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The University Wits (1585-1595) University Wits = young playwrights fresh from the humanistic training in the universities

who moulded the medieval forms of drama into the pattern of their classical education. Most of them seem to have had a taste for dissolute living and encountered untimely deaths. Some of them had a great contempt for unlettered competitors like Shakespeare. In the hands of these wild but gifted writers, the play of human passion and action was expressed for the first time with true dramatic effect. They paved the way for Shakespeare who was to carry the Elizabethan drama to perfection. The University Wits: John Lyly John Lyly (1554-1606) Life: closely connected with the aristocratic circles; born in Kent, brought up in Canterbury; studies: Kings School; MA at the University of Oxford; He sought promotion at the court, but his influence decline after 1589. Three times an MP; After 1590 retired in Yorkshire at the Mexborough house of his wife Beatrice Browne (whom he married in 1583). Work: the novel (prose romance) Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and its sequel Euphues and His England (1580) the most fashionable writer for a decade the EUPHUISTIC style: sententiousness, preference for moral maximes, overabundant use of comparison by simile, allusion to classical/ mythological figures, syntactic parallelism through balance and antithesis, elaborate pattern of alliteration and assonance. The University Wits: John Lyly There dwelt in Athens a young gentleman of great patrimony, and of so comely a personage, that it was doubted whether he were more bound to Nature for the lineaments of his person, or to Fortune for the increase of his possessions. But Nature impatient of comparisons, and as it were disdaining a companion or copartner in her working, added to this comeliness of his body such a sharp capacity of mind, that not only she proved Fortune counterfeit, but was half of that opinion that she herself was only current. This young gallant, of more wit than wealth, and yet of more wealth than wisdom, seeing himself inferior to none in pleasant conceits, thought himself superior to all in honest conditions, insomuch that he deemed himself so apt to all things, that he gave himself almost to nothing, but practicing of those things commonly which are incident to these sharp wits, fine phrases, smooth quipping, merry taunting, using jesting without mean, and abusing mirth without measure. As therefore the sweetest rose hath his prickle, the finest velvet his brack, the fairest flower his bran, so the sharpest wit hath his wanton will, and the holiest head his wicked way. And true it is that some men write and most men believe, that in all perfect shapes, a blemish bringeth rather a liking every way to the eyes, than a loathing any way to the mind. Venus had her mole in her cheek which made her more amiable: Helen her

scar on her chin which Paris called cos amoris, the whetstone of love. Aristippus his wart, Lycurgus his wen: So likewise in the disposition of the mind, either virtue is overshadowed with some vice, or vice overcast with some virtue. (J. Lyly, Euphues: the Anatomy of Wit) The University Wits: John Lyly Plays: Comedies based on the theme of courtly love, set against a classical/ mythological background: Campaspe (1584); Sappho and Phao (1584); Endymion, the Man in the Moon (1591) ; Gallathea (1592); Midas (1592) ; Mother Bombie (1594) ; The Woman in the Moon (1597) ; Love's Metamorphosis (1601) . The University Wits: John Lyly Features: most of them written in prose (except for The Woman in the Moon), for childrens companies and addressing basically the courtly audience; indebted to the Latin comedy through such characters as: the crafty servant, the duped parent, the braggart soldier, the lovesick youth; devices introduced: girls disguised as boys; the ethereal fairies; exquisite effects of song and music. Influence on W. Shakespeare: the above mentioned theatrical devices and the euphuistic style (e.g. Moth in Loves Labours Lost; Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing; Polonius in Hamlet ). The University Wits: George Peele George Peele (1557-1596) Life: BA and MA in Oxford; living a dissolute life in London, which is why he was turned out of his fathers dwellings. Work: pageants (= spectacular processions/ plays presenting tableaux and including songs, dances and dramatic scenes very close to the masque); occasional or miscellaneous verse; plays: The Arraignment of Paris (written 1581, printed 1584); Edward I (1593); The Old Wives Tale (written about 1589, printed 1595); The Love of King David and fair Bethsabe (written ca. 1588, printed 1599). Innovations:

Peele the founder of the Elizabethan romantic comedy; freshness, high spirits and optimism; the enchanted never-never land, remote from reality. influencing W. Shakespeare. The University Wits: Robert Greene Robert Greene (1560-1592) Life: BA and MA in Cambridge; 1578-1583: travelling very extensively abroad, visiting France, Germany, Poland and Denmark; embarking on a dissolute life in London as well as on prose and poetry writing until his death. Work: the first professional reference to Shakespeare in A Groats-worth of Wit Bought with a Million of Repentance: an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger's heart wrapped in a Players hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes Factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country. The University Wits: Robert Greene passages from Henry VI, The Comedy of Errors, The Two Gentlemen of Verona ascribed to Greene; imitating Christopher Marlowe in his dramatic productions. plays: The History of Orlando Furioso (1594); Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (1594); The Scottish History of James the Fourth (1598) introducing for the first time Oberon, king of the fairies on the English stage. allegedly the author of George-a-Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield (written 1588) - the most important expression of the democratic trends in the drama of English humanism. The University Wits: Thomas Kyd Thomas Kyd (1558-1594) Life: born in London in a prosperous middle-class family; studies: the Merchant Taylors School (Edmund Spenser also attended this school at the same time), thus benefiting from excellent classical training (Virgil and Seneca); an apprentice in his fathers trade and a translator; 1583 - already writing for the stage; persecution by the Queens secret agents who searched his house in 1593 on suspicion of his taking an active part in spreading anti-governmental material (i.e. an atheistic pamphlet) together with his friend and former co-tenant Christopher Marlowe imprisoned tortured on suspicion of spreading heresy and atheism eventually released, but he soon died in utter poverty. Work: The Spanish Tragedy or Hieronimo Is Mad Again! (1586) plays attributed to him:

