Monday, March 21, 2011

The Elizabethan Audience

suberabundant energy
soaring imagination
puffed with pride
reckless daredevil
sensuous and sensual
furious in hate and love
avid of swift sensation
primitive savagery of manners
violently passionate
frankly brutal

Just to recap, my focus is love and this week I'm comparing sonnet 18 with the play Romeo and Juliet. But first, I wanted to research Shakespeare's audience to hopefully shed some light on what was going through Shakespeare's head when he wrote on the topics of love. Alfred Harbage wrote an essay called "Shakespeare's Audience: Modern Appraisals" and in it he quotes Brander Matthews who uses the red phrases above to describe Elizabethan audiences. When I read this I thought, "I didn't realize Elizabethans were such intense, obnoxious people." However, Harbage goes on to explain:
Were Shakespeare's contemporaries truly such galvanic creatures? . . . Nothing we can discover from examining their daily routine, their frugal expense accounts, and their quiet and sensible letters suggests that Elizabethans, individually or collectively, were vastly different from us. . . We ourselves live in a spectacular age, without being individually spectacular.

I think it's useful to know that Shakespeare's audience was a lot like we are today. So why did the Elizabethans and why do we today thrive on such dramatic, extreme entertainment, especially when it comes to love and romance? I made a post about this at the very beginning of the semester and I compared and contrasted sonnet 18 to the modern trends in movies and literature. Check it out if you're wanting more on this topic.

In my next post I'm planning on comparing the text of sonnet 18 to the text of romeo and Juliet and drawing some conclusions about what Shakespeare really thinks of love and the idea of love at first sight. But I think knowing these things above about his audience for the plays will help in drawing those conclusions.