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Transcript of Jacobean->Restoration
-After Elizabeth's reign and prior to Oliver Cromwell overthrowing the monarchy (1640–1649), a few notable theatre moments occurred.
-The most important designer of the time was Inigo Jones.
-The political climate changed significantly after Queen Elizabeth's reign came to an end after her passing in 1603.
- The following reigns of James I and Charles I led to tumultuous relationships with Parliament and eventually a civil war between supporters of Charles I and the Puritans in 1642, and again in 1648. Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans eventually succeed, monarchy fled to France.
-The Puritans vehemently opposed theatre,
and immediately banned theatrical activity
for its perceived immorality.
-Immediately after the restoration, England expanded into the New World, establishing trading posts throughout India with the East India Company and expanded their presence into the Americas.
- Writers such as Ben Jonson and John Webster emerge, which continued to push comedy (Jonson) and tragedy (Webster) as primary theatrical genres.
-Joining these genres was the court masque; not a popular entertainment form, but rather theatrical pageants that entertained royalty.
-Masques incorporated stories of mythological gods, goddesses, nymphs, etc. into poetry,song and dance
-Masque is most noted for its elaborate and expensive production values rather than the text or the performances.
-After studying architecture and stage design in Italy, Jones brought the advances in scenic design back to England, including the proscenium arch, systems for changing scenery, painted perspective sets and flying machinery.
-As masques were suspended during the civil war, Jones designed military equipment prior to his brief imprisonment and his possessions absorbed by the state.
- Although Jones was released, he never lived to see the impact his designs would have on the restoration theatre, as he died in 1652.
-Upon Cromwell's death, his son was unable to maintain power, and Charles II was invited to return from exile in France in 1660.
-This restored the monarchy to power over the Commonwealth, giving this era in England the name "The Restoration Period."
-This period generally runs from 1660 to 1700ish, even though Charles II did not rule during the whole era.
-The Restoration Period was not just a political restoration, but also a restoration in trade, the sciences and culture.
-During this era the Royal Society of London was established, providing physicists and mathematicians such as Issac Newton the resources to experiment.
-During this time architect Christopher Wren also rebuilt St Paul's Cathedral, a symbolic gesture
to a country that was rebuilding itself.
-At this time, theatre also was reinstated, bringing along changes
and trends from the Jacobean
-With the monarchy returning from France, the exposure to French and Italian theatre affected how theatre in England was reintroduced.
-The return of theatre was tentative at the beginning of the restoration. A limit was placed on the amount of theatre activity, and the upper classes of England claimed theatre as their own, breaking the Elizabethan tradition that incorporated people from all walks of life.
- Although many entrepreneurs attempted to construct theatres and start theatre companies, they were foiled by a licensing system that prevented such endeavors.
- At this time, Charles II had issued only one license to William Davenant and Thomas Killigrew to monopolize theatrical activity and cautiously revive theatre. They eventually had one company each.
- Theatre gradually regained its position as popular entertainment, and continued the process of integrating
the Italian staging techniques that Inigo Jones and the
court masques had begun to use during the Jacobean
-This included the technology of the proscenium theatre, including moveable
wing and shutter sets.
- The four popular genres of the Restoration Period are referred to as "Heroic Tragedy", "Restoration Tragedy", "Comedies of Intrigue" and "Comedy of Manners."
- Heroic tragedy's most prominent writer, John Dryden, states that Heroic Tragedy must be written in iambic pentameter, and deal with foundational historical or mythological events. Heroic tragedy also followed the tight structure of the neoclassicists.
-Restoration Tragedy, to whom Dryden is also the most prominent writer, generally transformed older tragedies (particularly Shakespeare) but change endings or key events to produce new works.
-Neither of these forms of tragedy are considered important literary works,
and are rarely produced today.
Comedies of Intrigue
-Comedies of Intrigue featured the exploits of romance and adventure, and frequently had more complex plot structures than prior comedic genres.
-As women began to be integrated on stage, female playwrights also emerged, frequently focusing on the comedic genres.
- The most prolific female playwright of the era, and the first to earn a full living off writing plays, was Aphra Behn.
-Born in the West Indies, Behn had lived a full life of experience prior to becoming a writer, including a stint as a spy during the Second Anglo-Dutch War and some time in prison.
-Already a poet, Behn turned to playwriting for Davenant and Killigrew as a way to escape debt. Behn helped to further push boundaries in theatre, writing on topical situations of the time and including sexually explicit humour.
-The Rover, for instance, has a scene in
a brothel, and her plays frequently
feature characters from
Comedy of Manners
- In sharp contrast to Behn and the Comedies of Intrigue's inclusion of many classes, the Comedy of Manners focused exclusively on the matters of the upper class.
-These plays were satirical in nature and poked fun at the social conventions and norms of the time, particularly the preoccupation with reputation and class.
-This took the form of witty exchanges by stock characters, who would represent an archetype from the upper class in the Restoration Era (i.e. the fop=man who overdresses,aspires to be wealthier and more important than he is)
- William Wycherley is most commonly associated with Comedy of Manners, and his play "The Country Wife" is one of the most frequently performed plays
from the Restoration Period.
- Wycherley's "The Country Wife" also gives us an indication of what the audience may have looked like.
-Sparkish, the fop, describes how audience members purchased fruit from "orange wenches", yelled back at actors, and generally misbehaved.
-At the beginning of the restoration, theatre was attended only by the wealthy, who would have been the same group being satirized in the Comedy of Manners.
-The rise of the merchant class in the late 1600's marks a shift to theatre
as a more popular entertainment
for the masses.
- Costumes in this era benefited from the monopoly on theatre, as Davenant and Killigrew received large costume budgets from Charles II.
-Realism and opulence were the two goals of the restoration costume, as the wealthy audiences expected to see themselves reflected on stage.
-As a result, lavish and expensive clothing that was contemporary of the time was worn on stage,
-Typical garments include frilled breeches and cloaks for men, corsets and french inspired manteau for
-The most prominent
theatres of the Restoration Period had interiors that fused Italian and Elizabethan elements.
-The open-air theatres of the Elizabethan era were gone, and all theatre were
indoor, proscenium theatres.
- The audience was divided between a ranked pit at the front of the stage, boxes and galleries
-The stage itself was also raked.
Decline of Restoration Theatre
- The comedy of the Restoration Period that frequently featured immoral acts was inevitably attacked by the Puritans (branch of protestantism).
-Minister Jeremy Collier wrote a scathing attack on the theatre in 1698, entitled "A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage", which many historians view as the beginning of the end of Restoration theatre.
- After the attack, the sexual content of the plays were toned down, and gradually morality became stressed.
- This coincides with a generally less permissive society that was developing in England at the beginning of the 1700's, marking a change in tastes for those attending the theatre.