The Naughty Rich: England’s Restoration Theatre Chapter 8 End of English Renaissance Theatre •Playwrights after Shakespeare not as prolific or well written; quality declines •Puritan/Royalist quarrel leads to English Civil War in 1642. End of English Renaissance Theatre •Puritans close the theatre; a few companies attempt to have clandestine productions but are stopped by Puritans in control of the government. •Popular support for the puritan cause declines after death of their leader Oliver Cromwell in 1655. End of English Renaissance Theatre •In 1656, William Davenant, a former writer of court masques, openly produces the opera The Siege of Rhodes in his own residence. This is the first opera ever performed in England. Restoration Theatre •In 1660, Parliament invited the ruler Charles II to return from exile in France to assume the throne. •Charles II issued royal permits known as “patents” to William Davenant and Thomas Killebrew to open theatres. •First of the new theatres were converted tennis courts. Theatre Royal in Drury Lane constructed in 1674 by Sir Christopher Wren, this is one of the oldest theatres still in existence as a functioning theatre today. It is also said to be on of the most haunted theatres in the world. Comedy of Manners • another name for Restoration Comedy, it was both witty and raunchy, providing us with an accurate snapshot of life among the nobility after the Restoration of the King. • Plots were amoral to the extreme: sexual conquests, marriage for gain (financial or social) & characters that nothing shocked. • Fast and clever verbal exchanges • Tended to be stereotypes similar to Moliere & the commedia dell arte. Fop: • A common character in Restoration comedy. The fop is a vain young man who tries to be feminine in an attempt to seduce women. Old School Modern Day Restoration Stage • Shape of the theatre today was determined at this period. • Thrust stage replaced by the proscenium stage. Copying France and Italy. • Proscenium stage promoted use of wing & drop scenery unlike previous era. Restoration Stage • Scenery of a stock nature: one set for tragedy and another for comedy. • Raked stage, acting area used was the apron area reached through doors built into the proscenium arch. Restoration Stage • Space beyond the proscenium used strictly for scenic background. • Footlights added to the apron for illumination. • Auditorium lit by large chandeliers. Restoration Stage • The “pit” and “yard” of Elizabethan Theatre replaced by raked rows of seats. • Sides and rear boxes became preferred seating for the wealthy. • Seating became more defined to reflect rigid class structures. • Female roles now being played by women.
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