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Restoration comedy

Restoration comedy refers to English comedies written and performed in the Restoration period from 1660 to 1710. Comedy of manners is used as a synonym of Restoration comedy. After public stage performances had been banned for 18 years by the Puritan regime, the re-opening of the theatres in 1660 signalled a renaissance of English drama. Restoration comedy is notorious for its sexual explicitness, a quality encouraged by Charles II (1660–1685) personally and by the rakish ethos of his court. The socially diverse audiences included both aristocrats, their servants and hangers-on, and a substantial middle-class segment. These playgoers were attracted to the comedies by up-to-the-minute topical writing, by crowded and bustling plots, by the introduction of the first professional actresses, and by the rise of the first celebrity actors. This period saw the first professional female playwright, Aphra Behn.

Charles II was an active and interested patron of the drama. Soon after his restoration, in 1660, he granted exclusive play-staging rights, so-called Royal patents, to the King's Company and the Duke's Company, led by two middle-aged Caroline playwrights, Thomas Killigrew and William Davenant. The patentees scrambled for performance rights to the previous generation's Jacobean and Caroline plays, which were the first necessity for economic survival before any new plays existed. Their next priority was to build new, splendid patent theatres in Drury Lane and Dorset Gardens, respectively. Striving to outdo each other in magnificence, Killigrew and Davenant ended up with quite similar theatres, both designed by Christopher Wren, both optimally provided for music and dancing, and both fitted with moveable scenery and elaborate machines for thunder, lightning, and waves.

  • Cibber, Colley (first published 1740, Everyman's Library ed. 1976). An Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber. London: J. M. Dent & Sons.
  • Dobrée, Bonamy (1927). Introduction to The Complete Works of Sir John Vanbrugh, vol. 1. Bloomsbury: The Nonesuch Press.
  • Howe, Elizabeth (1992). The First English Actresses: Women and Drama 1660–1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hume, Robert D. (1976). The Development of English Drama in the Late Seventeenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Milhous, Judith (1979). Thomas Betterton and the Management of Lincoln's Inn Fields 1695–1708. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Morgan, Fidelis (1981). The Female Wits – Women Playwrights on the London Stage 1660–1720 London: Virago
  • Pearson, Jacqueline (1988). The Prostituted Muse: Images of Women and Women Dramatists 1642–1737. New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • Stone, Lawrence (1990). Road to Divorce:England 1530–1987. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Van Lennep, William (ed.) (1965). The London Stage 1660–1800: A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments & Afterpieces Together with Casts, Box-Receipts and Contemporary Comment Compiled From the Playbills, Newspapers and Theatrical Diaries of the Period, Part 1: 1660–1700. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Canfield, Douglas (1997). Tricksters and Estates: On the Ideology of Restoration Comedy. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky.
  • Fujimura, Thomas H. (1952). The Restoration Comedy of Wit. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Holland, Norman N. (1959). The First Modern Comedies: The Significance of Etherege, Wycherley and Congreve. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Hughes, Derek (1996). English Drama, 1660–1700. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN . 
  • Markley, Robert (1988). Two-Edg'd Weapons: Style and Ideology in the Comedies of Etherege, Wycherley, and Congreve. Oxford : Clarendon Press.
  • Summers, Montague (1935). Playhouse of Pepys. London: Kegan Paul.
  • Weber, Harold (1986). The Restoration Rake-Hero: Transformations in Sexual Understanding in Seventeenth-Century England. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Zimbardo, Rose A. (1965). Wycherley's Drama: A Link in the Development of English Satire. New Haven: Yale University Press.


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