; the result is the kind of enjoyable theatre.

The change of sadness into joy happens in life. It depends on the perfect equilibre towards our existente.

In 1.000 B.C. the Roman classical theatre completed the two elements which completed the western theatre.

The Roman comedy is known as `New Comedy'. The comediographer is the comedist specialized on writing comedies (e.g. Platons and Terencia).

In 5th a.d (annus dominae) 476 FALL OF ROME. This century is important. It meant the beginning of the end of the classical theatre. Circus was associated with great spectacles, great shows. The theatre shows of the late Roman Empire were excesus, they were high realistic.

Since 100 Christianity had started to play an important role in the development of ideas. In 115 Christianity was the oficial religion of the Roman Empire. There was a supremacy of Christian ideas. Christianity didn't aprove of the excessive manifestations of late theatre plays (Christianity vs. Theatre the result is the practically disappearance of classical theatre).

The Roman Catolic Church is the factor that will resurrect theatre LITURGICAL THEATRE that practically started at the end of the 10th century. In the following five centuries, religious drama will adopt three different forms:




These three theatrical forms are the basis of the future theatre. Practically we have to go to the 16th century when SECULAR THEATRE will be the result of the evolution of the three forms that appeared in the 10th century.

Religious theatre took a long time to disappear until the 17th century when that religious theatre didn't even disappear. ACTOS DE FE (AUTOSACRAMENTALES, e.g. Calderón de la Barca) were written in many parts of Europe. MEDIEVAL THEATRE still attracted the atention of many spectators in Europe.

Still in the 21st century PASSIONS are performed. E.g. “Passion of Solsonia” which is performed in Catalonia. “Misterio de Elche” is another theatrical performance.

The Church had two problems:

1.- To extend its influence.

2.- How to extend its influence.

The Christian ideas were not well-known. They were thought as “pagan” and “barbarian” ideas. We've been educated in a Christian context and Christian culture. Christian doctrine is based on DOGMAS; in this sense Christianism is a dogmatic religion.

The problem of the Christian is its message. Christianism is a providencial religion. Christianity stablishes that there is one divinity who created the universe. After this creation God provides for us, immediately the problem arises from this consideration: why does suffering exist? Why suffering with the physical manifestation of pain occurs in us? Is that providencial? Christian religion says that if we know suffering is for our good. The central idea is that mankind is mount to the final death. God was so caring for us that he sent his son in order to give the possibility of mankind after death. God encarnated himself in human being: Why God can be a man? The idea of Christian divinity is that Christ was sent to us in order to provoke our salvation.

In order to spread the Christian ideas, the religious drama appears.


Ironically theatre in the form of liturgical drama reborned in Europe.

The Church, in its Intend. Of spread its influence adopted pagan festivals and they changed them into Christian festivities. The Christian Christmas festivity is the christianization of the Saturnos, in which pagan Romans prepared themselves to face the dificulties of the winter.

In the symbolism of seasons, winter is the beginning of the death of the springtime. The celebrations of springtime coincide with Christian Easter. It is when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

One important date, by the 10th century the Christian ceremonies that provided theatre was the Mass (misa). The symbol of the Mass is in fact a symbolic reproduction of the passion of Christ. The Mass incluyes another theatrical element. It's a dialogue between the priest and the audience (the procession of the Palm Sunday -domingo de ramos- practically reproduces when a leader is followed).

The dialogue of the Mass includes this concept: ANTIPHONY (a dialogue song). These antiphonies will change into antiphonival songs. The very first references were 100 years before, in the 9th century, when this antiphonical songs received the name of TROPES. The very first testimony of this antiphonal songs introduced artifically in the Mass in 925 -1st trope- “QUIM QUAERITIS”.

Quim Quaeritis is a small theatre play which consists on 3 lines. It's considered the origin of liturgical drama.

In 970 SET OF DIRECTIONS (acotaciones escénicas/dramáticas). A set of directions included costumes and gestures in order to perform playlet.

When speaking about theatre, we have a first element which is drama, the text:






  • SETTINGS PROPS (telones) and SET OUTS (decorados)


  • The text needs reading but we're still in the fase of text. The reading of the drama is different, special.

    The dramatize reading means to Express aloud the different emotions that are expressed in the drama text. The new fase is emotional reading (gestures) which defines action.

    What is called the magic of theatre is obtained by introducing four elements: the COSTUMES.

    In the history of theatre there will be a final element: SETTINGS. Practically theatre started with a very simple representation. The settings create an artifical place.

    The PLAYHOUSE is the historically specially building built up with the purpose of performing theatre plays.

    Paganism produced the highest manifestation of development of ideas in Arts. The Greek and Roman models are recreated in the 18th century during the Neoclasicism.

    Paganism produces stoicism. All these great findings of the great pagan philosophers were recovered and stoicism converted in the guide of angloamerican world thought since 18th century to our days. Christianity called all this PAGANISM, which means `peasant' because the ancient religion/way of life got a refuge in the country. The people in the city cautivated the vulgar people. They defined the basis of Humanism (Renaissance). It's an anthropocentrism (la realidad se entiende desde nuestro entender humano).

    We, westeners have to make a long way to come back to the original point. Humanism was abandoned, it took 100 years to recover it. (El humanismo queda explicado en términos naturales. El milagrio es la aceptación de que las leyes naturales pueden ser interrumpidas).

    Christianity introduced a miracle dimension to explain our condition of time and place in the come to live.

    In this sense, the humanistic reaction is accompanied by the development of science as the knowledge of reality which studies the tirany of reality: reality can only be known by the development of science.

    Everything is humanistic, everything is connected. Theatre is connected with culture and civilization.

    Over the next 200 years there was a show dramatic evolution; various bible stories were performanced by priests (clérigos) and companies of children actors (chicos del coro). 400 years the before, the tradition had started. These stories were performanced in the Church which provided the costumes and the setting.

    Little by little more formal arrengements were introduced. Here, we got the building of a mansion accompanied by a platea. The mansion was a small semistructured which could symbolize a place/booth (Jerusalem, Heaven…). The platea was a small platform in front of the mansion. The mansion had got a symbolic function.

    The evolution meant that many biblical scenes were performanced secuencially. This small dramatic scenes could involve from the creation of the World till the crucifixation of Christ.

    The concept of MIRACLE refers to all this explanation

    Not only one mansion but several mansions were built in the nave of the Church. This variety of mansions were defined around the Heaven and Hellmouth. The Hellmouth was the most elaborated (monstruous faces that symbolize the gate to Hell).

    One important fact of this miracles is the scenes to the point that technically can be defined as one scene-play (obras de una sola escena).

    The performance of these miracles meant that the actors and spectators continued a theatrical procession (los espectadores seguían a los actores de un lugar a otro).


    • Episodic: this magic of the miracles gave the opportunity to spectators to see episodes that happened before following episodes.

    • The mansion had spiritual and allegorical settings. It was turned into allegorical places. The magic of theatre made the spectators to think that the performance was real.

    • The purpose of these miracles was to dramatize one thing as the most important the salvation of Humanity. On the one hand, the Church encouraged the performance of these miracles because of its didactical contribution; but entertainment and spectacle started to prevalí. People who atended miracles started to appreciate the show and the entertainment more than the religious teaching. These elements bite the didactic intention of the Church and it removed a presentation of the Church building from itself. They started to be representated in the squares of towns.

    In the 13th century even if the mansions were transferid to the squares of towns, the presentation of miracles became to be more secular although the religious sense was kept.

    By the 14th century, the production of plays were the Corpus Christi 40 episodes. The performance is outdoors from Church. The demand for entertainment and spectacles converted the performance in 40 episodes.

    The season of Corpus Christi isa t the beginning of good weather. These episodes were produced by the comunity every four or five years. The productions might take from 1-2 days to a month. The production of each play was assigned to a GUILD (gremio). As guilds were referred as `ministerio'. Comunity produced a cicle of ministeries known as MYSTERIES. Mysteries were the production of one festivity, one of them related to Corpus Christi.


