Restoration Histories: Writing the Theatrical Past
“Between the Puritan shutting of the theaters in 1642 and the accession of Charles II in 1660, the interregnum dominated by Oliver Cromwell, dramatic activity about ceased. The Restoration of the monarchy was enthusiastically welcomed but both the societal and theatrical conditions had changed during the 18 old ages of turmoil.” ( Lawrence, 1994:debut seventeen)
Restoration play occupies a alone infinite within the broader annals of English theatrical history. Brought into life as a direct consequence of the utmost conservativism and asceticism of the puritan Republican experiment of Oliver Cromwell about precisely one hundred old ages after the flower of Elizabethan theater, the dramas of the Restoration Period can non assist but pull comparings between the two clip frames that preceded and followed it. Restoration theater is accordingly frequently portrayed as excessively gay or excessively serious ; excessively similar or excessively different to the design that went ahead. Furthermore, because theater at this clip is ( rather right ) associated with the reign of the magnetic but hedonic Charles II, Restoration play, comedy and calamity are on a regular basis seen as the resort area of this inordinate Protestant sovereign and therefore overlooked as dramatic productions in their ain right. Yet, on the other manus, Restoration theater was besides one of the more progressive periods in the wider history of English play – non least in the backing of female authors and histrions, puting the cultural residue of the Restoration as more of import even than the early decennaries of the 20th century, as Fidelis Morgan ( 1981:debut eleven) points out.
“It is deserving observing that, in all of London’s principal West End theaters during the 60 old ages from 1920 to 1980 ( a clip which boasts immense societal and political progresss for adult females ) fewer dramas by adult females authors have been performed than were played by the two London companies which held the dramatic monopoly from 1660?1720.”
It is exactly because of this sense of machination and enigma environing theater of the Restoration period that the work of the historiographers that trace its development is of such paramount academic importance today. Interpretations from play historiographers such as Allardyce Nicoll, Peter Womack and Simon Shepherd offer the modern-day pupil a window through which to see theater of the Restoration – placing into a context a set of dramatic productions that would do small sense to the modern reader if they were read in isolation. Therefore, the following essay intends to analyze the plants of these three writers to see how Nicoll’sA History of Restoration Drama, 1660-1700and Womack and Shepherd’sEnglish Drama: A Cultural Historydovetail and differentiate between the cardinal subjects refering the critical re-appraisal of Restoration play. This action will besides give penetrations into how the dominant civilization permeating any given historian’s clime will needfully act upon the manner in which he or she interprets the yesteryear. A decision will be sought that efforts to underscore the victory of subjectiveness in the analysis of all aspects of historical theater. First, nevertheless, a definition and background to the coming of Restoration theater must be asserted so as to set up the conceptual context for the balance of the treatment.
As had already briefly been mentioned it is Elizabethan play that is traditionally feted as the greatest manifestation of theatrical creativeness in the history of English theatrical production. Elizabeth’s replacement, James I was a notoriously severe King, one who set the tendency for the leaning towards faith instead than civilization, which was a outstanding characteristic of the waste artistic nature of Cromwellian England. However, even before Cromwell could presume the reigns of power, the bulk of the Elizabethan theaters had already been destroyed in the ferocious combat that marked the Civil War ( 1641-1647 ) . Therefore, when the Restoration of the English monarchy came approximately in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution in 1660, the scene had already been set for a re-awakening of a deep sitting national interest that had been allowed to steadily worsen into decay since the zenith of Shakespearean England one hundred old ages ahead. Where there had antecedently been military order at that place now existed cultural greening, patronised by the returning male monarch himself. It is an of import point and one that should be borne in head throughout the balance of the essay: the full narrative of the Restoration of dramatic production in England after 166o is per se tied to the Restoration of the monarchy and a comparative signifier of freedom of look that accompanied Charles II’s return from expatriate. This has needfully affected the manner in which the dramas of this period have been interpreted and Nicoll – every bit good as Womack and Shepherd – start from the point of view of the historical watershed that the Glorious Revolution represented. Historical reading of the Restoration period is hence greatly affected by the socio?political events that preceded it. Likewise, the coming of the 18th century and the widespread squabbling that took topographic point within the upper echelons of theater production after 1700 act as a book terminal to the Civil War in the academic airing of Restoration worlds, as Robert Hume ( 1976:4 ) attests.
“The 1660-1700 construct has the virtuousness of tidiness. The theaters reopen in 1660, after an 18 twelvemonth suspension imposed by the Commonwealth ; a play appears reflecting ( we are told ) the debauched tribunal of Charles II ; it evolves in Darwinian manner to its apogee inThe Way of the World; the ‘failure’ of that drama in 1700 brings the period to an end.”
