Renaissance and Restoration

Renaissance: Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Carolinian

  1. Thomson describes the development of theater in the 16th and 17th centuries as one “conditioned by conflict” (173). What are the major trends in the “narrative” of Renaissance theater history?
  2. What is a “progress,” and how is it theatrical? (175, 190) What about the in-house court entertainments—in what way is their theatricalism a function of “prestige and competition”?
  3. During the Tudor period, there was increasing punishment for unlicensed playing. Why? (176) What does this have to do with household players?
  4. How does the transformation of England from a feudal to a capitalist society shape the development of English theater? (177, 184) This question is also related to the theater's increasing professionalization.
  5. What were the effects of enclosing the theaters in Renaissance England?
  6. What was the significance of the Reformation in anti-theatrical rhetoric?
  7. What was the 1572 Act for the Punishment of Vagabonds, and what was its effect on actors in the Renaissance? (179)
  8. What are “liberties” (180), and why are they significant in English Renaissance theater history?
  9. Describe the Renaissance playhouse.
  10. In what ways did acting become a profession in the Renaissance? Consider licensing, competition, shareholding, mangement, enclosure, and the consumer society of post-feudal London.
  11. What was Marlowe's contribution to theater history? (182-3) How were Shakespeare's contributions different? (184-5)
  12. What is “personation”? (186)
  13. Discuss the Renaissance anxieties about deceit and their relationship to the growing anti-theatricalism of the period. (187) This question is also related to the effects of the Reformation and to the political concerns of both heirarchical confusion and the potentially inflammatory display of court politics on the public stage.
  14. What are the larger social or political significances of jesting and its associated forms of comic, plebeian performance? (189-191) With the rise of the professional actor, what happens to popular performance traditions—and the “popular theatre” of the Medieval period? (193)
  15. When did theater move indoors, and why? (191ff) This question is also related to professionalization. What were the effects of this move indoors on the audience? On the theatrical experience?
  16. The Jacobean period was marked by “growing uncertainty about the true purpose of playing” (194); what does Thomson mean by this? What does he mean by the “brinksmanship of professional playwrights” (194)?
  17. What are Jacobean/Stuart court masques, who created them, and why are they important in the history of theater (196-201)? Why does Thomson write, “English theatre was advanced by the theatrical conduct, not by the dramatical content of the masques, whose contemporary impact is irrecoverable from the printed page” (196)? In what way were court masques “courtly ritual”? How did perspective dictate hierarchy? In what ways was the Stuart court masque emblematic of “theatrical elitism” (199)?
  18. What key developments in the construction of theaters does Thomson discuss in this chapter? What was the chief innovation of Inigo Jones to the material theater?

Commonwealth: Civil Wars and Interregnum

  1. What was the effect of “radical Puritanism” on theater history of the early modern period? Who was William Prynne, and what was his position on theater? What was his “main target” (202)? What connections does Prynne—as a representative of the antitheatricalism of the early modern period—see between Catholicism and theater (201-202)?
  2. When were the theaters in England closed under Cromwell, and why? (202-203) Consider the relationship between this closure and Wiles' comments about the suppression of the carnivalesque during the Middle Ages (92).
  3. In what wasy was the execution of Charles I not only dramatic but also “theatrical” (203)?
  4. What does Thomson mean when he says, “The theatre, when it was finally restored, was not the people's” (203)? Or when he discusses “the court's divorce from popular theatrical sentiment—a suppression of the cleansing but unruly clown” (202-3)?
  5. Was there any performance during the Interregnum? If so, what kinds?


  1. When were the theaters re-opened? Who ordered them reopened, and why?
  2. What was the effect of Charles II on theater history? This effect derives from both his granting of monopolies to Davenant and Killigrew, initiating an age of competition; his legislation ordering women to perform women's roles; and his exposure to Continental forms of culture and theater (204-207).
  3. Thomson discusses the role of symmetry in Restoration theater history. How do we see this symmetry in the shape of the playhouse itself (206)? In what other contexts does Thomson discuss symmetry, and why is it important to Restoration theater history? When does it begin to break down?
  4. Describe the Restoration theater as a material space, and consider what the effect of this design is on the audience's experience of the play; Drury Lane can be seen as representative. When did performances begin during the Restoration, and why—or to what effect? (206)
  5. While women, especially noble women, frequently performed in private masques at court, women were prohibited from appearing legally on the stage until 1662. Discuss the role of women on the private, court stage during the late Renaissance and the introduction of actresses into the Restoration public theater. (201 206-210) Who was Nell Gwyn, and why is she important in Restoration theater history? (208) How is the introduction of actresses on stage indicative of the growing professionalization of the theater?
  6. In the Restoration, comedy was the most popular and polished genre; discuss the nature of comedy in the Restoration (211, 212-213). Wycherley's bawdy The Country Wife is an excellent example of Restoration comedy, as is Behn's The Rover.
  7. What is a “proviso scene”? What is the “gay couple”?
  8. In 1692, the “Society for the Reformation of Manners” was founded in England. What was this society, and what was its effect on the history of Restoration theater? What was its legacy to the history of theater more broadly? Who is Jeremy Collier? (218-219)
  9. As we have seen, the history of theater is on one hand a history of its professionalization; however, the history of theater is also bound up with significant changes in power accorded the actors and the shrinking forestage that would project the actor into the audience. The Restoration was a period of intense negotiations and powerplays between the actors and the managers for authority, and both were burdened with the demands of the moral opposition. Discuss the continuing—and changing shape of—professionalization of the Restoration stage.

Miscellaneous, Trends

  1. Was the Renaissance home to an actor's theater, or an author's theater? What about the Restoration?
  2. What are the approximate dates of the Renaissance? Of the Restoration? How can we distinguish the two eras?
  3. What different reasons for the closures of playhouses does Thomson discuss throughout his essay? (183-4, 191, 208)
  4. What is “rambling” (213), and why is it important in Restoration comedy? In The Rover, Helena and Florinda announce their plans to “Ramble” throughout the town during carnival. What does Thomson's essay help you understand about The Rover?
  5. Development of the playhouse
  6. Capitalism, professionalization, and the politics of management
  7. Anti-theatricalism and the post-Reformation stage
  8. Theatricality of court culture
  9. Relationship between court culture and public theater
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License