Ch9 English Rstoration

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British Theatre in the 18th Century: 

British Theatre in the 18th Century

The Post-Collier Dramatists : 

The Post-Collier Dramatists Plays written post 1700 possessed a more conservative moral outlook and were imbibed with greater sentimentality. A leading author was Colley Cibber (1671-1757) who wrote Love’s Last Shift, The Careless Husband, The Double Gallant, The Lady’s Stake Most of his heroes are full of fashionable foibles until the 5th act when they undergo sentimentalized conversion to moral precepts.

George Farquhar 1678-1707: 

George Farquhar 1678-1707 His plays were filled with exceptional wit, set in the country, and employed resolutions which complied with moral principles. He was an Irishman! The Constant Couple introduced Sir Harry Wildair, one of the most popular dramatic characters of the time The Recruiting Officer and The Beaux’ Stratagem are still produced today. He died much too young!

Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729): 

Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729) An Irishman as well, he moved comedy toward sentimentality and drew his protagonists from the middle class. His most important play: The Conscious Lovers Steele strove to arouse “a pleasure too exquisite for laughter.” He did this by striving to create noble sentiments through the depiction of trials bravely borne by sympathetic characters who are rescued from their sufferings and handsomely rewarded with desirable outcomes. He altered the purpose of comedy; the only humor in his play belongs to the servants.

The Plays Reflect the Times: 

The Plays Reflect the Times The sentimental—characters are unnaturally good with problems too easily overcome. The 18th century conceived of man as good by nature, with goodness achieved by following instincts, but could be altered through temptation. Men were reclaimable by virtue, often quickly if their “hearts” could be touched. Audiences could validate themselves by seeing images of virtue in distress and being moved: this was thought to be a sign of proper sensitivity and moral stability.

Domestic Tragedy: 

Domestic Tragedy In 1731, George Lillo wrote The London Merchant: the hero (an apprentice) is led astray by a prostitute, kills his uncle, and is hanged in spite of his abject repentance. The subject was taken from the headlines of the day and depicted an “ordinary” man. Each Christmas for almost 100 years, the play was produced and all London apprentices forced to see it as a warning against going astray.

Sentimental Comedy: 

Sentimental Comedy This was preferred over domestic tragedy because audiences preferred rescue over punishment and wanted happy endings. In The West Indian (Richard Cumberland), a rake is rescued by marriage only to find that his wife is an heiress. In The Road to Ruin (Thomas Holcroft), a gambler is so touched by his father’s shame that he is restored to virtue. Sentimental comedy and drama led to the 19th century form called Melodrama.

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774): 

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774) His masterpiece is She Stoops to Conquer (1773). Two young men are led by Tony Lumpkin (a one of a kind creation) to mistake a country gentleman’s home for an inn with all the resulting clamor. The protagonist is rendered tongue-tied when in the presence of women of position but is a rake when around the lower classes. So Kate swaps places with her maid in order to “conquer” her lover. Called the best example of “Laughing” comedy.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816): 

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) His comic masterpieces were The Rivals and The School for Scandal. The Rivals gives us Mrs. Malaprop and her name still defines a particular comic technique, made immortal by Archie Bunker. Sheridan’s plays are filled with sparkling wit and effective dialogue while giving vivid portraits of the fashion of his day. For Sheridan, also a theatre manager, virtue had to win the day.

Ballad Opera: 

Ballad Opera The first and most important example was John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1728). Satire at its heart, this opera commented on the political situation of the time by focusing on London low-life and squalor. The form used operatic traditions in an altered form: interwove spoken dialogue with popular tunes of the day.

The Satirical Burlesque: 

The Satirical Burlesque The leading author of burlesque was Henry Fielding (1707-1754) who created Tom Jones as well as the stage play, Tom Thumb or the Tragedy of Tragedies, a major contributor to the Licensing Act of 1737 The best play of this form was The Critic by Sheridan which had a stage life to the end of the 19th century. This form was the same as ballad opera without music and lampooned the major figures and events of the day.

The Standard Repertory: 

The Standard Repertory There was very little demand of new works, meaning there was little incentive for contemporary writers to engage in writing for the stage. Composed of: 1/3 from pre-Commonwealth plays 1/3 from the restoration 1/3 from recent hits and new plays

A Lucrative Involvement: 

A Lucrative Involvement How were playwrights paid? The “benefit” system was in place. After 1680, dramatists received the proceeds less house expenses of the third night within the initial run. After 1690, they received every third night of the original run. However, most plays did not run very long, fortunate to make the third night. After 1709, plays could be copyrighted for a 14 year period; usually producers bought the rights.

Sir Robert Walpole : 

Sir Robert Walpole Prime Minister, Prime Target

The Licensing Act of 1737: 

The Licensing Act of 1737 The monopolies established in the Restoration were falling apart; the Licensing Act was an attempt to re-establish it for the 18th century. Licenses were falling apart because: The crown’s original patents had not been confirmed by Parliament The crown made too many exceptions Producers produced in defiance of the law There were too many debates over inheritance The cry for entertainment was greater than anticipated

The Political Side of the Coin: 

The Political Side of the Coin Prime Minister Walpole was super sensitive to political satires being offered at unlicensed theatres. Walpole himself became the target of many of the more popular satires. The Act was simple: It prohibited the presentation of any act or play for “gain, hire, or reward” not licensed by the Lord Chamberlain, and It restricted authorized theatres to the City of Westminster, confirming The Drury Lane and the Covent Garden as the only legitimate theatres in England.

Results of the Act: 

Results of the Act Henry Giffard opened the Goodman’s Fields Theatre by charging for concerts and adding plays and Samuel Foote offered “free” entertainments to those who paid for a “Dish of Chocolate” or to attend “An Auction.” With the closing of the New Wells Theatre in 1752 sent William Hallam and his troupe abroad, marking the true beginning of American theatre. Large towns outside London objected and secured from Parliament “theatre royals” for their own populations. In 1766, Samuel Foote gained a license to perform at the Haymarket during the summer months, the third official. The Act of 1788 established the following authorities: The Lord Chamberlain in the city of Westminster Local magistrates within 20 miles of London Local Magistrates outside the 20 mile radius Parliament and their “Theatres Royal” in specific large towns.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields: 

Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Wren’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane: 

Wren’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Wren’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane: 

Wren’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Theatre Royal Drury Lane Adams Renovations: 

Theatre Royal Drury Lane Adams Renovations