Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(11) Restoration Drama


- the prominent genre during the Restoration

- before the Restoration, playhouses were closed by the Puritans (1642 - 1660), officially because of the plague, but the Puritans objected against dressing up on the stage

- Charles II imported French manners from the court of Louis XIV, licensed two new companies of actors, the King's Players and the Duke's, and initiated a short-lived growth of the theatre

- the audience was upper-class only, i.e. royalty, aristocracy and landed gentry

- to meet the new demand for drama, new plays were written in haste, old plays were stitched and remade


- reflected the spirit of a fun-loving, dissolute court

- dominated by witty, bawdy comedies of manners written and acted by men as well as women

- written to satisfy the taste of predominantly male audience: sexual escapades, adventurous exploits of aristocratic men, marriage as punishment etc.

- typically feature sensual, false-hearted, selfish characters who pray on each other, and male characters living for pleasure, money and women

- the cynical tone corresponds to Thomas Hobbes's philosophy which sees human beings as predatory creatures and emotions as but chemical processes

- the flourishing of Restoration comedy was short-lived, lasted but forty years

> Jeremy Collier's A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698) harshly criticizes the contemporary theatre, specifically the comedy, and anticipates a turn away from cynicism to sentimentality in the 18th century plays

Sir George Etherege (c. 1634 - 1691)

The Comical Revenge: or Love in a Tub (1664):

- a comedy with a double plot in the earlier 17th century manner

- one plot features the amatory rivalry of two gentlemen and is written in couplets, another focuses on the exploits of an English aristocrat and his French valet and is written in prose

She would if she could (1668):

- a comedy of hypocrisy and double standards

- a middle-aged country lady frantically courts adultery despite her front of prudish respectability, but two London libertine gentlemen find satisfaction in the arms of the lady's younger kinswomen

- suggest that older lovers are implicitly ridiculous, while young women of good society are the proper prey of men

The Man of Mode (1676):

- his most amusing and best-crafted comedy

- contrasts two English gentlemen, models of merriment, cleverness and sexual irresistibility, and a Frenchified fool who fails where they win

William Wycherley (1641 - 1715)

- wrote comedies accentuating the artificiality of the stage and mirroring the sheen of the society that produced it

- suggested that high society's cultivation of the superficial elevated wit and politeness above personal decency

- used satiric mode, but was amused rather than disgusted by dubious morals and avoided explicit moral judgement

The Country Wife (1675):

- Horner, a greedy, sensual and lustful libertarian, spreads the news of his impotence in order to be able to enjoy the attention of unguarded wives

- Horner escapes any kind of retribution, on the contrary, he exposes the pretensions of other characters to contempt

The Plain Dealer (1676):

- in part an adaptation of Molière's The Misanthrope (1666), featuring a world-hating protagonist

- the ambiguous protagonist neither adopts the pretentious standards of society, nor does he reject them

- ends up romantically with his delivery into the arms of a honest lady

Aphra Behn (1640 - 1689)

- the first professional woman of letters, becoming so of economic necessity

- little is know about her life, but that she was a subject of ill reputation

- flourished in the cosmopolitan world of the theatre and the court, enjoyed her public role immodestly

- kept up with advanced thinking, joined public debates, commented freely on religion, science and philosophy

- scorned convention, hypocrisy and calculation in her society

- denied the classical education of most male authors, relished the immediate human appeal of popular forms

- drew on a range of worldly experience that would be closed to a respectable woman

- wrote as a woman: concerned with women's feelings, their schooling in disguise, their need to love

- versatile in many genres: plays, prose writings, occasional royalist verse, translations from the French etc.