Although there are common variables that link the work produced during this clip, it would be wrong to presume that the timeframe – and more specifically the rational dissection of this timeframe – could so easy be pigeon?holed under the broader umbrella of ‘restoration theatre.’ Nevertheless, these remain the empirical and numerical edifice blocks of the treatment and the starting point for Allardyce Nicoll’s history of the generation of modern English theater and it is he who – chronologically first – must be studied first as the design for all 20th century histories of the 1660?1700 timeframe.
A History of Restoration Drama, 1660-1700was – and remains – a extremely important academic history, portion of a broader five volume survey that detailed English play history up until the twelvemonth 1900. By any step, this is some academic accomplishment. It is nevertheless, above all, the freshness of the survey that must be underlined in the first case. Nicoll’s book offered fresh penetration into a deplorably overlooked subject and about single?handedly regenerated involvement in late 17th century play. Indeed, at the clip of authorship, the writer was astounded to happen that the lone major literary plants associating to restoration theaters were the late 17th century plays themselves.
“The historiographer of those forty old ages which are normally called the period of the Restoration is faced likely by more troubles than is the historiographer of any other part of our literature. The plants of which he treats have been, justly or wrongly, neglected by bookman and by layman likewise. There are many reissues of Elizabethan dramas, an index no less of academic than of general involvement in the topic, but the bulk of the late 17th century play are to be found merely in their original editions. The whole period is one which for long has been untouched, and exactly because of that he who would now cover with it is confronted with infinite jobs, all of them of import but of which two – the one of intervention and the other of grasp – would look to name for elaborate mention.” ( Nicoll: 1977:1 )
The significance of the deficiency of secondary beginning stuff available to Nicoll must ever be borne in head when reading his seminal survey today. The writer, via fortunes wholly beyond his control, was forced to utilize the dramas and lifes about the main supporters of the clip as his major roadmap for the continuance of his history every bit good as ailment conceived modern-day propaganda histories such as Jeremy Collier’s 1698 thesis entitled,A Short View of the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Phase. It is for this ground that Nicoll saw fit to compartmentalize his work:A History of Restoration Dramawas the first major rational project of dramatic history to divide the assorted aspects of theater within the contents. Therefore, Nicoll trades foremost with the cardinal constituents that constitute the theatrical procedure ( the audience, theaters and histrions ) , followed by an scrutiny of calamity and comedy in the Restoration era. Calamity is seen as a 17th century edition of Elizabethan calamity while comedy is farther categorised into the undermentioned labels: Jonsonian, machination, Dryden, manners, travesty and sentiment. The value of compartmentalization resides in the manner that it permits the writer to visibly chart the development of theatre production during the period 1660-1700 without integrating all of the huge alterations of the clip into one individual history. This clearly made logistical sense. As has already been ascertained, the Restoration was a disruptive period for all manners of being: spiritual, economic, political and cultural. In add-on, the technique of charting the rise and autumn of a peculiar historic genre was typical of the bulk of British academic authors at the start of the 20th century. As Nicoll himself remarked with respects the influence of Elizabethan calamity on Restoration calamity: “Although the spirit of the age does non explicate everything, it explains a good deal.” ( 1977:91 )
One must therefore attempt to retrieve at all times that Nicoll penned his volumes of English play history in 1927 and was undoubtedly researching his capable affair for a good many old ages antecedently. As a consequence, unlike Shepherd and Womack, Nicoll instantly appears slightly anachronic to the modern reader for the very grounds stated above: he had small by manner of counsel with respects to secondary beginning stuff and he was a literary merchandise of his ain discerning clip. Allardyce Nicoll, in the concluding analysis, should be seen as more of a chronicler of over three hundred old ages of English play and, throughout, his focal point remains stiff and confined by this overall literary purpose.
One of the more singular characteristics of Nicoll’s authorship is – apart from the sheer graduated table of his methodological analysis and research – the absence of critical cultural commentary to attach to the academic penetrations into the dramas. Like Womack and Shepherd, Nicoll quotes endlessly from cardinal scenes of of import Restoration dramas, yet he does little to explicate why certain alterations were witnessed in the theater after 166o that were hitherto absent or unnoticed. The most dramatic skip concerns the deficiency of any elaborate history of the socio?political complexnesss of the clip, which were dominated about wholly by the ongoing spiritual inquiry sing Protestantism and Catholicism. As Susan J. Owen ( 2000:158 ) explains, this is a glowering skip sing the unstable political landscape of the state at the clip, exacerbated by the ‘popish’ secret plan to assassinate the male monarch after 1678.
