english restoration theatre 1660-1700 england and the eighteenth century

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In an attempt to stabilize the government, in 1660 King Charles II was invited back from his exile in France and RESTORED to the monarchy. Under Charles, strict Puritan rule was relaxed.


ENGLISH RESTORATION THEATRE England and the eighteenth century WHY IS IT CALLED RESTORATION After the time of Shakespeare, English drama had been in a state of decline. Puritans had long rallied against theatrical productions, calling them immoral. A state of civil war developed and the King was deposed. Puritans were in power. Actors moved to the smaller towns, but were still jailed, flogged, and ridiculed. In an attempt to stabilize the government, in 1660 King Charles II was invited back from his exile in France and RESTORED to the monarchy. Under Charles, strict Puritan rule was relaxed. Charles has been charmed by the plays he had seen in France which included female actresses. Women began to appear on English stages, ironically as young boys at first. Nell Gwynn was a famous actress of this time. Playwrights William Congreve William Wickerly (The Country Wife, The Plain Dealer) George Etheridge The Man of Mode RESTORATION COMEDY All entertainments were aimed at pleasing the aristocracy, not the common person. Known as comedy of manners. Style was not realistic. Presentations were full of intellectual wit and clever lines. Plot was of less importance than the quality of the dialogue. Influenced by Commedia- characters are stereotypes. Stagecraft Proscenium arch became standard Scenery became part of action Audience taste for spectacle: cloud effects, thunder, trap doors Light provided by many candles Men and women wore heavy white make up ( as did patrons) Men clean shaven with curled wigs. Restoration Theatre Building Restoration Theatre Building Interior Wing and Drop Scenery Restoration Costume Restoration Makeup Upper-class aristocrats and court members were audience. Audience members sometimes sat ON the stage and made comments. Audience demanded witty, rakish comedy. Plays dealt with illicit, extramarital love affairs, but playwrights avoided coarse language. Character types: the young man refusing to marry, the irritable duchess, the plain citizen, the flirtatious wife, the rich old husband married to a young wife, the country maiden. Presentational (vocal) focus. Blocking generally limited to entrance and exit. Playing High Comedy Searching for truth in character is futile Characters are not real they are types Comedy is intellectual, not slapstick Detachment principle: successful actors detach themselves from character. By being detached, actors share the joke with the audience. Audience-Actor relationship: comedic actor is figuratively part of audience. Actor shares with the audience and is their contact with all that is happening to character and on stage. Distortion: one facet of the comedic character must be enlarged, like a caricature. The distortion must be within limits of being believable, not farcical. Comedic actor must convince the audience that the actor is also enjoying the characters eccentricity. The Restoration Style Voice Since the text is polished and witty, the voice is its primary vehicle The voice (should) be clear, finished, the lips expert, the tongue striking well on the teeth; the tone would always go up and down but always be sure of its place in the throat, be crisp, shining, in hand, like the satin and gold of the furniture and costumes, the rapier at the wrist, the lace over it, the worldliness and the wit. Stark Young, The Flower in Drama (New York: Charles Scribners, 1923) p. 88.


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