Changing scenes and flying machines: re-examination of spectacle and the spectacular in Restoration theatre, 1660-1714

2016-06-23T13:36:05Z (GMT) by Lyndsey Bakewell
This thesis builds upon the existing scholarship of theatrical historians such as Robert D. Hume, Judith Milhous and Jocelyn Powell, and seeks to broaden the notion of the term spectacle in relation to Restoration theatrical performances, as defined by Milhous as scenery, machinery, large cast sizes and music. By arguing that we should not see spectacle in Restoration theatre merely in terms of machinery and scenery, as some have done, but that it properly includes a wider range of elements, such as puppetry and performers, the thesis contends that spectacle on the Restoration stage was more of an integral aspect of theatrical development than previously thought. Through drawing on the wide aspects of theatrical presentation, including setting, stage use, mechanics, costumes and properties, puppetry and performers, this thesis examines how the numerous aspects of the Restoration performance, both in their singularity and as a collective, provided a performance driven by spectacle in order to create an appealing entertainment for its audience. In order to navigate and appreciate the complexity of theatrical performance in this period, the thesis has been divided into key aspects of theatrical presentation, each of which are argued to offer a variant of spectacle. The early chapters of this thesis relate to the material, or non-human, attributes of the stage to consider how the developing nature of performance was shaped by the use of extensive scenery, machinery, puppetry, and elaborate set pieces to provide much of the period s visual, scenographic and theatrical wonder. These chapters build on the definition for spectacle which has previously been used to examine Restoration performance. For the latter chapters, this thesis will shift its focus to consider the role of actresses and actors, to understand how they contributed to the broader impact of the stage, and how they developed in line with the material and mechanical advances. Finally, to demonstrate the collective impact of these elements of performance, the thesis concludes with a detailed exploration of Aphra Behn s The Emperor of the Moon (1687), examining the performative impact of her use of spectacle. In order to identify and support the re-examination of the term spectacle in relation to Restoration theatre, evidence will be drawn from a wide range of play scripts, surviving diary records, accounts, illustrations and newspaper articles. Additionally, the thesis explores a range of different practices, developments and literary and dramatic types, drawn from the English theatre and those European traditions which influenced it in order to provide a more representative examination of spectacle in the period. Importantly, the thesis s core purpose will be to demonstrate that the notion of spectacle is more central to Restoration theatre than is often believed.