Drama is a literary composition, which is performed by professional actors on stage (or theatre), before an audience. It involves conflicts, actions and a particular theme. Eye-catching make up, facial expressions and body language of the artists are prominent features of a live performance. Although the art form exists in different countries, drama in England deserves special mention, because some of the legendary dramatists, including William Shakespeare, are associated with it. Go through the following lines and get some interesting information on the history, background and origin of English drama.
Interesting Information On Background & Origin Of English Drama
The Romans introduced drama to England, during the medieval period. A number of auditoriums were constructed for the performance of the art form, when it came to the country. Mummers' plays, associated with the Morris dance, became a popular form of street theatre during the period. The performances were based on the old stories of Saint George, Robin Hood and Dragon. The artists moved from town to town, to perform these folk tales. They were given money and hospitality, in return for their performance. The mystery and morality plays, performed during medieval period - at religious festivals, carried the Christian theme.
The English Renaissance, a cultural and artistic movement in England country that lasted from 16th to early-17th century, paved the way for the dominance of drama in the country. Queen Elizabeth I ruled during the period, when great poetry and drama were produced. The renowned playwrights of this time included William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and John Webster. The dramatists wrote plays based on themes like history, comedy and tragedy. While most of the playwrights specialized in only one of the themes, Shakespeare emerged as an artist who produced plays based on all the three themes.
During the period of Interregnum, the Puritans closed English theatres for their own religious purposes and ideological reasons. However, the theatres in London were reopened soon after the 'Restoration of the Monarchy' in 1660. With the support of Prince Charles II, the theatres continued to flourish in the country. The topical writing of the dramatists and the introduction of professional female actors to drama (until then, all the female characters were played by men) gained the attention of the audience.
The Restoration gave rise to the inclusion of new genres in drama, such as heroism and Restoration comedy. George Etherege's 'The Man of Mode' (1676), William Wycherley's 'The Country Wife' (1676), Aphra Behn's 'The Rover' (1677) John Dryden's 'All for Love' (1677) and (Aureng-Zebe) (1675) and Thomas Otway's 'Venice Preserved' (1682) were some of the popular plays of the period. Sexual explicitness was the highlight of the comic plays during the Restoration. Price Charles II and the aristocratic ethos of his court encouraged such plays, which started from 1660 and continued until 1685.
The Restoration comedy in England, which had started in the later half of the 17th century, faded away with the advent of the 18th century. Domestic tragedy and sentimental comedy became the new flavor of the period. Fair-booth burlesque and musical entertainment, which preceded the English music hall, flourished during the period, suppressing the popularity of legitimate English drama.
Victorian Era (1837-1901)
Musical burlesques and comic operas competed with the plays written by Shakespeare, during the Victorian Era. The German Reed Entertainments took efforts to give a boost to the musical theatre in Britain, in 1855. In 1890, the first series of Edwardian musical comedies were introduced to the country. Improved transportation resulted in the movement of the audience, who could now afford to travel to the theatres late in the night as well. The number of potential patrons of English theatre saw a significant growth. As a result, plays started running for longer duration in the theatres.
With time, more and more people started coming to theatres. This resulted in drama being a profit making business. The increase in the audience resulted in the improvement in the production value of drama. The art form recorded consecutive performance, due to the increase in its popularity. The late Victorian Era saw the growing fame of W. S. Gilbert and Oscar Wilde, leading poets and dramatists of the period. The plays written by Wilde had close resemblance to those written by the Edwardian dramatists, such as George Bernard Shaw (an Irishman) and Henrik Ibsen (a Norwegian).
Emergence Of New Medium
The Edwardian musical comedy, together with foreign operetta imports, occupied the London stage until World War I, when they were replaced by the increasing popularity of American musical theatre and comedies. Noel Coward, Ivor Novello and their contemporaries soon replaced the Edwardian musical comedy. It was during this time that a new medium - motion picture - started gaining popularity. Initially, the motion pictures comprised of silent movies.
With the passing time, the movies were premiered with sound tracks. This posed a challenge to the live theatre performance, which faced a downfall. In the 1920s, films like 'The Jazz Singer', released with synchronized sound track, made the critics assume that the 'new medium' would soon replace live theatre. However, the English drama didn't vanish away altogether. Playwrights continued to exist, though some of the dramatists started writing for the new medium.
The Present Time
The majority of musical dramas of the 20th century were written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who dominated the scene during the period. His works gained immense popularity. Consequently, the dramas traveled to Broadway in New York and around the world. Some of them were turned into feature films as well. Postmodernism had a serious effect on the existence of English drama, in the end of 20th century. However, a large number of theatres still exist around Shaftesbury Avenue, in the western part of London. The Royal Shakespeare Company, operating from Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare's hometown), currently produces most of the plays written by the legendary dramatist.