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  • Subject Code : MEG-101
  • Subject Name : English

Aspects of Language

1. Humans evolved because of the existence of language which is different from all other forms of animals’ communication. Language plays a major role in the generation of human genes. The uniqueness of human language lies in the ease of expressing thoughts through sentences consisting of verbs, objects and subjects or the tenses. Language is key to human life and core of humanity. Languages are important for humans to be rational creatures. Language made it possible for the humans to understand great minds of ancestors by studying the writings of their time. Creating ideas and storing them as reflections and exchanging them are possible because of languages. It helps in making social connections of people and therefore contributes to overall development of society (Gogoi, 2013).

Language is the mean of conveying ideas through speaking and writing or with signs and gestures to some extent. It is used to express feelings, desires or emotions and build social relations. These benefits of language to human beings differentiate them from animals. It is seen that animals also express their fear, happiness or anger but they are unable to develop creativity in it. It is language which has given existence to humans because language is something which enables the transition of ideas from one generation to other along with some creativity and improvement in it. Human existence is the outcome of language (Gogoi, 2013).

Language has a major role in the process of human civilization. It is a medium of expression and communication. Individuals are able to communicate and understand the thoughts of others cause of existence of common language. It also enables moral development of any species as it helps a species in understanding the right or wrong. Human beings understand the rights things because of language. Chile development depends on the ability to listen, speak or understand the thoughts of others. The other important features of language are the passage of knowledge from a person to other or one generation to other which helps in advancement. At the time of birth, a child does not know ant language. Language learning helps in developing emotional behavior of child gradually. After some time, child becomes able to retain the information and express feelings or emotions. Thus, language is important for transformation of child into a mature human being (Banga & Suri, 2015).

Language is evolved by natural selection and it is prewired in the nervous systems of human. There are many differences in the languages of ancestors and the language human use today. Animals may express anger or happiness but they cannot recount their life story. However, human beings can look into the future, share their views with other and can take advantage from the wisdom of past. Language made it possible to describe the question of what, when, whom or where. Human beings would have been animals without the use of language. It is the use of language which helped the human species to negotiate in the world (Pagel, 2015).

Without language, human would not be more than the old apes who were similar to the animals on the basis of kind, not degree. The power to random mutation or natural selection because of the language is the main reason of the conversion of apes to the human beings. The design and feature of human language that differentiates us from other species include semanticity, displacement, arbitrariness, openness, productivity, discreteness and traditional transmission (Dillon, 2015).

Sematicity in communication is the feature of human language. Humans are able to express internal state. Language provided humans the ability to communicate the basic things and enables them to communicate about things that are displaces in space or time. Human language is discrete. Any sentence can be broken down into smaller meaningful sentences and can further be arranged in different order to get another sentence of different meaning. Languages differ for all cultures. It allows openness and productivity in the activities of human (Dillon, 2015).

Language provides specification and enables functioning of every organism. Human beings are able to negotiate with other in the economy with the use of language. Every individual has the freedom to think and select a certain word with some meaning and communicate it to other in order to deliver a message. These messages are retained in mind or passed to some other individuals with some changes or addition which makes some improvement in the message. The final outcome is the development of overall society. Every new generation come up with more creativity or innovations (Baumgardner & Lyon, 2015).

2. Word formation process in English

Creativity of humans is one of the distinctive features of English language. It helps the speakers and the writers to form new words. There are some processes in the formation of new words in English (Ratih & Gusdian, 2018).

  1. Clipping: It is the process of word formation involving reduction of a word to one of its part. Shortening of a word consisting of more than one syllable is known as clipping. For example, shortening of word ‘examination’ to ‘exam’. There are four types of clipping. The first type is the back clipping in which the beginning of a word is retained and the ending is removed. It is also known as apocopation. For example, reduction of ‘gasoline’ to ‘gas’. The second type of clipping is the fore clipping in which the ending or last part of a word is retained and the beginning is removed. It is also known as aphaeresis. For example, reduction of ‘telephone’ to ‘phone’. The third type is middle clipping (syncope) which means only the middle part of a word is retained. For example, shortening of ‘influenza’ to ‘flu’. Complex clipping is the last type of clipping process in which a part of original word remains intact. Word formation is sometimes done by taking two halves of a word from both ends and removing the middle part which is not always clear. For example, shortening of ‘cable telegram’ to ‘cablegram’ (Sanap, 2014).

