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Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer was born between 1340 and 1345 and he died in 1400. He is surely
the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages. We can say that Chaucer gave English
poetry a new start and only in his works we find the characteristic features of the
great poetical tradition that was to follow.
He was probably born in London and he led a very active life. He was a page, a soldier,
a diplomatic and a civil servant. Actually he was very frequently sent abroad on
diplomatic missions or on business negotiations. He travelled extensively Flanders,
France and Italy. Very important were the journeys he made to Italy because it is
during these journeys that he came into contact with Italian poetry and Italian poetry
made a strong impact on his mind.
During his apprenticeship years he followed closely in the steps of some contemporary
French poets. In these years its very likely he began an unfinished translation of
Roman de la Rose. But after his journeys in Italy, he came more and more under the
influences of the great Italian writers of 14th century: Dante, Petrarch and above all
Boccaccio. But, he also knew and drew freely (prese abbondantemente spunto) from
several Latin writers (like Virgil and Ovid). His first work is The book of the Duchess.
This is an elegy on the death of Blanche, the first wife of his patron (mecenate), John
of Gaunt.
If you read this elegy you see that almost everything in this poem is derivative and
shows the influence of the French allegorical poetry of Courtly Love. After writing
Book of the duchess he wrote two more allegorical poems. The first one is the
unfinished House of fame and the other one is The parliament of fowls. In these
allegorical poems the first signs of Italian influence are apparent. House of fame is
an amusing narrative of the imaginary journey of the poet who is carried by an eagle
to the house of fame and then to the house of rumors. If you read the House of fame
you see that Chaucer gives a sort of humors turn to Dantes sublime vision.
The parliament of fowls instead is a wedding poem probably it had been written to
celebrate the marriage of Richard the 2nd with Anne of Bohemia and in this poem you
find several passages which are adaptations from the Teseida poem written by
The influence of Boccaccio is evident also in the long narrative poem of Troilus and
Criseyde. This work can be considered the greatest achievement before The
Canterbury Tales. It is based on Il Filostrato written by Boccaccio. Chaucer did not
altered the story as Boccaccio told it but under a certain point of view he is better than
the Italian poet because of his superior psychological in site in the delineation of the
The legend of Good Women is an unfinished poem which consists on an allegorical
prologue plus nine stories of women who were notable for their faithfulness in love.
The best part of the poem is the prologue. Nowadays we have two different versions of
this prologue. In the prologue the God of Love rebukes Chaucer for writing the story of
the unfaithful Criseyde and also because he had started translating Roman de la
rose in which many stories contain mistakes slight made by women.
The legend of Good Women is a very good poem and it is enough to consider
Chaucer the greatest medieval poet, but actually his worldwide fame is due to the
work which is considered his masterpiece: The Canterbury Tales.
The date of composition of The Canterbury Tales remains uncertain, probably he
went on writing this work for more than ten years. The work is unfinished, Chaucer

original intention was to relate 120 stories but nowadays we have only 24 stories. Two
of these 24 stories are incomplete, two others are only fragments. All the tales are in
verse except for two. The Canterbury Tales like the Decameron, is a collection of
story set into the framework of a prologue. At the beginning critics thought that
Chaucer had copied the Decameron; but, if he really had done it, he would have
translated it, while every story is original. The plan of the story is expanded and
explained in the prologue: 30 persons are in pilgrimage to the shrine of saint Thomas
Becket at Canterbury. They meet in Tabard Inn, a small place in Southwark, London.
The host of the Tabard Inn, called Harry Bailey, join them and suggest, in order to be
gaily (con lo scopo di togliere la noia) during the journey, to tell two stories in the way
out and two in the way back. Pilgrims accept the suggestion: who tells the best story
wins a free dinner. All of these tales were accompanied by short link to tie them
together and to the prologue. (ogni introduzione collega il tutto ad una cornice) The
presentations of characters are beautiful because we can see a sort of beautiful
gallery of the type of pilgrims: except the highest and lowest society, every social
class is represented. In the CT we can also find pathos and tragedy, but the prevalent
mood, its gentle, colorful, and we find a lot of irony. It is exactly when Chaucer
displaces this humor that he is nearly always at his best. We can say that in the
history of English literature he is the first great narrative poet but also the first great
The Nun and The Wife of Bath
The direct line of the Plantagenets came to an end with the death of William the 2 nd
who died in 1399. He was succeeded by Henry the 4 th who began the line of Lancaster
family. He reigned from 1399 from 1413. The Lancaster family came into conflict with
the other line of the family descendent from Henry the 4 th uncle who was Edmund
duke of York.
