Critical Overview

(Literary Movements for Students)

Attending the theatre was an extremely popular pastime during the Elizabethan era. One of the main reasons that the theatre was able to flourish during the sixteenth century was that Queen Elizabeth herself was a supporter of the arts. She enjoyed attending theatrical entertainments and that legitimized the activity for the rest of the citizens. Most of the populace loved going to the theatre, and as Jeffrey L. Singman notes in his book Daily Life in Elizabethan England, “There was a constant and insatiable demand for plays, and actors became very popular figures—the first ‘stars.’” But not everyone was thrilled with the theatre’s popularity. There were some who shunned it and others who actively campaigned against it. The Puritans were particularly vocal in their opposition to the English playhouses, and numerous treatises and pamphlets were written, warning citizens of the evil and immorality that could be found festering in these amusements. The first major assault came in 1577, in John Northbrooke’s A Treatise Against Dicing, Dancing, Plays and Interludes. This was soon followed by Stephen Gosson’s School of Abuse in 1579. As Oscar Brockett comments, “Both works railed in the harshest terms against the theatre as an instrument used by the Devil to encourage vice and to take people away from honest work and other useful pursuits.” These attacks were answered by theatre supporters, with the most famous response being Sir...

(The entire section is 540 words.)