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The University wits moved English drama from folk tale (Ralph Roister Doister) up to Roman and Greek imitations, and at the same time widened the theatre audience by appealing to the more educated population, which included many members of the queen’s entourage. Staging, too, was broadened, from the innyards to indoor venues that accommodated a better clientele. Dramatically, the plots began to follow classic models, and poetically, the iambic pentameter line became the distinctly English rhyme measure. The major literary contribution, however, was that the University wits (Marlowe, Kyd, etc.) brought the English language into its “Latin” phase, where words could be invented by using Latin roots—one of Shakespeare’s most important contribution was the expanded vocabulary he used (“incarnadine,” etc,) by the University wits’ example. So, in theatrical venues, in linguistic innovations, and in dramatic structure, the early University wits paved the way for the genius of Shakespeare and the Jacobeans.
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