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This book, winner of the 1969 South Atlantic Modern Language Association Award, presents a new perspective in the criticism of Jacobean tragedy and a truer evaluation of this body of drama. Mr. Herndl reinterprets a number of important Jacobean plays, making clear their essential spirit and the world view from which it rises. Herndl demonstrates the radical difference between this tragic spirit and that of the tradition culminating in Shakespeare which was based on the medieval conception of Natural Law. He traces the religious and philosophical history which shaped the drama of both periods, especially those seventeenth century changes in thought and belief which revolutionized tragedy.

Readable and full of rich insights, The High Design provides a detailed analysis of the drama of Heywood, Webster, Tourneur, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Ford and reconstructs the cultural and intellectual history providing the matrix of the drama.