The Heroic Tragedies: of Restoration Period

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        The most significant noted trend in the British theatre was found after the restoration of the royal power in England in 1660. A new type of drama come out which was known as the great neo-classical tragedy or heroic tragedies of restoration period. The source of inspiration of this type of tragedy was France and some other parts of the continent. The heroic plays of the restoration forms a class by itself and stands between tragedy and romance. The subject matter of this tragedies are mainly chivalrous - honour, love and war. The conflict between love and honour is tried to be depicted in a romantic setting presenting grand heroic personalities with a superhuman ability.

The heroic plays of the restoration forms a class by itself and stands between tragedy and romance.
Heroic Tragedy

      The subject matter of heroic tragedy has deal with improbable situation or any sort of grand heroic feat. The problem of heroic life indeed constitutes the essence of the theme of the war, battle, fight and so on. This type of drama presents heroic problems and conflicts which result ultimately in human glory and death. The development of heroic tragedy has its beginning in the great elizabethan period and found continued in the restoration age.

     In heroic tragedies there are found the strict adherence to classical rules and principles following more or less classical concept of tragedy, particularly in the matter of form. The heroine tragedy is usually written in the rhymed heroic couplet. Heroic tragedies tried to follow strictly the classical rule of the unity of the time, place and action. Among the great heroic tragedies mention must be made of Dryden's - The Indian Emperor, The Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards, Aurangzeb and All for Love etc.

      The Restoration period is particularly remarkable for comedy of manners and heroic plays. The extravagance of heroic drama provoked and amusing parody The Rehearsal. Dryden who wrote Heroic plays turned to tragedies in blank verse, resembling Shakespeare's tragedies in choice of subject like All for Love (1578), Don Sebastian, Cleomenes, the Spartan Hero (1692). In these tragedies, he shows qualities which his Heroic plays lacked. He presented plausible people and simple emotions in fitting language and without bombast. He had drawn to Nature and thus both to Shakespeare and to French tragedy, particularly to Racine.

      Dryden's plays are primarily products of conscious will and artistic talent. Dryden could not recover the strong tragic emotion of his predecessors. Thomas Otway (1652-1685) succeeded best in stirring the feelings of the audience through his two powerful plays, The Orphan (1680), and Venice Preserved (1682). The former is a domestic tragedy steeped in the romantic atmosphere and the latter is a moving study of passion and character against a background of history (the Spanish plot against the Venetian Republic in 1618). The tragedy is built on a series of closely-knit scenes of increasing emotion: the hesitation of Jaffiar. One of the conspirators between the political cause he is pledged to promote and the appeals of his dearly loved wife Belvidera; the struggle between friendship and love; the betrayal of the conspirators; the curse he draws upon himself from his bosom friend Pierre; his despair when the Senate violates its promise to spare the conspirators he has denounced. It is a moving tragedy which earned an honour which did not fall to any of Dryden's plays.

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