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Sep 21, 2010


        You that delight in with and mirth   
        and love to hear such news   
        as comes from all parts of the earth   
        I’ll send ye to a rendezvous    
        where it is smoking new:   
        Go, hear it at a Coffee House, (Jordan)”   
Restoration Period (1660-1700) takes its name from the Restoration of the Stuart or Charles II to the English throne in 1660, at the end of the Commonwealth; it is specified as lasting until 1700 (Abrams).

As we know, the theatres in England were closed during the Commonwealth in 1642 but on the Restoration of King Charles II, the theatres were reopened with the Comedy of Manner—which reflects the very spirit of the Age—in which Congreve is supreme master whose The Way of the World is best example.

The poets turned from the noble blank verse of Shakespeare and Milton, from the variety and melody which had characterized English poetry since Chaucer’s day, to the monotonous heroic couplet with its mechanical perfection. The greatest writer of the age is Dryden, who established the heroic couplet as the prevailing verse in English poetry, developed a new and serviceable prose style suited to the practical needs of the age:   
        “and this unpolished rugged verse I chose   
        as fittest for discourse, and nearest prose.”   
This new literature was at times openly and defiantly corrupt but it had many admirable qualities, i.e., influence of Aphra Behn (1640–89), the first English woman to earn her living by her pen. The merits of the new school are to be formed in its intellectual force and actuality; just as its demerits in its lack of deep imagination and tendency to deal with manners and superficialities, rather than with elemental things and the larger issues of life. Thus, with the Restoration we enter upon a period in which literature is intellectual rather than imaginative or emotional, and thought often brilliant, is on the whole, a trifle hard and unsympathetic.

Comedy of Manners
As we know, the theatres in England were closed during the commonwealth in 1642. All the dramatic activities had almost come down to a stand still during this Puritanic Age. But on the restoration of King Charles II in 1660, the theatres were reopened, and dramatic activities restarted with full vigour and zeal. Thus, the drama was closed in England for a short period and it was restarted after 1660 known as Restoration drama. The Comedy of Manner is a peculiar product of Restoration Era, and it reflects the very spirit of the age. Congreve is supreme master of this kind of drama and The Way of the World is best comedy.

Restoration Drama
With the restoration of monarchy of England the drama was restored. Establishment of the Royal Society enfused the scientific spirit. This temper and spirit of the age found appropriate expression in comedy whereas in the field of tragedy the age has none to show except Otway a true monster in the field of comedy it presents a galaxy of writers—Etherege, Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh and Farquhar—whose works have made this age the most splendid in the annals of English drama. This kind of comedy is known as “Comedy of manners,” was indeed the true mirror of the temper and the out look of the society—rather a section of the society of the age but there were other forms of comedy, mainly the intrigue. Whereas Shadwell made his mark in the former kind, Dryden, Tate, Durfey and some other achieved notable successes, in the latter.
The “comedy of manners” us full of vitality and pace. It has polish, elegance and intellectual control. Emotion is here replaced by wit, poetry by a clear concise prose, charity by cynicism. The pervading bone is satirical and the plague show close, pointed observation of life and manners. Plots and sub-plots are intricate and numerous, and centre mainly upon amorous intrigues, which reflect an open contempt for the ordinary standards of morality that in Wycherley and others often taken in the form of gross sensuality. In the hands of the best and most refrained of the dramatists, remains, but it is purged of its coarseness and offensiveness. Etherege’s Love in a Tub, and man of mode; Wycherley’s Love in wood, The Country Wife and Plain Dealer based in Moliere’s Misanthrope; Congreve’s The Old Bachelor, The Double Dealer, The Way  of the World (his masterpiece),; Vanbrugh’s The Relapse, The Provoked Wife and Confederecy (his best); and Farquhar’s Love And A Bottle, In Constant, and the Beaux Stratagem (his masterpiece and the best of all restoration comedy) are the well known comedies of the manners. Jerimy Collier attacks on the restoration drama through his pamphlet A Short View of Immortality and Profaneness of English Stage reformed the drama. Comedy became first less vicious, then moral and sentimental, and dull tragedy, meanwhile, though it is kept free from the profitigacy of comedy was equally artificial. For a time its most popular from was that of the heroic drama, in which live, gallantry and courage were depicted on  a gigantic scale with little reference to life and the dialogue which was filled with sonorous rant and bombastic extravagance. Tyrannic Love and the two parts of his Conquest of Grannada are Dryden’s famous heroic drama. Soon the people were tired of the rhyme and the mannerism of heroic drama. Dryden reverted to Shakespeare and blank verse in his All For Love based on Antony and Cleopatra. Otway’s Orphan and Venice preserved long kept their popularity.

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