    In 1313 the Catolic Church established the Corpus Christi as a festivity which means body of Christ and is present in the Holy Host. By now, liturgical theatre had a long process till religious theatre in the Church.

    In the late 14th century liturgical drama went out of the Church and performances started to be represented in town squares in sequences, one scene after the other.

    • Booth pequeña cabina donde se representaban las escenas

    • Platea platform

    The Guild had a previous name called “ministerium”, from this word we get the concept of mistery. The misterios were sequences or cicles of miracles. They multiplied in cicles that came to us in 40 episodes. They were produced by the community; secondly they were performed in special celebrations. They were performed with economic and social efforts. The performance of all those elements of misteries took days. The fourth characteristic is that the production of each play was assigned to a guild. E.g. biblical episodes (diluvio universal, the episode of the Three Kinas, the Last Súper which has performed by the bakers, the Passion which was performed by the blacksmiths, the Descend to Hell which was performed by the cooks, etc.

    The 14th century in literacy was epidemia. The texts were written in a very repetitive way of verse. Finally, the playwrites were annonymous. The texts are very easy to be memorizad. Historically accuracy of the facts were not respected.

    Those texts were filled of anachronysms (por ejemplo, los actores se cambiaban pocas veces de vesturario o representaban escenas con un vestuario que no correspondía).

    Realism was necessary. This is an anticipation of the great problem of theatre: verosimility (to achieve the suspension of disbelieve is the purpose of theatre).

    In the performance of misteries the real and the symbolic is a combination of its necessary characteristics. This is a medieval sensibility. If we analyze our present, realism + magic thought still exist in our contemporary reality.

    The concept of superstition is everything that makes us believe that we can get something because of the intervention of extranatural elements with lack of effort.

    We use the concept of cycle and sequence.

    Pagent was a mobile staging platform. This was more common in England. These pagents were moved from one place to other in the city. Notice that the pagent is the final evolution of the mansion. The corresponding platea acquired the formo f platform in the pagent and we'll see how this platform will turn into the apron stage (in the Elizabethan Playhouse)

    (*Quim Quaeritis es la primera referencia a lo que es una escenificación. En 970 se da la primera referencia a la gesticulación en una obra).



    The rolling stages would move from one place to another during the celebrations in the town. The amateur actors would perform on the ajoint platforms, this is the result of the primitive platea.

    A series of pagents would be put side by side offering the possibility of the whole of different miracles that define the mistery.

    In England, the disposition of the pagents was in a semicircle of perform. This reproduces one again the classical theatre.

    The period of splendor of the mysteries is in the end of the 14th century. The 15th century is associated with the Morality. One initial reflexion on the words of morality is the association with moral; once again we have a latin etimology. It is related with habit. The moral is the consideration of goodness or evil with our habit, the things we do in live. It appears as a theatre play that makes a moral reflexion about goodness or evil of our actions. It is an important fact of all reliions. All religions include a moral code. The moralities tried to instruct and spread the basics of the Christian's religion code. Notice the specifity of the moralities.

    The evolution of the moralities runs along the 15th century. They took the characteristic things of Christian morality. They were not episodio theatre plays. They had one central action. This idea of unicity of the plot is a characteristic of contemporary modern theatre on its beginning. It's the main thing of the moralities.

    One word appears as the most important to remember the concept of morality which is allegories, a sustained series of metaphores; and metaphores consist on the sustitution of reality by aluded concepts (don't forget that in literary theatre concept is the vehicle of metaphore).

    We are in a very literary kina of theatre (practically all nouns in language are metaphores). The reality has been substituted by our linguistic capacity. When we refer in any poetry to “the eye of the skies”, we are refering to the Sun.

    We got a very complex problem, which is the explanation of abstract concepts as evil, goodness, etc. This difficulty was solved by the moralities by a process called personification of virtues and vices. Moral codes try to establish definitions to the associations of goodness and evil.

    When we consider moral with action we can consider what is goodness and evil and can do a moral judgment. We can consider if an action is associated with a virtue or vice.

    The Christian moral code that catalogues vices are the seven moral definitions (siete pecados capitales). In the case of moralities, this seven moral definitions become in characters (personifications), they will be called according to their actions and behaviour.

    The allegory will keep sistematically this metaphorical language.


    Moralities will mark the beginning of professional characters of the “first modern theatre plays”.

    The morality Everyman deals with individual journey. Everyman deals with the confrontation with inevitable death. We can see the difficulty of making a presentation of that experience that we don't know. Death is an abstract concept, the experience that we have with death is by the experience of other's death. If we have to explain what death is, we can't straight to the point; the problem is solved by making death a character (the physical presence).

    From painting, the abstraction of death is usually presented by an skeleton. The whole presentation is the allegory of death. (* Ver película El séptimo sello).

    The moralities were written in verse, the majority of moralities were enormously long; this length made the actors to include some elements of entertainment between the scenes. (* Remember! Moralities 15th century).

    Everyman is not a very long morality (921 lines). It's another of the moralities that appeared in Europe at the end of the 15th century.

    Short summary

    Everyman is an allegorical figure of the every man. Everyman is summoned by the allegorical figure of death to make a journey through his life (life is lend to us). In the cause of this journey, Everyman meets different characters which do not want to accompany him. Only Good-deeds (buenas acciones) goes with him. Everyman had previous impulsed not to do good deeds. Only through confession Good-deeds accompanies him to death.

    A messenger tells the audience to listen well (Dios manda a la muerte para que encuentre a Everyman y la muerte acepta porque es servidora de Dios).

    Everyman tries to brive Death but Death denles this request. Fellowship happens along the way and promises anything to do to help Everyman, but when he eras Everyman's need he refuses to accompany him to death. Then he meets Kindred who refuses saying he has to g oto parties. Cousin can't go either.

    Everyman realises his goods will bite him. Goods either goes with him. Good-deeds appears (pero está demasiado débil para acompañarle porque Everyman no le ha prestado demasiada atención. La penitencia fortalece a Good-deeds. La confesión le aconseja hacerse acompañar de los cinco sentidos y la belleza, pero estos también le abandonan. Es una referencia de que en el momento de la muerte no nos llevamos nada a la tumba).

    A messenger then comes and tries to establish the last teaching to the audiences. El mensajero final adopta la forma de doctor o médico del alma y da un mensaje en el que encierra una construcción moral.


    Moralities were a very important landmark in the long process that turned the theatre from a religious one into a secular one that belongs to the century that refers to civil theatre.

    Interludes were a step that made the western theatre definitely into civil and modern; that is, moralities still expressed the medieval concept of theatre and interludes became definitely modern and civil.

    Characteristics of the interludes

    • 15th 16th CENTURIES

    • SHORTER & EPISODICAL (the plot was about one single incident)





    • DOGGEREL VERSE - RIPIOS (spanish)

    The interludes will develope from 15th century and will had its splendor in the 16th century. The interlude is the opposite concept of morality because the interludes will be shorter and episodical. The concept of episodical means that the plot is focused on an incident. This theatrical formula is proved to be lasting. In these interludes we can recognize a Spanish theatrical projection: entremés.

    In our times, different dramatists produce theatrical plays that are performed by professional actor. The limitation of the story told affected to the number of characters.

    The interludes were comic and farcical. The function of the interludes is entertainment. Moralities had got an instructing function, they wanted to preach a summoned audience.

    The texts were mainly written on doggerel verse, which are the equivalent of “ripios”. The dramatist tries to create a comic effect by using a very easy rimes and sometimes torced. It initially produces the laugh of the audience.

    • MEAING O.E.D. (Oxford English Dictionary): “between the acts”

    • LUDUS: “game”

    • JOAN HEYWOOD (1497?-1580?)

    Play of the weather (1533)

    The Four P's (1545, Palmer, Pothecery, Pardoner & Pedder)

    The interlydes wanted to entertain a public but, what kind of public? The interludes started to be performed in settings that were silly. Who wanted to be entertained? The people that had more free time.

