Characteristics of Restoration Drama

Characteristics of Restoration Drama

The period of the Restoration, spanning from 1660 to 1688, marked a time of substantial political, social, and cultural transformation in England. A noteworthy contribution of this era was the emergence of a distinct form of drama known as Restoration drama. This essay aims to examine the key features of Restoration drama and their significance.

Realism and Bawdiness

Restoration drama was characterized by its focus on realism and bawdiness. This period witnessed an increase in plays that showcased explicit sexual content and contemporary settings. These works, such as William Wycherley’s “The Country Wife” and George Etherege’s “The Man of Mode,” mirrored the evolving attitudes towards sexuality and morality during that time.

Wit and Satire

In addition, Restoration drama was marked by a focus on wit and satire. Playwrights such as William Congreve and John Dryden utilized their works to criticize the excesses and hypocrisies of the ruling class and satirize the mores and customs of the time. This focus on wit and satire reflected the changing attitudes towards authority and tradition in the period.

Restoration Comedy of Manners

Restoration drama also witnessed the emergence of the comedy of manners as a defining characteristic. This form of play ridiculed the social conventions and manners of the upper classes and featured witty dialogue and intricate plots. Playwrights such as William Congreve and George Etherege played an instrumental role in developing the comedy of manners, which became a hallmark of Restoration drama.

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Female Playwrights

The emergence of female playwrights, such as Aphra Behn and Susanna Centlivre, was another notable feature of Restoration drama. These women challenged traditional gender roles and stereotypes through their works, which often featured strong, independent female characters. Behn, in particular, was one of the most successful playwrights of the period, and her works were known for their feminist themes and critiques of the patriarchy.

The Role of Restoration Theater

Restoration drama was closely linked to the development of Restoration theatre. The period saw the emergence of new theatres, such as the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and the King’s Theatre in Haymarket, which were noted for their elaborate sets and costumes and their ability to stage complex and spectacular productions. Restoration theatre played a vital role in the social and cultural life of the period and provided a venue for the performance of the new and exciting works of Restoration drama.

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The Decline of Restoration Drama

However, the popularity of Restoration drama began to decline in the late 17th century. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 brought about a shift towards more conservative and moralistic values, which was reflected in the decline of bawdy and satirical works of Restoration drama. The rise of sentimentalism and the development of the novel as a popular literary form also contributed to the decline of Restoration drama. Nevertheless, the works of Restoration drama continue to be an important part of English literary history, studied, and performed today.

To sum up, Restoration drama was a significant development in English literature, characterized by a focus on realism and bawdiness, wit and satire, the development of the comedy of manners, and the emergence of female playwrights. These characteristics reflected the changing attitudes towards sexuality, morality, authority, and tradition in the period and contributed to the development of a distinctive form of drama.

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