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City comedy

City comedy

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City comedy, also called Citizen Comedy, is a common genre of Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline comedy on the London stage from the last years of the 16th century to the closing of the theaters in 1642. Some usual meanings of the term include:
  • Any English comedy, typically written during the reign of James I (1603-24) set in London
    London
    London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

     and depicting ordinary London life.
  • London comedies that are specifically satirical in nature, depicting London as a hotbed of vice and folly; in particular, some of the comedies of Ben Jonson
    Ben Jonson
    Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

     (Volpone, Epicoene), Thomas Middleton
    Thomas Middleton
    Thomas Middleton was an English Jacobean playwright and poet. Middleton stands with John Fletcher and Ben Jonson as among the most successful and prolific of playwrights who wrote their best plays during the Jacobean period. He was one of the few Renaissance dramatists to achieve equal success in...

     (A Trick to Catch the Old One, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside
    A Chaste Maid in Cheapside
    A Chaste Maid in Cheapside is a city comedy written c. 1613 by English Renaissance playwright Thomas Middleton. Unpublished until 1630 and long-neglected afterwards, it is now considered among the best and most characteristic Jacobean comedies....

    ) and John Marston
    John Marston
    John Marston was an English poet, playwright and satirist during the late Elizabethan and Jacobean periods...

     (The Dutch Courtesan').


Among the earliest City Comedies are Ben Jonson's "Every Man Out of His Humour" and Thomas Dekker's "The Shoemaker's Holiday," both dating from 1598. . The genre soon became very popular; the intricately-plotted romantic comedies of Shakespeare and John Lyly
John Lyly
John Lyly was an English writer, best known for his books Euphues,The Anatomy of Wit and Euphues and His England. Lyly's linguistic style, originating in his first books, is known as Euphuism.-Biography:John Lyly was born in Kent, England, in 1553/1554...

 that had been in vogue on the public and private stages until this point were largely superseded by plays which were set in a recognizable contemporary London, and which dealt with, in Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

's words, "deeds and language such as men do use" (Prologue to Every Man in his Humour
Every Man in His Humour
Every Man in His Humour is a 1598 play by the English playwright Ben Jonson. The play belongs to the subgenre of the "humours comedy," in which each major character is dominated by an overriding humour or obsession.-Performance and Publication:...

).

Other notable examples of the genre are [John] Chapman, Marston and Jonson's "Eastward Ho!," Dekker's "The Honest Whore, Parts 1 and 2," and [Phillip] Massinger's "A New Way to Pay Old Debts."

The city comedy can be considered a forerunner of the comedy of manners
Comedy of manners
The comedy of manners is a genre of play/television/film which satirizes the manners and affectations of a social class, often represented by stock characters, such as the miles gloriosus in ancient times, the fop and the rake during the Restoration, or an old person pretending to be young...

.