    The interludes appeared as a kind of show that the Court wanted. The aristocracy started to imitate the form of entertainment of London. The nobility started to create their own companies; they started to train part of their servants as actors.

    The theatrical companies are characterized by the presence of MEN in their name. E.g: “the admiral's men” or “the king's men”. This is the result of the fact that they were the men of the aristocracy. The actors were servants of the sponsor.

    The Inns of Courts seem to have been a setting in which interlydes were successful. The colleges were another important setting: theatre is performed by students' groups.

    From the Court to university the interludes acquired a great popularity. We can recognize this taste for theatre in the university groups.

    Theatre performing creates the concept of University Wits which were a series of dramatists that started to write interludes to satisfy the audience. (Empiezan a aparecer una serie de autores menores que empiezan a escribir interludios para distintas celebraciones de la universidad y empiezan a ser dramaturos. La escritura dramática amateur pasa a ser profesional para un público que va a pagar su asistencia a las representaciones teatrales).

    English theatre groups make their public pay because they're very good at theatre performing. (Buscar T.E.U. Teatro Español Universitario).

    There's a final point about interludes; the meaning of interludes is explained by between the acts. It was performed between a long developement of moralities. Ludus still refers to the ludical sense of interludes.

    Moralities were written annonimously because annonimity was a medieval idea. The artist/author was totally unimportant. The history of mankind consisted on God and man. We are in times of the High Renaissance (s.XVI), it is humanistic, individualism and protagonism appears as something acquired in Art. They were a characteristic of the Classicals. The valious of the Art appears.

    In fact, Joan Heywood is the first dramatist or playwright who appears as an individualized dramatist.

    The Play of the Weather (1533) is a perfect example of an interlyde. Its farcical argument is held in front of Jupiter because four different characters complain about the weather.

    Notice the primitivism of the interludes. The form is a constent dialogue in which there is very little action. Initially the word, the dialogue prevails over the action; as theatre progresses, the action gets more importante till word and action are fundamental facts in theatre.

    The denoement (desenlace) of The Play of the Weather is that Jupiter as the moderador finds himself uncapable to come across to an agreement. It's a satirical criticism of humans.

    The seriousness that religious gravity of human condition of morality is substituted by a human condition which is laughable. (La condición humana es tomada como un pretexto para reírnos de nosotros mismos). Eventually, this makes us correct what we contemplate on stage.

    The Four P's (1545) responds to the initial letters of its characters. Pardoner es un vendedor de mulas muy católico. Estamos en el siglo del Cisma de Occidente, cuando empieza a verse la corrupción y el exceso de la religión. Salvation begins easy for the people who have Money. The developement of this play is identical to the farcical argument of The Play of the Weather.

    (Las exageraciones de los cuatro personajes sobre sus oficios para demostrar su superioridad sobre los otros son ridículas y hacen reir al público. Los defectos y excesos que se ven en el escenario no son buenos en la vida real por lo que tienen alguna función didáctica).

    Chronologically we have come to the splendor of Renaissance or the Elizabethan Age and, significantly, one of the bests contribution of the Elizabethan Ae will be its theatre.


    With the interludes we have theatre as entertainment. They started to be an increasing demand for them which started with the Royal Court continuing with the halls of nobility and Inns of Court and also at the tour universities that existed in England.

    One factor that explains this importante is the Oxford and Cambridge Universities where the institution and different colleges from the University.

    The demand for interludes created a series of authors which are known as University Wits. Scholars started to write interludes. The University Wits were highly intelectualizad writers.

    In the definition of the whole English theatre there'es a missing element: the English tragedy which will also appear in the 16th century theatre.

    The tragic aspect of theatre must be associated with Gorboduc (half of the 16th century). Gorboduc has a peculiar characteristic: the collaboration between different dramatists in order to get the best theatre possible. Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville were the first to collaborate.

    Gorboduc narrated a legend of the high medieval England. The name of the protagonist also gives the title to the tragedy. Gorboduc was a king who will see the fight between his two sons who want to inherit the kingdom. (Dispute between brother to het the power is the écheme which will be followed).

    The creation of English theatre is the result of the Renaissance; the reborn interest for ancient classical authors falls in Seneca. The English Theatre inspired by Seneca will be extraordinarily peculiar.

    Seneca could only be known through the university. First, it was necessary to get in contact with the text and later, to understand the text and translate it into English. This could only be possible through university knowledge.

    As far as Seneca is concerned, some ideas are necessary. We'll refer to him as a philosopher + dramatist + politician. Seneca, who lived in the 1st century of our times and was the tutor of emperor Nero died in 53 a.d. (annus domini).

    As a philosopher, he had an extraordinary importante in the definition of stoicism which as a philosophy tries to obtain the ataraxia, that is the total absence of suffering/anxiety through the stoic thinking.

    This is obtained through the consideration that nothing can happen to us by reaching a total indiference towards the vicisitudes of life.

    Our thoughts determine our emotions; it's something that Seneca will practice through his life. He took an active particioation in Politics. Nero accused him of being one of the plotters agains his life and permitted him the possibility of killing himself by cutting off his veins instead of decapitating him.

    He used his tragedias as a way to illustrate his philosophy; consequently Seneca's tragedias are dialogues where characters try to justificate/illustrate stoic philosophy. The impressive violence is always narrated but not present. He divided the tragedy store in five parts.

    In Seneca's theatre appear extranatural beings: ghosts or spirits of the different characters.

    All the tragedias finish with moralising catarsis when all the extremely violent scenes have come to their ending.

    These characteristics of Seneca's tragedias also influence the most emblematic tragedias of the English period we're studying. There's a difference of thirty years between the beginning and the success of English theatre. (Esto deja el camino abierto para que surjan las tragedias consolidadas de la obra de Shakespeare).

    Theatre appeared as a show businness; as far as printing is concerned, the printing was introduced in England in 1476 by William Claxton who worked with Gutenberg in Germany.

    The difussion of theatre needed an instrument: the text, which wouldn't have been possible without printed texts. The production of theatre plays is accompanied by the publication of the plays.

    The Spanish Tragedy explained a history between greed and fraticides. The protagonist is the marcial of Castil (Castilla) in the high medieval times, condestable de Castilla called Hieronimo.

    The Spanish Tragedy deals with the figure of the father as the avenger (vengador) of his son's morder.

    Gorboduc and The Spanish Tragedy have got this point which will be repeated again and again: evil provokes war.

    The English theatre is going to have a concrete language to express itself: the blank verse, which can be easily identified with poetic prose which is substained with endless series of unrhymed jambic pentametres (versos de 5x2= 10 sílabas sin rima final. El resultado es como si los personajes hablaran de forma prosaica).

    Christopher Marlowe will mark the beginning of Elizabethan theatre.


    We'll see how The Spanish Tragedy contains the most important elements that are going to be Developer. This tragedy is based in history, and the inspiration that Elizabethans had was in Seneca's tragedies.

    The Spanish Tragedy is not base don mithology, it represents an innovation. The historical facts that would use was the medieval wars between Spain and Portugal (la innovación de la tragedia isabelina es la inspiración en historias y leyendas).

    The Spanish Tragedy starts with the appearance on the stage of Revenge and the ghost of Andrea. Revenge is a symbolical character, personified. This is a direct consequence of the moralities.

    The second important element is a Senecan factor. The formo f the presence of spirits appear on stage as a real character.

    Andrea was a noble from Castil married to Belimperia, daughter of Don Cyprian, condestable of Castil. Andrea had been killed treacherously by Baltasar, prince of Portugal (la presencia del fantasma de Andrea se debe a su petición de justicia). Baltasar is made prisoner by Horatio, another brave Castilian noble man, son of Hieronimo who is the protagonist of the whole store. Later, Baltasar is given total freedom and falls madly in love with Belimperia, a young and attractive widow. Belimperia doesn't correspond, she falls in love with Horatio whose father is Hieronimo (these elements in The Spanish Tragedy would be used in the following tragedies).

    Once Baltasar sees that he would not be able to accomplish his passion, he decides to kill Horatio (eliminate his rival's love); with the help of Lorenzo who is Belimperia's brother and son to Don Cyprian will kill Horatio. It will be his second muder.

