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: King’s 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

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

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

and—having decided to seek his revenge—how 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. he links thus two of the play’s key themes. 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.the conflict between the Spanish and the Portuguese in 1580 → the strong anti-Spanish sentiment.). The University Wits: Thomas Kyd The Spanish Tragedy or Hieronimo Is Mad Again! (1586) WHY? the revenge theme – very popular among the Elizabethans. she has the misfortune to have an evil brother in Lorenzo. Though his revenge is successful. the spirit of 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. there was a conflict between the old custom of seeking private revenge for wrongs done to one’s family. Old Hamlet) . I will repay”. Lorenzo. Actually. Soliman and Perseda. the background . whether to leave revenge to God once his legal means are exhausted. justice and revenge. Horatio. Psychological complexity . the Viceroy of Portugal. Arden of Feversham. and her uncle. the Duke of Castile. the clearest example of this may be her participation in Hieronimo's revenge playlet. Serberine. she is the object of Balthazar’s affection. Isabella. Pedringano. the Duke of Castille. sayeth the lord. deceitful manner (the play-within-the-play: Hieronimo’s revenge is seen less as a violent. The University Wits: Thomas Kyd Main characters: Hieronimo – the avenger. BelImperia.e. Torn apart between his violent urges of a grieving father whose son was brutally murdered and his responsibility as the Knight-Marshal. Hieronimo. the King of Spain— the two most powerful men in the country—to wed this very same Balthazar. characters: Don Andrea. 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.whether to end his misery by suicide instead of waiting to seek revenge. she is forced by both her father. his grief is not relieved.Ur-Hamlet (i. evil act than as a creative way to find justice in an unjust society. that is why he ultimately prefers death. The University Wits: Thomas Kyd . inherited largely from the Anglo-Saxon and Danish influences on English culture. when Balthazar is the very man who murdered her beloved Andrea and then went on to murder her beloved Horatio. “Vengeance is mine. as well as from the Christian injunction of Vindicta mihi. the top judge for any legal matters concerning the Spanish king or his estate. Balthazar.

many of the initially antithetical characters at times seem very similar to each other: e. the latter is human and. to lead the people around him to injustice. Isabella – inward destruction and suicide. The University Wits: Thomas Kyd Major themes: Madness: Hieronimo – outward destruction and bloody revenge. The key difference between Vice and the Machiavellian villain: the former is supernatural. Machiavelli = evil. playing on their moral weakness as well as their lack of knowledge.g. Machiavellism: In Elizabethan England. Vengeance becomes then an assertion that the loved one is not forgotten. 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. Bel-Imperia and Hieronimo make the most explicit connection between the two. Furthermore. Pedringano’s belief that a pardon is contained inside the box Lorenzo has sent him. use of violence and fear. E. Yet. therefore. madness is rather paradoxical in the sense that it is a kind of “sane” madness—madness in the face of a world that has itself gone insane and to which madness is the only possible response. → madness = a manifestation of the desire to escape from a horrible reality. Barabas in Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta) = combining the Elizabethan misinterpretation of Niccolo Machiavelli’s 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. Horatio/ Lorenzo.g. Love and Memory: revenge = an expression of love. has weaknesses and can be manipulated. Lorenzo and Hieronimo at the end of the play. (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. the box = a symbol of a more fundamental and general limitation on human knowledge. Lorenzo’s accepting to take part in Hieronimo’s play. interpreting the failure to revenge one’s loved one as a lack of love. It is the sane and happy who are truly disconnected from reality. Antithesis and Irony: Both rhetorically and in terms of characterization. Vice features: use of verbal cleverness to lead a protagonist into sin. and respectively.Main characters: Lorenzo: the Machiavellian villain (other examples of such characters in Elizabethan drama: Richard III of Gloucester in Shakespeare’s Richard III. . duplicity. using that protagonist's inherent moral weakness. Kyd loves opposites: Lorenzo/Hieronimo. Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello. of man’s inability to penetrate appearances. Hieronimo → an agent of the divine vengeance. unable to see the pervasive evil that surrounds them. 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 Horatio’s death himself and that he interprets BelImperia’s offer of help as a sign that Heaven favours his decision.

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