The Rehearsal (play)

The Rehearsal (play)

"The Rehearsal" was a satirical play aimed specifically at John Dryden and generally at the sententious and overly ambitious theater of the Restoration tragedy. The play was staged in 1671 and published anonymously in 1672, but it is certainly by George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and others. Several people have been suggested as collaborators, including Samuel Butler of "Hudibras" fame, Martin Clifford, and Thomas Sprat, a Royal Society founder and later Bishop of Rochester.

The play concerns a playwright named Bayes attempting to stage a play. The play he is going to put on is made up almost entirely of excerpts of existing "heroic dramas". The name "Bayes" indicates the poet laureate. The previous poet laureate had been William Davenant, and Davenant did stage spectacles and plays with exceptionally bombastic speeches from the heroes (e.g. "The Siege of Rhodes"). However, the poet laureate at the time of the play was Dryden, and most of the excerpts in the play-within-a-play are liftings from Dryden. In particular, Dryden's "The Conquest of Granada", which had been his most popular play (and the one whose preface had defined "heroic drama"), is the play Buckingham parodies. Dryden had written other heroic drama aside from "The Conquest of Granada." In fact, he had been so prolific in that vein that Martin Clifford accused him of "stealing from himself." The reason that "The Conquest of Granada" was such a target, however, is the "Preface" to the printed version of "The Conquest of Granada." There, Dryden scolds his fellow dramatists for having immoral heroes and low sentiments, and he proposes a new type of theater, the heroic drama. Buckingham's play is, in a sense, the old theater biting him back. In "The Rehearsal," a director/author attempts to put on a new play, and he lectures his actors and critics with impossible and absurd instructions on the importance of what they are doing.

"The Rehearsal" infuriated Dryden, and it is not possible to see the satire without some political cause or effect. (Dryden would not forget the satire, and he made Buckingham into the figure of Zimri in his "Absalom and Achitophel".) However, for readers and viewers what was most delightful was the way that Buckingham effectively punctures the puffed up bombast of Dryden's plays. By taking Dryden's own words out of context and pasting them together, Buckingham disrupts whatever emotions that might have gone with them originally and exposes their inherent absurdity.

The play is credited with putting an end to heroic drama, but, in the long run, it did not. If "heroic drama" is understood only as the writings of Dryden in an heroic vein, then perhaps "The Rehearsal" was a success. Dryden was unable or unwilling to pursue heroic drama for long after "The Rehearsal" came out. Whether "The Rehearsal" or the she-tragedy made popular by the acting of Elizabeth Barry did it, there "was" a turn away from the Classical heroes of Dryden's heroic drama. However, new plays with exaggerated heroes who mouth impossibly high-sounding moral sentiments and accomplish impossibly extravagant actions continued to be written through to the 1740s (see, for example, Henry Carey's "Chrononhotonthologos"). In fact, the trend toward absurdly lofty bombast and sentiment was so strong that Richard Brinsley Sheridan reworked "The Rehearsal" for his play, "The Critic" (1779), where the target was the inflated importance and prose of theater criticism. To some degree, the parodic form of a play-within-a-play goes back to Shakespeare's satire of pantomime plays in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and forward to the contemporary Mel Brooks play, "The Producers".

Eighteenth-century editions of "The Rehearsal" contained a Key that identified the Restoration plays to which Buckingham and his collaborators allude in their work. The Key was originally attributed to Buckingham himself, but is actually the work of Morphew Briscoe. Briscoe's Key contains some accurate information, but also has deficiencies. Later commentators have worked to improve upon it. [George Villiers, Second Duke of Buckingham, "The Rehearsal", Edward Arber, ed., London, 1869; pp. 18-20.]


External links

* [ The Cambridge History of English Literature]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Critic (play) — The Critic: or, a Tragedy Rehearsed is a satire by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The last of his plays, it was first staged at Drury Lane Theatre in 1779. It is a burlesque on stage acting and play production conventions, and Sheridan considered the …   Wikipedia

  • The Rehearsal — is the title of three unrelated dramas.#The Rehearsal (play) of 1672 by George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham #The Rehearsal (film) of 1974, a movie about the Greek junta # The Rehearsal, a short film …   Wikipedia

  • After the Rehearsal — Infobox Film name = After the Rehearsal imdb id = 0087193 writer = Ingmar Bergman starring = Erland Josephson Ingrid Thulin Lena Olin Nadja Palmstjerna Weiss Bertil Guve director = Ingmar Bergman producer = Jörn Donner cinematography = Sven… …   Wikipedia

  • Final Dress Rehearsal (play) — Final Dress Rehearsal is a one act play written by Jack Frakes. It is a simple farce about an amateur troupe of actors putting on a production of Cinderella . Predictably, they are nowhere near ready to perform. The actress playing Cinderella… …   Wikipedia

  • The Conquest of Granada — is a Restoration era stage play, a two part tragedy written by John Dryden that was first acted in 1670 and 1671 and published in 1672. It is notable both as a defining example of the heroic drama pioneered by Dryden, and as the subject of later… …   Wikipedia

  • The Life of Edward II of England — (German: de. Leben Eduards des Zweiten von England ), also known as Edward II , is an adaptation by the German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht of the 16th century historical tragedy by Marlowe, The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of… …   Wikipedia

  • The Residents — Origin Shreveport, Louisiana, United States Genres Avant garde, experimental, multimedia art Years active 1966 1969–present Labels …   Wikipedia

  • The Un-Scripted Theater Company — is an improv theater company based out of San Francisco, California. Unlike most improv troupes, The Un Scripted Theater Company does not perform just one kind of improv format, but rather 4 to 7 runs of uniquely different improv formats each… …   Wikipedia

  • The Indian Emperour — The Indian Emperour, or the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, being the Sequel of The Indian Queen is an English Restoration era stage play, a heroic drama written by John Dryden that was first performed in the Spring of 1665. The play has… …   Wikipedia

  • The Frozen Deep — was a play, originally staged as an amateur theatrical, written by Wilkie Collins along with the substantial guidance of Charles Dickens. Dickens s hand was so prominent adding a proem, altering lines, and attending to most of the props and sets… …   Wikipedia