A Poetics Of The Elizabethan Theatre Is

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A Poetics Of The Elizabethan Theatre Is Inseparable, In Crucial Respects, From A Poetics Of Power. Essay, Research Paper To approach the above discussion it must first be made clear what is meant by “poetics.” Todorov, in his book “Introduction to Poetics” (pg.7) defines poetics as a “name for everything that bears on the creation or composition of works having language at once as their substance and as their instrument.” This helps us to understand what is meant by “A poetics of the Elizabethan Theatre” – an exploration of all the external and internal influences that shaped and made the said theatre what it was – but it is less helpful in trying to assess what is meant by “a poetics of power.” However, with more thought, we can see that the above

definition can be easily adapted to enable an interpretation of the meaning of this phrase to be made. “A poetics of power” will be taken to mean an inquiry, essentially, into the nature of power and its causes and effects, along with the inevitable moral questions which accompany it. More specifically it could be taken to mean an investigation into the factors influencing perceptions of power in Elizabethan times. To begin to examine whether a poetics of the theatre is inseparable in any respect from a poetics of power it is helpful to look at the mood and society of Elizabeth I’s reign and the creative period of Shakespeare’s life, whose second tetralogy, the history plays, this essay will on the whole concentrate upon as representative of Elizabethan theatre (whether

this is in fact accurate is an interesting point, and indeed, as such, undoubtedly another essay.) However, for the purpose of this essay we will rely upon the evidence which suggests that Shakespeare’s plays, being widely documented as frequently performed and popular with wide-ranging audiences of the day, are likely to be fairly characteristic of Elizabethan theatre. At the time Shakespeare’s plays were first being performed society was in the process of changing steadily and fundamentally and it is widely believed that these changes are reflected in the history plays. Between 1536 and 1556 it is estimated that one fifth of all available land changed hands due to the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and the largest proportion of this land was granted to

untitled gentry and rich yeomen. They set about creating profit rather than merely subsistence out of the land. This new class became widely known as the enterprising or “new gentry” along with people who had been ennobled since the beginning of Henry VIII’s reign. They began to gain in power during Elizabeth’s reign, but their’s was an economic and therefore secular power as a pose to the “divine” or God-given power of the ancient nobility who achieved their position in society through the laws of succession. This is reflected in a popular proverb of the day, “As riseth my good So riseth my blood.” The ancient nobility felt threatened by this new group of “saucy upstart courtiers” and much was made of their selfish profiteering ways. They resented the

attention the queen gave to this group and the Dukes of Norfolk and Sussex are reputed to have led a faction which desired to retain the priviledges of the old aristocracy. Elizabeth tried to appease them by affording them new priviledges in court but there was constant tension between the two groups and even a (failed) revolution by some of the old aristocracy in 1572. Along with these problems the gradual erosion of the feudal system was also causing great change and some unrest in society. Elizabeth’s power was largely based upon mediating between these two groups and ensuring that neither became powerful enough to challenge her autocracy. Her rule can therefore be seen as somewhat precarious and the disorder and conflict prevalent in the social order of the day becomes