Henry the 4th was mainly occupied with keeping in check his enemies at home and in
reestablishing the authority of the crown against the always rebellious nobles. He left
to his successor Henry the 5th (1413-1422) the hard task (arduo compito) of
prosecuting the hundred years war with France. Henry the 5 th is considered the last
great warrior king of England. He was absolutely convinced of the rightness of his
cause and he was much more interested in chivalry and in fighting abroad than in the
events which were happening in England.
When Henry the 5th died, his son Henry the 6th was only a baby and therefore he
reigned for a long time. His reign was a confused story of quarrels between his regents
and his advisors. He was weak and politically incapable. He was more interested in
religion and in literature than in government. During his reign the hundred years war
came to an end. We have the end of the hundred years war but in the second half of
the century a civil war took the place of the fighting abroad in the hundred years war
The war of the Roses is between the followers of the Lancastrian line (Red Rose) and
the followers of the Yorkers line (White Rose). The Yorkers soon gained control of the
reign with Eduard the 4th who reigned after Henry the 6th (1461-1483). He was a very
energetic king.
Even if in spite of the war the life of the country progressed steadily. Schools, colleges,
churches were built. Printing was introduced by in 1477. London grew in size and
Medieval society was past giving way to a more modern form of organization and the

only regnant of the old feudal order were the warring factions of the old powerful
nobles. When Eduard the 1st died in 1483 his crown was absorbed by his brother
Richard of Gloucester. Richard the 3rd reigned only for two years.
The English people were happy when he was killed at Bosworth Field. He was defeated
by Henry Tudor who descended through the female line from the house of Lancaster.
He succeeded in pacifying the opposing factions of Lancaster and York by marring a
Yorkest princess Elisabeth and then he ascended the throne under the name of Henry
the 7th and reigned from 1485 till 1509.
Is under Hendry the 7th that the feudal system collapsed totally because he believed in
a strong central government, he forbid the barons to have private armies.
Another important change that he made was to use men of humble origins in his
administration and he also through these men succeeded in putting the finances of
the country on a sound footing (basi solide).
Concentrating all the power in his hands he eliminated the feudal system. With him
the great Tudor dynasty is surely one most important period in the history of England.
One of the genre which mostly developed during this period was the ballad. In this
period also drama improved and developed.
The earliest example of drama can be dated back to the 13 th and 14th century but
these earliest dramas have reached us only rearranged in the two centuries that
followed their writing.
Medieval drama in England has originated in liturgy and the first works were dramatic
presentations of certain aspects of the church service.
The oldest plays are usually called Miracles or Mystery plays. They invariably deal
with episodes taken from the Bible. Nowadays four cycles of these Mystery plays
and the mains they have come from the place where they were first produced (York,
Chester, Coventry and Wakefield).
The chief aim of these Miracles and Mystery plays was religious instructions.
A second step in the development of English drama is represented by the Morality
plays or Moralities. In these something change. The character for the most part are
personifications of vices and virtues.
We dont know exactly when the Moralities started, but we can say that it cannot be
later than the middle of the 14th century because to that date belongs one of the most
famous examples. The title of this first work was The castle of perseverance. This
work we know belongs to 1405 but the masterpiece of this kind of Moralities is
Everyman probably composed in 1500.
Moralities developed into the interlude and in the interludes comedy begins to appear
and the abstract personifications typical of the moralities has slowly begin to be
changed, to be substituted by real characters. The most important example of
interludes was written by John Heywood, which was clearly a secular play who wrote
this Four P's . They made a bet, the winner will be the one who will say the biggest
lie. The winner is Palmer, he said that he had ever seen a woman lose her temper.
Sir Thomas Malory is important because he wrote what is considered the only truly
greatest achievement of English prose in 15th century, Le Morte d'Arthur. He wrote it
in prose and he used a very simple but effective language and his work is very
important in keeping alive the Arthurian legend in English literature. The other author
was William Caxton (1422-1491) he was the author of a number of translations and
three pieces of different works but he is most of all remembered because he

established the first printing press in England.

