‘Two Armies flye in…’: Battle scenes in English Renaissance theatre

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One of the most spectacular characteristics of English Renaissance theatre is the propensity for battle scenes. Between 1576 and 1616, battle scenes appear in a third of all surviving plays and, judging from the titles, the fre- quency may have been even higher in the lost plays. The popularity of battle scenes is indicative both of early mod- ern fascination with history as spectacle and of the im- minence of contemporary warfare, especially in the final decades of the reign of Elizabeth I. Based on quantitative studies, this paper offers a survey of the evolution and pro- liferation of battle scenes in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and I will critically assess the gen- eral assumption that battle scenes eventually waned from the early modern stage as a consequence of the ascent to the throne of the peace-seeking James I. For reasons to be discussed, it is quite unlikely that James's doctrine on foreign politics had any significant effect on the staging of war in theatre.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrbis Litterarum
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)368-383
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2023

ID: 362061798