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Augustan drama

Theatre had belonged to the Court during the Restoration Age but the Court had slowly withdrawn its support to so that during the Augustan Age the middle class entered into the playhouse and the public going to the theatres expanded. Drama followed strict aesthetic rules and the imitation of the “Ancients” became the most important feature of it. The Italian Opera was born in this period as a reaction against restrictions and critics as the people clearly enjoyed entertainment with music and dancing. Also the “pantomime” appeared in this period, in which a silent story was told by means of gestures and meaningful movements. The pantomime was associated with ballad-opera which was a mixture of political satire, love interest and adventures, invented by John Gay. Also popular was the “melodrama” which combined thrills and laughter and used an extravagant and emotional language. The Sentimental Comedy took the place of the Comedy of Manners which had developed during the Restoration Age, and it was dealing with ordinary family and marriage problems in a simple language. This exaggerated sentimentality brought, at the end of the Augustan Age, to Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Sheridan, two of the most important playwrights of the period, who began to react against it by writing of comic situations and ridiculous characters, though maintaining some features of the former drama such as the witty dialogues.

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