If during the second half of the 15th century national feeling had been swamped in civil
war and factions, during the following century, particularly under Henry the 8 th and
Elizabeth the 1st we see for the first time in England the development of true feeling
of Englishness. In the 16th century England finally gave up all claims to be a
continental power. England began to take her part in the European concern of the
nations developing from then, her classical position, her classical doctrine of balance
of power. This was important in the formation of European alliances which salt to
prevent anyone nation in Europe from becoming predominant. On the other hand we
must remember that England was one of the weakest nations in Europe. Her assertion
of national independence in religion as well as in politics eventually brought the Nation
into conflicts with the most powerful country in Europe (Spain). Henry the 7 th died in
1509 and was succeeded by his son, who became king Henry the 8 th. It is under his
long reign (1509-1547) that in England there was the rise and spread of Protestantism.
The king himself played a decisive role in this spreading. Having failed to obtain from
the Pope a divorce from his first wife Catherine of Aragon, Henry rebelled against the
authority of Rome and with the Act of Supremacy (1544) he finally had himself
proclaimed by the English parliament supreme head of the church of England.
Opposition to this change of religion was not very kindly suppressed. The king
proceeded to dissolve monasteries, the great wealth belonging to the monasteries
were taken by Henry the 8th and partly were distributed among his followers. Henry
the 8th is generally regarded as a despotic and cruel king, and certainly he was very
despotic, and partly also cruel, but he was also a patron of music, languages and the
arts. Henry the 8th did a great deal to make England an European power; gave
parliament a new importance and his policies brought to a generally tightening up of
the administrative machine.
Era forse lunico grande umanista, se parlo di umanesimo come genere letterario di
questo periodo. Vi avevo detto che lui chiude i monasteri e che le ricchezze della
chiesa se le incamera lui in parte, e in parte le da a quelli che lo sostengono. Ci furono
delle persone che furono uccise perch tentavano di diventare anglicani, ma in un
numero decisamente limitato rispetto a quello che far poi la figlia Mary. Eravamo
arrivati che nel 1547 Enrico muore.
In 1547 he dies, and at his dead he was succeeded by his son, Edward, who became
king with the name of Edward VI. He reigned from 1547 till 1553. (Dire che regn
una parola grossa perch era un bambino, aveva 7 anni e muore che ne ha 14, in un
periodo di grandi intrighi a corte: i reggenti contro i consiglieri...)
In 1553, when he died, he was succeeded by his sister, Mary, the daughter of Henry
and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Mary was clearly catholic (convintissima) and
during her reign England went through a period of social and religious turmoil (casino).
Being a fervent catholic, she attended to restore the Popes authority in the country. (A
questo punto la maggior parte degli inglesi seguiva la religione di stato angloprotestante, e non voleva cambiare). So Mary persecuted the heretics and during the
only 5 years of her reign, about 3 hundreds heretics were burned alive. Another very
important factor against Mary, as long as English people were concerned, was that she

had married Philip II of Spain. (La Spagna ai tempi la nazione pi potente,

lInghilterra non diventa altro che unappendice della Spagna. Gli inglesi questo non lo
vogliono.) Therefore she was very unpopular in the country and all the people that she
had had executed, earned her the title of Bloody Mary. (E cos che ricordata in tutti I
libri di storia inglesi)
In 1558 she died and she had had no children. English people and England herself
were longing for(desiderosi di) a moderate ruler. A ruler able to reconcile (riconciliare)
the various factions and to put the administration back in order and to take England
further along the road as a European power. England found this person in Elisabeth,
the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn (1558).
Humanism and Reformation
We cannot say when the Middle ages ended exactly and when the Renaissance began,
but we can say that for several decades the old and the new learning mixed together.