  2. Acronymy/ Acronyms: Acronyms is the process (also known as initialisms) involving the formation of a word by taking initial letter or alphabets of the word parts of names or phrases. Acronyms have distinct pronunciation compared to its full forms. The process is also known by term alphabetism. For example, DNA is a word used to describe the Deoxyribonucleic acid (Sanap, 2014).

  3. Blending: Blending is a process of word formation in which parts of two words are used to form a new word. The parts can be morphemes in some cases. Blending is formed in different ways. Beginning of two words can be combined or beginning of a word can be added to the end of other word to form a new word. The other ways include combining a complete word with a part of other word, blending two words for getting common sequence of sounds or blend of multiple sounds from two words. For example, brunch is derived from ‘breakfast and lunch’, guesstimate is formed from ‘guess and estimate’ and slithy is derived from ‘lithe and slimy’ (Mustafa, Mageswari & Yasin, 2015).

  4. Back formation: By removing supposed or actual affixes, a new lexeme can be formed I the process of back formation. It involves creating short words from the long words or it may be called as sub type of clipping. For example, resurrection was formed by removing ‘ion’ from the word resurrection. Other back formations are insert (insertion) an project (projection) (Das, n.d.)

  5. Borrowing: The process refers to stealing a word from other languages and these words are also called loan words. There is little or no translation of the loan words. However, in case of loan translation, the meaning is borrowed rather than the lexical item such as Sakul from school. Some examples of loan words in English are Biology, Pistol, jacket and yogurt (Ratih & Gusdian, 2018).

  6. Coinage: It is the process of inventing a totally new word. The process involves the extension of name of products from specific to general reference. For example, the word ‘Xerox’ is invented as the name of a specific product which is now used as a generic name for a brand of similar products (Das, n.d.)

  7. Reduplication: the process involves either doubling of an entire word or some part of a word. Reduplication is rarely used in English language. Total reduplication examples include ‘gin’ to ‘gingin’ and ‘ja’ to ‘ja-ja’. Partial reduplication examples include ‘humpty and dumpty’ and ‘hocus and pocus’ (Ratih & Gusdian, 2018).

  8. Inflection: The process refers to expressing several grammatical categories through modification of a word. It is also known as inflexion. For example, car and cars are two different word in which cars is an inflection but car is not. It can be seen in terms of past or future tenses, grammatical voice or gender (Das, n.d.)

  9. Derivation: It is the process of forming new words based on the already existing words. Derivation is similar to inflection as it uses several kinds of affixes to create grammatical variants of the existing word. In derivation, new word is created through means of prefix, suffix or infix and it applies to parts of speech in English. For example, Determination is derived from determine and happiness or unhappy are derived from happy (Ratih & Gusdian, 2018).

  10. Compounding: Compound is a word consisting of more than one word or lexeme. For example, lipstick is a compound of lips and stick and waterproof is a compound of water and proof (Liepa, 2014).

British Social History

1. Both the world war affected the economy in many ways. Despite the loss of many lives including the lives of the soldiers, civilians, women and the children, war encouraged independence in Europe’s colonies. Europe was devastated and exhausted after both the wars. War led to changes in the political thinking relating to the decision of conducting inters relations between states. Europe benefited from idea of the new system that was based on sharing sovereignty. War brought advances in technology and medicines along with number of revolutionary changes in the behavior of society. The result of the first war was the death of more than 16 million people including the military and civilians. With the end of the First World War, technological improvements with airplanes, tanks, submarines played a major role. Blood banks were developed post war and the doctor also studies about the physical and emotional stress of people suffered from war (Ishizu, 2014).

