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Introduction to Theatre Online Course

Dr. Eric W. Trumbull, Professor, Theatre/Speech

Last Update: November 16, 2007

Restoration Theatre

Resource: Wilson/Goldfarb, Chapter 13

Objectives for this lesson:

Students will examine:

The Restoration in England

The Restoration Comedy of Manners

Playwrights of the Restoration


The Restoration in England

Before 1642 – the royalty supported the theatre.

In 1642, a civil war – the Puritan Revolution. Charles I was beheaded and the country’s leadership taken over by Oliver Cromwell (the Lord Protectorate – the only time in British history that England was not run by a monarch ??).

From 1642 - 1660, called "the interregnum." Theatre was outlawed; it was connected with the monarchy and with "immoral," non-Puritan values.

Music, however, was allowed, and William Davanant (a writer of masques) produced some operas with Italianate stagings (with perhaps some illegal performances).

The monarchy was restored in 1660. Charles I’s son, Charles II, restored to the throne. He had been in France during the Interregnum, in the court of Louis XIV, who loved theatre. Charles II helped bring Italianate and French styles and staging to England.

The Drury Lane and Covent Gardens became the first theatres officially licensed during this period.

The type of theatre brought back resulted in a sort of protest against the Puritan ideal, and was designed primarily for the aristocracy. And then this form of theatre was in turn rebelled against.

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Restoration Comedy of Manners:

Characterized by:

Use of "transparency" names: "Sparkish, Fidget, Squeamish"
Mrs. Malaprop ("mal= French for "ill" -- therefore, "ill-appropriate")


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Playwrights of the Restoration:

William Congreve (1670-1729) – The Way of the World (1700)

William Wycherly (1640-1715) – The Country Wife (1675)

George Etheridge (c. 1637-1691) – She Would If She Could (1668)

The rise of Puritanism after the Puritan Revolution.

By the early 18th century (1700’s), these aristocratic and amoral plays became unpopular and the Neoclassical precept of teaching morals returned.

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You can take short study quizzes based on textbook materials by going to the Student Online Learning Center page for our textbook...


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Page last updated : November 16, 2007