“‘The Crisis’ affected the theaters severely. Peoples were more interested in the political sphere, or what was called the theater of intelligence, than in go toing plays.”
Alternatively of political machination during the Restoration, Nicoll’s attending is progressively drawn towards the splits in the two major theater companies of the twenty-four hours – the rival Duke’s and King’s Companies ( Nicoll, 1977:7-62 ) and the societal manoeuvrings of cardinal playwrights such as John Dryden. Once more, this is non an academic inadvertence ; this is, instead, a manifestation of early 20th century historiography, whereby the author’s head concern is to inform the reader to the fullest extent of thefactsof the affair. Nicoll was composing in an age when scrutinies were passed or failed upon the keeping of cognition of affairs such as day of the months and citations, non the more artistic impression of academic that is so prevailing today where statements and hypotheses have mostly taken over the mantle antecedently occupied by fact. Again, this may do Nicoll’s work appear slightly foreign to modern readers but the methodological model he set has served to help every subsequent pupil and bookman of Restoration theater. Theatrical historiographers such as John Cunningham ( 1966 ) , Eric Rothstein ( 1967 ) , Donald Bruce ( 1974 ) and Robert Hume ( 1976 ) have each relied to a great extent upon the earlier, open uping work of Allardyce Nicoll.
In comparing, Simon Shepherd and Peter Womack embarked on an wholly different survey to Nicoll albeit one which attempted the same big scale history of English play to the present twenty-four hours. As the rubric of their book suggests, Shepherd and Womack were chiefly concerned with theculturalfacets of dramatic tradition in England to see how the survey of theater is able to uncover more about the societal restraints and aspirations of the twenty-four hours than the formal work of any modern-day author ( where Samuel Pepys stands tall as the most outstanding late 17th century primary beginning ) . This marks an immediate recreation from Nicoll’s work. Furthermore, the rubric of chapter five of the book ( ‘Restoration Comedy’ ) shows how the modern writers prefer to concentrate merely on one aspect of theater as opposed to trying a broader historical analysis, which Nicoll and his coevalss at Oxford and Cambridge tended to prefer.
English Drama: A Cultural Historyis accordingly a much more accessible book for modern pupils of theater with new empirical research underpinning the more sociological focal point of the project. For case, at the beginning of Shepherd’s and Womack’s analysis of Restoration comedy, the writers pinpoint the manner in which the blurring of the boundaries between audience and histrion was intentionally invoked by authors who wished to convey a new sense of pragmatism in the late 17th century theater ( Shepherd and Womack, 1996:122-123 ) . Nicoll, by contrast, was much quicker to invalidate the consequence of the audience on Restoration dramatic production.
“None of these marbless or dandies or courtiers of the audience were minds: barely any of them had a faith beyond obscure fond regard to royalty: every one of them was eager for the day’s pleasance, tidal bore for love and misanthropic laughter and the employment of the senses.” ( Nicoll, 1977:19 )
This is simply another indicant of the clip that both books were published.English Drama: A Cultural Historyis able to see the interaction between the playwright and the audience in a discernibly post-modern visible radiation where the modern twenty-four hours being of ‘drama?therapy’ ( or ‘community theatre’ ) outputs similarities with the apparently anarchic nature of Restoration creativeness and amusement. Conversely, Allardyce Nicoll was the merchandise of late Victorian/early Edwardian civilization – a universe where manners and etiquette were far more morally important than therapy of empathy. This cardinal difference in attitudes is likewise prevalent in the treatment of dramatic ‘smut’ in the late 1600’s with Shepherd’s and Womack’s point of view bewraying the modernness of their research and authorship.
“The odiousness of carbon black is a durable subject of dramatic censoring, prevailing smartly, for case, in the regulations regulating broadcast play today. On the face of it, it seems a critically unproductive compulsion since it wrenches single words and phrases out of any meaningful context in order to seek them individually at the saloon of moral propriety.” ( 1996:129 )
As detailed, there are clearly major differences in both focal point and intent between the two academic surveies in inquiry but in many other respects there are besides a figure of of import similarities. For case, the dramas under examination are mostly the same in both histories and the observations refering certain productions are similarly of the same literary like. Dryden’sAn Evening’s Love( 1668 ) is singled out by both books for its land breakage usage of the traditional dramatic prologue while Thomas Southerne’sThe Wifes Excuse( 1691 ) is seen as the prototype of the worst comedic surpluss of Restoration theater ( Nicoll:241 ) – something that Shepherd and Womack ( 1996:122 ) describe as, “the low-water mark of profaneness and immorality.”