    Balthazar, Lorenzo and two accomplices hang (ahorcan) Horatio. Hieronimo, marshall of Castil, suffers the immense lost of his beloved son. This illustrates the dificultéis of paternal love. The father appears as a model of courage and dignity. Horatio imitates his father and is also a model of courage and dignity.

    A second consequence of this is that Hieronimo will Stara a quest in order to find out the murderers of his son; this will adopt the form of a thriller. Notice that the audience know the criminals but the characters on the stage don't know. The intrigue for the audience is to see if the characters will be able to find out the truth. This thriller will include for the first time the production of a `theatre play' repeating the fact in which Balthazar will show off his guilt. This is known as `play within play' which implies `theatre within theatre'. (La prueba que consigue Hieronimo no llega a convencer a su esposa, que ante la falta de acción de su marido, desesperada se suicida).

    Indecisión = FLAW in Hieronimo's character HAMARTIA

    Hay tres muertes: Andrea, Horacio y el suicidio de la mujer de Hieronimo. Hieronimo, que hasta ahora ha aparecido como un modelo noble, tiene un defecto: cuando tiene que tomar una decisión esto provoca la desesperación y posterior suicidio de su mujer.

    La tragedia va in crescendo aumentando más el terror (sufrimiento incrementado por el paradigma ideológico de la bondad; sin embargo, el drama humano continúa en el hecho de que a quien llamamos padre o hermano nos pueden ver como monstruos).

    Balthazar reacted negatively at that `play within the play' and procedes to kill the two accomplices; at this time we'vw got five deaths. Hieronimo finds a setter in the Court of one of the killers. In that letter Hieronimo confirms his suspicion. In the final scene Hieronimo kills Balthazar and the inocent Don Cyprian. Belimperia stabs his brother and also kills herself. Hieronimo finally also kills himself.

    La omisión del mal abre la puerta a un tobogán de desgracias. La tragedia empieza con la información del asesinato de Andrea; a partir de ahí si no se pone coto al mal el mundo armonioso en el que se ha cometido el mal se destruirá. Estamos en el mal a máxima escala que se convierte en una advertencia: la carrera del mal es cada vez más veloz. Esto es una reflexión que se convierte en una advertencia. Empezamos a marcar la trayectoria del rumbo de nuestro propio mal.

    The Spanish Tragedy is a revenge tragedy, it's the celebration of revenge. Andrea consigue su objetivo, tiene la posibilidad de castigar a los culpables en la creencia de un mundo ultraterreno de fantasmas y espíritus donde cada uno obtendrá su propio castigo.

    <<The guilty will begin their endless tragedy>>, that's what Andrea says in the final scene.

    The Spanish Tragedy established the foundation of the Elizabethan theatre.



    We have to link this title with the high Renaissance. Cultural studies have a global character that includes all the manifestations of art, ideas and habits. Ideas won't be totally new. Habits of life would be totally changed. We can recognize in this time characteristics which are similar to us.

    The Elizabethan Age gets its name due to the strong personality of the Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth I was the 5th in the Tudor Dinasty which is enormously important because it puts an end to the secular worlds that characterize the medieval time; who sets the end of the feudal wars is Henry VII.

    Henry VII is the first personification of Renaissance, he's a highly cultured man. When he had dinastic, personal problems with marriage (Catalina de Castilla) proceeded to separate the English Church creating the Anglican Church. Catalina de Castilla only had one child who was a girl, Mary I Tudor, the dinastic problems were the ones that made him got divorced.

    Henry VII wanted to make a life on his own. He got divorced seven different times. He finally had an heir who was Eduard VII and consolidated the Cisme of the Anglican Church but died prematurely and was suceded by María I who tries to recover Catholicism in England.

    Protestants were persecuted and executed. Mary I was nicknamed Bloody Mary.

    Mary Tudor married Philip II of Spain, the alliance failled because of the death of Mary that provokes the ascendence of Elizabeth.

    1563 Turning point in life The Elizabethan Age





    Need = necessity of entertainment

    There were 10 acting tetares that offered nearly 15000 “seats” (tickets) Paying proffessional theatre


    William Caxton was the introducer of printing in 1476 in England at the end of the 15th century. Printing was a necessary means to transmit knowledge through the publication of books.

    Culture is the result of education. Education started to count with a new element: the printing of books.

    Vernacular literature florished, the possibility of having English literature was through the printing press following the models of Greece and Rome. They tried to create literary Works in English creating an English literature.

    La monarquía Tudor significó la creación de la política de un Estado moderno que corresponde a la monarquía absoluta.

    The Tudor absolutistic monarchy was a political instrument for England. It produced the conditions for progress (se establecen las bases para que Inglaterra empezara a tener importancia mundial). The poetry, drama and prose constituted as Early modern or Renaissance.

    Elizabeth I Tudor 558-603 was suceded by James I Stuart who had an extraordinary importante; as a Scotish he had been educated in Calvinism. His reign meant the consolidation of protestantism for the centurias to come in England.

    Elizabeth I reigned for almost 50 years. This period that we know as Elizabethan Age meant socially, politically and economically the progress or stability of England and the culmination of Renaissance.

    The poetry, drama and prose constituted what we know as English Renaissance Literature. This literature is noted for its interest in the human being. This is a turning point in the artistic, cultura and literature progress.

    Culture, art and literature come from the Middle Ages. The medieval culture, art and literature were religious. Renaissance changed all this to what we know as ideology.

    The ideology of religious that discovery and recovery of the classical ideas introduced Humanism taken from by classical Romans and Greeks. This made that ideology secular or civil. It started a period in which the phenomenon of laicism started. Humanism meant the reevaluation of the human being ANTHROPOCENTRISM vs. THEOCENTRISM

    The old ideology explained everything because of the existente of the creating and providencial divinity. God was the creador of the universe and humanity. Mankind was a creation of God; God provided our existentes. The relationship between God and man was Creator and Creature. Anthropocentrism will mean a total revolution. Men starts his career to become independent from God will.

    Doctor Faustus se convierte en la personificación teatral de esta controversia. We can understand ourselves as Faustian creatures. The human being is a worthy subject for Renaissance literature.

    Alike with Medieval literature, the firm modern literature of Renaissance started to offer the readers a secular literature.

    Fausto es el paradigma del hombre moderno. El Fausto perverso va a ser castigado por su mal. Nuestra contemplación de la realidad muchas veces nos hace ver que el mal no es castigado.

    However, literature does not appear as totally secular, it has some religious remain. We can see how in Doctor Faustus there is an intent to get total independence.

    The Elizabethan Age know a huge development, specially in drama. El redescubrimiento del teatro griego/romano dio una alternativa al teatro religioso. Plauto aporta la capacidad de crear personajes estereotipados fácilmente reconocibles por el espectador al que hace reir.

    The essential elements are the farse and the caricature (tomarlo todo a broma y presentar los rasgos esenciales mínimos de temperamento y de comportamiento).

    Finally, we get to the personification of all these complex factors in the Elizabethan Theatre; all these situations needed a dramatist.

    Christopher Marlowe, who lived from 1564 to 1593 died at the age of 29 years old. He became literally and historically as the most important dramatist who appeared in English literature. The quality of his text provided an intensity of his plot with the first model to be followed. He is considered the second most important dramatist after Shakespeare. El Renacimiento marca un principio en el que se empieza a adorar al hombre y no a Dios.

    MARLOWE (1564-1593) EXPLORES:




    1. The Faustus personifies the greatest product of the human imagination which is to be totally free.

    2. The action of flying cannot be possible because of the laws of nature.

    3. Faustus tries to do everything what comes to his mind; all these things are called miracles.

    La modernidad se desarrolla con el desarrollo científico. Science would be used in order to domesticate nature with the application of technology. All this is Faustus.

    Christopher Marlowe and Doctor Faustus proposed the lack of all morality. In this sence, Dr Faustus is amoral.

