How Theatre Changed After Charles II Removed the Ban

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The royal family backed up the theatre in England before the year 1642 when civil war took place and marked the beginning of the Puritan Revolution. Oliver Cromwell, who was the Lord Protectorate, took over the leadership of the country after Charles I (one) was beheaded (Nicoll). The period between 1642 -1660 famously known as the interregnum, Theatre became outlawed. It had non-puritan values which made it be associated with immorality and monarchical power. However, music was allowed and some writers managed to do some illegal performances for example Willian Davenant. After a period of 18 years, the interregnum ended and Charles II, the son of Charles I was restored to the sovereignty (Nicoll). Charles II was in was in France during the Interregnum in the court of Louis XIV and he borrowed the ideas of theatre from him because he loved it. Charles II influenced the scene by bringing different styles from Italy and France to England, which resulted in sort of protests against the Puritan revolution and was intended mainly for the aristocracy.

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Theatre restoration was a means to rejoice the termination of the Puritan Rule that had strict ethical codes. These plays of the theatre restoration era were profligate and wicked according to the Puritan codes of conduct and nudged fun to both the royalties and Roundheads (Summers). The shows buoyancy mirrored a society convalescing from the years of separation and turbulence. Though the audience was happy of the tragedies taking place, the comedies were the hallmark of the restoration of the theatre. The first theatres to be licenced were Drury Lane and Covet Gardens (Nicoll). The restoration comments had characterisation which was absence before. The dialogue became witty and sophisticated sexual behaviour of high level. Some names were also borrowed and brought to the theatres that include Sparkish, Squeamish and Fidget et al. Masterpieces such as the Romeo and Juliet were revised during that time and given a happy ending indeed (Kewes).

Many of the scenic innovations and inventions took place during the date of restoration. Philip Jacques de Loutherbourg, one of the most innovative designers, broke up the floor space ensuring enough space was available to accommodate many actors at an ago. Other designers practised with the lighting system using candles and large chandeliers that were hung over the stage floor. Rehearsals were held every day from eleven in the morning to one in the afternoon. There were new systems on how to pay the actors. They were paid based on their popularity and they type of roles they play (Summers). The tragic heroes were the ones supposed to play the tragic roles. All the female was referred to as the ingenue while the female as the juvenile. Still in the restoration, pantomimes would act before and after every performance.

The comedies of the theatre restoration era were much different from the ones before the Puritan revolution. They involved a quick waggishness and comedic situations. During the restoration era, George Farquhars had the most shows (Summers). The comedy of manners was also written during this time by William Wycherley, George Etherege, and William Congreve. These play, unlike the others, ridiculed the behaviours of the society before and after the restoration. The Restoration plays were most based on situational humour: costumes misunderstanding which resulted in confusion and also mistaken identity. The audience were aware of the deception though.

The theatre also changed from the previous one by having a comedy which had a good flow instead of the ancient heroic verses. The plays became the societal commentaries; they did not reflect the society but the hyperboles of the audience would make them be recognised and appreciated in the society. The audience were only the upper crust and citizens had to pay to watch the comedies Meanwhile the theatres were cherished. The actors of the restoration were lively and upper-class men from the city. They had the tendency to express love to their spouses while the actresses who were absent in the previous stages were lovely and pert.

The themes that made up the restoration theatres included seduction. It was impossible to be ignored due to influence Charles II had in the restoration and the presence of women on stage. The inversion of the class, property, gender, and political unrest was born (Lowenthal). Those in power had high chances of becoming powerless. The reversal of gender, for example, in Elizabeth Theatre, Boys acted the role of women while the women acted the part of men. Cuckolding also reflected as a theme. Most of the men were worried about their character and the likelihood of being made fool by their spouses was very high.

The restoration theatres also showed new talents in different characters that initially existed in the society like rake and the fop. These men acted both on the stage and did social writings. Rakes being witty catered to their immoralities often at the expense the fop. The fop appeared to be much concerned about their outlook and wished to be amusing but failed repeatedly. There were timeless shows and the restoration viewers relished the new characters. They seemed to enjoy the shifting of power from Puritan and to the monarchical leadership. New technologies were all over and influenced how the plays were acted and the way the viewers watched them.

One significant factor in the success of the theatre restoration was the presence of Charles II as the king of England. He had the logical value of the stage and he portrayed an active interest in it. On his exile in the French kingdom, he enjoyed their theatre and upon his return he gave patent rights to Davenant and Killigrew permitting the formation of their amphitheatres and acting companies. The king also did what no other king had done before. It was a revolution of theatres in England. He lent production Royal Singers and also funded another production company by name extravagant in the year 1683 (Nicoll).

Another significant change in the English theatres was the presences of women as actresses. Charles II permitted them to take on stage and express their talent. His idea to introduce them brought mixed reactions from the public. He received positive reactions from the young men who usually chose their lovers from the positions of new careers. Many of the women never took the chance for granted; they used it in achieving links with influential men thus increasing their incomes. For example, Nell Gwyn became the mistress of the Charles II the King (Nicoll). Elizabeth Barry, through her hard work, outlived her polite patron and enjoyed the status of being the greatest ever actress of her age. Not all the women used the stage as a market place some like Mrs Betterton got skills which made her successfully manage Dukes company with her husband.

In spite of their popularity, they never enjoyed the same reputation as their colleague's men in the theatre. Their payment was not the same as that of men colleagues. A few made the transition to becoming play writers like the men and never prevailed in the shift for long. For example, Charlotte Charke made the transition but only managed to write a total of three play and she quitted. Several women managed theatres during the restoration era. Women also exerted considerable impact as the playgoers, though not always supporting their fellow women. Nell and Moll were perceived as a sex object and not respected actresses. The presence of women in the restoration theatre marked the beginning of the role of actress as both the sexual symbols and talented performers in the society.

Another widespread trope that began from the introduction of women in the theatre was the couch scene. It was so because the actress would be staged middle of the arena while asleep on a sofa in the partial naked state (Lowenthal). It led to the development of rape scene in the English tragedies in the late seventeenth century. The restoration theatres scenes were designed in a manner that could sexualize even the female actress permitting them to retain their virtue at the same time appeasing the audience desire for sexuality. Rape cases become more expected and the plays continued to become more open.

Works Cited

Diehl, Huston. Staging Reform, Reforming the Stage: Protestantism and Popular Theater in Early Modern England. London: Cornell University Press, 1997.

Kewes, Paulina. Authorship and Appropriation: Writing for the Stage in England, 1660-1710. Gloucestershire: Clarendon Press, 1998.

Lowenthal, Cynthia. Performing Identities on the Restoration Stage. Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 2003.

Nicoll, Allardyce. A History of Restoration of Drama 1660-1700. London: Cambridge University Press, 1923.

Summers, Montague. The Restoration Theatre. New York: Trubner, 1934.

"English Theatre, 1642-1800". Cwu.edu. N.p., 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

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