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Lecture Notes
Week 7

The Royal Theatre


Key Terms:


        Renaissance         Parterre (pit)         Bourgeois
        Dionysian         Stage seating         Ferme
        Apollonian         Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin)         Wings
        Louis XIV, The Sun King         "man of the theatre"         King Charles II
        Court         Comedie Francaise         Restoration
        Neoclassicism         Jean Racine         Wing and border scenery
        Rules of playwrighting         Illustre Theatre         Apron stage
        Unities         Palais Royale         Proscenium doors

        Proscenium arch theatre

        Madeleine and Armande Bejart         Nell Gwynne
        Illusionistic scenery         Terence         Vizard
        Grand siecle         Comedy-ballet         William Congreve
        jeu de paume         Jean-Baptiste Lully         Jeremy Collier
        Gallery (loge)         Divertissement         Masques




Enlightenment:  Maturation period in 18th century when Renaissance ideas fruited.


          Major figures:

                      Isaac Newton:  Physical laws.

                        Baron de Montesquieu:  Political and social analysis.

                        Rene Descartes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, David Hume:  Rational philosophies.

                        Denis Diderot:  comprehensive encyclopedias.

            Age of establishment of great scientific and literary academies


Masque:  Musical dance-drama performed by actors and courtiers (talented members of

            the court.)  It featured elaborate visual effects.  Weak with script.  First popular with

            Henry VIII, then more with James I.  Precursor to Royal Theatre. 


Royal Theatre:  Named because of its fundamental and deliberate association with courts of kings. 


          Principal Courts and Playwrights:

                    a.  Spain:  Calderon.

                    b.  France:  Moliere, Corneille, Racine.

                    c.  England:  Restoration drama:  Wycherley, Conreve, Vanbrugh, Farquhar,


                    d.  Others:  Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and principalities in Germany and Italy.


          Audiences:  Wealthy, intelligent, titled, untitled, emerging professional class of civil

                        servants, lawyers, those who wanted to appear important and intelligent.



            Dramaturgy:  Neoclassicism ("new classicism").  Source was Castelvetro, an Italian

                         during the early Renaissance, whose work was embraced by the French.       

                        Neoclassic Rules:

                        1.  Unities of time, place and action.

                        2.  5-act form.

                        3.  Alexandrine verse.

                        4.  Purity of dramatic form (no mix tragedy and comedy).

                        5.  Purposes of drama:  Tragedy to reveal horrors of misdeeds.  Comedy to poke

                                    fun at ludicrous behavior.

                        6.  Decorum:  Tragedies involved the ruling class, comedies the merchant class

                                    Each character type had its "essence" and must be written thus.  No

                                    onstage violence.  Verisimilitude:  must have sense of believability.

                                    (Exceptions could be made if part of an original ancient legend).


          Staging Practices:  

                        Proscenium staging.

                        Spectacular effects.

                        Women added to acting companies.


The French Theatre


          Major playwrights:  Moliere, Racine, Corneille.

            Physical Theatre:  Tennis courts became model for physical theatre.  Royal theatre

                        in France was associated with tennis, not bear-baiting, as had been the English

                        theatre.  Refinement was the rule.  The French adopted the Italian proscenium.

            Audiences:  Came to be seen.  Arrived sometmes 2 hours early.  Wealthier young men

                        sat on apron of stage.  Active sales of refreshments went on during performances.


The English Restoration       


          Restoration refers to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.  The plays which were

                        presented after that time were decidedly French in influence. 

            Major playwrights:  Wycherley, Congreve, Etherege.

            Physical Theatre:  Direct copy of French theatre.  Included acting apron, raked

                        auditorium, elegant decor.  Intimacy, and sophistication were created.

            Audiences:  were "full of themselves", stylish, and self-centered.  People came to be

                        seen, not to see the play.  Refreshments were sold freely while the show went

                        on.  Theatre was a place to make sexual arrangements. 


