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THE THEATRE OF THE WORLD: A STUDY IN MEDIEVAL DRAMATIC FORMMartin Stevens by
It has been customary to identify Shakespeare's plays as part of the one which contrasts so-called "native tradition," sharply with the neo as the term implies, ex classical drama of Ben Jonson and which, in the English drama tends back to the beginnings of the popular has been that the phrase "na Middle however, Ages. The problem, tive tradition" has never been closely examined,and, consequently, when drama for its "native" qualities, scholars discuss Shakespeare's they usually talk about such stock topics as the influence of the Vice on Shakespeare's or the de fools and clowns (and even villains) casibus conception It will be my of fortune in Shakespearean tragedy. in this paper to take a closer look at the "native tradition" purpose I should its most formalcharacteristics. and to discover important add by way of qualification that it is not my aim to support the drama ex familiar "organic" theory which holds that the medieval the Bard. To the isted in its crudity for the sole purpose of heralding I intend to demonstrate that Shakespeare had access to a contraiy, one that had developed its own rich and lively dramatic heritage, distinctive shape long before hisbirth. The focus of this paper, then, or the Renaissance. is on medieval drama, not on Shakespeare a definition To approach form associated with the of the dramatic
"native tradition" one may profitably re-examine its opposite, the neo
in practice, drama. In theory, if not always that drama, as is was noted above all else for its adherence to the three well-known, of action, place and time. Allthree were, of course, designed unities, to compress action so that it would the dramatic achieve the highest as Joel E. Spingarn of verisimilitude. Neo-classic drama, degree out a good many years ago,1 was in effect an early attempt pointed at rigorous stage realism. When Ben Jonson wrote what is perhaps still the most perfectly "unified" play in all of English drama, The he was concerned thatstage time and real time coincided Alchemist, classic
1. See Literary Criticism Brace Books, Harcourt Chaucer Review, Vol. Park in the Renaissance and World, 1963), 7, No. 4. Published and London. (1899; p. 59. by The rpt. New York: Harbinger
a house in exactly. He further sought a single...