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  • Hey there, I'm Mike Rugnetta.

  • This is Crash Course Theater, and remember how we said it was gonna take a bunch of buzzkill Puritans to end this huge

  • flowering of art and culture and awesomeness? Well, here they are. Today

  • we're gonna be talking about objections to theatre in Renaissance England and how the theaters eventually closed. But good news,

  • they reopen two decades later with smutty comedy and expurgated Shakespeare and also women on stage

  • sometimes wearing pants. What a time to have been alive.

  • As you remember from our episodes on classical theater, Puritans didn't invent hating on theater, a phenomenon we call anti-

  • theatricalism. Boo, hiss.

  • The father of anti-theatricalism, as far as recorded history goes, is

  • Plato.

  • Yeah,

  • that Plato in "The Republic," Plato says that he wouldn't have any poets in his ideal Kingdom because poetry is a false

  • representation of reality. It just

  • distracts people from philosophy. Please also note though, that Plato wrote his own philosophy in

  • dialogue form, so...

  • Anyway, while the Greeks the Romans and the early Christians all had problems with theater and those who performed it to some degree

  • there ain't no anti-theatricalist like a Puritan anti-theatricalist. Think of the thing that you hate the most in the world and then

  • multiply that hate by a lot more loathing and

  • suspicion and also fear of the plague

  • You probably still don't hate the theater like the Puritans did. Let's see some examples

  • This first is from Elizabeth's reign. A letter sent by the Lord Mayor and aldermen of London in

  • 1597, which called for all plays to be cancelled. Plays, he wrote, "are a special cause of corrupting the youth,

  • containing nothing

  • but unchaste matters, lascivious devices, shifts of cozenage and other lewd and ungodly practices."

  • He also went on to say that they make people lazy and criminal and give them black death,

  • which, I mean, I've worked with some flat footed lighting technicians

  • but no one with the pestilence. Other Puritans came along and started writing some long and unhinged pamphlets.

  • They said that plays taught people how to sin, that they made men effeminate-

  • remember all of those boy actors dressed as spunky heroines in pants? Yeah, the Puritans did not love that- and surprise, surprise,

  • that plays went against God. And, here's something for the irony fans;

  • remember how theater was used to jazz up church services not so long before this?

  • Well, some Protestant English critics objected to Renaissance theater because it emerged from liturgical drama

  • and that made it too

  • Popish. Not religious enough, or too religious.

  • It's almost like the nature of theater isn't the problem here. The greatest example of an anti-theatrical text is probably William Prynne's

  • Histriomastix,

  • a thousand pages of invective

  • against the theater published in 1632. How bananas is this book?

  • Well, here is an abridged version

  • of the title:

  • "Histriomastix: the players scourge, or actor's tragedy divided into two parts, wherein it is largely

  • evidenced, by diverse arguments that popular stage plays are sinful heathenish lewd ungodly spectacles and most pernicious

  • corruptions and that the profession of play poets of stage players together with the pending acting and frequenting of stage plays are unlawful infamous and

  • misbeseeming Christians." Abridged, people.

  • This is the abridged title. Yeesh. Somewhere in those thousand pages Prynne mentioned that women actors are

  • notorious whores and maybe you're thinking:

  • what women actors? Prynne claimed he was talking about a troupe of French actresses who had visited London in

  • 1629 and had been booed and pippin-pelted off the stage. That means that they got apples tossed at them.

  • But hey also, remember how court masks featured noble women including the queen, Henrietta Maria?

  • The nobles remembered, and when the court read Prynne's book he was put on trial for

  • seditious libel, because you kinda can't imply that the queen is a whore and not maybe get your own thousand page book thrown at you.

  • But okay, Prynne's work wasn't the final dramatic nail in the theaters coffin;

  • what did it? Well, it starts with Charles I. King of England,

  • Scotland, and Ireland and hubby to Henrietta Maria. Charles I had worse problems than men seditiously libeling his wife.