    Finally, the breakness of Christopher Marlowe is explained through the magnificence of his language. He was a great poet too. He used the blank verse. All this is qualified as mighty poetry verse.


    Marlowe is the first true Renaissance author. He was a poet, thinker and dramatist. His verse is very important. He personified his Renaissance attitude to establish his project in the definition recently acquired `human freedom': God has been burden. In Marlowe, freedom is going to be developed to the furthest limit. The inevitable consequence of limitless power and freedom is that Renaissance needed to define a new morality.

    In this sense on the definition of new morality, Marlowe proposes the Macabelian writing, the great thinker of Renaissance. The Prince from Maquiavelo is a title that should be included in the Western canon as a list of the fundamental works that define literary Western thought. It defines a new morality “the end justicies the means”. We can do whatever we think it's necessary in order to get what we want. It's a principal of totally inmorality. Dr Faustus is the personification of that idea. He personifies the new inmorality (which is a morality).

    Nuestras decisiones se traducen en acción y la acción en consecuencias. La acción de Dr Faustus al vender su alma al diablo tiene consecuencias a largo plazo. Mefistófeles es la personificación teatral de los aspectos oscuros de nuestra conciencia. Marlowe procede a lo que veíamos en Everyman por la presencia de personajes abstractos.

    En Dr Faustus se hace una hipérbole de situaciones concretas. En una sociedad moral está encerrada esta cuestión: todos tenemos un precio. La propuesta moral y social es que si hay un Mefistófeles que nos ofreciera este dilema tendríamos que hacer frente al mismo e intentar no caer en la tentación.

    Some connotations about Marlowe are necessary: Christopher Marlowe is the most imporant Elizabethan dramatist before Shakespeare. His activity as a playwright took place in six years concentrated in tragedy. He established the pattern of the future tragedies to come.

    He was not an aristocrat; he was born in a family of merchants. He atended to Cambridge University. He's the prototype of the new man. Marlowe was another of the innovators. University was the background to be himself, an author. (El profesional de la literatura aparece en el Renacimiento; él es pionero).

    A man enormously controversial whose attitude is reflected in his tragedies. We can define him as an atheist. He associated himself with the companies of theatre. His atheist attitude is associated to his condition of bisexual. He suffered denounces as heretic. (Fue llevado a los tribunales pero antes de ser juzgafdo murió en una disputa de taberna).

    Dr Faustus is based on the store of a man who sells his soul to get power and knowledge. On a beeper level the tragedy shows the decay of a man because he looses his soul (elección entre materialismo e idealismo espiritual/perfección intelectual/espiritual).

    He abandons his moral, intelectual and spiritual perfection and the result is that he looses himself.


    Dr Faustus asks serious questions about the relationship between Humanity and God. Fausto constata la existencia del pecado: si existe es porque es inevitable, por tanto no es posible que Dios nos castigue por nuestros pecados. This permits him to abandon God for Evil and uses biblical arguments:

    - Omnipotencia de Dios: ¿por qué no interviene? ¿Por qué no detiene el proceso ante una tragedia o un pecado? inevitabilidad del pecado combinada con una indiferencia implacable de Dios; esto nos conduce a que como miembros de la Humanidad nos planteamos la calidad de nuestra relación con Dios.

    Faustus, as a Renaissance man is pressured by the social circumstances. The Renaissance meant the discovery of the world and the man. Faustus is the man of the world. In the Renaissance it started to be possible to create status of power and knowledge.

    Dr Faustus appears as a great metaphor of the man to come. This is the problem of repentence (it is a religious concept but we can see how repentence refers to the concept of personal responsibility of the consequences o four decisions)

    Nuestra decisiçon va a tener consecuencias. La cuestiçon es que cuando estas consecuencias aparecen en nuestra vida lo que no podemos hacer es lamentarlas. Es la forma laica de considerar las consecuencias de nuestras decisiones.




    • THE CURTAIN (1577)


    • THE GLOBE (BURNT: 1613) TILL 1642



    Theatrical structure could provide the necessary elements for Shakespearian theatre to be performed.

    The Elizabethan Theatre is a proffessional theatre that means bussiness theatre. The presence of these theatrical empresarios are building up the construction of theatres in order to be used only for the performance of theatre plays. They investid their Money in the construction of playhouses ARCHITECTONICAL THEATRE. This establishes the beginning of proffessional business in Elizabethan Theatre.

    1576 was the date of the round, open theatre. The shpe of the theatre is a kind of cilinder that was not completely covered. It remains oponed to the daylight.

    The theatre business proved to be quite successful and a series of plays were performed. Eight playhouses were oponed simultaneously during James I and Elizabeth I reigns.

    The Rose was owned by Philip Henslowe who kept particularly detailed records in his business of theatre. His records mixed with the accountant entries. In his diaries, Philip Henslowe kept titles, dates, name of authors and payments of the different plays that he produced. The titles are provided us with the chronology (dates) in which the different plays were produced.

    Unfortunately this kind of theatre act has given us the titles of plays which have disappeared. Henslowe offered us the opportunity to understand the importante of business in theatre.

    He also provided us a list of actors and their salaries. The theatre elements even the constumes (PROMPTS - Instruments, devices and costumes including their prices) are important to understand the nature and quality of the production and the way that Elizabethan plays were produced.

    We have been able to understand the whole celebration of theatre in Elizabethan England. The most famous Elizabethan company plays is The Globe (Shakespeare's Theatre Company). If you visit to London you can go to a perfect reconstruction of The Globe Theatre and attend any of Shakespare's plays.

    Fires were one of the epidemias of the world. They destroyed The Globe as many other theatres.

    Theatre was forbidden in 1642. It is also important to see the evolution of Elizabethan Theatre. It is necessary to mention the Blackfriars Theatre, which was turned to be the first opened theatre.

    The acting of plays meant the beginning of scenography. It was the response to the economic necessity to maintain the production of plays. We get to the final point to these theatrical structure which defined the circumstances of which the genious of Shakespeare appeared.

    Shakespeare will write 37 theatre plays, these high number were the consequence of the demand and the possibility to be produced.

    The Globe has an octogonal plant (see handout). The yard was a section of the theatre that was used for standing spectators who paid the lowest fees for entrance; those spectators belonged to the lower social classes, they constituted a very enthusiastic demanding public of theatrical plays.

    In the evolution of theatre, that area is called the platea; this is an inverted characteristic of the Elizabethan Theatre. As fas as the galleries, these corresponded to the most expensive tickets. These marked the social definition of the theatrical audiences. It was an interclass kind of theatre. Theatre was “for the rich and the poor” in the Elizabethan Age.

    In the stage the actors were surrounded by the spectators. The stage was projected into the middle of the yard. The stage of the Elizabethan Theatre is known as “apron stage”. The actors were surrounded in the sides of the apron.

    Theatrical devices: there was a hell under the stage which permitted sound theatrical effects. The backstage area marked the function which we can recognize presently.

    Technical characteristics






    The Elizabethan theatres were declamed. They demanded from the actors strong high voices. The cappacity of these theares was between 200-300 spectators (the largest theatre in Madrid is El Teatro Español whose cappacity is 700 spectators).

    The actors had to filled the theatrical performance with the power of their voices. The performance of the plays were made during the period of daylight. The stage did not offer a possibility of visual illusion (no theatrical artífices in order to create situations) DARKNESS OF THEATRE. The present disposition of stage permitted the visual illusions.

    The whole theatre was streamed of words. In the Elizabethan theatre the word is the most important element of the theatrical performance.

    The introductions were made by the first actors who informed the audience where they are and what they're doing: the place and the circumstances of the action.

    The words permit the creation o fan impossible situation. The Elizabethan theatre didn't respect the classical elements of time, action and place. This was made through the word.



    The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599. Theatre was produced by proffessional companies. It was destroyed in 1613. It was one of several theatres that were built in the area of which The Globe was the principal Elizabethan playhouse of the plain company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men who didn't have good reputation.

    They needed the sponsorship of an aristocrat in order to give a licence that permitted the company to produce and tour around the country.

