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Title:Satire and Romance: The Continuity of Modes in Restoration Comedy
Author(s):Richardson, Gary Albert
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, English
Abstract:The continuity in English comedy in the seventeenth century has been a matter of serious critical discussion for at least fifty years. Although critics have argued that an affinity exists between the comedies of the late Renaissance and the Restoration, they have been uncharacteristically vague in defining what constitutes the similarity. By scrutinizing the comedy of both periods, this study seeks to supply that omission.
To simplify rather drastically: the comedy of the early Renaissance is characterized by two alternative modes. Romantic comedy encompasses the world of love and some type of quest. Satiric comedy, focuses on the classical comedic theme of human folly. With the advent of Beaumont and Fletcher, comedy begins to synthesize consistently the two alternatives suggested above. This pattern of modal opposition undermines the inherited structural and intellectual premises of both satiric and romantic comedies. The failure of Beaumont and Fletcher's comedies to resolve themselves in any but a superficial manner generates a skepticism of theme and form which pervades English comedy until the 1690's.
Although both dramatists and audiences after the Restoration continued to conceive of comedy as divided into romantic and satiric modes, the dramatic realization of that conception by practicing playwrights working from the models provided by Beaumont and Fletcher moves steadily toward a synthetic comedy which presents both modes in a single artistic whole. While this movement is one of fits and starts with frequent returns to plays predominantly of one mode or the other, the general trend is clearly discernible in the early comedies of Cryden and Etherege.
By the 1670's synthetic comedy is firmly established. Even the plays of Behn and Shadwell, plays which affirm either the romantic or satiric modes in their closures, use the bifurcated form associated with synthetic comedy. The masterworks of Etherege and Wycherley move beyond the effects of mere juxtaposition to generate an exquisite tension which their closures sustain.
As the plays of Behn, Shadwell, and Crowne suggest, the political and social turmoil of the 1680's seem to have produced a desire for the more easily comprehended and emotionally secure effects associated with single-mode plays. Thus, despite the continuing popularity of earlier synthetic comedies, only the plays of Otway maintain, in any meaningful way, the tradition of synthetic comedy. By the end of the decade the movement toward sentiment-tinged comedy has begun.
Issue Date:1983
Description:301 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1983.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8324630
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1983

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