Describe the decline of Jacobean drama.  

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The Jacobean era is the time when England was ruled by James I ("Jacobean" meaning "James" in Latin), and lasted from 1603 to 1625. While Elizabethan drama was based on a society that believed in a Christian humanist philosophy, advancements in science caused English society to question a God-centered world.

Jacobean drama (with Elizabethan playwrights such as Shakespeare and Jonson) turned their energies from Elizabethan sensibilities to, for instance, revenge plays (such as Hamlet), and masques, for which Jonson was famous. Jonson was considered the leading playwright of his time after the death of Shakespeare, and...

…a master of style, and a brilliant satirist.

Jonson's masques (and others) were…

...noted for lavish set designs and musical scores provided by the major artists and musicians of the period.

There was also a darker side to drama as a whole during the Jacobean Age. Some Jacobean contemporaries of Shakespeare, such as Middleton and Webster…

...depart from the Elizabethan sense of moral order through depictions of corruption and violence.

It is important to note that these drama did not include "divine retribution" and the triumph of good over evil. Tragicomedies were also very popular, especially Beaumont and Fletcher. While some more modern critics refuse to recognize these dramatic presentations as true art, saying instead they centered on...

...sensationalism, contrived plots, and the use of merely entertaining dramatic devices at the expense of integrity and meaning...

...other critics considered the tragicomedies "brilliant comedy." Several dramatists who experienced success under the patronage of Elizabeth I also were highly successful in James I's court. Shakespeare, for example, was one of the King's Men, an acting troupe supporting by the King.

However, in 1625, Charles I (James I's son) came to the throne of England. This would begin the decline of the Jacobean theater. Charles I's reign was known for its extravagant parties, financial excesses, etc. The Puritans working for the government not only disapproved, but were gaining power in the English government. The Puritans were seriously devout, over-zealous, intolerant Protestants who felt life revolved only around work and God. Parliament became more and more concerned about the monarch, and Civil War was not far away. Ultimately, Charles I was seized and executed; with the monarch removed from the throne, a form of government known as the Protectorate was formed, and placed in charge of it was the powerful and inflexible Oliver Cromwell. The theater, a form of "God-less" entertainment (as Puritans considered all entertainment) suffered a swift "death," as all theaters were closed. (Literature would continue with poetry. There were two kinds of poets of at time—the Metaphysicals and the Cavaliers.)

The theater would remain closed for eighteen years, until Cromwell's death, the dissolution of the Protectorate, and the eventual return of the monarchy to the throne—in the person of Charles II who had been living in exile.


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