(Renaissance il Rinascimento italiano, per in Inghilterra comincia dopo rispetto al
nostro). We can say that the Renaissance was preceded in England not only by the
scholarly movement of humanism, but also by the reformation (perch c stato lo
scisma con la chiesa). (Lumanesimo, dal punto di vista letterario e non filosofico,
corrisponde allo studio di quelle che si chiamano in latino Humane Littere). Based on
the old civilization of Greece and Rome, and this humanism took root (mise le radici) in
England at the very end of the 15th century. The most important writer of this period is
Sir Thomas More (Tommaso Moro). He was born in 1478 and died in 1535 (decapitato
perch contrastava Enrico VIII). It was 1516 when he published his well known work
Utopia, which is the masterpiece of English humanism. (Ideale societ dove tutti
erano uguali, con stessi diritti e stessi doveri). In Utopia More depicted an ideal
communist society. He wrote Utopia in Latin, and this work was translated in English in
1551. This is the most important author and the most important work of the humanist
period, because by 1520 the flowering and development of humanism in England was
already been checked (controllato, bloccato) by the religious struggles (lotte,
battaglie) of the reformation. The work of the reformers had already begun. In 1525
William Tyndale published at Cologne (a Colonia) a translation of the New Testament.
Owing to the check given to humanism by the reformation, we can say that
Renaissance in England flourished only later. To fixed a conventional date of birth of
Renaissance, we can choose the year 1579, when Edmund Spenser published his first
great work Shepherd (pastore)s Calendar. Spenser had two great forerunners
(precursori), two poets: Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) and Henry Howard earl (conte)
of Surrey (1517-1547) which are known as Italianate poets.
Beside the fact of having written good poems Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) and Henry
Howard Earl of Surrey (1517-1547) they must be remembered also for some technical
innovations which are very important. Wyatt was the first who used the form of the
sonnet after Petrarchian sonnet (he wrote 32 sonnet whose 17 of them are adaptations
of Petrarchs sonnets). Surrey was the one whose simplified the structure of the sonnet
and introduced the so called Shakespearian or Elizabethan sonnet (three quatrains and
an heroic couplet); the riming scheme is ABAB-CDCD-EFEF-GG. Another innovation
very important due to Surrey was his use of the blank verse (a iambic pentameter that
doesnt rhyme) that became the regular measure of English romantic and epic poetry.
Surrey used this blank verse in his translation of his second and fourth book of the
Aeneid after the example of Cardinal Ippolito de Medici. The works of Wyatt and

Surrey, that consist in mainly of sonnets made by mixture of various meters, werent
published during their life time and they werent immediately influencing the poetry,
but they were published in 1557 in a collection known from the name of its printer
called Tottels miscellany. An example of Wyatts sonnet is I find no peace, sonnet
where the poet translated the poem of Petrarch using the scheme of the Petrarchs
sonnet (page 70); an example of Surreys sonnet is Set me whereas the sun doth
parch the green, who used his new scheme. The long reign of the queen Elizabeth I
(1558-1603) was one of the supreme moments of English history and marched the full
flowering of renaissance in England. Elizabeth was highly intelligent and unfanatical
queen she rejected with equal firmness the extreme demands of reformers but also
the claims of the papacy control or judge the activity of England. Englands national
interest was her overriding considerations and them were also the main interests of
Elizabeth (who didnt get married for this reason and for that she was called the
virgin queen). Because she didnt get married, with her the Tudors family ended.
With the act of supremacy and the act of uniformity Elizabeth succeeded in striking a
sensible compromised between catholics and reformers; in this way she also
succeeded in putting at least a temporally end to the religious struggles of the
reformation. She only changed a word: the king of England isnt the supreme head of
the Anglicans church, but only the supreme government, and the supreme head
become the archbishop of Canterbury.
At the same time in which she was involved in changing her name, she also turned her
attention to certain pressing domestic problems. First of all the problem of the
implemention of money values and the problem of development of trade and industry,
wages and working conditions. On wages and working condition was written the
Statute of Labors. The last important problem she tried to face was the condition of
the poor.
The main danger to Elizabethan England came from abroad. Elizabethan sailors had
began to raid the Spanish possessions in America and most of all they had began to
carry on their treasure ship.
This inevitably led to a war with Spain. In 1588 Spain attempted to invade England.
This attempt trued to be a failure. The Spanish armada was defeated and almost
destroyed by the English (a memorable naval battle).
The great Elizabethan age is distinguish by its extraordinary vigor that can be seen
most of all in the flowering of its literature. In the enterprises of the sailors and in the
prudent strategy of Elizabeths great minister the last years were sad and problematic.
