Theatre – English Interregnum


Below is a detailed article that discusses a different type of ban that was imposed on the entertainment of the people – the theatre. Theatre was banned across England during the English Interregnum period. Let us learn why it happened and the effects of it below.

What happened to English theater during the interregnum?

On September 6, 1642, all theatres, especially in London, were banned by the Parliament. This was a period of the English Interregnum. The word Interregnum refers to a period where a throne is vacant between to successive regimes. At this time, government control is at a halt. Instead of government control, there is more of parliamentary and military control in the Interregnum. It is a period when normal government functions are suspended. Such a period in British history is known as the English Interregnum. It took place right after the execution of Charles I of England.

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A portrait of King Charles I of England

There was a spread of protestants in England during the English Interregnum. Richard Cromwell himself was a protestant, rather a ‘puritan’ which was a strict group of white protestants who had some uncompromising bible standards. Although there was religious freedom in England, the protestant methods were spread across the masses. Catholic holidays such as Christmas and Easter were looked down on.

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A portrait of Richard Cromwell

He also banned theatre which limited people’s entertainment. Many commenters call his rule ‘harsh and tyrannical’.

During the beginning of the English Civil War, all the theatres were banned. This meant that the great plays and theatrical dramas in London were all brought to a standstill. Many artists, choreographers, playwriters, drama specialists, theatre managers, workers at the theatres, the actors and dancers of the play went out of jobs during this time.

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The Curtain Theatre from Elizabethan times

The time before this massacre, that is the Elizabethan era and the times before were known for their massive theatres. A lot of investment was made in theatres from time to time to keep the people of the gentry and the royalists entertained. There were grants that were sanctioned on a regular basis for the improvement of the many theatres in London. This all came to an end when the government banned theatres altogether.

Why was the English theatre banned during the English Interregnum?

The English theatre was banned due to the added expense to the government simply for the purpose of entertainment. The government also found it unseemly to have the theatre running during the times of the English civil war and discouraged people from having a good time but rather mourning due to the state of the country.

The main reason behind the ban on theatres was the rise of Oliver Cromwell. The Cromwells belonged to the Puritan Christian Society that was a protestant group that claimed that the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church needed purification. They had strict Christian values and believed in an orthodox method of living life. They opposed theatrical entertainment and called it sinful and frivolous. Due to the high number of Puritans in the Parliament in 1642, they banned theatre completely.

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A portrait of Oliver Cromwell – an English Military and Political Leader

Another reason to ban theatre was to cut down the meetings of the Royalists in one place. All the Royalists regularly met for the plays at the theatres and schemed about different plans against the Parliament. This was a view of the Puritans. This is why they banned theatre to basically decrease the association of the Royalists with one another.

The massive structures of the theatres were soon abandoned and came to be decayed beyond use. It became illegal to build a play, perform or write a drama in any part of the city.

When was the English theatre reopen during the English Interregnum?

After the end of the English Interregnum, Charles II was made King of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The Puritans lost all their power and the royalists gained power. The monarchy was finally restored in England. This enabled him to reopen the theatre by listing the ban imposed by the Puritan group of Parliamentarians.

Shortly after the rise of the royalists in England, the theatres came back and began to function. This brought in multiple employment opportunities back in London for all the artists, workers in the theatres, playwriters, songwriters, dramatists, and so many more.

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A sketch of an English Theatre from 17th century England

Theatre reopened with full spin and excitement. There was a sense of victory among most of the people once the theatres across London reopened. The quality and training in theatres became much better and there was a revival of English drama in its full sense and potential. This was a major part of the Restoration period in England. Theatre was, therefore, the most entertaining form of entertainment and the highest attended event by the 18th century.