The social impacts were good as war led to employment of females in factories out from household services. There were increases in the demand for women emancipation. Peace movement was the result of the war. There were many changes in the socialist and labour movements. The wage rate declined along with the degradation of the working conditions for the workers. The government intervened in banks, trade and the production of armaments or food. The Second World War also brought improvements in the medical and the technological environment. The population rate had increased and the mortality rate has fallen due to the vaccination facilities. Computers and electronic progress has changes the economy (Purdue, 2016).

Two wars resulted in narrowing gap between the rich and poor on the basis of incomes or wealth. The tax rate, death duties or the increasing welfare of the society improved the working conditions of the people. The employment rate also rose with high wages to the workers. Post war conditions gave liberating experience to the traditional women who used to do household works. War gave people the opportunities or new experiences that cannot be encountered in peacetime. Social restructuring was the major benefit of the war as the war created stress for the government and the authorities for security of the country. War led to reduction in the supply of various items and resulted in government intervention. The government introduced rationing of foodstuffs, fuel and clothing. Limit was set on the price of restaurant meals. Extra meals and milks were given only to the expectant mother and their children. Rationing helped in cooperation of humans in Britain due to the sense of sharing. Evacuation was done for the safety of the country. Children and women were evacuated to the cities from the industrial areas (BBC, 2019).

Globalization enhances mass culture because in the era of globalization, people are more concerned about the uniqueness of their own culture. It creates sense of togetherness. Globalization in terms of science or technology has the freedom to either change the culture or create it. It allows people to come close and exchange the cultural values because of more communication. Modern means of economic links or transport with the help of media contributed to cultural ties among the people. Globalization is one of the reasons of development of modern art, market and mass interest in the creativity field. It also leads to exchange of values and traditional convergence among countries and result in overall improvement in international communication (Raikhan et al. 2014).

The homogenizing nature of globalization condemned by the cultural romanticist or the new nationalist result in the promotion of integration and the removal of cultural barriers. the process of globalization affects the nature of the people in social, economic, environmental, technological and political terms. The interconnection and interdependence behavior among the governments, nations, institutions or businesses are the impacts of globalization. It involves free flow of goods and services, capital, ideas of people and spread of technological innovation or other helpful information from one authority or nation to others. Media is the main sources of spreading information including radios, televisions and the newspaper. New ethics and work rhythm, cyber-culture and newfangled religions are resulted in the beginning of disintegration of social n traditional fabrics and shared norm.

Globalization contributes to the cultural uniformity in the economy. It enables the people to learn about technology and trade in effective manner. Media is the source of educating the people about their rights. It helps in rebuilding wealth and sustaining capacity along with ensuring access and opportunities to the humans (Daramola & Oyinade, 2015). Global media is a kind of cultural imperialism. For example, America dominated other countries in distributing their own products in the entertainment industry. Cultural exchange with globalization helps the nation to see difference culture and work effectively based on that such as Disneyland theme part is the sweet, entertaining and unique and therefore it shows mass culture. The smaller cultures are getting bigger or stronger economically, politically because of more promotion with the media (Kaul, 2011).

Globalization provides various opinions and the more voices through newspaper and publishing houses that are resulting in multicultural economy, not the uni-cultural economy. For example, internet helped all the nations to learn English and uses it as a common language in all over the world. It enables every small speaker, nations or institution to get connected to other or build some content. McDonalds and Starbucks are located everywhere in the world because of the globalization. India also has some Italian or Mexican restaurant and people also like it. People know the differences in the taste of Chinese, Indian, Italian or Mexican food. The connected world because of globalization allows people to explore different spiritual paths and religious trends such as a Hindu person can sit in church or Jakarta or explore African religion. All these examples indicate that globalization is helping in creating mass culture (Viswanathan, 2017).

2. The industrial revolution in the period of 18th century largely transformed the rural areas into the urban areas. It further led to colonization with rapid technological advances. The industrial revolution had begun from Britain and then in the rest of the world. In the beginning of mid-18th century, weaving cloths and spinning thread or yarn became easier due to the innovation in flying shuttle, power loom, spinning jenny and water frame. With these innovations, less time and labor force was required in the production of cloths. It led to the growth of more textile industries in Britain which helped in meeting the demand for cloths by the domestic or international world. Other new techniques included the manufacturing of iron ore with the use of core rather than the traditional charcoal.

