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Definition: Jacobean from Philip's Encyclopedia

(Lat. Jacobus, 'James') Artistic styles during the reign (1603-25) of James I. The major literary form was drama, such as the works of Webster and the late plays of Shakespeare. Metaphysical poetry, such as the work of John Donne, was also a feature of the age. In architecture, the major achievement was the work of Inigo Jones.


Summary Article: Jacobean from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Style in the arts, influential upon architecture and furniture as well as literature, during the reign of James I (1603–25) in England. In the visual arts, Jacobean design follows the general lines of Elizabethan design, but uses classical features with greater complexity and with more extravagant ornamentation, it adopted many motifs from contemporary Italian design. In literature, similarly, the model of Jacobean works was Elizabethan in form, but increasingly complex and ornamented. See also English literature.

Jacobean architecture A sudden change to full-blown Palladin architecture occurred early in the 17th century, when Inigo Jones appeared upon the scene and designed the Queen's House at Greenwich (1617–35), and the Banqueting House in Whitehall (1619–22).

Jacobean literature During the reign of King James I (1603–25), the complexity of English literature, like the arts in general, was brought out by increased ornamentation in addition to influences of the past, particularly those of Elizabethan literature. The increasing complexity often takes the form of extended figures of speech and devices of rhetoric. This complexity may reduce the accessibility of Jacobean literature to the untrained modern reader.

Drama The revenge tragedy was a particularly popular genre of the period, and became increasingly macabre and sadistic in this period. The most violent action, which previously had almost always happened offstage, now took place onstage, and so violence became a visual rather than a psychological theatrical device. Successful writers include the English John Webster (whose works include The Duchess of Malfi, 1612–3) and Cyril Tourneur (whose works include The Revenger's Tragedy, 1607). The explicit violence and sexuality of the genre may be viewed as a symptom of the tensions and repressions in society that eventually led to the outbreak of Civil War in 1642. The English dramatist John Marston excelled at the dark tragicomedy, such as The Malcontent (1604), in which a man learns unpleasant truths about society's effect on his family (similarly to Tourneur's The Revenger's Tragedy). English playwright William Shakespeare forms a good example of the increased complexity of drama in the Jacobean period. His dramatic output altered considerably. Whereas his earlier work is fairly easily categorized as tragic, comic, or historical, his Jacobean plays are far more complex and contain elements of both tragedy and comedy, as well as more magical and mystical subject matter. English playwright Ben Jonson wrote satirical comedies, including Volpone (1606) and The Alchemist (1610), which expressed the greedy and self-seeking nature of the times.

Prose English prose achieved full richness in the early 17th century, with the Authorized Version of the Bible (King James edition, 1611). The English writer Francis Bacon published philosophical and scientific work, as non-fiction in The Advancement of Learning (1605) and as fiction in The New Atlantis (1626), and Sir Walter Raleigh wrote The History of the World (1614).

Poetry Apart from on the stage, Jacobean poetry is less well known than its Elizabethan equivalent. John Dowland's Third and Last Booke of Songs appeared in 1603. Shakespeare's Sonnets were published in 1609 and Ben Jonson's The Forest in 1616. Jonson was granted a royal pension in 1610, effectively making him the first Poet Laureate, if an unofficial one.

By the accession of Charles I, in 1625, many of the great figures of Elizabethan and Jacobean literature were dead, or died shortly afterwards.

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