The Contrast between 16th and 17th Century English Theater

In John Dryden’s The Indian Emperor, first performed in spring of 1665, shows the cultural change of around the theater from the times of shakespeare to the restoration period. The Dichotomy of honor and love defines how plays during the restoration period different to plays during shakespeare’s england. The cultural contrast between the times of shakespeare and Dryden’s The Indian Emperor is seen in the differences of the people that attended the performances, the themes within the plays, and the theater houses themselves.

The crowds that attended english theaters during the 16th and 17th century are vastly different. This difference caused major cultural changes in all aspects of the theater. In England during the 16th century theater was was for the common man. During the 17th century, the restoration, the majority of those that attend the theater were the wealth and noble. Theater during this time period was a place to see and be seen. This difference in attends affected the cost of attendance which meant that  people from the lower class were able to to attend the theater during the 16th century. This higher attendance of the lower class caused playwrights like Shakespeare and Marlowe to have difference in the content and language when comparing their work to Dryden’s. The work of Shakespeare had more elements of dark humor and sexual references than plays during the restoration period. This was due in part because these playwrights wrote for different crowds. This change in attendance caused a major difference in the designs and layout of theater houses. The restoration brought in more grandeur and luxury into the design of the theater houses. This differences between these two time period is seen in the amount of luxury boxes, the price of attendance and the layout of the ground floor. Because the royal family and other nobility attended 17th century theater it caused changes in the content and themes in theater to change. Dryden had to entertain his crowd so he choose to write about nationalism, honor and love. By writing about the Spanish conquest of Central America it shows Dyrden’s views on English superiority over rival imperialist nations. Dryden’s wrote about the Spanish’s struggles to conquer these natives to show English nationalism and superiority because that’s what resonated with the audience. In the eyes of these nobles and english royalty the England would not have struggled to conquer Central America.

Drury_Lane_Theatre.jpg-Conor Morgan
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