It was the cheaper method which also provided high quality product (History, 2019). This led to the expansion of the iron and steel industry in Britain and further in the growth and expansion of the railroad industry. The invention of steam engine helped the industries like flour, cotton mills, waterworks, canals, paper and iron work by allowing steam power in 1760s. Number of banks and financiers rose in 18 century as the factory system was dependent on banking systems. Capitalism system was found in the 18th century which enabled the private owners to produce goods and services without any interference of the government. Moreover, the regulation was removed and free market system was followed. It resulted in the movement of many people from the rural to the urban cities.

Urbanization was the result of establishment of large factories in small towns. Despite the overall growth of the nation and better living standards for the rich, the poor continued to struggle (History, 2019). There was expansion of trade in the world and the acquisition of colonies in several parts of the world due to which the demand was increasing goods was growing. As urban people were powerful, they restricted entry of new people into trade and maintained control over their production along with regulation of price. Poor and rural people moved to the cities and worked for the merchants and continued to cultivate on their small land holdings side by side. It developed some connected between rural and urban areas. The series of innovation in the 18th century increased the efficacy of production process (Allen, 2017).

In the 18th century, the upper class or the capitalist class of Europe had the control over international trade to ensure that Africa specializes in the exporting activities. There were super normal profits to the Europeans from the Africa labors and their resources. Europeans continued to invest these profits in the shipping, capitalist agriculture, technology, formation of new companies, manufacturing of plants and machineries and insurance (Alcott, n.d.). The development of capitalism was spread with the expansion of the cloth industry in the 16th, 17th, and 18th In the 18th century, the development was large because of the accumulation f more capital in the productive areas rather than the unproductive areas.

The rise in the supply of precious metals in Europe due to the rise in the process. The rise in the wages of the workers was not as much as the rose in the price which was the main factor of the super normal profits of the capitalist. The policies aimed at providing basic social condition such as the stable monetary systems and legal environment for economic growth of the country shifted the economy from public business to provide businesses and from commerce to industry (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019). There were many capitalist enterprises but the size of each firm was small due to which competition existed in the market. There was increase in the demand for worker with the invention of spinning jenny and power loom. Several products of mass consumption were made by the workers after the urbanization in the 18th century which contributed for the internal market but the wages remained low.

New methods in the agricultural market led to more productivity in the sector and more profits which were further used in the development if the industrial sector. Capitalism also bought national sentiment s and national allegiance with the increasing integration of the economy (Allen, 2017). All these changes with the industrialization to urbanization along with the capitalism led to colonization in the 18th century. By the end of the 18th century, Britain had gained world power that no empire rival hold. Britain had developed strong global position as it was the leader distributor of major products all over the world. It also exported around four fifth of the products outside Europe after the colonization. Britain in the 18th century was exporting many African across Atlantic. The country was converting from rural to urban cities with major development such as the rising state of fiscal military, infrastructure and innovation in technology (History, 2019).

British Poetry I: Chaucer to Restoration

1. Metaphysical poets were originated at the end of the 16th They showed the reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses. In their poetry, they showed the relationship between the spiritual constructs and concrete forms. John Donne was the chief of Metaphysical. He was the first metaphysical poet and he created the style which represents the whole group. He displayed the intellectual and personal concentration in his poems. The work of metaphysical poets can be characterized by conceit or wit which means use of long and ornamented metaphors (Chetry, 2019). The most common subjects of these conceits for the metaphysical poets were lover or love and faith or god. They used literary devices like irony, paradox and obliquity in a bold manner that clearly showed dramatic directness of language. They adopted an energetic, rigorous and uneven style (Jokinen, 2000).

He used unconventional themes and structures like writing the poems as a theatrical monologue and in a dramatic manner. The poetry of metaphysical poets was considered to be unclear or unknown due to the reason that one must understand the mindset of the artists of the time. Some of the ideas of English humanism include the birth and establishment of the Anglican Church Journeys of discovery and the defeat of new foreign lands during 17th century. Their Work was also unclear due the reason that they used paradox and used opposing pairs like life-death, body-soul, God-man etc. (Aleph, 2014).

