John Fletcher (1579-1625) was Shakespeare's successor as chief playwright for the King's Company and wrote or collaborated on fifty-four plays. Yet although his work forms the single most substantial canon of drama to come down from the English Renaissance, it has remained largely unexplored by critics. Arguing that knowledge of Fletcher's oeuvre is essential to an understanding of Renaissance drama as a whole, this groundbreaking study analyses Fletcher's unique response to the particular cultural and political conditions of Jacobean theater.
Fletcher wrote ironic, tragicomic plays premised upon complex cultural matrices that create unease in audience and critic alike. In examining the sources of this unease, Gordon McMullan rejects centralizing approaches and focuses instead on the social and political tensions—between London and the country, England and the colonies, women and men—that motivate the plays. In so doing, he seeks appropriate ways of reading a group of plays which, by way of their politics, generic complexities, and collaborative mode of production, appear to defy current critical practices.