The City Staged: Jacobean Comedy, 1603-1613

The University of Wisconsin Press, 1986

In this highly original and energetic study, Theodore B. Leinwand views Jacobean theater—particularly Jacobean city comedy—as a measure of the way Londoners of the time perceived each other. In forming a sophisticated view of the relations between Jacobean comedy and life, Leinwand makes a solid contribution not only to Jacobean theater, but, more broadly, to our understanding of the cultural, social, and political contexts within which all literature is produced.

Leinwand turns to the plays of Thomas Middleton, Thomas Dekker, John Webster, George Chapman, John Fletcher, and Ben Jonson to see the ways in which Jacobean theater was bound up with contemporary social relations. He measures the attitudes implicit or expressed in the plays toward various London types of the day. These same figures appeared in the commentary of the time and Leinwand raises the question of how realistic stage portrayals were meant to be, and how they were likely to have been received by their audiences. He suggests that most sophisticated playwrights, by making their audiences aware of stereotype, urged them to think beyond it to a fuller sense of their own and other people's identities.