Restoration Era Dramas, Plays and Playwrights

Restoration Plays

The theatres of England remained closed for 18 years starting from 1642, during the Puritan Age. It was very difficult to perform for the artist during the Puritan Age. Theatres and creativity were deeply suppressed.

However, there was some law evasion which allowed some performance to be given in utmost secrecy in front of small companies in taverns or private houses. There was no safety of actors or even audiences during this period.

In the year 1660, when Stuart dynasty restored itself with King Charles II to the throne of England, art and drama began to flourish. He issued two patents giving some rights to the playwright of that time and once again the performances started. Restoration Era became a mode of celebration to end the Puritan rule.

To celebrate the restoration era and opening of theatres, Restoration plays were very lavish and immortalized by Puritan standards. Plays were such that they poled at the roundheads and royalist people. The plays were very light-heartedness and reflected a society that recovered itself from unrest and division of years.

Many types of plays were introduced like tragedy, comedy, heroic and many more, but people preferred comedy plays more. A further change was women began to appear in the theatres and play with the advent of the restoration era.

Some of the best plays of the Restoration era are

  • The Way of the World
  • The Rover
  • The Country Wife
  • The Man of Mode
  • The City Heiress
  • The Rehearsal
  • The Relapse, or, Virtue in Danger
  • The Plain Dealer
  • Marriage a la Mode

Restoration Drama

Restoration drama is the revival of drama in England after the monarchy restoration in the year 1660. The main features of the restoration age drama were the formation and development of new companies and the appearance of women on the stage.

Restoration Drama
Restoration Drama

The dramas of the Elizabethan era had the blending of comedy and tragedy, while the dramas of the restoration era had two different categories of comedies and tragedies.

Restoration Tragedies

Restoration tragedy is the commonly used term for all different types of tragedies that were written during the restoration era. The tragedies were written were very imitative as they referred to the rules of the neoclassical age. They were usually reworking of the plays by Shakespearean.

Although there were few plays written by the dramatists under the influence of the Elizabethan plays. Some new type of drama called a pathetic tragedy or she-tragedy were also introduced during the restoration era which became popular. But the main focus of all the tragedy is the heroic tragedy.

Heroic Tragedies during the Restoration era

The Heroic tragedy deals with the extraordinary characters who followed some amazing deeds with themes of love, courage, and honour. They were modelled after the French Neoclassical tragedy.

The hero and heroine were cast in huge numbers and their dialogues consisted of the elaborate speeches that were rhymed with 10 syllabled couplets. The speeches were full of emotions and too bombastic such that its parallel dialogues would never be found.

The hero and heroine were too noble and that created an admiration for the viewers. The plays were such that it made people wonder and at the same time making them excited about their imagination. Apart from hero and heroine, villains were also dominating characters of the heroic plays.

With the appearance of women in the plays, the male focussed plays of 1660 turned its focus on both hero and heroine in between the year 1670-1680. The plays were too popular and flourished themselves for about 20 years after which they got exhausted by their own excess.

Dryden was one of the major writers of the heroic tragedy. His most popular tragedy dramas are “All for Love” and “The Conquest of Granada”. Other writers of the heroic tragedy were Nathaniel Lee and Thomas Otway.

Restoration Comedies

Restoration comedies also popular as Comedy of Manners were the plays popular for their naughtiness and explicit depictions of extramarital and sex affairs. The comedy plays had comedic situations and quick wittiness. They satirized society’s behavior before and after the period of restoration.

Restoration Comedy

The comedy plays depends on humorous situations such as disguises, misunderstandings and mistaken identities that starts itself with chicanery and lead you to utmost confusion.

Many successful comedy playwrights included George Etherege, William Congreve, and William Wycherly. Some of the very popular comedy play is The Country Wife, The Man of Mode, The Rover and The Way of World.

Restoration Playwrights

The famous playwrights of the Restoration period are

  • John Dryden(1631-1700)
  • William Congreve(1670-1729)
  • William Wycherley(1641-1716)
  • Apra Behn(1640-1689)
  • John Vanbrugh(1664-1726)
  • George Farquhar(1677-1707)
  • William Davenant(1606-1668)
  • Thomas Otway(1652-1685)
  • Mary Pix(1666-1709)
  • John Fletcher(1579-1625)
  • Edward Howard(1624-1700)
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