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A Study of ‘Wit’ in Comedy of Manners During the English Restoration Age - Emphasis on William Congreve’s The Way of the World -

KIM, DONGWOOK 1

1성균관대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The Restoration Age was the most interesting period in English dramatic art. When Charles II restored the throne in 1660, he ordered to re-open the London theatres which had been closed for 18 years by the puritans, issuing letters patent to Thomas Killigrew and Sir William D’Avenant for the incorporation of two companies of players. New theatre buildings in continental style were introduced in London, and more sophisticated audiences were gathered for enjoying European neo-classic dramas. For them, John Dryden’s heroic tragedies or comedies of manners were more popular than Shakespeare’s tragedies or pastoral comedies. About the comedy of manners, however, there were two different reviews and judgements; some criticised them bitterly according to the religious standard, and the others advocated them. Among them ‘The Collier Controversy’(1698) was most famous. While Rev. Jeremy Collier attacked on the indecency and profaneness of the stage, the major playwrights including William Congreve defended them explaining specific passages by placing them in the context from which Collier had sometimes wrenched them. Congreve argues that even though indecent themes and profaneness, as well as the false wit characters and hypocrisy were frequently introduced during the play, as the vicious people are made ashamed of their follies or faults by seeing them exposed in a ridiculous manner, so are good people at once both warned and diverted at their expense. In order to comprehend and judge rightly on the comedy of manners during the Restoration Age, therefore, it is necessary to keep distance with the puritan’s views and to understand the new fashions and tastes of the newly rising middle class audiences.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.