English drama at the beginning of the sixteenth century was allegorical, didactic and moralistic; but by the end of the century theatre was censured as emotional and even immoral. How could such a change occur? Kent Cartwright suggests that some theories of early Renaissance theatre - particularly the theory that Elizabethan plays are best seen in the tradition of morality drama - need to be reconsidered. He proposes instead that humanist drama of the sixteenth century is theatrically exciting - rather than literary, elitist and dull as it has often been seen - and socially significant, and he attempts to integrate popular and humanist values rather than setting them against each other. Taking as examples the plays of Marlowe, Heywood, Lyly and Greene, as well as many by lesser-known dramatists, the book demonstrates the contribution of humanist drama to the theatrical vitality of the sixteenth century.
'... Cartwright's fundamental reassessment of the roots of Renaissance drama is absorbing to read and compelling in its argument ... In painstaking historical detail, in close textual observation, in imagined performative spectacle, Cartwright's view is not only modifying and corrective. It is seminal.' Arthur F. Kinney, Shakespeare Quarterly