Restoration comedy: Definition and its characteristics

Restoration comedy refers to a genre of theater that emerged in England during the Restoration period, which spanned from 1660 to 1710. Known for its witty and satirical nature, Restoration comedy featured a distinct set of characteristics that set it apart from other forms of drama. Here are some key characteristics of Restoration comedy:

  1. Social satire: Restoration comedies were renowned for their sharp and biting social satire. They often mocked and ridiculed the manners, morals, and social conventions of the upper classes. The plays targeted various aspects of society, including politics, marriage, gender roles, and class distinctions.
  2. Wit and wordplay: Restoration comedy was celebrated for its clever wordplay, double entendres, and witty dialogue. The plays showcased a high level of linguistic dexterity, with characters engaging in rapid and witty repartee. The use of puns, innuendos, and clever banter added to the comedic effect.
  3. Stock characters: The plays featured stock characters that embodied certain archetypes and stereotypes. These characters included fops, witty and flirtatious women, jealous husbands, scheming servants, and country bumpkins. The characters were often exaggerated and served as vehicles for satire and comedic situations.
  4. Intricate plots: Restoration comedies were known for their intricate and convoluted plots, often involving mistaken identities, disguises, and love triangles. The plays typically revolved around the pursuit of love, infidelity, and social intrigue. The complex plots allowed for a range of comedic situations and misunderstandings.
  5. Focus on manners and etiquette: The plays placed a strong emphasis on manners and etiquette, particularly within the context of courtly society. The characters adhered to strict social codes and norms, and violations of decorum were often a source of comedic conflict.
  6. Restoration ethos: Restoration comedies reflected the spirit of the Restoration period, characterized by a newfound freedom, indulgence, and hedonism after the Puritanical rule of Oliver Cromwell. The plays showcased a more liberal and libertine attitude towards sexuality and personal freedoms.
  7. Satirical portrayal of women: Restoration comedies often portrayed women as witty, intelligent, and sexually confident. Female characters played pivotal roles in the plots and engaged in repartee with male characters. However, these portrayals also reinforced certain stereotypes and reflected the male-dominated society of the time.

Overall, Restoration comedy was a vibrant and irreverent form of entertainment that provided a satirical commentary on the social and cultural milieu of its time. Its witty dialogue, intricate plots, and biting satire made it a distinct and influential genre in English theater history.

Also read; Tragi-Comedy; Definition, Characteristics and Example