The Immorality of Theatre: Contemplation Over the Justification of the Disbanding of Stage-Plays During the English Interregnum
Contemplation Over the Justification of the Disbanding of
Stage-Plays During the English Interregnum
In March of 1698, the English theatre critic Jeremy Collier published his anti-theater pamphlet, A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage. Collier begins his pamphlet with this conclusion: “[N]othing has gone farther in Debauching the Age than the Stage Poets, and Play-House”.1 Throughout the pamphlet, Collier attacks prevalent comedies from the London stage, condemning the playwrights for profanity, blasphemy, lewdness, and undermining public morality through an understanding portrayal of vice. Collier crafted this pamphlet after the end of a period in England known as the Restoration, which revolved around the rebuilding of the English monarchy after the Interregnum. The English Interregnum was a phase of parliamentary rule under the Commonwealth of England just after the English Civil War. During the Interregnum, the Puritan views of the majority of Parliament and its supporters began to be imposed on the rest of the country. The Puritans advocated a rigorous lifestyle and restricted that which they thought of as excess during the preceding rule.2 One of the excesses to be outright banned was theatre. However, with the English Restoration came the reinstatement of stage-plays and also prompted a renewal for British theatre. However, this rejuvenation included an expansion of real and obligatory impropriety being represented on the stage. A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage signaled the swelling of public opposition to such “real or imposed indecency” of the plays staged over the previous decades.3
Whether it is a single individual—such as Jeremy Collier—the Puritans, the entirety of the Church, or the general public masses criticizing the institution of theater, the question remains: Is theater an immoral institution, and is there
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