Francis Beaumont’s imprint on seventeenth century drama cannot be distinguished from that of John Fletcher, since their jointly written plays secured the reputations of both men. Indeed, the success of their collaboration from about 1606 until 1613 was such that later editors assumed their few solo plays to have been joint productions. Moreover, Fletcher’s many collaborations with other writers, most notably Philip Massinger, were widely regarded throughout the seventeenth century as the works of Fletcher and Beaumont.
Though rarely produced after the Restoration and without critical stature since that time, the Beaumont-Fletcher collaborations, including, among others, Philaster, The Maid’s Tragedy, and A King and No King, captured large, fashionable audiences with their blend of satire, sophisticated dialogue, and sexual titillation. These plays perfectly suited the tastes of the more affluent theatergoers who patronized the indoor Blackfriars playhouse, while the outdoor theaters catered to the middle-class taste for farce, romance, and patriotic heroism. Beaumont and Fletcher’s comedies and tragicomedies expose middle-class optimism as mere naïveté or ignorant ambition. Though never creating worlds as darkly depraved as those of John Webster or George Chapman, Beaumont and Fletcher nevertheless pictured society as corrupt, its rulers as venal, its populace as stupid and conniving. Their main characters, neither...
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Appleton, William W. Beaumont and Fletcher: A Critical Study. Philadelphia: R. West, 1977. Explores literary questions in Beaumont’s plays, though, as the title suggests, the focus is on the literary collaboration of Beaumont with John Fletcher. The index is helpful in separating the works of Beaumont, and the second chapter, on their partnership, is a good starting point for understanding Beaumont’s style.
Bliss, Lee. Francis Beaumont. Boston: Twayne, 1987. This readable book, medium in length, opens with a biographical sketch and continues with detailed analyses of all Beaumont’s major works. This book reproduces a portrait of Beaumont and includes a thorough, well-annotated bibliography. Though it is part of a standard series, it is for advanced readers.
Clark, Sandra. The Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher: Sexual Themes and Dramatic Representation. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994. Examines the role of sex and gender identity in the works of Beaumont and John Fletcher. Includes a bibliography and an index.
Danby, John F. Poets on Fortune’s Hill: Studies in Sidney, Shakespeare, Beaumont, and Fletcher. London: Faber and Faber, 1952. Reprint, as Elizabethan and Jacobean Poets, 1964. An excellent critical study that places these writers in their social and historical contexts. Sees Beaumont and Fletcher as the final, decadent stage of a great Elizabethan tradition....
(The entire section is 639 words.)