She had had problems with her cousin Mary Stuart.
(Mary Stuart era la moglie del re di Scozia, cugina di Elisabetta. In Scozia sono ancora
cattolici. Mary ha una storia strana, ha avuto 3 mariti tutti morti per avvelenamento.
Lei era sospettata da parte del popolo di aver ucciso i suoi consorti. Aveva avuto un
figlio, Giacomo. Con laiuto dei francesi cerca di creare un esercito di cattolici perch
dopo aver cercato alloggio dalla regina in Inghilterra salta fuori che sta coagulando
intorno a s tutti i cattolici del regno inglese. Elisabetta allora la chiude nella Torre di
Londra e poi la far uccidere.)
Elizabeth had recently refused to get married and so she hadnt provide any heir to
the throne of England. When she died in 1603 England had no king. The son of Mary
Stuart, James, became the king of England and Scotland.
With James the 1st the English and the Scottish crown were united.

James the 1st , unlike Elizabeth, was tactless (senza tatto) and incapable of managing
people, and most of all coming from Scotland he intended to assort his supremacy
over Parliament.
(Mentre Elisabetta sapeva che doveva governare CON il Parlamento, o almeno in
accordo con esso, questo, abituato ad essere un re di tipo assoluto, arriva l e dice: IO
DECIDO! e il Parlamento zitto. La cosa non va bene..)
And this is the reason why during the 17 th century king and Parliament came into
direct and violent conflict.
(Il secolo sedicesimo il secolo delle grandi guerre religiose, dello scisma inglese; il
secolo diciassettesimo invece il secolo del conflitto tra corona e Parlamento.
Ricordate che nel 1649 abbiamo lunico re dInghilterra che mai viene decapitato, e
lunico periodo inglese senza regno, abbiamo una dittatura militare, ma non sotto
Giacomo I)
In spite of the catholic gunpowder plot (congiura delle polveri, 1605) James refused
the request made from the puritans for more church reforms.
(adesso, i protestanti pi estremisti, che vogliono ulteriori riforme ecclesiastiche, si
chiamano puritani. Gi ai tempi Elisabetta aveva rifiutato di fare ulteriori riforme della
chiesa. Tentano di nuovo con Giacomo, soprattutto perch, vero che Giacomo I
cattolico, ma per poter diventare re dInghilterra lui diventa anglicano, diventa
protestante anche se in cuor suo rimane sempre cattolico. Nel cattolicesimo fa
crescere i suoi figli, per apparentemente, dovendo appunto assumere il titolo di
Governor of the English Church, che chiesa di stato, quindi lui essendo capo dello
stato aveva poca scelta. In tutta onest bisogna ammettere che per i puritani lui
aveva una sorta di odio particolare. Gi non li aveva amati Elizabeth, ma James
proprio non li tollerava.)
He was not a beloved king because first of all he was a catholic, then his foreign policy
in which he made an alliance and most of all the constant need of money made him
very unpopular among the people belonging to the House of commons because these
people were mainly puritan country gentlemen and most of all they were the wealthy
puritan trading classes of the town.
(Fino al 1839 ca. non abbiamo il suffragio universale maschile, e poi problema ancor
pi grosso, che dura fino al 1839, coloro che appartenevano alla House of Commons
non avevano uno stipendio, quindi i poveri mai avrebbero potuto entrare nella House
of Commons.)
