Date of Award
Spectacular images of madness and villainy characterized the Jacobean stage. Amidst the grief of losing beloved Queen Elizabeth I and the turmoil of James I's early years as king, the spirit of drama shifted so that, as Una Ellis-Fermor explains, Elizabethans' love of life transformed into a Jacobean preoccupation with death. Her book The Jacobean Drama: An Interpretation examines this transition, exploring Jacobean playwrights' heightened dramatic presentations as social commentary. During this period, Machiavellian villains became standard on the stage; dramatic plots became overtly violent, even satanic. One of the most striking and well-studied developments during this time was the presentation of madness on the stage. John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi and Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's The Changeling both contain sensational depictions of madness that epitomize the Jacobean period. In the former, a group of madmen are sent to torment a prisoner; they are a "wild consort" that produces "nothing but noise and folly" ( 4.2.1; 4.2.5). Half of the latter play takes place in a madhouse where patients shout nonsense from offstage and other characters mimic their antics. The spectacle of madness onstage displays Jacobean society's obsession with mental disturbance, but is not as simple as it first appears.
Welliver, Amelé, "The Face of Bedlam: Madness, Gender, and Social Mores in Jacobean Drama" (2013). Undergraduate Honors Capstone Projects. 628.
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Departmental Honors Advisor