Title: David and Bethsabe.
Author: George Peele.
Date: c. 1595-1596.
First Published: 1599.
Genre: Biblical Historical.
Language Difficulty Rating: 6.5 (moderately difficult).
Setting: Israel in King David’s time, c. 1000 B.C.
David and Bethsabe holds the distinction of being the only Biblical narrative of the 600+ extant plays of the entire Elizabethan – Carolean corpus. Far from writing a morality play, George Peele instead gives an Elizabethan audience what it wants: murder, rape, incest, revenge and war – which goes to prove that spectators of entertainment are no different today than they were half a millennium ago. The play contains some richly beautiful passages, demonstrating that Peele, when he wasn’t busy living the most depraved of life-styles, was among the most talented of playwrights of the day.
Our Story: King David of Israel sees the beautiful Bethsabe bathing across the street, and forces himself on her. David’s son Amnon is in love with David’s niece Thamar, and forces himself on her. Thamar’s sister swears to get revenge on Amnon – and the plot goes downhill from there.
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Still-Familiar Words and Phrases that Appeared in English Literature for the First Time
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