Edmund Spenser was called, by his contemporaries, the new poet of the English
renaissance. He, maybe, was born 1552 and he died in 1599; he studied in London
and then he attended the university in Cambridge. In London he became acquainted
(conoscente) with ser Philip Sidney and with other friends they formed a sort of literary
club called Aeropabus. In 1580 he went to Dublin because he had become a
secretary to lord Gray de Wilton, who was appointed to lord deputy of Ireland. It was in
Ireland, as en exile, that he spent the remaining part of his life (he travelled only two
or three times to London since he went to Dublin). Spensers first important work was
The shepherds calendar; this work marked the beginning of the poetic renaissance

in England. It consist in twelve eclogues one of each month of the year modeled on
the eclogues of Theocritus and Virgil, which are the most important and influential
poets on Spensers works. This eclogues were on various subject such as love, poetry,
religion and so on, and they are characterized by a variety of poetic stile, ranging from
satire to elegy, and they are remarkable for their fables and, even more, for their
lyrics. Other two works which are considerate important in Spensers production are
Amoretti and Epithalamion. The first is a collection of 88 sonnets, written during
the period of the courting of the lady Boyl, which followed the convention established
by Petrarch and carried on by his Italian and French imitators (very important for
Spenser was Tasso). Amoretti were written with the familiar themes of beauty, cruelty
and inaccessibility of the lady and the consequent suffering of their faithful lovers. The
second work, Epithalamion, is the natural conclusion to the love story of Amoretti;
Spenser wrote it to celebrate his own wedding day; this is one of the greatest love
poems in the English literature. Spensers masterpiece is The Faerie Queene. This
poem is an unfinished epic poem (but he also spent 20 years of his life writing that
poem); it was to consist of 12 books each of them of 12 cantos, but only the first six
and a fragment of the seventh still exist. Spenser took the idea of epic poem from
Ariosto and Tasso; actually we can draw many parallels between The Faerie Queene
and the Orlando Furioso or the Gerusalemme Liberata, but the English poem
differs profoundly from its Italian models, especially so far as it propose the revive of
the medieval allegorical convention. Spenser himself said that The Faerie Queene is
a continued allegory or dark concept. Each book celebrates through the adventures of
a particular knight one of the main virtues as defined by Aristotle in his ethics (each
book is about a particular virtue, which is represented by the knight, always compared
with a vice). The Faerie Queene, by himself, signified glory (the characters name is
Gloriana, in the abstract, but in particular it was queen Elizabeth, who, for the poet, is
the fairy queen). Prince Arthur, the hero of the poem, symbolized magnanimity, which
is the supreme Aristotelian virtue. The Faerie Queene is above all a expended gallery
of pictures: the plan of the work is rather feeble (debole), but the individual episodes
are often very beautiful because The Faerie Queene has a dream like quality that is
constantly increased by the incantatory movement of the verse. Following the
example of Ariosto and Tasso, Spenser created a new type of stanza for his work,
which is called the Spenserian stanzas. Even taught in this work there are a lot of
prose passages, Spenser is one of the most pictorial as well as the most musical
among the English poet, and for this musical quality he created a perfect medium, a
new type of stanza, the so called Spenserian stanzas, which consists of 8 foot iambic
lines followed by an iambic line of six feet; the rhyming scheme of this stanza is ABABBCBC-C (the scheme of the eighth rhyme is taken by Ariosto). For the Spenserian
stanzas Spenser was called The poet of poets.
Another important author is Sir Philip Sidney, he was a lesser poet then Spenser but a
more influential man. Sidney played an important part in the renewal of English
poetry: he encoded better than many of his contemporary the renaissance ideal of the
gallant knight and schooled courtier. We must admit that he was most of all a man of
action that poetry for him was his passion, but surely not his main concern. Sidney
was born in 1554 and he died in 1586 (he died as a soldier). His first work was a prose
romance interspersed with many poems, the title of this poem was Arcadia, now we
know Arcadia in two different texts: the Older Arcadia and the New Arcadia, the
second is a partly revised version of Old Arcadia; he started by the work of the

Italian poet Sannazzaro.

Sidneys second work was Defense of Poesy, also called an Apology for Poetry, which
was an essay on the nature and function of poetry in general and also a critical
discussion of the State of English poetry in Sidney's time. Sidney's greatest
achievement is to be seen in a sequels of sonnets called Astrophel and Stella (108
sonetti e 11 canzoni), which was published after his death in 1591. Sidney's is the first
full Petrarchian Canzoniere in English and it tells the hopeless love of Sidney for the
daughter (Penelope Devereux) of the first sir of Essex. The poet is torn by love.
Astrophel ( who loves stars ) and Stella is an ideal personification of Penelope, the
woman loved. Sidney draws heavily from Petrarchan imaginary and concets but he
often succeeded in giving to his poems the warm and strength of personal experience.
His sonnets are among the very best sonnets of the English literature of the period.
