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An Overview
Closing of the Theatres by
On the 6th of September, 1642, the theaters were closed by ordinance, it being considered
not seemly to indulge in any kind of diversions or amusements in such troublous times. In
1647 another and more imperative order was issued, in consequence of certain infractions
of the previous one, threatening to imprison and punish as rogues all who broke its
Close upon the heels of this second came a third, which declared all players to be rogues
and vagabonds, and authorized the justices of the peace to demolish all stage galleries and
seats; any actor discovered in the exercise of his vocation should for the first offense be
whipped, for the second be treated as an incorrigible rogue, and every person found
witnessing the performance of a stage play should be fined five shillings.
FROM 1642 onward for eighteen years, the theaters of England remained nominally closed.
There was of course evasion of the law; but whatever performances were offered had to be
given in secrecy, before small companies in private houses, or in taverns located three or
four miles out of town. No actor or spectator was safe, especially during the early days of
the Puritan rule. Least of all was there any inspiration for dramatists
In 1660 the Stuart dynasty was restored to the throne of England.
Charles II, the king, had been in France during the greater part of the
Protectorate, together with many of the royalist party, all of whom
were familiar with Paris and its fashions. Thus it was natural, upon
the return of the court, that French influence should be felt,
particularly in the theater. In August, 1660, Charles issued patents for
two companies of players, and performances immediately began.
Certain writers, in the field before the civil war, survived the period of
theatrical eclipse, and now had their chance. Among these were
Thomas Killigrew and William Davenant, who were quickly provided
with fine playhouses.
 Women appeared on stage regularly
 Plays took on French Court style in proscenium theatres for the
upper classes
Shakespeare’s Plays were “improved upon” to make happy endings and
larger roles for lead actors.
John Dryden- “All for Love” 1678
William Congreve- “The Way of the World” 1700
John Gay - “The Beggars Opera” 1765
Oliver Goldsmith -”She Stoops to Conquer” 1773
Richard Brinsley Sheridan “The Rivals” 1776
and “School for Scandal” 1773
David Garrick
Edmund Kean
David Garrick
Edmund Kean
The 19th Century saw the rise of the actor manager at Drury Lane
and Covent Garden. Garrick and Kean were the premier actors of
their day and considered two of the greatest actors ever. Garrick
brought back the original versions of Shakespeare and is probably
responsible for saving his work for all following generations.
1840’S TO 1950
The father of Modern Drama
 Largely responsible for Realism
in theatre
 Plays: Ghosts, A Doll’s House,
Hedda Gabler, Peer Gynt, An
Enemy of the People, The Wild
 Early proponant of women’s
rights and equality
George Bernard Shaw of
Was an ardent early socialist and
plays reflect this position
Plays were social comedies like
“Major Barbara” and “Man and
Most famous plays portrayed man as
being driven by a life force and
destined to fit a predesigned role in
the social order. But that all should
“Pygmalion” Later done as “My Fair
Lady” musical”
“Saint Joan”, +Candida,” “Androcles
and the Lion”, “Arms and the Man”
Great adimirer of Ibsen and copied
format and realistic style
Anton Checkhov 1860-1904
Was a doctor, a celebrated
short story author and finally a
great dramatist in Russia.
 Wrote for the Moscow Art
Theatre and Stanislavski
 “Cherry Orchard”, “Uncle
Vanya”, “The Sea Gull,” and
“Three Sisters” are most
famous plays.
 Plays are called comedies but
convey tragic surroundings
Other Major Playwrights
Luigi Pirandello
Spain 
Hauptmann, Goethe, Brecht, Schiller Durrenmatt
Garcia Lorca
Dumas, Anouilh, Sartre, Cocteau, Artaud, Beckett,
Ionesco, Feydeau, Rostand
Bertolt Brecht
Federico Garcia Lorca
Jean Anoulh
Luigi Pirandello
Samuel Becket
Sean Paul Sartre
Constantin Stanislavski
Creator of “The
Method” acting
 Actor should search
inside himself and his
own personal
emotional memories
for clues to character.
 Magic If