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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

V. Beaumont and Fletcher

§ 2. Abandonment of Tragedy for Tragi-comedy; Lowering of moral standards

But, apart from the general relaxation of moral and intellectual fibre which was indicated in these tendencies, there were far more serious evidences of moral decadence. The manners of society had not yet sunk to the prosaic level of profligacy which characterised the period of the Restoration, and the feeling for poetry and romance had not altogether departed; but the court standard of morals with regard to the relations of men and women was decidedly low, and false notions of loyalty and honour, to a great extent, had established themselves in the higher classes of society. In these respects, there is no reason to doubt that the drama of the period reflected the prevailing fashions. Themes of love and honour are those in which an artifical society of this kind is chiefly interested, and it is these which it desires to see dealt with upon the stage. The moral standard of the drama is apt to be the same as that of the community for which it is composed; and where false ideals of conduct in regard to chastity and honour prevail in a society, we may reasonably expect to find them reflected in the drama which is patronised by it.