They are second only to Shakespeare ones. Elizabethan literature has his chief glory in
drama. Soon after the middle of the sixteenth century, as a result of the knowledge of
Latin drama, brought about by humanists teaching, attempts were made to write plays
in English on the Latin models. About 1553, two regular comedies were produced:
Ralph Roister Doister by Nicholas Udall and Gammer Gurton's Needle by William
Stevenson. These two comedies brought their structure from Latin model, the chief
model was Plautus but the characters and the feelings were mainly English. The first
regular tragedy was produced ten years later: Garboducs or Ferrex and Porrex written
by Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton. It is the first example of a play written in
blank verse. The main model for the tragedy was clearly Seneca and he was the
classical author who exercited the most powerful influence on Elizabethan drama and
playwrights. The Elizabethan playwrights shared the Latin drama interests in all sorts
of crimes and atrocities. These English classical plays were largely an affair of the
schools and universities. Nonsense were popular. The popular drama developed along
different lines, carrying on the medieval tradition. The works produced in this period
anticipated some of the characteristics of the typical Elizabethan play, especially in
their constant mingling of tragedy and comedy. Elizabethan drama can be described
as the result of the grafting, reviewing classicism upon the indigenous tradition of the
miracle play, the morality play and the interlude.
The stage had no sinory(?), no curtain, no artificial lighting. The place had to be
perform the in day light. On this bare stage (palcoscenico nudo) the actor was what
was important. It rested entirely with him the actor to create the dramatic illusion by
bringing to life as best as he could the words of the author. There were professional
companies of professional actors but no actresses. The parts of women be played by
boys. This companies of professional actors usually enjoyed the patronage of some
eminent persons such as the queen. In fact there was a company called Queens
men or The lord admirals men or The lord chamberlains men. The audience in
Elizabethan time was as mixed as it could be. Most classes of society be represented
in it. The dramatists had to write their works so to appeal at the same time to the
great and to the lowly, to the gentleman and the burglar (ladro, scassinatore), to
literate and to illiterate person. A new type of drama was therefore necessary in the
Elizabethan time. They need a drama capable of combining the dignity and refinement

of classical plays with the heartily flesh and blood of popular entertainment. This was
the great achievement of the English theatre of the age of Elizabeth.
Drama is a word which comes from Greek and which means action and it is used for
theater because action (drama) refers to the performance on the stage in which
different actors play (or act out) the actions and characters of the theatrical stories. A
dramatic work can also be called play and there are many kinds of plays: nowadays
you can have comedies, tragedies, farces, tragic comedies, one act plays and so on.
When we talk about drama we dont simply talk about act plays, but we also talk
about a play write or dramatist, who is the person who writes the drama. We also talk
about a stage, the place where, inside a theatre, (that could also be called play
house), actors perform a play. Another important element in the drama is the
audience, which means the persons who go and watch the drama performed on the
stage. Each drama is written by the author in order to be performed on the stage, not
to be read, therefore it is better to watch a tragedy ecc.. instead of reading it, but if
you read it you find that there are many dramatic conventions, used by the author in
writing the drama (scritte tra parentesi sul copione es: entra nella stanza) A play is
normally divided into major units which are called acts. Sometimes the acts are
subdivided into smaller units called scenes. A scene usually shows a sequence of
actions which happen at the same time, in the same place and in the same setting
(unit di tempo, spazio e azione derivano da Aristotele). If we talk about ancient
tragedies or comedies, they were supposed to have five acts. Nowadays you can find
them with 3, 2 or one single acts. Before the real text of the comedy begins you find a
list of characters (cast).
Each play is formed by a story and by a plot. The story consists of all the events
presented in chronological order, the plot contains the same events of the story but it
presents them in a different chronological order. The order in which the events of the
plot are arranged is to create dramatic tension, suspense and climates. The characters
of the play interact with each other through dialogs. Sometimes they also use
soliloquy or monologues in order to reveal their inner feelings, their thoughts, their
moods and when they use monologues they usually are either alone on the scene or
they create a certain distance between them and the other characters. They speak
during this soliloquy using aloud voice so the audience can hear what they say. The
rest of characters pretend not to hear them. If you read a play you also find the stage
directions. In the stage of directions you normally find the description of the setting of
the play and you also find indications of what concerns the time and place of the
action. They also say how the actors must physically appear and they give indications
on how the actors must move on the stage.