Elizabethan drama broke away from religious domination, which was the major focus of the medieval mystery play and morality play. Elizabethan drama often used poetical metre (rhythm) for its dialogue, especially the five-foot iambic pentameter (pairs of syllables: unstressed followed by stressed). Both Shakespeare and Marlowe often used controversial subjects for their drama, including the question of political power (in Marlowe's Tamberlaine the Great (two parts; 1587–88) and Shakespeare's Macbeth (1606), for example). Other, lesser playwrights wrote in a similar style to Shakespeare and Marlowe; The Spanish Tragedy (c. 1590) by Thomas Kyd is sometimes said to have been an influence upon Shakespeare's Hamlet (1601–02). As the Jacobean period commences, the content of the drama darkens appreciably, and the plays of dramatists such as John Webster are more overtly violent than those of the Elizabethan period, in which (although there are exceptions to this) violent action is often psychological and usually takes place offstage.


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