peers, his audience, and previous works heavily
influence a writer. However, what is most peremptory
is the past history. If Shakespeare had ceased to
exist, there would be no genre of drama in which
scholars term as Romantic. Shakespeare, not only
popular in his day, is incomparable to any virtuoso
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and his
shadow upon the brush of talent in Coleridge or
Keats is undeniable. Shakespeare affected the themes
of Romantics along with diction, tone, and style.
For example, hints of Macbeth are blatant in plays
such as Lillo's Fatal Curiosity or Shelley's
The Cenci. Along with Shakespeare there was
the schism of the seventeenth century. It was a
team of "entertainers to the Jacobean gentry,"
Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher (Donohue 15).
It was the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher that has
transcended languages and has lasted through the
Restoration period. Due to the availability of their
works, the have heavily influenced the style of
Romantic writers. Most plays either openly or clandestinely
derive from those that come before. And in the case
of Romantic literalists, Shakespeare, Beaumont,
and Fletcher heavily influenced them.
From the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, there was a shift as there was an increase in the predilection of subjectivity and the developing concept of innocence as the exemplary state of innateness. Dramatic comedy writers such as Cumberland felt that comedy was not only to entertain, but it was set out to reform the minds of common folk in ways that the privileged could by means of vacation or travel. Cumberland tried to bring forth positive sentiments towards characters deemed eccentric. In Sheridan's Pizarro, ideas of human liberty under a threat from Napoleonic France were analyzed. He attracted audiences through the spectacle of lavish music and lyrical songs. Poetic drama also was a maverick in the midst of old genres, old concepts, and old morals. The Cenci was the epitome of this concept. Reading this poetic drama would enlighten audiences of a different form, idea, and most importantly it would elucidate the Romantic theory of radical innocence that is still with us today.
Romantic dramatists forever changed the genre as
they let emotion fill the theme of their plays.The
Romantic writers introduced several aspects into
the genre. The product of the "romantic school"
of acting from the late eighteenth to the early
nineteenth centuries was an age that explored heroism
and his elusive personality. For the first time,
through writers such as Kemble, the usage of landscape
to reflect a character's mood and personality was
available. Another addendum was a technique in speech
of frequent pauses with habitual grace and dignity.
A rest or stop before a string of sentences emphasized
importance. These were all contributions from writers
of the late eighteenth century.
the early nineteenth century, an idea developed
of paramount importance. Emerging from the late
onset of the last century, there was the notion
that Shakespearean works could exist independent
of theatrical performance. The idea of a perfect
actor in a perfect production became so important
that writers were classified based on their awareness
of this fact. Of this concept came two important
writers Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Hazlitt.
These two men created ideal productions in the mind
and on the stage; they fused eighteenth-century
drama traditions with their original ideas of human
nature to create something erudite and new.
concept of ideal human nature was the theme song
of Romantic Drama. The development of philosophy
created a desire to analyze the motives behind existence
and came up with the idea that man was meaningless
unless referred to the state of mind that prompted
it. In analyzing the human purpose, new understandings
of dramatic character also occurred. Despite the
range of acting styles of Garrick, Kemble, Mrs.
Siddons, Cooke, and Keane there was a fundamental
concern for elucidating the motives of the dramatic
Joseph W. Jr. Dramatic Character in the English
Romantic Age. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton
University Press, 1970