Some characteristics of Metaphysical poetry are:

  • Themes: Metaphysical poets used religious and spiritual themes. They focused on love.

  • Personality of poets: The metaphysical poets were highly intellectual. They showed new ideas and stories to the readers using their vast knowledge.

  • Short poems: Metaphysical poets preferred their poetry to be very concise. They expressed every line in such a way that explains too much with few words.

  • Originality: All the metaphysical poets were unique in their ideas and imagination. They did not like to follow each other.

  • Platonic love: It is the spiritual love which is free from physical love.

  • Conceits: It is the unique feature of metaphysical poets. They compared two dissimilar things in their poem. For example, in his poem “The Mistress”, Abraham Cowley compares his love for ladies to his habit of travelling in various countries of the world.

  • Literary devices: Metaphysical poets used puns, metaphors, paradoxes and meter to generate tension and drama. They also used medical, scientific and legal phrases to produce arguments about philosophical aspects of life.

On the other hand Cavalier poets were the members of aristocracy. They were very popular during the 17th century. They were known to be Royalists. They were group of cavalier English lyric poets and were the most loyal followers of King Charles I and opposed the puritans who were their political enemies. They were different from metaphysical poets in the sense that they were highly spiritual. They love secularism things and are not fan of religious thing. Most of their poems were based on the idea of Carpe diem meaning to seize the day. Cavalier poets lived for the moment (Le Journale, 2015). Cavalier poetry was straightforward. Most of the poems were moved around Romantic love and sensual. For cavalier poets, to enjoy the life fully is more crucial than following moral codes. They were described as arrogant, dismissive or carefree. Robert Herrick, Richard Lovelace, Sir John Suckling and Thomas Carew were best known cavalier poets. The factor that binds cavalier together is that they use direct and informal language expressive of highly individual personality (Jokinen, 2000).

Some of the characteristics of Cavalier poetry are:

  • Themes: Cavalier poets used the themes like cynicism, love, and conventional Petrarchism and Pagan sensibility. Their main thematic concern is the pleasure.

  • Platonic Love: It was one of the features of cavalier poetry where the man would give his divine love to a woman, where she would be worshipped as a creature of perfection.

  • Short poems: Cavalier poets loved to write short lyrical poems and did not like sonnets.

  • Personality of poets: They have a carefree attitude. They wrote carelessly and did not write as professionals.

  • Formats used in Poems: Cavalier poets used common format in their poetry like “Roses are red, Violets are blue”.

The major differences between Metaphysical Poets and cavalier poets are as follows:

  • Cavalier poets are strictly coherent to forms, rhymes, meters etc. whereas Metaphysical poets are intentionally irregular in forms, meter, rhymes etc.

  • In cavalier poems, the images are directly connected with life. On the other hand, Metaphysical poems are marked by irony, paradox and involve comparison of unlike things.

  • In aspect of language, Cavalier poems arte lyrical, innocent, devoted, sentimental and sugar-sweet whereas Metaphysical poems are conversational, dialectical, witty, paradoxical and full of conceits.

Cavalier poets were known by the name they bear because they were loyal to king Charles I during the English civil Wars. They were cavaliers in their style of life and as attendant, serviceman and worshipper; they considered writing sophisticated and subtle poems to be one of their major achievements (Chavan, 2012). 

Metaphysical poets were known by the name they bear because while writing poems, they remain away from the description of physical intimacy means they did not praise any women’s physical beauty. Their poetry is metaphysics in literal sense and they wrote about nature of the universe. They took interest on the subject area that is unstated or not visible (Ahmed, 2019).

2. Paradise lost is a poem by John Milton, an English poet of the seventeenth century. It is an epic poem written in blank verse consisting of twelve books. The poem is considered as major work of Milton which helped Milton to be known as one of the reputed poets of his time. The intention of Milton behind writing the poem is to ‘justify the ways of god to men’. Milton intends to inform the audience of the poem about the grave disobedience. The author also discusses how paradise is lost because of Satan and the rebellions of Satan with the angels of paradise (Shodhganga, n.d.). Milton intends to describe the freedom of will and the right reasons to solve the questions of mercy, justice, wisdom and divine at the time of creation of man by God.

