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Lecture 12

DART1F93 Lecture 12: The Enlightenment of the Eighteenth Century

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Brock University
Dramatic Arts
Paul Halferty

Lecture #12: The Eighteenth Century January 9, 2014 Key Aspects • European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries • Heavily influenced by the thinking of the 17th century philosophers and scientists • At its core, it believes in reason as the key to human knowledge and progress • A sense of religious tolerance, and a distrust of superstition • The idea that humanity can be perfected through science • Freedom of speech, freedom of thought, human rights Context: A Smaller World • Increased mercantilism, manufacturing and international trade made the world a smaller place, a global community • With good, people and ideas were increasingly traded in Europe and North America • In the 17th century, God was still prominent and religion held its place of authority Reason and Conscience • In the 18th century, God recedes into the background and the individual stepped forward, with reason and conscience and his authorities Self-Interest and Reason • Secularization made its way into all aspects of public and private life, and in many ways national ones • The 18th century saw the emergence of individualism • "Man" was guided now more than ever by self-interest, and what he understood as his own reason or conscience Rising Middle Class • At the beginning of the 1700s we have theatre that is about and patronized by the nobility in England and France • By the end of the century in England we have theatres that are much larger, patronized by and about the mercantile and rising middle classes Optimism and Faith in Progress • It was an age of optimism, with a faith in progress and human perfectibility • This enthusiasm was most obvious in France and England where a mercantile economy fueled the growth and power of the middle class, and which in turn powered the cultural, economic, and scientific advancement • This optimism was dealt significant blow by the violence of the Reign of Terror, which sent many feeling liberal, humanist values Faith in Knowledge (not God) • Nevertheless. Faith in knowledge and reasons and progress were the dominant characteristics of the Enlightenment • Which is succinctly summarized by poet Alexander Pope: "Nature and Nature's law lay hid in night: God said, Let Newton be! And all was light" Also an Era of Transition • In many ways the 18th century was also a time of transition, whose political, philosophical, and economic changes paved the way for the even more revolutionary developments in the 19th and 20th centuries • In the 18th century men of learning, the philosophes, were very important New Political Paradigms • The political philosophies of Montesquieu, of Rousseau, and Voltaire • Rousseau's The Social Contract (1762) argued that governments existed because of an agreement among the people governed, and not between the ruler and their subjects • He argued that governments were therefore representatives and responsible to their constituents, the people they represented • Many rulers still believed that their power was God-given and therefore not to be questioned, some monarchs who were sympathetic to enlightenment philosophy became known as "Enlightened despots" Revolutions in Politics • Enlightened despots thus took up the principles of the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on rationality • They were patrons of the arts, encouraged religious toleration, and freedom of speech and the press, and fostered science and education • The American and French revolutions, with their ideals of liberty and the rights of man are based in enlightenment ideals Theatre Buildings, Scenery, and Costumes • Theatre building proliferated in Europe in the 18th century, especially in the German states, where no theatre existed before this time • These theatres continued to be designed in the Italianate, prosceniums arch style with wings and shutters, grove or pole and chariots systems in use • The most important extant example is the theatre at Drottnigholm, in Sweden Theatre Buildings • Erected in 1766 as part of the royal summer palace it was moth balled in the 1790s and lay dormant for 100 years • The two most important changes were: o Size o No nobles on stage • With an audience who was increasingly coming from the middle classes. Playhouses had to become larger, especially after 1760 o Drury Lane, for example, had 650 seats in 1700, but 3000 in 1800 • Though the theatres increased in size they did not change in their design • All theatre continues to be divided into pit, boxes, and galleries • As the auditoriums grew so did the stages, with their height, widths and depths increasing • The apron, however, which has been largest in the English theatres were diminished The Advent of the Fourth Wall • The second major change was the idea of the "fourth wall", which was introduced in this period by Denis Diderot • According to Diderot, the audience and the theatrical action should be separate, and should not interfere with the action on stage, which would inform 19th century realism A Disciplining Technology • Although there had been benches in English Restoration period, seating in the pit is installed in the rest of Europe • This too is, in a way, an example of the desire for the action onstage to not be disturbed by the action in the auditorium • In the old pit, spectators would move around and socialize; with seats no installed, they were expected to stay put and face in one direction Scenery • The major scenic innovation came from the famous Bibiena family who were synonymous with scenic design throughout Europe from 1690 to 1787 • The first was the use of "Angled scenery", which uses several vanishing points, rather than just one • The Bibenas also were known for the elaborate ornamentation of their setting, their use of baroque art in scenic designs • Another significant scenic change was the movement toward "local colour" • Local colour refers to the inclusion of places that were local, or would be recognizable to the audience • In the mid-18th century, interest in ancient history also let some designers to experiment with historical accuracy - though with limited success. But this interest laid the foundation for this interest in the 19th century • This interest in accuracy made some movements in
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