Ur-Hamlet (i.e. Old Hamlet) ; Arden of Feversham. The University Wits: Thomas Kyd The Spanish Tragedy or Hieronimo Is Mad Again! (1586) WHY? the revenge theme very popular among the Elizabethans. Actually, there was a conflict between the old custom of seeking private revenge for wrongs done to ones family, inherited largely from the Anglo-Saxon and Danish influences on English culture, as well as from the Christian injunction of Vindicta mihi; Vengeance is mine, sayeth the lord; I will repay. the background - the conflict between the Spanish and the Portuguese in 1580 the strong anti-Spanish sentiment. characters: Don Andrea, the spirit of Revenge, Hieronimo, Horatio, Isabella, BelImperia, Lorenzo, the Duke of Castile, Balthazar, the Viceroy of Portugal, Pedringano, Serberine. The University Wits: Thomas Kyd Main characters: Hieronimo the avenger. Torn apart between his violent urges of a grieving father whose son was brutally murdered and his responsibility as the Knight-Marshal, the top judge for any legal matters concerning the Spanish king or his estate, he links thus two of the plays key themes, justice and revenge. Psychological complexity - whether to end his misery by suicide instead of waiting to seek revenge, where to seek revenge against murderers with far more influence over the king than he, how to reconcile his duties as a judge with his inability to find justice for his son, whether to leave revenge to God once his legal means are exhausted, andhaving decided to seek his revengehow to do it in the face of enemies who could easily destroy him with their vastly greater influence and power at court the decision of seeking revenge in a Machiavellian, deceitful manner (the play-within-the-play: Hieronimos revenge is seen less as a violent, evil act than as a creative way to find justice in an unjust society.). Though his revenge is successful, his grief is not relieved, that is why he ultimately prefers death. The University Wits: Thomas Kyd Main characters: Bel-Imperia: an unfortunate young woman: she falls in love with both Andrea and Horatio shortly before they die; she has the misfortune to have an evil brother in Lorenzo; she is the object of Balthazars affection, when Balthazar is the very man who murdered her beloved Andrea and then went on to murder her beloved Horatio; she is forced by both her father, the Duke of Castille, and her uncle, the King of Spain the two most powerful men in the countryto wed this very same Balthazar. but not a weak woman: she displays her rhetorical ability in stichomythia (line-by-line exchanges) and she has the necessary strength of will to act on her desires and motivations; the clearest example of this may be her participation in Hieronimo's revenge playlet, Soliman and Perseda. The University Wits: Thomas Kyd

Main characters: Lorenzo: the Machiavellian villain (other examples of such characters in Elizabethan drama: Richard III of Gloucester in Shakespeares Richard III, Iago in Shakespeares Othello; Barabas in Marlowes The Jew of Malta) = combining the Elizabethan misinterpretation of Niccolo Machiavellis political philosophy (focused on the picture of a political ruler who uses manipulation over persuasion and fear over love to ensure the loyalty of his subjects) and the traditional Vice figure in English literature. Vice features: use of verbal cleverness to lead a protagonist into sin, using that protagonist's inherent moral weakness, and respectively, to lead the people around him to injustice, playing on their moral weakness as well as their lack of knowledge. The key difference between Vice and the Machiavellian villain: the former is supernatural, the latter is human and, therefore, has weaknesses and can be manipulated. The University Wits: Thomas Kyd Major themes: Revenge and Justice: It is in the light of this link between revenge and justice that Hieronimo decides to revenge Horatios death himself and that he interprets BelImperias offer of help as a sign that Heaven favours his decision. Hieronimo an agent of the divine vengeance. Love and Memory: revenge = an expression of love. Bel-Imperia and Hieronimo make the most explicit connection between the two, interpreting the failure to revenge ones loved one as a lack of love. Vengeance becomes then an assertion that the loved one is not forgotten. (See also the symbol of the bloody handkerchief = the memory of the dead son + the desire to revenge his death) Appearance versus Reality: Kyd uses dramatic irony throughout the play to drive a wedge between the world as his main characters see it and the world as it actually is. E.g. Lorenzos accepting to take part in Hieronimos play; Pedringanos belief that a pardon is contained inside the box Lorenzo has sent him; the box = a symbol of a more fundamental and general limitation on human knowledge, of mans inability to penetrate appearances. The University Wits: Thomas Kyd Major themes: Madness: Hieronimo outward destruction and bloody revenge; Isabella inward destruction and suicide. madness = a manifestation of the desire to escape from a horrible reality. Furthermore, madness is rather paradoxical in the sense that it is a kind of sane madnessmadness in the face of a world that has itself gone insane and to which madness is the only possible response. It is the sane and happy who are truly disconnected from reality, unable to see the pervasive evil that surrounds them. Machiavellism: In Elizabethan England, Machiavelli = evil, duplicity, use of violence and fear. Antithesis and Irony: Both rhetorically and in terms of characterization, Kyd loves opposites: Lorenzo/Hieronimo; Horatio/ Lorenzo. Yet, many of the initially antithetical characters at times seem very similar to each other: e.g. Lorenzo and Hieronimo at the end of the play. Meta-Theatre: The introduction (twice) of the meta-theatre in the play serves to make the relationship between the play-world and the real world ambiguous.

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