Introduction to Restoration Comedy.
Restoration comedy is an English comedy that was written and performed during the restoration period. It was a period between (1660-1700). The comedy of manners or anti sentimental comedy is used as a synonym of Restoration comedy.
The best-known fact about the Restoration drama is that it is immoral. The dramatists did not criticize the accepted morality about gambling, drink, love, and pleasure generally, or try, like the dramatists of our own time, to work out their view of character and conduct. What they did was, according to their respective inclinations, to mock at all restraints. Some were gross, others delicately improper…The dramatists did not merely say anything they liked: they also intended to glory in it and to shock those who did not like it. Restoration comedies involved quick wit and comedic situations.
The Evolution Of Restoration Comedy.
In England, the Restoration comedy is represented by the plays of William Wycherley, George Etherege, William Congreve, and George Farquhar. This form was later classed “old comedy” but is now known as restoration comedy because it coincided with Charles II’s return to England. The main goal of these comedies of manners was to mock or scrutinize society. This allowed the audience to laugh at themselves and society.
Themes Of Restoration Comedy.
One of the major themes of restoration comedy is marriage and the game of love. But if marriage is a mirror of society, the couples in the plays show something very dark and sinister about the order. Many critiques of marriage in the comedies are devastating. Although the endings are happy and the man gets the woman, we see marriages without love and love affairs that are rebellious breaks with tradition.
In William Congreve’s play ” The Way Of The World” it is clearly shown that how marriage and love games fit in restoration comedy. The whole play goes around marriage and love affairs. William Congreve short exposes the real issues of the restoration period. At that time when the restoration period was going on people of that era were much concerned with property and money. The emotions like marriage and love were just like means for them to get money. The same thing happened in William Congreve’s The Way Of The Throughout the play, characters of play we’re trying to plot plans for getting each other’s property.
1. For example Mr. Fainall gets married to Mrs. Fainall.
2. Millamant Refuses to marry her lover Mirabell as if she marry him without her aunt’s permission they didn’t get
the half of property i.e 6000 pounds
which was in her aunt’s control.
3. Mr. Fainall blackmail Lady Wishfort
to get control over all her wealth.
Another interesting theme that is a sign of the times is the inversion of class, wealth, property, and gender; with constant political turmoil, power switched hands and those in power would find themselves powerless. In Elizabethan theatre, boys played the role of women; in Restoration plays, women played the role of men as a form of situation comedy.
The Audience And Their Behaviour Of Restoration Comedy.
The nature of the audience of Restoration theater has been much disputed. Restoration comedies involved quick wit and comedic situations. Comedic plays relied on situational humor: disguises, mistaken identity, and misunderstandings which stems from chicanery and leads to confusion. The audience is aware of the trickery; whereas other characters are left in the dark, only to have all revealed in this These type of situation creates the laughing effects among the audience. Restoration comedies became social commentaries; they were not a mirror of society, but rather exaggerations of society that the audience would recognize and appreciate.
The typical audience was upper class, and one had to pay to see the plays since the playhouses were intimate.
Success Of Restoration Comedy.
One major factor in the success of Restoration theatre was the support of Charles II, “Grasping the ideological value of the stage, Charles took an active interest in Restoration theatre from the start” (Sutherland 251). During his exile, he enjoyed French theatre and upon his return to England granted patents to Thomas Killigrew and Sir William Davenant, allowing the creation of their playhouses and acting companies. With Charles II’s patronage, Davenant opened the Duke’s Theatre in the Lincoln Field’s Inn. Killigrew opened the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane in 1663. Additionally, the King loaned productions Chapel Royal singers and funded extravagant productions in the summer of 1683.
Restoration audiences enjoyed new characters and timeless plays revamped to celebrate the shifting of power from Puritan rule back to monarchial rule. The restoration theatre itself changed as well. New technologies changed how the plays were put on and how the audience watched them.