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Introduction

Authored by: Pamela M. King

The Routledge Research Companion to Early Drama and performance

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472421401
eBook ISBN: 9781315612898
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043669

10.4324/9781315612898.ch101

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Abstract

The study of early drama is a field in which there has been a quiet revolution in the last four decades, changing approaches to the field in terms of genre, canon and critical approach. The field, if a single territory may be adduced, has long been dominated in terms of volume and profile by studies of the Anglophone tradition. This is probably a result of the numerical predominance of scholars working in English literary studies and drama in North America, the UK and Australasia. Comparative studies have acknowledged the relative significance of other northern European traditions – for example the great French Passions, the rich and sophisticated Rhetoricians drama of the Low Countries, and the audaciously early cluster of Picardian secular plays surviving from Arras – and each native tradition has of course its established critical tradition within its disciplinary area. Yet native English drama, explained in terms of morality plays, interludes and mystery plays, remains the popularly understood face of medieval drama for the West. Sometimes it is tellingly referred to as “pre-Shakespearean”, a soubriquet that exposes another driver to its continuing study, as the native heritage of the world’s most celebrated dramatist remains a perennially densely populated area of study.

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