    In 1603 the Lord Chamberlain's playing company became the King's Men because the licence and protection were given from the King himself.

    Julius Caesar, King Lear, Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, etc. were performed in The Globe company.

    The company was wound by actors who some of them were the shareholders. Two of the six Globe shareholders were members of the Barbage saga.

    Shakespeare was also a shareholder of the company. He possessed a taugh point 5% of the company. The finantial evolution of Shakespeare's company was known because he passed from having 12% to 7% of the company.

    A theatre men who provided the documentation of this elements was Philip Henslowe.

    The Globe was built in 1599 with timber (pieces of wood). The theatre had been built by Richard Cuthbert, father of James Cuthbert, one of the shareholders of The Globe company.

    In 1642 the puritans closed all the theatres. It was totally destroyed in 1644 for new houses. The Globe was burnt down due to a canon of Henry VI. It was a tree store building (edificio de tres plantas), about 35 metres of diametre that could house 2000 spectators.

    The Globe is shown as a round building; some asume the building is circular while other say it's octogonal.

    A the base of the stage there was a yard, around the yard there were three buildings; under top level there was a penny gallery. The stage called apron stage was a rectangular platform into the opened yard. The stage measured 14 metres width and about 9 metres deepth and was raised about 5 feet from the ground (the stage was 1,50 m from the ground). On these stage there was a door from beneath the stage.

    The blackwall of the stage consisted of three doors on the first floor and a balcony on the second. The doors entered in the backstage are (the tiring-house) were the actors dressed and waited.

    The balcony housed the musicians and could also be used in some scenes. It could be used as the Lores Room were some spectators could pay to be seated.

    It was rebuilt in 1997 by a philantropist called Sam Wannamaker.




    He's considered to be (one of) the greatest dramatist throughout the world. Since his appearnace he's provoked unanimity. He's already a rather well-known name.

    Shakespeare is an ancient family name; it means blandelanzas. We should place William Shakespeare chronologically between 1564-1616. We could situate him in what is known as High Renaissance and the beginning of the end of the Renaissance, what is known as Baroque.

    We identify Renaissance with Humanism, when the man became the centre of historical process and civilization. The Baroque is the final manifestation of the Renaissance; the name Baroque comes from the name given from irregular pearls named Baroque.

    In English historiography and literary critic, we identify the High Renaissance with Elizabethan Age. Elizabeth I Tudor died in 1601 and she was suceded by a nephew of hers called James I Stuart, and a new dinasty started to reign in England. James is one of the varieties of the biblical name Jacob and from this, we get a new identification: Jacobean Age. It names the complicated end of the Renaissance.

    Shakespeare's work reflect this evolution; from the luminosity enthusiasm for Humanism to a darker interest in the consequences of being human. He reflects this historical, cultural and ideological change. From optimism to pesimism of the human condition. It's a natural cicle: the beginning of the end, from day into night, from birth to the death. Notice the trajectory of Shakespeare's ideology from enthusiasm to pesimism of life. In the process of life the confrontation to negative incidents provokes scepticism. We get closer to the definitive end.

    William Shakespeare is a poet and playwright. Poetry was the excellent literary genre; the quality o fan author was based on his poetry Works. The professional career in Shakespeare's personal life was his poetry. Venus and Adonise and Lucrecia's Rape justify his literary quality. These poems were meant to be sold; the reception was extraordinary. There is a sonet sequence of no more than 154 sonets which make a deep exploration of the human condition. A sonet has got 14 verses. We got a concentration of all the elements that appeared throughout his theatre plays. He proceeds to explore and reflecto f life and death, on beauty and wealth and the passage of time (notice the distructing effects of every passage of time).

    In his case, literary glory and immoratility responds to what's left when we die? He was a person gifted with the artistic genious. It also appears in Shakespeare's last theatre play The Tempest.

    Immortality: life after death does not exist for Shakespeare. The only thing which is left is the result of his works and the generations to come will find his contribution to the human understanding of our condition. There is only literary immortality, not physical. We can find a reference for our meditations. One of the most important things we can do is to meditate about the meaning and purpose for our lifes.

    As it's been said, he also was a dramatist. In this sense, he's the author of 37 plays written in a period which last very scarcely 20 years. He practically wrote these plays between 1590 and 1611 which was the period of the production of The Tempest. He was the owner of finishing Shakespeare's production.

    The Tempest is the last will in which Shakespeare in a figure of the protagonist announces the finishing of his writing. The Tempest is a kind of glorious epitaph.

    Shakespeare appears as the personification of someone who has done everything in life. Fortune was the result of his efforts. He died being a millionaire. This condition responds to the fact that he became a shareholder of the theatre company for he writes his plays: Lord Chamberlain and The King's Men (James I). The plays were the property of the company; and Shakespeare, being shareholder and playwright suceded. He was a very eficient finantial investor; he dedicated his earnings to the acquisition of state properties. He became a land owner.

    Biographical facts

    Stratford-upon-Avon would have been totally unknown were it not for the birth of Shakespeare in that place. It's a well-known place that is also a centre of theatrical attention and the dedication of the production of all the plays of Shakespeare.

    Anually the Shakespeare's theatre programmes a rotatory selection of the plays of Shakespeare. This mades a point of pilmigrage of theatre goers of all the world. All the productions of Shakespeare's plays are responded by a sold out goers day after day. It's an example of how a whole nation thanks (to) a great author. The success of Stratford has entailed a building up in London of The Barbican Theatre.

    In 1991 a financial investor launched a project of the rebuilding of the sight of the Elizabethan Globe Theatre with the same caracteristics of The Globe Theatre.

    John Shakespeare, father of William was a glove merchant. He belonged to the new raising social class of the time. He was the personification of the innovating elements. Shakespeare's father also had financial problems. The financial success of William was realised in the application on nobility title. He was a man who wants to get incorporated in the stablishment of Elizabethan aristocracy society.

    The financial aspects of William Shakespeare are quite well documentated but nothing of his literary interesthad been documentated, not even his education. He didn't attend any of the universities of the time. It is supposed that he atended the local drama school of Stratford. A drama school in that time was a rather demanding bachillerato dedicated to the Roman Classical poets.

    Knowlede and the erudition, the linguistic, mithological and biblical referentes mean a kind of ambivalente to the point that it has been defined as an enigma. Many critics think that Shakespeare was a kind of Tudor writer. Theatre writing was simply business but not literary prestige and glory. In fact, there are theories that Shakespeare could be a nickname of a ghost writer. Shakespeare counted on the admiration of most of his contemporaries.

    In the financial documentation that exists in Shakespeare's life a very important document is his last-will. It's a very detailed catalogue of his properties. He gave his second best bed to his wife. No referentes about books as an enormous surprise. There are also referentes to two very important individuals: Hemminges -he distinguished him with a precious ring- and Condell; they were the editors of the complete works of Shakespeare known as First Folio published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death. Ben Jonson was a contemporary of William Shakespare and probable the best playwright of the time; he contributed to the publication of the First Folio writing a poem called The Sweet Swann of Apon.


    Shakespeare was the epithome (highest expresión) of his age. He was a very extraordinary author, he showed us his conclusions in his poetry and theatre plays where we find a summary of his reflexions. We study Shakespeare's conclusions came to. Throughout history, Shakespeare has been object of study by critics, there are numerous monographic studies about him. Recently Harold Bloom (professor of Yale University) published The Invention of the Human which is over 500 pages. It's an explanation about who is considered the greatest universal author.

    What do we think when we think about ourselves? Thinking has had a history. We enjoy level and Standard of living, unthinkable 200 years ago. With our mental cappacities we can come to a similar conclusion. Our ideas enjoy the result of previous historical thinking.

    Shakespeare made a contribution to what is to be human in a beeper way than previous ages. Shakespeare appears in the field of Humanities as an innovador: a man that helped to understand our condition better. Shakespeare made us take step forward in the deep explanation of the inner part of human thinking. He know the way we think internally.

