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Title: Kinds of time : genre and the English history play
Author: Griffin, B. L.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1996
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This dissertation investigates the genre of the 'history play' from its origins in medieval drama to the beginning of the 17th century. Chapter 1 reviews previous efforts to define the genre; criteria for inclusion are tested against a census of contemporary references. It is proposed that neither the 'Tudor purposes of History' nor source-materials can define the genre; and that the record shows history plays were on well-known English subjects. Chapter 2 reconstructs the lost plays on St Thomas of Canterbury. Drama in the early 16th century was affected by the change from Catholicism to Protestantism, specifically the change from the Mass to the ('memorialising') Lord's Supper; the greater distance of the dead meant an increased perception of the importance of memory. The saint plays are suggested as antecedents of the histories, and Bale's King Johan is interpreted as an anti-saint play. Against these dramas of sacrifice, there is the drama of the 'timeless' world of ritual and seasonal cycle. Chapter 3 discusses the Coventry folk-play The Conquest of the Danes with the aim of reading it as drama rather than festive ritual; conversely, the earliest surviving 'popular-theatre' history, The Famous Victories of Henry V, is interpreted with regard to its own orientation in a cyclical world. Chapter 4 discusses the historical knowledge against which contemporary experience of the plays can be reconstructed. The native-historical subject brings specific kinds of pressure to bear upon dramatic narrative. The uniqueness of historical drama is located in its 'immersion' within a narrative context which is known to the audience. The 1580s saw the rise of a set of conventions designed to stress the sense of 'immersion', which attenuated the senses of beginning and ending; this is traced in Gorboduc and Locrine. This was not the birth of the history play, but its recovery from the shock of Reformation iconoclasm.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available