English Renaissance Theatre

May 2023

Marlowe’s Mighty Line

Episode 98:

Marlowe as a playwright at the beginning of the greatest period of Elizabethan creativity.

A short recap on Marlowe’s university life.

Marlowe moves to London.

The anonymity and earning power of Elizabethan playwrights.

‘Dido, Queen of Carthage’.

Thomas Nashe as co-author of ‘Dido, Queen of Carthage’.

Marlowe’s sexual preferences.

The Elizabethan attitude to sexuality.

Marlowe and religion.

The School of Atheism.

Marlowe’s use of rhetoric.

Marlowe, blank verse, and iambic pentameter.

Marlowe’s poetry.

Marlowe’s Mighty Line.

Support the podcast at:




The Short Life and Strange Death of Christopher Marlowe

Episode 97:

Christopher Marlowe was one of the giants of Elizabethan theatre, but he died young in mysterious circumstances. In this episode I try to unpick the mystery of why he died. Was it just an argument about the cost of a meal, or the result of some far more sinister goings-on in the world of Elizabethan espionage and court rivalry?

Support the podcast at:




Thomas Nashe: Satirist, Pamphleteer & Playwright

Episode 96:

The life and works of Thomas Nashe

Early Life

Cambridge University and ‘Terminus et non Terminus’

Nash moves to London and joins the ‘University Wits’

Pamphlets and work for the Archbishop of Canterbury

Nashe’s style and pseudonyms

Disagreements with the Gabriel brothers

Nash’s Dildo

Pearse Penniless

Summers Last Will and Testament, his only surviving solo-authored play

The Unfortunate Traveller

Christ’s Tears Over Jerusalem and Imprisonment

Terrors Of the Night

The Isle Of Dogs and the closure of theatres in the summer 1597

Nash’s Lentern Stuff and his final years

Support the podcast at:




April 2023

A Sextet of Tudor Playwrights

Episode 95:

The life and plays of some of the lesser known playwrights of the Tudor period.

George Gascoigne – his shady life story and his Italian translations into English prose.

Robert Greene – how he carved out a professional writers life from an unpromising start, his plays, and that notorious comment about Shakespeare.

Thomas Lodge – a prodigious talent who sought out an adventurous life and wrote two verse plays.

Thomas Preston – A Fellow of Cambridge University who wrote plays in many different styles.

Collaboration in the Tudor period.

George Peele – part of the ‘university wits’ set, best known for ‘The Araynment of Paris’ […]

Gorboduc: The Tragedy of Ferrex and Porrex

Episode 94:

Gorboduc the first tragedy in blank verse

The lives of the co-authors Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville

The plot of the play including the description of the opening dumb show

The origins of the Gorboduc story

The political message of the play

How the play incorporates ideas and style from Seneca, Aristotle, and the medieval traditions

The use of allegorical characters

The problems whit the play as good drama

The play as an academic debate

The second printing of the play

The innovation of bank verse

The highpoint of the play

How satisfactory , or not, is the ending of the play?

Support the podcast at:




March 2023

Comedy, History & Morality: Three Early Tudor Plays

Episode 93:

The earliest extant plays from the Tudor period include comedies and a historical morality, which give an insight into how theatre developed.

A summary of the elements that came together to make Tudor theatre a very special development.

Students and Masters become playwrights looking to Seneca

Nicolas Udal, schoolmaster and writer of the earliest surviving comedy

A summary of Ralph Roister Doister

The problem of the authorship of Gammer Gurton’s Needle

A summary of Gammer Gurton’s Needle

John Bale and the manuscript of King Johan

A summary of the plot of King Johan

How King Johan works as a morality play, a history play and a tragedy.

Support the […]

The State Vs the Theatre part 2: Elizabeth

Episode 92:

Elizabeth’s reign is seen as the golden age of theatre where many great playwrights, and one genius in particular, flourished.  But did that happen because of the freedoms they were granted, or because of the constraints they worked under?  

The situation in theatre as Elizabeth ascended to the throne.

The revision of the Act of Uniformity.

The renewal of the ban on Interludes and censorship play printing.

Rules introduced to combat the spread of plague.

Attempts to ban plays on moral grounds.

The arguments against stage plays performed on Sunday.

 Touring companies in the north and continued performances of Corpus Christi plays.

Tightening control after the rebellion in […]

February 2023

The State Vs the Theatre part 1: Henry, Edward, & Mary

Episode 91:

By the 1530s the State was concerned with the regulation & censorship of plays. Here are the key moments of legislation under Henry, Edward & Mary.

The background of what made legislation necessary.

The end of the Corpus Christi Cycle Play.

The beginnings of actions against players

The Act For The Advancement of True Religion

Pammachius performed at Cambridge and the aftermath.

Early controls in London

The death of Henry 8th and changes under Edward

Repeated attempts to ban theatre.

The death of Edward and changes under Mary.

More bans are issued and the severity of punishments increases

The death of Mary

Support the podcast at:




Creating a Profession: The Development of the Stage-Player

Episode 90: 

The development of the profession of acting, of ‘stage-playing’ through the Tudor period.

How the professional stage player developed out of the medieval entertainer.

How travelling players became household players and then settled in the London playhouses.

The beginnings of an acting profession.

The Earl of Leicester’s Men.

The English Sumptuary laws.

The boy troupes.

The objections to players and playhouses.

The reputation of players.

Some examples of contemporary views of players.

The stars of the day – Burbage and Allen.  

Support the podcast at:




January 2023

Building Theatre: The Earliest Playhouses in London

Episode 89:

As England emerged from the Medieval period theatre became established in London in purpose built theatres and in buildings adapted for the purpose. In this episode we look at those earliest theatres and their builders:

The Red Lion, a probably short lived theatre built by John Brayne

Four Inns that operated as theatres The Bel Savage, The Bull, The Bell, and the Cross Keys

The Theatre at Newington Butts

The Theatre – probably the first truly purpose built theatre since Roman times. The Story of how James Burbage and John Brayne acquired land, built The Theatre and kept it running […]

The Renaissance from Europe to England

Episode 88:

An introduction to season 5 of the podcast.

The theatrical links between England and Continental Europe in the 16th Century.  Some differences and similarities.

Why English theatre stands apart from that of continental Europe.

Sir Philip Sidney’s ‘Defence of Poetry’, his dislike of the stage and ideas on the power of poetic language.

The development of English as a language to be used poetically.

The slow rise of England out of the Medieval period.

Theatre and king Henry 8th.

The rise of secular plays during the reformation period through the reign of Elizabeth 1st.

English scepticism about Continental culture.

The Playhouses, plays, playwrights and acting troupes.

Support the podcast at:




Go to Top