Tragic Dramatists in the Restoration Period

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      The Restoration period is particularly remarkable for comedy of manners and heroic plays. The extravagance of heroic plays 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, CleomenesThe Spartan Hero (1692). In those tragedies he shows qualities which his heroic plays lacked. Dryden's plays are primary products of conscious will and artistic talent. He could not recover the strong tragic emotion of his predecessors. 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.

The Restoration period is particularly remarkable for comedy of manners and heroic plays
Restoration Period

      Thomas Otway (1651-1685) :- As was so often he case with the dramatists of the time Otway had varied and traveled career closed with a measurable death. His first play 'Alcibiades' was produced in 1675 then followed Don Carlos (1676), The Orphan (1680) and his masterpiece "Venice Preserve'd" (1682). His reputation rests however on two plays in The Orphan which allowing for its period is lacking in heroics, Otway struck the note of deep pathos which is his distinguishing feature. While the play has a calmness of tone and absence of rent unusual in its day. "Venice Preserved" is his finest work, hear the tragedy is on a grander scale then and in The Orphan and the characters are skillfully handled especially those of Jaffier and Pierre. One authority on the drama believes it to have been revived more often than any play outside Shakespeare and undeniable proof of its dramatic possibilities.

      Nathaniel Lee (1653-1692) :- Lee's life is the unusual tale of mishaps, miseries and drunkenness with a taint of madness as an additional calamity. He wrote many tragedies some of which are Nero (1674), Sofonisba (1676), The Rival Queens (1677), Mithridates (1678). He also collaborated with Dryden in the production of two plays during his own time. Lee's name become a byword to distinguish a kind of wild raving style, which in part at least seems to have been a product of his madness. But he can write well when the spirit is in him; he has a comment of pathos and all through his work he has touches the real poetic quality.

      Elkanah Settle (1648-1724) :- Settle was in some ways the butt of his literary friends, and Dryden has given him prominence by attacking him in his satires. In his day he obtained some popularity with a heroic play The Empress of Morocco (1673) It is a specimen of its kind but his other Dramas are worse.

      John Crowne (1640-1703) :- Crowne is another of the dramatists who attacked Dryden and who were in turn assailed by the bigger man. A voluminous playwright, Crowne's best known works are the tragedies of Caligula (1698) a heroic play, and Thyestes (1681) in blank verse and a comedy Sir Courtly Nice (1685) Crowne is quite a good specimen of the average Restoration dramatist. The play shows some talent and a fair amount of skill in versification.

      Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718) :- during his lifetime Rowe was a person of some importance and was appointed poet Laureate in 1715. His is best known plays are Tamerlane (1702) The Fair Penitent (1703) and the popular Jane Shore (1714).

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