Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616; Great Britain--History--16th century; Great Britain--History--17th century
Of all the arts drama is the most democratic. Other forms of artistic and aesthetic expression, literature, music, painting, may be cultivated in solitude. Not so the drama. It is demanded by the public; produced for the public and unless it is approved by the public its doom is certain. Why it is that the drama cannot at any time break away from the tastes, prejudices, and ideals of the public for which it was written, M. Edelstand Du Meril has clearly state: “But the inspiration of the work (the drama) hasn’t at all that egotistical spirit, disdainful of the outside world, which characterizes the other forms of art; this is no longer a monologue of the poet singing to himself for his own pleasure; this author tries by what his drama represents to awaken in others the poetical ideas which have inspired him and are for him real….The serious end of drama, then, depends upon the ideas of the poet in regard to nature and the destiny of man, and his ideas are intimately bound up with the religion and the philosophy of his time…..If a dramatist doesn’t wish to employ his gifts in an effort condemned to failure in advance, he must - and this is one of the first duties of the artist - consider his public, respect their sentiments, and skillfully conform to their ideas and customs.” Knowledge of all this Shakespeare not only possessed but utilized in all his works. In order, then, to appreciate our great literary master in all his fullness, we must have an adequate conception of the conditions under which he lived and wrought, and of the public for the satisfaction of whose desires his work of dramatic creation was being done. Rightly to interpret the drama of our own day, which his, after all, only the reflection of our current life and manners, we must grasp the meaning of the most vital elements in the lives of men and women about us. So, also, to appreciate Shakespeare as a dramatist, must we understand the Elizabethans, the public for which he wrote. Then and only then can we attain an adequate conception of what the Elizabethan drama was. A play is what it is because the people for whose amusement and edification it was originally written and presented were what they were. The spectators at any stage presentation bring with them all the prejudices and pre-conceptions natural to their own day and generation, so that no matter whether the scene be laid in remote antiquity or far-away climes, the spirit of the drama must ring a responsive note in the hearts of the people who assemble to behold it.
Burns, Joseph Anderson, "Shakespeare's Elizabethan public." (1925). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 182.