The Georgian Playhouse

The Georgian Playhouse

The Georgian Playhouse

The Georgian Playhouse

Excerpt

THE GEORGIAN PLAYHOUSE was the British solution to a problem which had been rising in Europe for more than a century-- the problem of framing the new form of theatrical presentation that sprang out of the Renaissance.

The two main novelties of the Renaissance theatre-show were, first, painted scenery of a special form and, second, an emphasis on spectacular and operatic style rather than on direct dialogue. In England the Stuart court masques under Inigo Jones were the type of the new form, and these were private entertainments--the public theatre used little painted scenery and maintained the Elizabethan style of drama. But at the Restoration, the masque type of presentation was introduced to the public and a new form of playhouse was needed to house it and to set off its new and gorgeous effects to best advantage.

In England, the old tradition of popular drama was unusually rich, and the new Restoration playhouse had to provide for both types of show--the dramatic and the operatic. Indeed, a special third type of show might almost be distinguished as well where both streams were combined--the dramatic opera. Hence it is not surprising that the playhouse in England began with unusual features, since it, above all others in Europe, had to serve two traditions--the new one of the scenic show, demanding a special auditorium in which to sit and watch, and the old one of Elizabethan dramatic form, making special demands for short, quickly-changing scenes of dialogue with many and diversified entrances and appearances.

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