William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Ben Johnson are names that have resonated through the centuries. Not since ancient Athens has there been such gluttony of talent, producing stories for the ages. Might Athens be were these Englishmen found their inspiration? Greece produced its share of legendary playwrights; Sophocles and Euripides are two of the most famous. There are far m Elizabethan England gave birth to some of the most famous names in theatre. ore similarities between Elizabethan and Greek Theatre then there are differences. The influence of both eras is felt even today, stage productions of Shakespeare and Euripides are performed from London too Broadway and everywhere in between. I believe that both eras have influenced modern theatre simply because the Greek so obviously influenced Elizabethan theatre.
The name most associated with excellence in theatre is William Shakespeare. His plays, more than any other playwright, resonate through the ages. It may be safe to say that he has influenced more actors, directors, and playwrights than any thespian in the history of the stage. But what were his influences? During the Middle Ages theatre was dominated by morality, miracle, and mystery plays that were often staged by the church as a means to teach the illiterate masses about Christianity. It wasn’t until the early sixteenth century that Greek tragedy experienced a revival, in turn, inspiring a generation of renaissance playwrights.
Greek and Elizabethan theatre, while similar in some respects, had a few large differences. The Greeks believed in a certain unity of theme, which was prevalent throughout the production. Greek plays were often drawn from myth or of historical significance, so it seems that only kings, gods and heroes graced the Greek stage. Greek plays were written and performed for religious festivals and competitions. Elizabethan theatre, on the other hand, had very few boundaries. Plays could and often would be about anything that struck the author’s fancy, brooding, irreverent and often risqué, variety was the order of the day for Elizabethan playwrights. And the audience consisted of anyone that could afford to pay the entrance fee.
Probably the most well known genre of theatre from Elizabethan times is the tragedy. Without doubt William Shakespeare is the most well known playwright of the era and his master works, Othello, Hamlet, and Macbeth tragedies all. The tradition of the tragic play begins in ancient Greece, but the unity of theme carried over into Elizabethan tragedy. In both Greek and Elizabethan tragedy the protagonist is someone that is easily understood by the audience, and is best described as an anti-hero. Character flaws are evident but it is the struggle of choosing the correct path that enthralls the audience. Everyone is capable of good and evil, and it comes down to the choices we make that set the path that we walk down. Whether Shakespeare and Sophocles realized this, or it was simply...