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The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Drama (Cambridge Companions to Literature) [Paperback]

A. R. Braunmuller , Michael Hattaway

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Book Description

25 Sep 2003 Cambridge Companions to Literature
This second edition of the Companion offers students up-to-date factual and interpretative material about the principal theatres, playwrights and plays of the most important period of English drama, from 1580–1642. Three wide-ranging chapters on theatres, dramaturgy and the social, cultural and political conditions of the drama are followed by chapters describing and illustrating various theatrical genres: private and occasional drama, political plays, heroic plays, burlesque, comedy, tragedy, with a final essay on the drama produced during the reign of Charles I. All the essays have been revised and their references updated. An expanded biographical and bibliographical section details the work of the dramatists discussed in the book and the best sources for further study. A chronological table provides a full listing of new plays performed from 1497–1642, with a parallel list of major political and theatrical events.

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"An intelligent compilation of current knowledge and hypotheses in the field of Renaissance drama, it is a valuable corrective to existing handbooks...The ten essays cover a lot of ground with a minimum of duplication...Most readers will discover some fresh insights into the work of major dramatists."
- Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, Michael Shapiro

"In its newly revised form, this work solidifies its status as the best single-volume introduction to the non-Shakespearean English drama of the later Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline periods."
- Sixteenth Century Journal, Arnold W. Preussner, Truman State University

Book Description

This second edition of the Companion offers students up-to-date factual and interpretative material about the principal theatres, playwrights and plays of the most important period of English drama, from 1580–1642. All the essays have been revised and their references updated; the substantial biographical and bibliographical section has been expanded.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
WHEN we look back at a distant historical period, it is easy to succumb to two temptations; the first is to see a sudden, sharp break with the past taking place at some date such as the coming to the throne of Elizabeth I (1558), or James I (1603), as though a transformation in all aspects of society happened in those instants. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 2.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Groan 15 Oct 2013
By David Auerbach - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
From the very first paragraph of the preface:

"We know that there is no such thing as a ‘neutral’ organization for a book such as this, indeed, none for any book. Any shaping of material implies (pre)conceptions about that material; every system stipulates an order, any order accepts some values and ignores others. Still, a book must be ordered, and its order should have a phrasable rationale."

Honestly, it's all you need to know. Any book organized on the grounds that there needs to be excuse-making for taking an opinionated stand is surely one whose opinions aren't terribly valuable. Many of the essays alternate wishy-washiness with unsubstantiated generalizations. The last four essays are genre surveys and are embarrassingly better than most of what preceded them, particularly Jill Levenson's Comedy and Robert Watson's Tragedy. I do not think they justify the purchase price.
11 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very companionable 29 Sep 2008
By Harry Eagar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is hardly the kind of companion I'd choose for a night out at the theater. Three of 10 chapters have something to say about a play: R.A. Foakes on "Playhouses and players," Margot Heinemann on "Political drama" and James Bulman on "Caroline drama."
The rest is either stuff that need never escape the academy, like Jill Levenson's endless carping about how English Renaissance comedies don't slip comfortably into any sort of rigorous classification system -- those dogs! -- or, much worse, the semi-comprehensible articles of the editors: A.R. Braunmiller on "The arts of the dramatist" and Michael Hattaway on "Drama and society."
Both editors are under the spell of ranid philosophy, with its expectable dire influence on coherence. I ran both essays through a Random Abstract Noun Generator analysis. The more nouns you can switch around without changing the meaning, the higher the score.
Neither scores as high as a typical sociological treatise, but they score high enough. Braunmiller spends nearly 40 pages to establish that people who paid their pennies to go into a playhouse understood that the play they were watching was a simulacrum, that they did not really imagine that while watching "Tamburlaine" they were in Damascus.
Robert N. Watson's essay on "Tragedy" does not score quite so high in a R.A.N.G. analysis but suffers from another ailment of po-mo lit. crit. -- science envy. This wasn't the place to bring in Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, especially since Watson does not understand that Godel's is not a general proposition but applies only to formal decidable systems, of which lit. crit. is not one.
Too bad, a lot has been unearthed and better understood about English drama since I studied it as an undergrad four decades ago. The bits and pieces collected here are not worth the time or the money.
Also, when did writers about English literature become turgid? Forty years ago, a good fraction of literary criticism was either nonsense or insignificant. But it was stylishly insignificant.
It does not help that some of the plays referenced here have not been reprinted in over a century, so unless you live near a very big library, you can hardly check it out. You will probably get more bang for your buck if you take the money you might spend on this book and use it to buy two tickets to a play and invite a charming member of the opposite sex to come.
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