Every schoolboy once knew that the Restoration of the king meant the restoration of the theatre and it was often claimed that that very connection meant the degeneration of drama. Such simplified views point the way to a more complicated truth. From the first, Restoration drama, as we shall see, was essentially political drama, drawing on the circumstances and attitudes that had led to the theatre’s reopening for its peculiar matter and flavour. It was new and effective but like much political drama rather limited. Although it derived from earlier drama, its distinctive affiliation was with contemporary panegyric, political pamphleteering and propagandist display. From the beginning Charles’s return had called forth theatrical show on the grandest scale. The numerous official occasions provided an opportunity for lavish, ingratiating spectacles, presented before the king, mostly organised by the City of London and performed in the streets or important civic buildings. John Tatham’s The Royal Oak for the Lord Mayor’s Day 1660 had ‘twice as many Pageants and Speeches as have been formerly showen’, and the coronation triumphs in 1661 were reckoned greater than anything seen before in England or Rome.1 The tradition of street pageantry was an old one and incorporated emblematic imagery, verbal and visual, with a long ancestry of political service.


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  1. 1.
    John Tatham, The Royal Oake With Other various and delightfull Scenes presented on the Water and the Land (1660), sig. A1a.Google Scholar
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© Nicholas Jose 1984

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