Drama in Europe


·         After fall of Rome (5th & 6th) century, drama languished in Europe.

·         From AD 400-900, almost no record of dramatic productions.


Drama in England


·         10th century: church revives theatre by incorporating dialogues into Mass.

·         Brief dialogues developed into:

1.       Mystery plays that dramatize stories from Bible.

2.       Miracle plays based on lives of saints.

3.       Morality plays that personify virtues and vices in allegorical stories.

·         The plays’ didactic content was gradually abandoned in favor of broad humor and worldly concerns.

·         By 16th Century religious drama was replaced by secular drama.


Elizabethan Theatre (1558-1603)

·         No longer supported by church, playwrights must find a way to make audience pays for entry.

·         Plays were changed to please the audience and keep them coming and paying.

·         Audience made from all classes so playwright included philosophy and poetry alongside violence and jokes.

·         Theatre accommodated around 25 hundred.

·         Rounded exterior with partly roofed yard in the center.

·         Interior walls  had three galleries of seats sheltered from weather and rain.

·         In front of the stage was the pit which was less comfortable and cheaper as audience would stand to watch play.

·         Because of its structure, theatre provided intimate atmosphere as audience surrounded stage on three sides.

·         Stage was big enough to allow wide variety of actions like banquets and battles.

·         Setting not elaborately indicated by scenery or props and action was not interrupted from set changes.

·         Two theatrical conventions as a result of theatre structure:

1.       asides: speech directed only to audience to inform them of characters’ thoughts (impossible with Greek amphitheatre)

2.       soliloquy: speech delivered by actor alone on stage, revealing actor's state of mind.


Shakespeare (1564-1616)


·         Financial situation deteriorated when William was teenager.

·         He had limited education but was a learned man.

·         At 18, married 26 year old Anne Hathaway.

·         By the age of 21, Shakespeare had to support wife and three children.

·         By 1592 he was in London earning a living as actor and playwright.

·         He was connected with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men who built the famous Globe Theatre in 1599.

·         1597, he was prosperous enough to buy a house called New Place in Stratford.

·         1611, retired to New Place with his family.


Othello the Moor of Venice (1603)

·         On a street in Venice, Roderigo argues with Iago who he paid to help him win Desdemona. Roderigo has just heard Desdemona married Othello.

·         Iago shows contempt for Othello who just promoted Cassio over Iago as lieutenant.

·         Iago and Roderigo tell Brabantio that his daughter was abducted by Othello the Moor.

·         Meanwhile Othello is asked to attend at the Duke’s table.

·         Brabantio follows to accuse Othello in front of Duke, of witchcraft against his daughter.

·         Duke and senate take Othello’s side when they hear that it’s his war stories that won Desdemona, not his witchcraft.

·         Duke asks Othello to head to Cyprus to defend it against the Turks, Desdemona goes with him.

·         Cassio’s ship arrives, followed by Desdemona’s ship.

·         Waiting for Othello, Cassio clasps Desdemona’s hand.

·         Iago uses this incident to plant seeds of betrayal in Othello.

·         Iago gets Cassio drunk. Roderigo provokes him so they start fighting.

·         Governor attempts to hold Cassio down but Cassio stabs him.

·         Othello arrives, told by Iago of what happened, Cassio loses Othello’s favor.

·         Iago advices Cassio to seek Desdemona to gain Othello’s favor back.

·         Desdemona hears Cassio and sympathizes with him.

·         Iago asks his wife, Desdemona’s maid, to fetch him Desdemona’s handkerchief.

·         Iago uses Desdemona’s pleas in favor of Cassio to raise Othello’s suspicions.

·         Iago plants Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s room.

·         Finding her handkerchief in Cassio’s room, Othello consults with Iago who tells him he will kill Cassio.

·         Iago stabs Cassio, Othello hears his cry, assumes he killed him so he heads to kill Desdemona.

·         Othello smothers Desdemona in her bed, maid arrives, Desdemona cries murder then changes her story admitting suicide.

·         Maid tells Othello about handkerchief, he goes after Iago to kill him.

·         Othello is captured but he kills himself before he is taken to his trial in Venice