During this time poets contrasted the personal and the public life. (Penguin, 57) Satire became an important kind of poetry; it looks wittily at the manners and behaviour of society, and very often uses real people and situations to make its humorous point. (Penguin, 63)
The theatre of the Restoration was quite different from Shakespeare’s theatre, with the audience now largely upper class. There were only two licensed, or “patent”, theatres - the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and Duke’s House at Lincoln’s Inn, which moved to the Covent Garden Theatre in 1732. Actresses could now perform on stage, the first being a Mrs Coleman, in a private performance of Sir William D’Avenant’s The Siege of Rhodes in 1656, when theatre performances were still officially suppressed. (Routledge, 139) Tragedy and Serious Drama
Both Dryden and his rival Shadwell wrote new versions of the plays of Shakespeare. The new middle-class audiences could not accept much of Shakespeare’s violence and the tragic endings to some of his plays. So King Lear, for example, was severely rewritten to give it a happy ending, and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus was rewritten in the 1690s as a farce. The main tragic form of the Restoration was heroic tragedy. (Penguin, 73) The more worrying of Shakespeare’s excesses had to be trimmed to find acceptance in Restoration society. With harmony restored, and family virtues upheld, Shakespeare’s most probing and tragic examination of man’s inhumanity to man becomes a moral and reassuring tract. (Routledge, 140) At this time there were many theories about realism, how to show reality on stage, and the role of theatre. But pressure was growing to limit what theatre could say: it was not only a danger to public morals, but it also became too controversial politically. (Penguin, 74) Comedy:
It is, however, for comedy that Restoration drama is better known. It was called “the comedy of manners” because it...