  • His main problem was money. Wars did not come cheap and

  • he fought lots of them and I'm sure all of those Inigo Jones sets and nymph costumes didn't help things either.

  • He and Parliament, which was largely puritanical, used to fight all the time about his military spending. So, he kept

  • dissolving Parliament. In 1629,

  • he disbanded it all together and decided to go it alone, levying some unpopular taxes to keep everything afloat.

  • And that went okay, until 1640, when he needed money to fight against the Scots.

  • He reconvened Parliament and then dissolved it again, and then reconvened it again and the House of Commons

  • basically passed a bill telling the King that he was a royal pain in the neck. Then Ireland

  • rebelled- here is where we get back to theatre. Civil War now fully underway, the puritanical

  • Parliament used the conflict as an excuse to ban theater, mostly on religious grounds. In 1642,

  • they passed an edict which read, "Public sports do not well agree with public calamities, nor

  • public stage plays with the seasons of

  • humiliation, this being an exercise of sad and pious

  • solemnity, and the other being spectacles of pleasure too commonly expressing lascivious mirth and levity.

  • It is therefore thought fit and ordained by the Lords and Commons in this Parliament assembled

  • that while these sad causes and set times of humiliation do continue

  • public stage plays shall cease and be forborn." Basically,

  • how can you theatre at a time like this?

  • In 1647 parliament published another edict threatening punishment for anyone who put on a play. The next year they passed a law saying

  • actors should be apprehended as criminals and theatres should be demolished. An actor caught acting once was whipped, twice,

  • treated as an incorrigible rogue, which actually sounds fine, but

  • probably it was awful. Anyone found attending a play would be fined five shillings

  • which was a mint then, and in 1649, a few months after they beheaded Charles I, the Puritan

  • Parliamentarians appointed a provost marshal who was tasked with imprisoning all ballad singers and shutting down stage plays. No

  • fun allowed.

  • So, did the theatre disappear entirely?

  • Sort of. Public performances were semi-secretly held until the king was beheaded

  • but they really dried up after that. Late in the 1650's, the playwright William Davenant

  • basically invented English language opera because musical performances hadn't been

  • specifically forbidden. He was like, look, everybody's singing all the time!

  • This definitely isn't a play. No, no, not at all.

  • Otherwise, performances were small and clandestine, held in private homes, tennis courts, and inns, and this would be the case for

  • about 12 years. In 1658, Oliver Cromwell

  • the leader of the Commonwealth, died. His son lost the confidence of the military, the Royalists started rising up again, and in

  • 1660, Charles II was restored to the throne.

  • Almost immediately, he started licensing theater companies and helping theaters reopen. In London,

  • there were two main companies. One, led by William Davenant, the opera guy, and the other led by Thomas Killigrew.

  • Descendants of these companies basically had a lock on spoken drama in London until

  • 1843. At first, the restoration theater relied on old plays. Tragic comedies were popular, especially those by Beaumont and Fletcher.

  • Shakespeare was almost immediately revived, but with a difference. Remember those tragedies where everyone died and it was very moving?

  • Yorick does. He knows them well.

  • Restoration audiences were not

  • into it. After that whole civil war thing

  • people wanted happy endings, not a stage full of corpses.

  • So, playwrights rewrote Shakespeare. Suddenly, Juliet gets to wake up before Romeo kills himself.

  • And Lear survives.

  • Also Edgar and Cordelia get married and

  • Miranda gets a sister. Companies also started using all those fancy scenic design elements that Inigo Jones had introduced, but the biggest difference was women.

  • Women on stage, Charles II approved it. Why? It's unclear. Though,

  • actresses were common in France, where he had been hiding out. Women not only took on female roles,

  • they also took on male roles or breeches parts.

  • Maybe they did it for the actorly challenge,

  • or maybe they did it because theater managers realized that male audience members went crazy when women wore pants and showed their ankles.

