Restoration Comedy, 1660-1720

Restoration Comedy, 1660-1720

Restoration Comedy, 1660-1720

Restoration Comedy, 1660-1720

Excerpt

In the history of dramatic literature there are some periods that can be labelled as definitely 'tragic', others as no less preponderatingly 'comic', though of course both forms exist side by side throughout the ages. Taking the period of Aeschylus, Shakespeare, and Corneille as markedly 'tragic', we find that these writers throve in a period of great national expansion and power, during which values were fixed and positive. At such times there is a general acceptation of what is good and what is evil. Out of this, as a kind of trial of strength, there arises tragedy, the positive drama; there is, as Nietzsche suggested, 'an intellectual predilection for what is hard, awful, evil, problematical in existence owing to . . . fulness of life'.

In the great 'comic' periods, however, those of Menander, of the Restoration writers, and at the end of Louis XIV's reign and during the Regency, we find that values are changing with alarming speed. The times are those of rapid social readjustment and general instability, when policy is insecure, religion doubted and being revised, and morality in a state of chaos.

Yet the greatest names in comedy, Aristophanes, Jonson, Moliére, do not belong here: these men flourished in intermediate periods, in which the finest comedy seems to be written. In form it still preserves some of the broad . . .

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