George Clarke helps rescue neglected architectural treasures across Britain.

The Restoration Man - Netflix

Type: Documentary

Languages: English

Status: Running

Runtime: 60 minutes

Premier: 2010-03-21

The Restoration Man - Restoration comedy - Netflix

The term “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. Sexually explicit language was encouraged by King Charles II (1660–1685) personally and by the rakish style of his court. Historian George Norman Clark argues:

The best-known fact about the Restoration drama is that it is immoral. The dramatists did not criticize the accepted morality about gambling, drink, love, and pleasure generally, or try, like the dramatists of our own time, to work out their own view of character and conduct. What they did was, according to their respective inclinations, to mock at all restraints. Some were gross, others delicately improper....The dramatists did not merely say anything they liked: they also intended to glory in it and to shock those who did not like it.

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.

The Restoration Man - First actresses - Netflix

Restoration comedy was strongly influenced by the introduction of the first professional actresses. Before the closing of the theatres, all female roles had been taken by boy players, and the predominantly male audiences of the 1660s and 1670s were curious, censorious, and delighted at the novelty of seeing real women engage in risqué repartee and take part in physical seduction scenes. Samuel Pepys refers many times in his famous diary to visiting the playhouse to watch or re-watch the performance of particular actresses, and to how much he enjoys these experiences. Daringly suggestive comedy scenes involving women became especially common, although of course Restoration actresses were, just like male actors, expected to do justice to all kinds and moods of plays. (Their role in the development of Restoration tragedy is also important, compare She-tragedy.) A new speciality introduced almost as early as the actresses was the breeches role, which called for an actress to appear in male clothes (breeches being tight-fitting knee-length pants, the standard male garment of the time), for instance to play a witty heroine who disguises herself as a boy to hide, or to engage in escapades disallowed to girls. A quarter of the plays produced on the London stage between 1660 and 1700 contained breeches roles. Playing these cross-dressing roles, women behaved with the freedom society allowed to men, and some feminist critics, such as Jacqueline Pearson, regard them as subversive of conventional gender roles and empowering for female members of the audience. Elizabeth Howe has objected that the male disguise, when studied in relation to playtexts, prologues, and epilogues, comes out as “little more than yet another means of displaying the actress as a sexual object” to male patrons, by showing off her body, normally hidden by a skirt, outlined by the male outfit. Successful Restoration actresses included Charles II's mistress Nell Gwyn, the tragedienne Elizabeth Barry who was famous for her ability to “move the passions” and make whole audiences cry, the 1690s comedian Anne Bracegirdle, and Susanna Mountfort (a.k.a. Susanna Verbruggen), who had many breeches roles written especially for her in the 1680s and 90s. Letters and memoirs of the period show that both men and women in the audience greatly relished Mountfort's swaggering, roistering impersonations of young women wearing breeches and thereby enjoying the social and sexual freedom of the male Restoration rake.

The Restoration Man - References - Netflix