The speech pattern on the issue of manners in Restoration theater is besides re-visited inEnglish Drama: A Cultural History.Chapter six of the book ( ‘Bawdy, Manners and the English National Character’ ) is concerned with the same issue that dominated Nicoll’s intervention of Restoration comedy. Shepherd and Womack, nevertheless, utilise the more modern methodological tools at their disposal by looking at the manner Restoration theater was viewed by play historiographers in the eighteenth, 19th and 20th centuries in order to cable the manner in which the dramas of the late 1600’s were mostly airbrushed from history in anything like a meaningful dramatic sense. The positions of play historiographers such as Ward ( 1875 ) and E.L. Avery ( 1944 ) highlight the deficiency of objectiveness at work with respects to restoration theatre, as Shepherd and Womack farther underscore.
“The convergence between drama and world preoccupied those animadversions which saw Restoration comedy as an outgrowth of a effete blue culture.” ( 1996:183 )
The writers go on to nail the peculiarly English antipathy for ‘decadent blue culture’ that has without uncertainty tainted the finest work of the Restoration era. The Gallic, for case, remain firm proud of their comparable calamity, play and comedy of the late 17th century – a clip when the monarchy and nobility in France was of an even more inordinate civilization than was the instance in England. Thus, Shepherd and Womack note the beginnings of capitalist civilization taking topographic point in England at the terminal of the 17th century, manifested as a disgust for the aristocracy and an progressively bourgeois makeup of the audience ( 1996:159-165 ) . This insight high spots the manner that modern academe is able to bring out truths about the societal fundamental law of England that were beyond the methodological kingdom of Nicoll and his coevalss. By analyzing informations from a sociological ( as opposed to a theoretical ) point of view, Shepherd, Womack and a host of other modern authors are able to new fluctuations of Nicoll’s original survey. This could merely hold transpired due to structural and organizational alterations within academe during the 70 old ages that separated the publication ofA History of Restoration DramaandEnglish Drama: A Cultural History.The paradigm of comparative analysis was non by and large practised during Nicoll’s twenty-four hours, whereas it is today the major agencies of pass oning a truth between the writer and his or her audience.
Allardyce Nicoll has non been without his disparagers. H.H.R. Love – for illustration, finds much at mistake in the “school of observers falling from Allardyce Nicoll for whom the lone inquiry that needs to be asked of a author of Restoration comedy is by how much he failed to composeThe Way of the World”( 1967:106-108 ) . Although there are so many defects in Nicoll’s expansive history of Restoration theater, there can be no denying the innovative nature of his work. In fact, were it non for this fact, there would non hold been a ‘school of commentators’ falling from his theoretical point of view. Furthermore, unfavorable judgment has historically been the batch of the trailblazer and holes in his work are bound to be exaggerated if for no other ground than to give acceptance to the new coevals of faculty members who need fresh thoughts to show to an progressively good read drama-history audience.
In add-on, there can be no uncertainty that for pupils today Nicoll and his survey of English theater must come across as unquestionably anachronic. The lay-out of the book, the dissection of the dramas and the manner in which the writer appears to be excessively concerned with etiquette, ethical motives and manners are all grounds of an academic survey that has long since ceased to be of immediate methodological relevancy. It becomes progressively clear that Nicoll is hemmed in by the restraints of his ain Victorian rational straitjacket, which demands the denouncement of dramas such asMaid’s Last Prayer,Princess of CleveandAntiochus. Therefore, in the concluding analysis, reading Nicoll today is kindred to analyzing history on two degrees: one refering the dramas of the Restoration period that the writer recounts, the other sing the disclosures uncovered about early 20th century positions of the theatrical yesteryear.
Indeed, this ability to read more into a text is what has marked the work of Simon Shepherd and Peter Womack out within the more recent surveies of theater during the period 1660-1700. The writers appear good cognizant of the facts recounted by Nicoll and his followings, and have clearly set out to till new land for future research workers to reap. Hence,English Drama: A Cultural Historydressed ores on explicatingwhythe Restoration age appears to be such an anomalousness within the broader annals of English play history. By analyzing the audience, the theaters, the dramatists, the dramas and – crucially – the residue of Restoration theater – Shepherd and Womack uncover greater societal and political undertones at work which influenced the end product of play at this clip in a much greater manner than the mere presence of a restored, effete monarchy. Paying due attending to the primacy of subjectiveness in dramatic analysis ( which dictates that any sentiment or reading of a text is wholly defensible ) , Shepherd and Womack are testimony to the ageless moral force at work in literary and dramatic unfavorable judgment. For every bit long as involvement in theater remains, there will ever be fertile land for original faculty members and writers. Ultimately, the two books analysed within this peculiar survey should be seen as the perfect compliment to one another – a factual chronology of Restoration theater shacking alongside a sociological history of the factors behind its generation.
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