    Humaness, Humanity and Mankind (historical development)

    Presently we know there's a science called psychology/psychiatry which are the result of another history achieved in the 19th century (the beginning of scientific age/era).

    Shakespeare was a great intuitive psychologist. The presentation he does of the human mind is individual and product of his exclusive knowledge. He preceded a kind of knowledge that would be developed years later.

    Shakespeare's works are referentes. Sigmund Freud (The Interpretation of Dreams, 1900) dedicated monographic studies to Shakespeare's works, particularly to Hamlet. Freud is, as Shakespeare, another of these pioneers or innovators that enlarge the vision of human condition and mind. It was the explanation or definition of the psychoanalitic theory. It means a revolutionary set of ideas on the way we think.

    Hamlet, the greatest shakespearian tragedy can be dated in 1600. Shakespeare, in his works was the first to present that complete human reality. It's been used as a reference for human psychological studies.

    Peter Ackroyd (William Shakespeare, 2006) is interested in the humaness of the authors. Humaness is our individual performance of humanity. It depends on the realization which is individual and peculiar of all of us. Our ideas are the result of what we think about Shakespeare's ideas put in his works.

    Shakespearian England

    It means the country in which Shakespeae lived, the values that were present in that society: VALUES + PRINCIPLES = ETHICS

    Ethics are the set of ideas that define good and evil; this distinction consists of permanent referentes of what we consider good and evil. When we do something by principles is because we apply our values.

    A possibility of application of this think of the present social values and turn them into our individual values because if principles are always individual we get the relationship between social and individual values or social and individual ethics. Ethics is the theory, moral is the practice.


    • Ideology: the complex system of socially determined ideas.

    • Being: existente, sensitivity understanding

    Shakespeare's plays are a social product seasoned with the exclusive, individual genius of Shakespeare, the person.

    We all live in a social context but a person like Shakespeare was able to offer the society of his time the ideas he had. It's a kind of invitation for us to think about our potentialities. Shakespeare's kind plays reflect the ideas of Elizabethan England. We can see how every play is contaminated by the ideas that were generalizad in the 16th-17th century. Shakespeare's plays reflect the ideas of:

    1. ORDER: which is a value that we all respect and share. It's the result of a social felt of necessity. Historically, England had gone through a chaotic period. The preceeding timed in Medieval England had been chaotic; that meant that there had not been respect for the structure and regularization of social life.

    The result of this disorganization had been wars, death, poverty to the limits of misery and starvation. Henry VII finished all those wars with the Tudor dinasty who put to an end all the previous situation by the introduction of what was absolitist monarchy. The reigning king had accepted absolute power in order to impose order. The power of the king was going to be total. Any attempt to damage the king was going to be considered as a fate crime that deserved death penalti. It's an extreme position that tried to compensate for the previous disorder which had had evil effects in society.

    The end of the feudalism was substituted by the beginning of nationalism (building up a nation).

    What Shakespeare does in his historical plays is to deal with the political problem that England had at that time. It reinforced the idea of the absolute power of the monarchy. The way in which ideas were projected in society. Shakespeare contribuyes to spread the general ideas. He makes a kind of historical, political lessons. The history plays of Shakespeare present how poor, destroyed and miserable England was; how they could have a contrastive vision of what had happened before and what was happening in Elizabethan England. Notice: order that Tudor dinasty marked; England would become the second world power (Spain was the first).

    Shakespeare's plays reflect the ideas of Elizabethan England, that is the attitude of the different subjects (súbditos): they were united. Historically speaking subjects would become citizens after the French Revolution.

    2. The idea of ORDER was continued with a second very important idea: hierarchy. Order in Elizabethan England was assumed to be the reflection of natural order: universal order was created by God. The “problem play” is similar to Spanish “dramas” (cfr. Troylus and Crecida, obra que se desarrolla en el asedio de Troya). The spectators can see what are the consequences of the bridge (ruptura) of the stablished order.

    Chain of being: God created a universal reality according to hierarchy. The chain of being is a kind of ladder were God occupied the appix. Authority and excellence were obtained thanks to divinity providence. Angels occupied the second place. They appeared after God, then in the end of the ladder appears the man, then the animals, then the plants and finally the minerals. Angels appeared divided in nine categories.

    3. The UNIVERSE reflects everything which has been said before. Celestial spheres was an idea that the universe was formed by a series of nine concentric spheres. The divine sphere is external: 1. Heaven, 2. Earth, 3. Hell. The Earth could be the centre and the last sphere of the universal organization.

    4. KINGSHIP: society had to be organised in function of the existente of the king.

    These four elements appear in the plays of Shakespeare. In these frame Shakespeare's going to put his different theatre plays.



    Can be defined as the topic or subject that's going to be developed in the play. Theatre plays in particular usually have one central theme but it's not exclusive; it can explore other topics -subordinate themes-. As far as themes are concerned, we'll stablish the following:

    Plays, generally speaking, are the resulto f the combination of one central theme and some secondary themes. For example, the central theme of Shakespeare's Hamlet is revenge. A secondary theme is fear to death. Also, the theme of love is explored in Hamlet. Love is a specific human relationship. Different characters relate in different ways.

    In a spite of the idea, we may have very violent confrontations with our own parents. As the scene of Hamlet and his mother in the chamber is concerned.

    In the theatre the result of the relationship is fixed eternally in the written play. Human existente is always life in progress. When we speak of love, we speak of love in progress or changing love, the intensity of the relationship varies in its progress. In this evolution a relationship that started as a love relationship can finish in hatred.

    Negation of ourselves implies negation of our desires. Love is a theme in Hamlet in all its multiplicity (love of Hamlet for his mother, father and Ophelia).

    Other themes are also pretended. The themes found in theatre plays give us the opportunity to contrast our ideas with the fixed reactions that we find in the visualization of theatre plays. They embody the best products of the human mind through history. The themes found in literature and the forward are:


  • LOVE


  • GOOD vs. EVIL




  • 1.One of the problems we have with our existente is to cope with our own reality. We ourselves are simple a collection of ideas, then we find our identities. This, can answer who are you? Or what are you?

    Each of us are all the whats that make our who. Fortunately for us we have a gift, which is consciousness and memory. What we do provokes in us sometimes (di)satisfaction. Socially, we judge ourselves and make ourselves a pressure to provoke satisfaction and tension in the individual.

    When we realte to others, we Stara to modify our desires. Socially we are demanded another decision; we get to Stara to look for approval from others. The negation of our desires provokes a social individual which is not the real one.

    The great challence of humanism is to know ourselves in order to be sincere with ourselves, we contemplate the function of theatre where we get fixed actions and behaviours. In this sense, the genious of the man of letters is that he's able to portray actions and behaviours that are inspiring. We can contemplate all the aspects of the human behaviour that are not manifestad; mainly the inner thoughts. Most of the times we don't tell the truth. We don't say what we'd like to do.

    In theatre there's a device which is called soliloques/monologues which are speeches where the inner thought are rebealt to the public, to the audience, but notice that in irreality as it happens, the soliloques are told with the presence of others. The audience knows what the characters do not say to other characters. We all share all kind of experience. In this sense, all kinas of experiences and relationships. With this pretext we can check the quality of our inner thoughts.

    Literature offers us the possibility to recognize the problem we have in life. Hamlet never faces his problems. He's always undecisive; he's never corageous to clarify the situations. That provokes the tragedy. We prefer to maintain appearance. Literature permits us to shape our humanity. The suffering is provoked because there's been a coward insistente to maintain appearance instead of confronting the reality.

    2. Love is an immediate target that appears as a suitable feel. We all know how appearance is a factor in the configuration of a relationship. Love is initially the result of the irracional part of the human being. Love is an emotional relationship; in our human condition there's that component.

    Why do we love? Whom do we love? Do we really love? We all got our personal answers. Love is the union of male and females. Maternal love is unconditional. We all receive our dosis of condenation when the very children start to cheat others.

    We love because we have a need to be loved. If real love is not achieved, love finishes in tragedy as in Hamlet happens.


