W102 | The Theatres are Open Again! The New World of Restoration Comedy 


11:00 am – 12:30 pm


3/23, 3/30, 4/6, 4/13, 4/20 & 4/27

Six Sessions 

This course is offered online via the easy-to-use Zoom program

In 1642 civil war erupted in England between King Charles I and Parliament, resulting in the overthrow of the English monarchy. The puritanical government which followed banned most kinds of entertainment, especially professional theatrical performances. In 1660 the monarchy was restored. Charles II returned from exile in France to claim his throne, and the playhouses in London, closed for 18 years, reopened to audiences primed for pleasure. Into this milieu Restoration Comedy was born. Tastes and expectations brought back from France shaped the development of the playhouses, the troupes of actors, and the plays themselves. New public theatres were designed on French models, the continental custom of women playing female roles was adopted for the first time ever on the English stage, and playwrights were given license to indulge an imported appetite for sophisticated, bawdy wit. This was not theatre for the groundlings anymore, as had been the case with Shakespeare.

In this course we will examine five of the finest comedies of Restoration theatre with an eye to how they work theatrically, how they comment on the social mores of their day, how they reflect the changing roles of and attitudes towards women, and how they still resonate today. Be prepared to observe a homosocial world peopled by fops, fools, cuckolds, and wits interacting with astute fashionable ladies bent on preserving their honorable reputations, if not always their virtue. Be prepared to laugh!


CLOSED ~ AT CAPACITY: To join waiting list email olli@berkshirecc.edu

Recommended Viewing and Reading:

Before the first class, please listen to Prof. Gilli Bush-Bailey’s pre-show talk for a 2012 production of Congreve’s The Way of the World. She provides a great deal of background information about how the Restoration theatres and acting companies were established, with special emphasis on the role of women as actresses, theatre managers, and playwrights. She speaks rapidly, but she’s very entertaining: https://youtu.be/E3tay1QXQLM

For the following sessions, please read any print or online edition of the following plays:

  • William Wycherly’s The Country Wife - for week 2
  • William Congreve’s The Way of the World - for week 3
  • Aphra Behn’s The Rover - for week 4
  • Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal - for week 5
  • Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer - for week 6

(The first four plays can be found in the second Norton Critical Edition of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Comedy, ed. Scott McMillin)

Mary Rogers received an Honours A.B. in Philosophy and English from the University of Toronto, an M.A. in English from Seton Hall University, and an M.A. and A.B.D. in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. After a decade of teaching at Seton Hall University, she moved to the Berkshires and taught for a number of years at Monument Mountain Regional High School. She studied Arthurian literature on a summer NEH fellowship at the University of Puget Sound. This is her fifth course offering for OLLI.

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OLLI: the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College
Partners in education with Williams College, Bard College at Simon's Rock and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

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