Internet Shakespeare Editions


The Drama and Shakespeare

This book provides an introduction to the dramatic traditions that Shakespeare inherited as he began his career as playwright. The theatre was both a commercial enterprise and a forum for literary experiment; the development of the stage and acting companies is discussed in the section on the stage.

Chapters in this book:

Polonius on dramatic genre. . .*


  1. Genre upon genre

    Polonius tells Hamlet of the visiting players and their repertoire:

    The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical- historical-pastoral; scene individible, or poem unlimited. Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light.
    (Hamlet, 2. 2. 400-411)

    scene individible
    Refers to those plays in which the scene stays the same throughout and the action lasts no more than a day; generally true of classical drama.

    poem unlimited
    A play which allows no limit on the number of places represented, or on the time represented in the plot. Sir Philip Sidney commented disparagingly of early English drama for what he saw as a fault.