    Patterns of tragedies, comedies and historical plays

    Pattern means the common thematic elements that currently appear whenever a play can be defined as tragedies, comedies and plays. It's an attempt to create a reading guideline that will permit to fave the literary background for reading these plays.

    These three categories have a subcategory. There's a concept that literary critics have created: problem plays, which share some caracteristics of tragedies and comedies. They're not considered any of the best plays of Shakespeare.

    This course is focused on Hamlet, Mcbeth, Othelo and King Lear (four of his greatest tragedies). The genius of Shakespeare is focused on his tragedies. His 37 plays practically cover all the theatrical spectrum. Nevertheless, he wrote a few more plays: he wrote ten comedies, two of the most important are As you like it and Midsummer night's dream. He also wrote eight history plays and eleven problem plays.


    The literary theory about tragedies is still based on the Classics, e.g. Aristotle. He said that a tragedy is a theatre play of a higher content made by noble characters. Noble refers to the social origin of the characters and secondly, it refers to the ethical value of their actions. Aristotle introduced the concept of protagonist and antagonist.

    The development of the plot of the tragedy is imporant because we find that there would be particular actions and events that define the tragedy. The tragedy is practically the result of hamartia, which means “tragical flow” that is inherent to the protagonist. Were it not be fot this flow (motif of the tragedy) there wouldn't be tragedy. This can be illustrated in Othelo (unmotivated jelousy of the protagonist is the cause that would lead to the tragical death).

    In the process of the tragic action there would be a galimatia (reversal of the fortune), This will provoke the anagnorisis, which will provoke the awareness of the protagonist of his errors and the realization of reality. The anagnorisis in Othelo happens at the very end of the tragedy after Othelo has killed his wife. Immediately he will have to purge his tragic flow.

    The idea of purge must be associated with catarsis or expiration. On the one hand, this concept must be applied to the protagonist of hamartia and other characters. In the tragedies all the characters suffer (there are patterns of human behaviour that can be recognised in ourselves. In our existente we develop an ambivalente of positive and negative actions. We can understand how tragic human life is, how we can repeat the same errors time after time).

    If initially all these categories belong exclusively to the protagonist, we have to understand that different characters participate of the same mecanisms of behaviour. These categories can be applied to all the characters of the tragedy.

    Human situations make us reflect the quality of our existente. Catarsis has a consequence on the audience which they also have a catharcian experience when they watch the play (witness suffering).

    Suffering is an innate element of the human condition. From our respective experiences or individual fortunes nobody of us has escaped from the experience of witness suffering either external or our own suffering individual.

    The comedy will provoke noise (celebration of comic situations will be laughters) whenever we watch a tragedy the reaction is silence. It provokes in our consciousness the immediate memory of similar sufferings and proceed to our own crying. There's a psychological phenomenon that consists on the identification of suffering that provokes suffering in us.

    The final elimination of suffering is death; it appears as a limitation of the suffering because we cannot stand it anymore. The experience of how significantly after crying our our eyes we purge different feelings. The whole human existente can be defined as suffering painful existence we have. We start to contemplate the death of others in order to be prepared for our own death.

    The resulting come in our minds invites us to prolong the suffering by not enfrenting the suffering we got.

    Seneca followrd the keys that Aristotle said but he proceeded to add new elemnts. He conceived the tragedy as divided in fice stadies: Seneca influenced by introducing the importance of the theatrical word (el lenguaje shakespeariano tiene como referencia el discurso de Séneca en el cual la palabra tiene que ser capaz de explicar todo).

    Shakespeare's tragedies is theatre of the word (it's a Senecan influence). Something that we can detect in all Shakespeare's tragedies is that we can associate death with the protagonist and all his family. King Lear will see the death of himself and his three daughters. In Hamlet we'll see the death of King Hamlet and his family will also disappear. Mcbeth makes us see how is evil flow, his process finishes with death.

    Shakespeare's tragedies are very deep psychological stadies. All the characters have individual trades. Shakespeare created verosimilar characters; from Hamlet to Claudius and from Iago to lady Mcbeth.

    Shakespeare's tragedies makes us face a controversy. Obviously the tragedy explains human misfortunes as the result of a punishment from the gods for human evil. The final product of the catarsis is identified with the death of the protagonist.

    Let's try not to repeat the same errors of the tragedies. Theatre teaches, and the tragedies of Shakespeare try to teach a moral lesson. There's an analogy with the moralities (moralities were primitive and religious, Shakespeare's plays were civil and ethical in order to encourage good doing and avoid evil doing).


    (Continuación del 19-1-2007)



  • LOVE

  • GOOD vs. EVIL




  • 3. When the theme GOOD vs. EVIL appears in Shakespeare's plays we refer to an ethical compound that underlines in the development of his plays. In the progress of theatrical action we see the great issue that characters have when deciding actions that make their life; then appears a dilema related with their action. When making decisions always underlines a dilema; this requires of us a capacity of decision.

    This dilema always presents a decision between good and evil. In Shakespeare's plays we always find an illuminating definition of what is good and what is evil.

    Notice how at first sight the importance of appearance makes us think that making a possitive appearance tends to be a possitive good. We tend to mask our actions by making them appear possitive. We'll find that evil is everything done selfishly that eventually harás oneself or others. What can be call ethical integrity has been eliminated (se empieza a definir la ética individual que definirá las acciones de su vida).

    The process of personal individual ethics has started (cf. Hamlet). The selfish achievement of his goal is to become king and to possess the woman he wants. What we see is how this is a beginning of evil from the ethical point of view.

    Shakespeare makes an illuminating definition of good and evil in his plays that can help us to face our issues.

    Goodness, on the other hand, is around to other consequences that are truth and righteousness that define the quality of what is true and what is right. This aphorism is a concentration of wisdom as a guide for action life.

    Marcus Aurelius is considered as one of the cruelest prosecutors of christianism. He defined his own philosophy under stoicism. He prosecuted the christians under the accusation of fanatism. Marcus Aurelius practically put in this aphorism a definition of what is good and what is evil. He said that <<if it's not truth do not say it; if it's not right do not do it>>. We can appreciate how demanding this definition of goodness is; how often we say or do things that are not good or right.

    Consciousness is our inevitable cappacity of registering what we do. This will provoke the germs of disatisfaction because significantly resides having been given the cappacity of consciousness we also have been given with imagination. Consciousness reflects reality and a lot of realities, starting by our reality and other realities. This permits us to compare and imagine other realities and make a mental construction and imagination projections.

    Even individuals who are considered items of perfection want to be even more perfect. It's to want more. There's a constant drive that makes us to want that all our actions would be good, correct and just. But in our reality we see what is good but most of the times we don't do it partially. We find ourselves dreaming to do constantly what is good, correct and just.

    4. Zest for life: if the process of personal ethical degradation starts, it will affects his/her zest for life. This process of ethical degradation produces disatisfaction or bitterness, atormenting personality. It provokes more and more somber attitudes in life. We see in the process of tragedies how the character gets more and more pesimistic. This element is associated with the passage of time because we are diachronical beings, we are not complete beings, the only complete being are the divine beings. This idea coincides with our imagination for perfection.

    We get completed with our death. Notice the process of life: birth - evolution - culmination - degradation and disappearance. We don't see in ourselves what we see in others.

    5. What are our lives made of? The individuals we are is the result of the chain of acts. Are we making our destiny? What is our role in our life? We are offered the possibility to watch a complete destiny in Shakespeare's plays. Are we fataly destinated to live as Hamlet or King Lear did or we can do something?

    6. Madness appears in many different manifestations. It's an alterated way of mental life that provokes confusion. The scape from reality is something that we watch finished. If we don't do the correct things we'll have problems. Hamlet, as he's not able to take a decision, the idea of madness appears. Hamlet knows that something terrible has happened in Denmark, he knows that he had to act but keeps pretexting.

    Notice the mental process of Mcbeth, his wife asks him to do something that he considers evil. Also notice the jelousy of Othelo, the killing of Desdemona is an act of madness.

    Enviado por:Gublina20
    Idioma: inglés
    País: España

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