Suggested plays:


Life Is a Dream by Pedro Calderon de la Barca

The Country Wife by William Wycherley

The Rover by Aphra Behn

The Way of the World by William Congreve

'Tis Pity She's a Whore by John Ford

She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith

The School for Scandal  by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Tartuffe, The Misanthrope, The Bourgeois Gentleman, The Miser by Moliere


Concept Questions:


1.  In The Bourgeois Gentlemen, Moliere uses the contrast between a character's self-importance and the importance that other people project on him.  To what extent does money mediate the exchange?  To what extent does Monsieur Jourdain function like a playwright in producing and performing the spectacle of himself?  Is it more important, in this play world, to appear to be rich than actually to be rich?


2.  Consider the relationships in The Way of the World and The Bourgeois Gentleman.  Both of these worlds celebrate appearances in their thematic treatment of the play.  Discuss the configuration of relationships in the two plays.  How do the two plays relate to authority?


3.  Analyze the marriage contract in The Way of the World.  What does such an agreement imply about the status of women?  Do women in Moliere's plays have the same type of freedom as English women?


4.  What is "the way of the world"?  How do Millimant and Mirabell fit into it?


5.  Using your knowledge both of Moliere's life and his work, explain the importance of the court to his art.


6.  Summarize the theatrical and political history that led to the adoption of the jeu de paume configuration of staging.


Chapter 7  Study Questions:


1.  What was the Enlightenment?  

2.  What were engendered by the Enlightenment? 

3.  What is meant by the term Dionysian? 

4.  What is meant ty the term Apollonian? 

5.  What were some of the important courts which made contributions to late-seventeenth-century drama? 

6.  What did Moliere say was the great test of your plays? 

7.  Who made up the French, English, and Spanish courts? 

8.  What does the term "Neoclassicism" describe?

9.  What are some of the "rules" abounding in Neoclassicism? 

10.  How did the Neoclassicists view Shakespeare? 

11.  What was the source for the rules of playwrighting? 

12.  What was the purpose of drama under Neoclassicism? 

13.  What happened to playwrights who violated the unities?

14.  What is meant by the term divertissement

15.  What themes does Moliere's The Bourgeois Gentleman have? 

16.  What is the true history of TheBourgeois Gentleman

17.  Describe the Palais Royale.  For whom was it built?  Of what importance was jeu de paume in its design? 

18.  What is a ferme?

19.  In the frontispiece to an edition of The Bourgeois Gentleman we are told something about the taste of the principal character.  What is it? 

20.  What did money highlight with regards to values in the seventeenth-century Europe?

21.  One metatheatrical device occurs in The Bourgeois Gentleman.  Wht is it? 

22.  What is the Mamamouchi ceremony in The Bourgeois Gentleman?  What is its purpose? 

23.  When and how did Moliere die? 

24.  To what does 'The Restoration" refer? 

25.  During what period of time were dramatic performers banned and theatres burned to the ground? 

26.  Of what were the first two theatres chartered by Charles II built? 

27.  With regards to theatre architecture, to what does jeu de paume style refer? 

28.  What were some of the improvements made by the Restoration stage over the stage of the Royal theatre? 

29.  What was the English Restoration drama audience like? 

30.  Who was Giacomo Torelli? 

31.  How did Restoration acting troupes differ from Renaissance acting troupes?

32.  Know some genres of drama typical to the Restoration. 

33.  Who was William Congreve?

34.  Who was Moliere's patron? 

35.  In The Way of the World which character speaks the strongest appeal for female freedom in marriage? 

36.  Know the two things for which Nell Gwynne was famous. 

37.  Of what importance to us is the diary of Samuel Pepys? 

38.  Which is one of Moliere's "machine plays"? 

39.  During which period did dramatic criticism come into its own? 

40.  Which classical playwright influenced Moliere? 

41.  What was Jeu de paume

42.  Who designed Killigrew's Theatre Royal in Drury Lane? 

43.  Who was the first Englishwoman to earn her living as a playwright? 

44.  Why is Congreve's play considered a masterpiece?