  • Ooh, la la. And women not only appeared on stage,

  • there were also several important female restoration playwrights, including Aphra Behn and

  • Susanna Centlivre. The restoration also brought some new styles of playwriting to England. Most were heroic tragedies and

  • swashbuckling romances borrowed from Spain and France,

  • but it did birth one homegrown genre: the restoration comedy. Restoration comedies are

  • smutty, even by today's standards. They're witty, sexy, outrageous plays about upper-class people looking for love.

  • Lots of that love is

  • adulterous. Like most comedies, they rely on familiar types and while they don't have that

  • Shakespearean depth of characterization,

  • they are funny. A bunch of those hoots and hollers derived from voicing a cynical distrust of

  • conventional morality, because after that whole beheading the king and living under Puritan rule,

  • conventional morality just doesn't look so great. In fact, it looks downright oppressive.

  • Marriage isn't the happy ending here. No social contract is treated as objectively rad.

  • These plays are skeptical of airy concepts like love honor and fidelity;

  • they're much more about lust, and envy, and covetousness as motivating forces.

  • For example, William Wycherley's 1675 play "The Country Wife" is sort of based on Molière,

  • but luder. Take us to the country, Thought Bubble.

  • Harry Horner, check out that name, decides that the best way to sleep with all the women in town is to spread the rumor that

  • he's impotent, so that husbands will leave their wives alone with him.

  • It works! That Horner. Meanwhile, Pinchwife has just gotten married to Margery, and is so worried about

  • adultery that he won't let her out of the house, won't let her have any friends, and keeps her in the country. Get it?

  • She's the country wife. Finally, he agrees to take her for a walk in town,

  • but only after disguising her as a boy.

  • Horner meets the disguised Margery, clocks that she's a woman, and runs off with her. When she and Pinchwife are reunited,

  • he tells her that she can never see Horner again, and makes her write a letter saying how disgusting she finds him.

  • But, instead of a weird chaste affidavit, she writes a love letter. Horner likes her too, but still finds time to

  • horn Lady Fidget in a scene that uses a lot of ceramics metaphors. It's hilarious.

  • He also sleeps with all of her friends, and maybe you'd expect to playwright to try to protect Margery from sex-addict Horner,

  • but Wycherley would rather see his characters happily bonking than unhappily chaste.

  • Margery dresses up as Pinchwife's sister and goes to Horner's room. Pinchwife finds them,

  • but owing to some fast-talking, Horner and Margery get off scot-free and Pinchwife seems to believe the tales of Horner's impotence,

  • leaving him to carouse another day. So it all ends smutilly ever after. Take that, Puritans.

  • Thanks thought-bubble. That was

  • permissive. So, we can see that this is a lot

  • rowdier than the Shakespeare style of comedy and even a bit wittier in the text, too.

  • Restoration comedy encouraged anti theatricalists, too- Jeremy Collier's

  • 1698 pamphlet "A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage" is

  • 300 pages.

  • Short by Prynne's standards. Collier writes, "Nothing has gone farther in debauching the age than the stage poets, and

  • play-house," and his ideas were so influential that he encouraged some playwrights to reform.

  • He also caught the attention of James II, who decreed that plays should maybe be less money.

  • Boring.

  • Now, but okay, we're gonna get less money, too- as we head to Spain and France to explore Golden Age drama on the continent.

  • But until then,

  • curtain. Crash Course Theater is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios.

  • Head over to their channel to check out some of their shows like the Art Assignment and Eons and It's Okay to Be Smart.

  • Crash course Theater is filmed in the Chad and Stacey Emigholz Studio in Indianapolis, Indiana and is produced with the help of all of these

  • very nice people. Our animation team

  • is Thought Café. Crash Course exists thanks to the generous support of our patrons and

  • Patreon. Patreon is a voluntary

  • subscription service where you can support the content you love through a monthly donation and help keep Crash Course free for everyone, forever.

  • Thanks for watching.

Hey there, I'm Mike Rugnetta.

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Where Did Theater Go? Crash Course Theater #18

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    Pei-Yi Lin   に公開 2019 年 05 月 05 日
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