Restoration theater

BY aliyah lalani



The auditorium of the Restoration Theatres consisted of a pit with benches and probably two galleries with boxes round the walls. There was a forestage projecting into the auditorium similar to the platform stage in the pre-Commonwealth outdoor theatres. This had various names including ‘platform’, ‘proscenium’ and ‘scene’. Where the outdoor platform stage and the Blackfriars had doors at the rear of the stage in the tiring house façade, the Restoration forestage had entrance doors on either side of the stage in front of what was called the frontispiece and which became the proscenium arch. A curtain was hung at the rear of the forestage which was drawn up at the beginning of a performance and stayed up during the whole performance, so that every scene change took place in the view of the audience. On granting licences to the theatres, the King ordered that the plays should employ painted scenery and there was an area beyond the forestage, and the curtain, in which this could be set. The locations were painted in perspective on sets of side wings which led to a system of sliding shutters which met across the rear stage area. The wings and back shutters could be parted to disclose another location up to a probable total of three or four, and the back shutters could also draw apart to enable a disclosure or discovery, or to close off one scene as the action moved into another.


Periwig—Wig that gained favor during the period

of Louis XIV; hair at this time was worn shoulder

length and in flowing curls. The head was then

regularly shaved, the wig taking the place of the

man's own hair. At first it was made to look like

natural hair, but eventually an artificial effect

was cultivated. Masses of ringlets fell over the

shoulders and down the back. By 1660 wig-

making in France reached such a stage of

perfection that French periwig was in demand all

over Europe.

Chapeau Bra—Since hats were required at French

court and women could not wear hats on their

high wigs, they created this “arm hat” to wear.

Rabat—Type of Cravat, with vertically pleated

front fall.

Jabot—The frill on the shirt front that might

accompany the rabat.

Cassock Coat—Between 1650 and 1670 the

doublet of Charles I reign was sometimes

lengthened and almost to the knee. Like its

Predecessor it could be worn either belted or

beltless, but following the new trend it had a

lower waist line; its skirts flared slightly. Except

for length, it was essentially like the modern

clerical cassock.

Cannon—Bunches of ribbon loops affixed at the

knee, worn between 1660 and 1670.

Bolero—A small jacket often with rounded

corners on the front.

Manteau—The formal female gown of the period

of Louis XIV. The overskirt was looped back and

held by ribbon bows. The looped-up folds were

often bunched in back over an underskirt of

taffeta; the train, the length of which was

determined by the lady's social position. The

train was carried over the left arm, except in the

presence of royalty, when it trailed on the floor.

Tricorne—The standard three-cornered hat worn

by gentle-men of the period.

Cravat—Any type of neck dressing other than a

collar. Of various types through several periods.

Her the rabat, or lace falling band, with round

corners became broad and long, and the jabot,

or frill on the shirt front, frequently appeared

with it. By the end of the 1670's the ends of the

cravat became full lace tabs, tied under the chin

with a cravat string of ribbon or lace.

Steinkirk—A scarf of lace or lawn, loosely tied

with the ends casually twisted into the vest or

shirt front or drawn through a buttonhole or ring.

Black silk steinkirks were introduced in the 1690s

and were named after the Battle of Steinkirk,

where the hurriedly garbed French, unable to tie

their cravats, twisted the ends through

buttonholes in their coats.

Petticoat Breeches—Full breeches, ending in

deep ruffles or canons. There were two styles of

petticoat breeches—one which resembled a kilt,

the other a divided skirt. By about 1660 the

breeches were so wide that it is not always easy

to distinguish between Rhinegrave breeches and

s short skirt. Sometimes the legs of these

garments attained a width of six feet.

Fontanges—In 1680 the Duchess de Fontanges,

having her hat blown off at a royal hunting party,

tied her curls in place with her garter, arranging

a bow with ends in front. From that incident a

new fashion evolved—a cap of tier of upstanding

wired and pleated ruffles of lawn, lace, and

ribbons. The hair dressed in that fashion was

called coif-fure a la Fontanges, and the cap with

its narrow rising front was known as le bonnet a

la Fontanges. The cap often had two floating

pieces of ribbon or lace in back, and over the

whole arrangement was often worn a black silk

hood or kerchief. In 1691 the headdress was

reduced to two tiers of pleats and became known

as the commode.

Waistcoat—A sleeveless vest that was worn under

a coat and was the same length as the coat.

Baldric—A diagonal sash that went across the

body that would hold the sword, display metals

and show status.


William Wycherley – Plays include The Country Wife, Love in a Wood, Gentleman Dancing-Master, and,

The Plain Dealer Lived between 1640-1715

George Etherege – Plays include; The Man of Mode, The Comical Revenge, or Love in a Tub, and, She

Would If She Could. He was a Londoner who lived between 1636 and 1689.

William Congreve – The Way of the World; (1670-1729) Irish writer. William Congreve is a famous

playwright, known for The Way of the World and other plays in Restoration comedy including, The Old

Bachelo, The Double Dealer, Love for Love, and, The Mourning Bride.


The country wife

The way of the world

The man of the mode

The rover

The plain dealer

Backround information

Restoration theatre was truly a unique era of plays and play writing. When Charles Stuart was restored to the throne in 1660, theatres were reopened after an eighteen-year span.

Restoration theatre became a way to celebrate the end of Puritan rule, with its strict moral codes. To celebrate the opening of the theatres Restoration plays were lavish, often immoral by Puritan standards, and poked fun at both royalists and roundheads. The lightheartedness of the plays reflected a society recovering from years of division and unrest. Although the audience enjoyed tragedies, comedies were the hallmark of Restoration plays. Classics such as Romeo and Juliet were rewritten and given a happy ending! Restoration comedies involved quick wit and comedic situations. There were elements of Restoration comedy that were repeated for over 40 years; common themes suggest several social anxieties of the time.Another thing that rose in this century was cuckolding.