Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This dissertation combines Marxist theories of class consciousness and literary genre with an understanding of sixteenth century historiography in order to examine early modern plays that contain elements of both the English history play and city comedy. From about 1589 to 1620, there is a marked shift in audience preference from the former to the latter which is indicative of the cultural and political shift from an aristocratic ideology to a proto-bourgeois one. Such changes were caused most significantly by the rise of Protestantism and capitalism over the course of the sixteenth century. The project argues that economic, political, and religious changes in the period led to a type of historical representation, the history play, that demonstrated the contingency of historical narrative and facilitated the development of a critical historical consciousness in the theatre audience. Consequently, this historical consciousness caused a new social consciousness to develop, one which aligned itself with an emerging citizen ideology and eventually led to the growth of the city comedy genre. Hybrid plays like the ones covered have been discussed by other scholars, several of whom have pointed to a connection between the history play and city comedy genre; this project takes the significant step of suggesting a direct causal relationship between them and linking this directly to other cultural and economic developments.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.