The Restoration Drama
The Civil War between King and Parliament between 1642–1648 ended with the execution of King CHARLES I in 1649. England first became a Puritan republic (1649) called the Commonwealth, and then in 1653 a Puritan authoritarian regime under Lord Protector OLIVER CROMWELL. The Reformation assumed extremely intolerant and radical traits; drama and entertainment, considered to be immoral, were banned from the public. Outside the law, actors performed drolls (humorous scenes) in private houses or inns.
With the Restoration, i.e. the re-establishment of the monarchy in England in 1660, theatres re-opened, popular plays were performed again, and there was also a demand for new dramatists and their works. In 1660 King CHARLES II granted the right to establish “patent theatres”. Beside these legitimate theatres there were illegitimate ones that provided for popular entertainment. High prices for tickets meant that less people could afford them than in SHAKESPEARE's time.
A novelty on stage was the use of scenery (Bühnenbild), in particular the movable scenery that could be changed between the acts. JOHN DRYDEN (1631–1700) wrote the best heroic plays, the tragic drama of the Restoration period (e.g. The Conquest of Granada, 1672; Aureng-Zebe, 1676). Heroic plays often centred around the conflict between the protagonist´s love and his patriotic duties to his country. The highly elaborate language was put into the form of the heroic couplet; (lines of iambic pentameter which rhyme in pairs) so as to stress the superhuman dignity of the hero.
The Restoration comedies by ETHERIDGE, WYCHERLY and CONGREVE were comedies of manner. This type of comedy goes back to Greek (MENANDER 342–292 B.C.) and Latin (PLAUTUS ~250–184 B.C., TERENTIUS 116–27 B.C.) origins on the one hand and tries to imitate the classic comedy of MOLIÈRE (1622–1673) and RACINE (1639–1699) on the other. They deal with affectation, love, seduction and the role play that leads to marriage. The English nobility who had fled from England to Paris after 1648, greatly admired the wit, refinement and strength of the French theatre, which they hoped to see accomplished by English dramatists, too.
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