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11. The Modern National Drama


The literary influence which finally transformed the growths noticed above into the national dramas of the several countries of Europe, was that of the Renaissance. Among the remains of classical antiquity which were studied, Influence of the Renaissance. translated and imitated, those of the drama necessarily held a prominent place. Never altogether lost sight of, they now became subjects of devoted research and models for more or less exact imitation, first in Greek or Latin, then in modern tongues; and these essentially literary endeavours came into more or less direct contact with, and acquired more or less control over, dramatic performances and entertainments already in existence. This process it will be most convenient to pursue seriatim, in connexion with the rise and progress of the several dramatic literatures of the West. For no sooner had the stream of the modern drama, whose source and contributories have been described, been brought back into the ancient bed, than its flow diverged into a number of national currents, unequal in impetus and strength, and varying in accordance with their manifold surroundings. And even of these it is only possible to survey the most productive or important.