Discuss the main features of Elizabethan drama focusing on Shakespeare and Marlowe.

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shaketeach | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Christopher Marlowe was one of the University Wits.  This was a group of univeristy trained men who wrote for the popular theatre.  Of this group, Marlowe stands out today despite the fact that he died at an early age in a bar room brawl.

Marlowe explored blank verse and used it effectively in his plays.  Marlowe also looked into Seneca's closet dramas which broke the rigid Greek rules.  Instead of the violence taking place off stage and reported, it was brought onto the stage to the delight of the Elizabethan audiences.

Shakespeare took over where Marlowe left off.  He used language, both blank verse and prose, to show many things about his characters.  Each character can be defined by the language they use.   He also used the language to define relationships and situations.  For example, friends may use prose in informal situations but verse in more formal ones, IE, Act I , scene 1 of King Lear where two nobleman speak in prose until the king enters.  Prose is often, but not always, used by servants.  

Shakespeare also explored structure in his late plays, IE, The Winter's Talehas what is called a broken back structure since it begins like a tragedy but ends positively.

Shakespeare also used sources for his plays like Ovid and Holinshed.  There are only two plays that have no source, The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Tempest. 

Both Marlowe and Shakespeare helped shaped Elizabethan theatre.  

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