the Interregnum



  • In the English theater, the 18-year period from 1642 duringwhich all public playhouses were closed by the Puritans. They reopenedon the coronation of Charles II (1660).

    As early as 1583 Philip Stubbes's The Anatomie of Abuseshad given the Puritan view of the theater as inducing "whoredomand uncleanness". The playhouses had already suffered closuresdue to outbreaks of the plague in 1625, 1630, and 1637, when, on 2September 1642, Parliament published its First Ordinance AgainstStage Plays and Interludes commanding that "public stage-playsshall cease and be foreborne" on religious and moral grounds.The closure order owed much to the fact that, with few exceptions,the theatrical world supported the Royalists, making London's theatershotbeds of intrigue against the Puritan cause. Following the ordermost actors and playwrights joined the Royalist forces, retired, went back toearlier trades, or left the country. After the Civil War orders weregiven to arrest any actors found giving a performance and to finemembers of the audience.

    Cromwell himself was not opposed to drama as such and allowedsome private and school performances. William Davenant wasone manager who protected his livelihood by cultivating Cromwell'slove of music. In 1656 he was allowed to produce The Siege of Rhodes,a "representation of the art of perspective in scenes and thestory sung in recitative musick" using singers instead of actors.This has been called the first English opera. Davenant staged otherplays with music, such as The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru(1658) and Sir Francis Drake (1659). Both of these were givenat the Cockpit Theatre, a venue that staged many illegal productionsuntil it was raided by soldiers in 1649. Secret performances continuedto take place both in private homes and in such venues as the FortuneTheatre (until soldiers dismantled it in 1649), the Vere Street Theatre(wrecked by soldiers in 1649), and the Red Bull Theatre, where severalactors, including Robert Cox and Timothy Reade, were arrested. see also an ill Beest.