Restoration Drama in English Literature: Characteristics & Features


  • Theatres were closed during the Puritan Age. During the Restoration Age, they re-opened with new types of plays and performances which were different than before.
  • The theatres which were indoor were much smaller than the Elizabethan theatres. They didn’t have a platform, but there was a picture frame stage with different sceneries. The lighting was artificial and the actors would enter from the side.
  • The audience was the middle-class and upper-class people. Most of the features of Restoration Drama are seen even today.
  • The success of the plays of the Restoration period was dependent upon the strange staging devices, weird plots, and dramatized language.
  • Attention was increased to the commercial rather than the artistic aspect of making theatre.
  • Earlier Elizabethan texts like King Lear were given a happy ending.
  • The horse-shoe shape was given to the theatres with an inclined stage; thus allowing more people to enjoy drama.

There were mainly two main development in Restoration Drama

Restoration Tragedy

If the Age of Restoration (1660-1700) A.D. is one of the most splendid periods in the records of English Drama, it is on the account of Comedy of Manners. The so-called Heroic Tragedy which had a brief run concurrently with the Comedy of Manners had also a little popularity but was too unnatural and artificial and merely a type of French soil.

Heroic Tragedy was also called “Heroic Drama”, but Dryden, the main supporter of Tragedy, called it “Heroic Drama”. These plays were written in the Classical model of the rhymed heroic couplet and later in blank verse tragedy.

This tragedy was only near tragedy. The theme of the heroic plays was based on the struggle between love and honor, the hero and heroine were cast on a grand scale and their dialogues consisted of elaborate speeches, in rhymed 10-syllabled couplets, full of emotional and bombastic of such kind that its parallel would not be found.

The heroes and heroines would show great nobility. This would create admiration in the audience. The play would make people wonder and also excite their imaginations.

There was a hero, a heroine, and a villain. The villain was a dominating character. From 1660 onwards, the plays were male-dominated, but in the 1670s and 1680s, the focus shifted from hero to heroine.

The heroic play flourished for some 20 years and then died a natural death, exhausted by its own excess. Dryden is a major writer of dramatic tragedy.

The Conquest of Granada is one of the better heroic tragedies, but Dryden’s most successful achievement is All for LoveOther heroic dramatists were Nathaniel Lee and Thomas Otway.

Comedy of Manners

Know more about Comedy of Manners