The Forced Marriage (1670):

- her first comedy, exposing the bondage of matches arranged for money and status

- invokes the powerful natural force of love whose energy breaks through artificial conventions

The Rover (1677 - 1681):

- a comedy featuring exiled cavaliers, i.e. supporters of king Charles I during the English Civil War (1642 - 1651)

- the flamboyant male protagonist wins his true love and bitterly disappoints his former courtesan whom he leaves

The Roundheads (1681 - 1682):

- a chaotic comedy showing her antipathy to Puritanism and its political allies

- features two wives of prominent Puritans wooed by two cavaliers and interconnects pimping and politicking

Oroonoko, or the History of the Royal Slave (1688):

- a novel mingling fact and fiction, realism and romance

- follows the destiny of a morally upright African prince who is betrayed into American slavery

Sir John Vanbrugh (1664 - 1726)

- now better known as a flamboyantly inventive architect than as a dramatist

- collaborated on some eleven plays and adaptations, on his own authored but two plays

- notable for whimsical plots and colloquial comic dialogue

The Relapse; or Virtue in Danger (1696)

The Provoked Wife (1697)

William Congreve (1670 - 1729)

The Old Bachelor (1691):

- his successful first play, declared the best dramatic début by John Dryden

The Double Dealer (1693):

- an unsuccessful play, though inspired Dryden to write a poem praising Congreve as a superior dramatist

Love for Love (1695):

- an again successful comedy

The Way of the World (1700):

- now considered his most elegant comedy, but failed with the audience, which made the author give up the stage

- notable for epigrammatic and brilliant dialogue, intricate and puzzling plot and surprisingly complex characters

- follows the standard plot beginning with the struggle for power, sex, and money and ending with a marriage

- allows for both true wit and genuine feeling, for social satire and for the establishment of marital alliances based on tenderness rather than convenience

- the author exposes the weakness of those who treat love as a war or a game and makes generosity, affection and true love conquer in the play

George Farquhar (c. 1677 - 1707)

- originally an actor, but accidentally gravely injured a fellow actor on the stage, gave up acting and left to London

- encouraged to writing by his friend, the actor Robert Wilks, produced a succession of bright, rattling comedies

- represents the transition between the licentiousness of Restoration drama and the sentimentality of the 18th century

Love and a Bottle (1698):

- concerned with a wild Irishman who escapes to London to avoid marriage with his lover pregnant with twins

The Recruiting Officer (1706):

- inspired by the author's own recruiting experience

- on the social and sexual exploits of two officers in a recruiting town

The Beaux-Stratagem (1707):

- written during his final illness, may have been inspired by the author's own experience when he was cheated into a marriage by a widow with three children pretending to be in possession of a fortune

- a witty contemporary satire on the social issues of status, money, and marriage and their interdependence

- follows the exploits of two young men who pretend to be gentlemen of money and status to find themselves wealthy brides

- concludes with one of the man's giving up his disguise under the influence of his honest bride and so gestures towards the sentimentality and emphasis on natural virtue in the plays of the following period


- a minor genre, still written in verse

- concerned with things greater than life, with superior characters and heroic actions

- of older plays mostly Shakespeare, John Fletcher and Ben Jonson were performed, especially Shakespeare was frequently rewritten

Nahum Tate (1652 - 1715)

History of King Lear (1681):

- rewrites Shakespeare's King Lear (1608) introducing a love plot for Edgar and Cordelia and a happy ending

John Dryden (1631 - 1700)

All for Love (1677):

- a blank verse adaptation of the story of Antony and Cleopatra, which claims to imitate 'the Divine Shakespeare'

- decorously tides up Shakespeare's complexities of plot in conformity with neoclassical canons

Thomas Otway (1652 - 1685)

- fascinated with the dilemmas of the great in antique or exotic settings

- wrote high-flown and declamatory tragedies pathetically showing suffering, emotional conflict and intrigue

The History and Fall of Caius Marius (1680):

- loosely adapts elements from the story of Romeo and Juliet in a charged Roman Republican setting

Venice Preserved, or A Plot Discovered (1682):

- features a noble protagonist torn by opposed loyalties

William Congreve (1670 - 1729)

The Mourning Bride (1697):

- a Spanish tragedy

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

    Britská literatura 3.
  • Semestr

    Zimní semestr 2008/09.
  • Přednášející

    Ema Jelínková.
  • Status

    Povinná přednáška pro III. blok.


Abrams, M. H., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1999.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


© 2008-2015 Všechna práva vyhrazena.