Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

English Drama, 1660-1700

Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

English Drama, 1660-1700

Article excerpt

Derek Hughes, English Drama, J 660-1 700. Oxford University Press, 1995.

English Drama, 1660-1700 is "a critical study of all surviving plays which were premiered in England between 1600 and 1700." The first chapter provides a context of social attitudes and philosophical ideas of the period which influenced the drama; subsequent chapters, which divide the period into five time frames and the plays by genre, provide critical discussion of plays within that context. Additionally, several motifs which persist throughout the period are discussed whenever they appear. Emphasis is placed as well on discussion of plays which influenced specific other plays or the developments of the drama in general.

Each chapter subsequent to the first begins with a brief discussion of social attitudes or ideas which characterize the majority of the plays of the time; joy at restored order in 1660 changes to concern about the nature of power in 1668; comedy darkens and begins to criticize the unfaithful male at the same time as the political crisis develops in 1676; questions concerning the basis of royal authority are raised in 1688. Chapters end as turning points are reached, and introductions emphasize what has changed. Plays are discussed in order of the date of first professional performance, with the occasional inclusion of unperformed plays or nondramatic works, and discussion of the first plays in each chapter develops from the point of change.

The treatment of plays within chapters develops around summaries of varying lengths, the length relating mainly to the number of recurrent themes found in the play and the importance of the play as an influence on subsequent plays or on the overall development of the drama. The plays considered to be influential are in the main by those same playwrights, with the addition of Aphra Behn, whose works have formed the basic canon of Restoration drama for nearly a century. Discussions of recurrent themes frequently include the interrelation of the theme and the current political situation, particularly at the beginnings and endings of chapters.

The themes themselves are based upon various relationships among the self, social order, universal order, and the function of language. …

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