What is a Closet Drama? 20 Useful Resources

A closet drama is a work intended from the outset to be read and not performed. Readings typically occur in isolation or aloud in small groups. While there is evidence from classical times of works most likely intended for private readings, the genre was firmly established in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, and again gained popularity during the 19th century, when plays were mostly written in verse. During these periods, works could be disseminated exclusively to a chosen audience via manuscript. Closet dramas also served a purpose for women writers or those in exile whose voices may not have otherwise been heard, plus writers of either gender wishing to avoid censorship. – Justin Cash

Closet Drama Resources

A straightforward explanation of what a closet drama is and the reasons they were written throughout history.

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Wikipedia entry including its definition, historical uses in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, during the 19th century, plus women writers of the genre.

This essay explores the history of the form and the parallels between one’s inability to attend live theatre during COVID lockdowns and reading dramas of this genre at home.

Biography of Margaret Cavendish, English author who wrote numerous plays of the genre in 17th century England.

Closet Drama: an Introduction

Article offering numerous examples of closet dramas throughout history.

Scholarly discussion about the nature of the English drama in this genre and its links to women writers during the Romantic period.

This article examines how contemporary playwrights are exploring new mediums for disseminating this genre at home.

Comprehensive list of Renaissance plays of the genre and their authors, including genres.

Biography of German playwright Johann Wolfgang Goethe, whose works Faust, Part One and Faust, Part Two were written as closet dramas never intended to be staged.

Article exploring the life and works of Margaret Cavendish, a 17th-century English playwright who wrote numerous closet dramas under her name at a time when most women did not do so.

Brief Encyclopedia.com entry on this form of drama.

Academic thesis exploring the nature of public and private space, including the imaginary participation required by the reader of closet dramas.

Easy to understand exploration of the history and subject matter of this type of play through the ages.

Brief paper on the history of the genre.

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