Jasper Mayne's the City Match ) Term Paper

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Jasper Mayne's "The City Match" (1639) -- the relationship of the drama to the British Commonwealth and the Restoration

One of the most seismic events of British literature was the silencing of the British stage during the period of history known as the Commonwealth, when the monarchy was abolished and the Puritan Parliament was officially in control of the nation. During "the Long Parliament on September 2, 1642" the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell ordered that stage plays "cease and be forborn" [forbidden] because such "lascivious Mirth and Levity" did not "comport with public calamities and seasons of humiliation," in other words, because play-going did not conform to the appropriate sorrow and respect that citizens should feel for the sinfulness of the world and their own fallen nature (Wright 75).

Cromwell did not say, although it very likely had an impact upon his decision, that the theaters were becoming forums to obliquely criticize his repressive religious regime. Most playwrights were monarchist sympathizers. The court had acted as patrons of the theater, and created a cultural atmosphere more conducive to the freewheeling environment on the outskirts of the city of London, where most public dramas were enacted, as described by Andrew Gurr in the Shakespearean Stage. The playhouses were known as places of debauchery, or at very least, as places that were poorly controlled by the central government.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Jasper Mayne's the City Match (1639) -- Assignment

Unsurprisingly, "the drama suffered a partial eclipse" after it was banned although it did survive better than might be expected, because of the durability its printed texts (Wright 75). The institution of the actual production of drama changed considerably after the Restoration, most notably with the introduction of actresses rather than young boys to play the part of women, the enclosure of the theaters, which created a more selective audience and artificial lighting that enabled plays to take place at night. However, many dramatists made the bridge between the late Jacobean era and the Restoration more seamlessly than one might expect because they continued to write and publish, even after staged productions were banned.

According to Louis B. Wright, while "dramatic publication from 1642 to 1660 faltered at times, especially during the first few years of the troubles, "after 1646 the printing of plays definitely began to increase. For the most part, plays were selected for publication from the dramatists who had made the strongest appeal to the audiences of the more fashionable playhouses in the years immediately preceding the closing of the theaters (Wright 78). The readership for printed plays was likely to be royalist in sympathy, wealthy enough to buy a publication in an era before printing was inexpensive and accessible to all, and of course literate. Literacy is something that could not be taken as a given in an era before wide-spread public schooling. But putting pen to paper was the only way for playwrights to survive. Before the "printers" were not "paymasters," thus drama was written for popular consumption before the Commonwealth's degree was enforced and the theaters were shut (Gurr 6).

A popular playwrights before and immediately after the Restoration was the now largely forgotten playwright Jasper Mayne. The author of "The City Match" (1639) Mayne wrote his most famous work upon the cusp of the eventful closing of the theaters. Eventually, after the Restoration the playwright gave up the stage and poetry after and became chaplain and ordinary to the king. He decided that writing poetry was unbefitting to his higher station. "The publisher of Jasper Mayne's 'The City Match' (1939) claimed that the poet, a clergyman amateur held the belief 'that works of this light nature be things which need an apology for being written at all...masques who spangle and glitter for a time...thoroughly tinsel," suggesting that plays were not a replacement for real, religious study, but not harmful either (Gurr 6).

Regardless, even when actively engaging in authorship, unsurprisingly, before and during the Commonwealth, Mayne remained a loyal supporter of the king and the Church of England that he served. However, given that he is mainly known for his satire of city life and for authoring a work described as a "farcical domestic comedy," modern readers may be taken by surprise by this pairing of devotion to the Church of England and comedy ("Jasper Mayne," the Classic Encyclopedia, 2007). "The City Match" is in many ways a precursor to the style that would characterize the later Restoration drama. Unlike the bawdier and bloody Jacobean plays, Restoration-era plays and many of the plays that immediately preceded the Restoration before the closing of the theaters were quite arch, and aimed at a more verbally sophisticated audience. However, the fact that such a style was often accompanied by pro-royalist content helps explain why a clergyman wrote a comedic, sparkling, and verbally intricate piece during such a religiously contentious time. This was the sort of theatrical style Puritans frowned upon.

The unintended shift to literacy made the audience for drama more aristocratic, however. In fact, during the Commonwealth, one supporter of the restoration of the monarchy even said that the one 'good' effect of silencing the theaters was: "now Reader[s] in this Tragicall Age where the Theater hath been so much out-acted, congratulate thy owne happinesse that in this silence of the Stage, thou hast a liberty to reade these inimitable Playes, to dwell and converse in these immortal Groves," of their study, and reflect upon the urbane wit of playwrights (Wright 81). In other words, 'good' readers would understand the sophisticated verbal artistry of a Shakespeare in their studies, better than endure the common people perhaps over-acting great tragedy. Mayne's prologue to "The City Match" gives witness to this fact when it remarks that "the author has no fear of 'them who sixpence pay and sixpence crack,'" -- according to Andrew Gurr, this was a reference to the common people who would often crack nuts during the performance, refusing to obey "the prologue's customary plea for silence" (Gurr 226). In other words, play-going in the Elizabethan era was a noisy, raucous event, unlike the more decorous practice it was to become after its audience became more aristocratic.

The City Match," although it addresses a romantic theme, is not a tragedy, but it does reflect the political concerns of the day, and its dialogue shows why the Puritan Parliament was so eager to silence the theaters for political reasons. Mayne's play takes aim at Puritanical attitudes and characters in an explicit fashion. For example, one fashionable woman dismissively remarks of her pious servant: "she will make / the Acts and Monuments in sweet-meats... / all my banquets / Are persequutions... / and we eat Martyrs." (Covington 1295). In short, the overly scrupulous servant when forced to make cakes makes the cakes in a shape of Biblical scenes and people who were martyred fighting for Christianity!

Practically all the drama, both that written before the closing of the theaters and that written afterward, presented the Cavalier point-of-view, for with few exceptions the Stuart dramatists were ardent royalists. Hence old plays were almost as pat to the purpose of royalist propaganda as those written especially with that in mind. Stage attacks on the Puritans had been so violent and bitter in the years preceding 1642 that many of the plays of that period must have been read, in the years of Puritan supremacy, with peculiar unction by haters of the stiff-necked tribe" (Wright 86).

But it should be cautioned that Mayne's play is not purely a work of propaganda. In fact, the "City Match" clearly is an early 17th century play because it does not aspire to be 'purely' refined, and is not aimed only at the sort of private, aristocratic and courtly audiences that would categorize the late Restoration. The play contains many farcical elements that harkens back to the Jacobean… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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