Milton provides transcendent values in the poem for the readers which show relationship with the creator of the mind. The main focus of the author was to explain about the spiritual forces that are involved in demonic and angelic activities. Milton was proficient in the Bible and deeply religious. Milton’s main motive was to explain the part of the Bible that was unclear or obscure. He presented his ideas in the poetry ‘Paradise Lost’ which discusses the creation and life of a human ion paradise to their expulsion or fall from paradise (Shodhganga, n.d.).

The main theme of the poem is the rejection of the laws of god. The first book of paradise lost proposes man’s disobedience and the loss of paradise. The story begins with the waking up of Satan and the devil angels and finding themselves floating on a lake with fire like hell. They do common activities and prepare to go to war with God. The theme of the poem is that Satan and the rebel angels don’t understand that their arrival in hell is the action of God but they admit that they have been defeated by God. God allowed the entry with the intension of changing the evil intension of the evils into goodness (Cosby, 2019). The theme of book 9 also speaks about the sneaking of Satan back into the garden of Eve and the transformation into a snake.

The theme of Paradise Lost is introduced in the very first line that “Man’s First Disobedience” (1.1) was the defiance of God and it is with this sin that man has had to live with ever since. Milton’s intention behind writing Paradise Lost is also added in this line where he says he will sing of ‘Man’s First Disobedience” so that he can “assert eternal Province, / And justify the ways of Good to men” (1,25-26).

This first sin is Adam and Eve’s transgression, their consumption of the forbidden fruit (the apple) from the Garden of Eden. This sin gave Satan leverage over God’s otherwise previously serene and peaceful creation. In Paradise Lost Book I, Milton depicts a hierarchal system where God sits on a throne at the top, Earth is in the middle where Adam is higher than Eve and they both rule over the animals, in Hell Satan also sits on a throne and rules over other demons. Throughout the book, Milton focuses on the theme of obedience and disobedience conducted in Epic times of the Bible. The eating of the Forbidden Fruit, the jealousy and ultimate rebellion of Satan and various other errors in the perceived structure is the theme of Book I.

In Book IX of Paradise Lost he can no longer talk about humans and heavenly beings as in the previous books but rather intends to focus on the Fall of Man. With this, Milton places his poem in the framework of a tragedy and relates Book 9 to book 1. Theme of book 1 serves as a foundation for book 9 as Milton builds on Book 1 in Book 9. In Book 9 Milton begins to mock classics and tedious epics of the middle Ages by describing them as “long and tedious havoc” and does not wish to be distracted like Homer and Virgil as he wants to finish his task before he starts decaying with “cold/Climate.” This section deals more with Satan and his doings and how he laments as the fallen archangel from the highest of the angels to “mazy folds” and “bestial slime”. Milton shows how Satan regrets his decisions and accepts that he must now deal with lofty ambitions. Along the lines of sin, Milton further describes Eve’s sin by taking action in without consulting her superior, Adam, as an “inferior”. Eve transgresses further by replying that Satan will seek out Adam first and therefore she assumes to be on the safer side and she will not bear the brunt of her actions.

The theme of Books 1 and 9 of Paradise Lost are interconnected with the recurring theme of God, faith, obedience and disobedience on a moral and Biblical level. While Book 1 sets the tone and foundation for the rest of the poem, Book 9 builds on the presumption that viewers have already read Book 1. Through Paradise Lost, Milton aims to bring out the faults of man and how man has been a transgressor from the beginning of time and so believes that due to the First Sin, it is the nature of humans to sin and be disobedient to God.

British Drama I: Beginnings to Restorations

1. The word ‘drama’ is derived from the Greek word “dran” which means to do or to perform, in Greek. The rise of English drama can be seen as vague in terms of the exact time/era the genre stems from due to the lack of concrete evidence of the origin of English drama. Although drama is an adaptation of a form of entertainment stemming from Greek culture, as the Greek have a huge influence over the English and English literature in general. In England, however, drama had a rather religious face stemming from the church and as part of the service of the church (Sartika, 2016).

