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Title: Exuberance and restriction in English drama, 1725-1741
Author: Barnes, J. P.
Awarding Body: University College of Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 1983
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One of the most momentous events in English theatre history was the passing in 1737 of the Theatres Act, re-imposing censorship and a limit of two playhouses in London. The decade which precipitated this measure, commencing with John Gay's splendid The Beggar's Opera (1728), falls between two periods of acknowledged dramatic and theatrical interest - the Restoration and the Garrick era - but has not been very much examined for itself. This study sets the decade in the context of the years preceding Gay's triumph and those following the 1737 legislation - periods in stark contrast with the interim. The drama was characterized by satire, burlesque, and song, and is best remembered for the work of Henry Fielding in comedy, George Lillo in 'domestic tragedy,' Gay and others in ballad opera, and for the outburst of ferocious political - as well as social and literary - lampoon. The theatre world, too, was characterized by proliferation and disturbance, with up to six houses competing, managerial insecurity, frequent claques, and governmental unease. Other indications of vitality included the appearance of the first real theatre periodical the Prompter, and a short-lived but serious venture into 'English Opera.' These ventures did not completely succeed, but many features of the experimental vigour foreshadowed later developments in English drama. It was a neurotic decade, deliberately shedding convention, and the results were both lively and unhappy, inquisitive and suicidal. The 'play about the theatre' was another characteristic product of a theatre deeply self-obsessed. Few aspects recurred after the legislation, and humour and satire gradually gave way to limpness and sentiment: Fielding was forced away, ballad opera burnt itself out, domestic tragedy had no strength, and exuberance was only rarely to be found.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available