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Lecture 13

DART1F93 Lecture 13: The Marriage of Figaro

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Dramatic Arts
Paul Halferty

Overview • In the 18th century increased mercantilism, manufacturing and international trade • God receded slightly into the background and the individual stepped forward, with reason and conscience as his authorities Review • The Enlightenment was "The Age of Reason": an age of optimism, with a faith in progress and human perfectibility • 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 • 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 The Rising Middle Class: New Political Paradigms • The American Revolution (1765-1783) and French Revolution (1789-99), with their ideals of liberty and the rights of man are based in enlightenment ideals • Equality, liberty, fraternity • Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness • Their emphasis on the individual and the creation of meritocracy New Popular Forms: Ballad Opera • Ballad Opera emerged in the 1730s in England as a new form, a parody of Italian opera • It is an English theatrical and musical form, in which the action of the play (usually comic) is carried in spoken prose, punctuated by songs set to traditional or current melodies, sung by the actors in character • It was particularly signaled by John Gay's The Beggars Opera 1728 • With music for the 69 songs arranged by J.C. Pepusch, it was enormously successful, touching off a burst of imitations • Ballad Opera's were a popular form and drew their characters from the middle and lower classes • The exotic king and huge arias of opera were exchanged for ordinary life and well known tunes • Ballad Operas were also often social and political satires that made fun of contemporary issues • But its vogue was short-lived and began to decline in 1735 Sentimental and Laughing Comedies • Sentimental comedies reflect middle-class morality (i.e. fewer bawdy jokes) • The bad are punished and the good are rewarded • Sentimental comedies saw virtue rewarded by domestic bliss • Their success was not determined by their dramatic form but by their moral content, which emphasized middle-class values and elevated them to universal guidelines of human behaviour • Its plots, usually involving unbelievably good middle-class couples, emphasized pathos rahter than humour • One of the best examples of a sentimental comedy is The Conscious Lovers (1722) by Richard Steele (1672-1729 • The Conscious Lovers sees the play’s protagonist, Young Bevil, who is promised to marry Lucinda, though he wants to marry a poor orphan named Indianan. • Indiana ends up being the long lost daughter of Lucinda’s father, and Bevila and Indiana are allowed to marry, with Lucinda marrying Benvil’s friend • Like Restoration comedy, they are comedies of manners, but extolling middle-class morality Laughing Comedy • Later in the century, some playwrights altered sentimental comedy, and created what they called “Laughing Comedy” • Oliver Goldsmith is the most important example of a playwright who champion the laugh comedy • He wrote “An Essay on the Theatre; or, A Comparison between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy” which critiques sentimental comedy • He pejoratively calls it “weeping comedy” as its focused on reform and the celebration of virtue • The laughing comedy that he celebrates is a more conventional form of satiric comedy • It aims to create humor by exposing and punishing vice, rather than elevating virtue France: Lead Up to Revolution • Throughout the eighteenth century, France remained a major power, but its former position of dominance was considerably weakened by a series of wars and disastrous economic policies • Increasingly, France was kept in check by the rising powers of England and Austria • After 1750, France also lost its major territories in North America to England • These wars and these losses put a major strain of France’s economy, with the burden falling on the middle and lower classes, as the nobility and the clergy were exempted from taxation • It is these conditions among other that created increasing unhappiness and that erupted in the French Revolution in 1789 • The increasingly large middle and lower classes, were over burdened • Informed by their enlightenment philosophy, and the success of the American Revolution and its lofty humanist constitution, the people revolted against the excesses and what we and they would call injustice Fairground and Boulevard Theatre • Prior to the Revolution, the theatre major Parisian Theatres were regulared and subsidized by the Crown: the Opera, the Comedie-Francaise, the home of nonmusical drama, and th eComedie-Italienne, the home of comedia dell'arte, and later the comic opera • Great demand for entertainment in Paris, especially among its growing bourgeois classes • As a result the “boulevard theatre” emerged to cater to popular tastes • Like their
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