The church had an enormous impact on drama in the medieval era resulting in Morality plays becoming a thing of the era. Plays of the medieval period focus of morality and intend to give instructions of moral and ethical behaviour to people. Plays like Everyman and Doctor Faustus are plays of the Medieval and period which aim to direct people in the light of the church and moral ways of life. However, the Morality play genre saw a shift in the 16th century.

Known as the Father of English drama, William Shakespeare was a playwright of the 16th century, known in Literature terms as the Elizabethan period due Queen Elizabeth taking the throne during the period. Early Elizabethan drama consisted of Mystery plays and Miracle plays due to the religious nature of the people and the influence of the church at the time. However, when Henry VII split with the Catholic Church, which that died religious drama and from there emerged tragedy, comedy and historical plays which is in modern times associated with Shakespeare and other writers of his time. With these new developments and the changing needs of time also came the commercialization of theatre where the audience had to purchase tickets to gain access to a play. As the church stopped sanctioning morality, miracle or mystery plays, plays dealing with secular topics gained momentum and later became known as renaissance theatre in the 16th century (Nabi, 2017).

The renaissance was also a time when the plague had git England which caused great concern for the theatre, writers and audiences. The plague also formed a large part of plays and poems written during the time include in the works of Marlowe who refers to the plague regular throughout the play. The shift in the church and religion with a clash between the catholic and protestant lead to the emergence of plays now dealing with not just God-centric plays but also including and questioning the existence and the works of the devil. The emergence of a new era brought in with the Renaissance is evident in Doctor Faustus by the continuous clash between religion and science.

Another example of a morality play is Everyman. Everyman was written before Doctor Faustus during the medieval era whereas Doctor Faustus was written during the Renaissance. Ecclesiasticism was prominent during the time Everyman was written where the society and theatre completely revolve around religion. Everyman depicts Everyman’s encounter with Death and Judgement Day before the final Judgement. God observes Everyman in all his forms and sends Death to ask him to account for his life for all the good and bad things he has done. Everyman tries to get on board his friends Fellowship and Material Goods but realises that they are of no good and ultimately Knowledge leads him into light guides him to make a Confession after which he is forgiven and after he dies, everyone is left only with his Good Deeds to open the doors of heaven for him. This play quite moral and the name so the characters themselves serve as symbolism for all things related to morality and religion. The characters ‘material goods’ and ‘fellowship’ symbolize ill influences which ‘knowledge’ and ‘confession’ are deemed good and moral.

As the genre of Morality plays evolved over time, Doctor Faustus came into being. This play depicts the very nature of the state of mind of the English people at the time of the Renaissance. Marlowe subverts the tradition of morality plays in this play as he introduces a theme of the clash between science and religion which is not what morality plays where originally about and hence, with this Marlowe changes the entire face of morality plays and English drama in general. Some elements of the traditional morality play exist in Doctor Faustus in the way the protagonist, like in Everyman, are distracted from good deeds by worldly desires and how they repeated try to mend their ways and thoughts but always seem to be caught between good and bad. However, the shift in Doctor Faustus comes in that the character dies without salvation and keeps his bargain with the Devil.

From the Medieval to the Renaissance period, English drama scene has evolved drastically. From short Interludes to long tragic plays of Shakespeare, the audience gained awareness. Not only were the plays shifting focus from moral teachings to pure entertainment but were also transitioning from focusing on religion to focusing on politics. While first history plays such as john Bale’s King Johan considered matters of morality and were handled in the light of the Reformation, they also set the foundation for both Shakespeare and Marlowe for their English History Play and Chronical Play in the latter part of the 16th century ( Jokinen, 2010).

The rise of English drama took flight after the crowing split the church into Catholic and Protestant after which came the Renaissance period which saw the flourishing of not just English drama but also all forms of arts. It was during this period of the reign of Elizabeth I in the late 16th and 17th century that the England produced its finest dramas and poetry. Shakespeare took to writing tragedies which gained an entire identity on its own and completely changed the face of English dramas. Claimed by many to be the most famous playwright of all times, William Shakespeare’s plays are still performed in theatres across the world (Surendiran, n.d.).

2. Tragedy is a branch of drama that seriously treats the sorrows and ill events of the protagonist in a dignified style. Tragedy in English literature roots back to the Elizabethan era and the genre is best connected and represented by William Shakespeare. The genre came into being as a result of social and cultural shifts in the England in terms of the church and morality in general. Shakespearean tragedies have a distinct characteristic of the main hero and all main characters in the play dying at the end of the play or going mad due to the fault of the hero or those close to him. Examples of such a tragedy are Helmet, Macbeth, etc.

William Shakespeare ruled the Elizabethan period during the reign of Elizabeth I while John Webster dominated the Jacobean era under Elizabeth’s successor, King James I. Jacobean drama is drama written/performed under the reign of James I. By the time king James took throne, the English drama scene was already flourishing with the plays of the excellent Shakespeare and his peers. However, towards the end of the Elizabethan era, the drama appetite of the audience was changing due to how unrealistic and overly exaggerated the plays had become. Observing this change in appetite and taste, Jacobean writers such as John Webster introduced an element of reality into their plays to serve the need to the hour.

Through Webster’s works such The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil, we see a shift in the plot from the exaggerated crime dramas of the Elizabethan era to the more practical, intelligent and planned crimes of the Jacobean era. Shakespeare is known as an Elizabethan as well as a Jacobean poet and playwright. He threw himself into the new taste of the Jacobean audience by producing works such as Othello, Macbeth, Kind Lear, Coriolanus, etc. which depicts the madman who does not necessarily commit any crime himself but influences those around him to commits extreme violence. Such plotting and scheming in violence matters is the key to the clever, intelligent and manipulative protagonists that the audience demanded at the time. It is safe to say that the tragic dramas of the Elizabethan era paved the way for a mass obsession with moral corruption coupled with violence, revenge and conceit.

The Elizabethan and the Jacobean era are both also known as the Age of Shakespeare in the history of English Literature. This age is the golden age in literature as the greatest master pieces of work were produced during this era. The difference in Shakespearean tragedy and the tragedy of his assessors is in that the very plot the two types of tragedies take place. Webster is undoubted inspired by Shakespeare and his works are influenced by Shakespearean imagination in tragedy, however, Webster takes it further in his emotion and value of work which negatively contrasts Shakespeare’s. Nathan Drake, in his criticism of Website’s work, points out that Webster seems to want to break free from “terrestrial fetters” (Culpeper, Archer, Findlay & Thelwall, 2018). The transition of tragedy from Shakespeare is in the violent and cold nature of the plays that followed which left the audience with a chill going down their spine.

A significant transition of tragedy from Shakespeare to Webster is also in the way that the tragedy of earlier plays, towards the end of the Elizabethan era grew much exaggerated and over the top which the audience grew out of, demanding a change and demanding more realistic depictions and representations in the plays. It is to address this growing appetite of the audience for a more realistic representation of society and social issues that the tragic genre took a slight turn to depict characters with more intellectual involvement in organized crime.

Tragedies started to depict plotting and planning in murder and violence which depicted the society of the era, however, they lacked in shaping the characters. The characters in Webster’s work are rather vague and inconsistent leaving the audience confused as to how to judge them. The case in Shakespearean tragedy is different, for example, in Othello, the audience is well aware of his courage and dignity which Othello affirms through his self-image. This arouses a sense of admiration in the audience even though he may be depicted as a negative character (Whitman, 1975).

The transition of tragedy from William Shakespeare to John Webster may not have been significant as they are both from the same era. However, there has been a transition in the nature of the tragedy with the shift in the plot from. The later tragic mood centres on the delusion of prosperity and spiritual despair. It is the shift in focus from the preposterous pseudo-Machiavellian villain to a realistic villain figure that the transition in tragedy has taken place from William Shakespeare to John Webster.


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