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Audience Approval: The Role of Opera in the Creation of the Shakespearean Myth during the English Restoration

Savoir séduire son public : Le rôle de l’opéra dans la création du mythe shakespearien à la Restauration anglaise
Andrea Trocha Van Nort
p. 4-18

Résumé

S’il est vrai que les premières adaptations des pièces de Shakespeare se retrouvent fustigées par nos critiques modernes, il n’en demeure pas moins que ces pièces ont été appréciées par le public pour lequel elles ont été écrites. L’usage de séquences opératiques en leur sein peut être considéré comme l’une des raisons majeures de leur succès auprès des amateurs de théâtre au XVIIe siècle. Par ailleurs, c’est précisément de ce genre mixte qu’a découlé le mythe shakespearien actuel.

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Entrées d’index

Index chronologique :

17th century, XVIIe siècle
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Texte intégral

  • 1 Gary Taylor asserts that, "An educated reader or spectator in 1660 could be expected to know only t (...)
  • 2  The word used by Dryden for this type of production, a mixture of drama and operatic sequences.
  • 3  The music for which is now lost.

1Although many critics have had their fun belittling early adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, these texts contributed greatly to the creation of the Shakespearean myth in the minds of early modern theater-goers. Clearly, it was during the Restoration and pre-Augustan period, between 1660 and 1705, that Shakespeare’s reputation developed from that of a poorly appreciated actor-poet into the idolatry still prevalent today.1 What might surprise some, however, is the importance of opera in gaining the audience approval that made this possible. The Restoration semi-opera2 tradition, initiated with Davenant’s Siege of Rhodes,3 was confirmed in the operatic adaptations of The Tempest and Macbeth. These highly successful versions did not, however, have immediate successors due to political instability in the 1680s. One has to wait to recover the opera thread in the 1690s, reinforced by concomitant favorable circumstances, in national as well as theatrical politics. During this time, not only were operatic productions useful in conveying political messages but also their operatic sequences grew to be almost independent of the plays, full productions of their own, while their musical quality was heightened due to the work of Henry Purcell. Finally, at the end of the period, once semi-operas fell out of vogue in favor of full operas, choreographed entertainments continued to punctuate the final Shakespeare adaptations. To better understand the role played by opera in the development of Shakespeare adaptations, first we will consider the change in audiences and aesthetic values that made operatic productions possible, then we will discuss the revitalizing of Shakespeare’s dramatic structures through opera and masques.

  • 4 See Hook, "Affirmative," and Wheeler, "Dennis." In favor of the adapters, Dobson asserts, "our own (...)
  • 5 "Shakespeare was widely regarded as not only the oldest but the most outdated of the pre-war playwr (...)
  • 6  J. L. Styan suggests that, "There is no reason to doubt that the playwrights, like the actors, aim (...)

2Throughout this period what is of great importance is the change in composition and numbers of the audiences: it was their approval theater people were seeking in metamorphosing Shakespeare’s works in the first place. As pointed out by XXth-century interest in the texts,4 the critical interest in the adaptations is to be found in the aesthetic values that the adapters turned to in order to make Shakespeare’s "odd" compositions more palatable.5 Odd because Shakespeare’s dramatic vision which aimed at pleasing several social classes at once no longer attracted audiences. The mixed theater, endemic to the Renaissance stage, had already been separated into two different audiences by the time of Shakespeare’s death. Even though Shakespeare had catered to both, he was almost alone in doing so. Separate public and private theaters developed from this necessary regrouping of the audience, a reorganization of audiences based on class but also on aesthetic values. When the theaters resumed productions after 1660, theatrical activity gratified the courtly tastes of Charles II, while the public—and here we must read "theater of the masses"—was something of an age past.6 Obviously, the hundreds of regular theater-goers were not all members of the court, but the patentees responsible for the theater productions were bound to indulge the King’s tastes, in content as well as in style. It must be noted that, before 1649, plays were privately staged for the royals; after 1660 the royals staged their power publicly through their presence at and control over the theater. Charles II had learned from the French the utility of theater, and made it his policy to put it to good use.

  • 7 Taylor writes, "[The companies] competed with each other in advertising their credentials as reinca (...)

3The exiled English court had been exposed to the incomparable theatrical splendor of the 1650s in France. The monarchy was as involved in theatrical activity as the various popes had been in artistic activity in Rome, for much the same reason and in much the same way. For one thing, whereas in Rome Biblical history was reproduced through paintings and sculptures, in Paris the classical world was exploited, conferring a timeless quality to the image the monarchy wished to present. Classical themes, music, dance and machines were all at the service of the young Louis XIV, and his grandeur was supposedly radiated through the beauty of contemporary productions. These elements were the basis of the conceptualization of his power, of his person, among those attending, much in the manner of the pre-Interregnum masques in England. Charles II could not have missed the link between power and stage; however, in order to succeed in his restoration, he was more interested in creating a feeling of nationalism linked with the Stuart monarchy rather than a glorification of his own person. The Classical world joined with England’s own vibrant theatrical past in this endeavor, creating more than just a carbon copy of French theater practices. In what was called at the time "semi-opera," English Restoration dramatists combined dance, theater, music and opera together into interesting new, often encomiastic, forms. Inhabited by witches, devils and classical characters, these operatic interludes seem manifestly more English than French. Furthermore, they modernized the old plays that the patentees relied upon to support their own theatrical reputations.7

  • 8  It should be remembered that Davenant’s 1656 First Days Entertainment at Rutland-House, by Declama (...)
  • 9  "I am no great admirer," wrote Saint-Évremond, "of comedies in music such as nowadays are in reque (...)
  • 10  One should note however that Fletcher’s Prophetess was given in an operatic adaptation by Betterto (...)
  • 11  Pericles’ resemblance to Charles II made this play an obvious choice for Davenant when deciding wi (...)

4As said above, Shakespeare had written for the masses and the court simultaneously: thus his plays had to be reviewed by adapters, revised in order to expurgate what Charles II’s official patent called, "profane, obscene and scurrilous passages." Interestingly, at the same time, the patent specified that the theaters should have the production means necessary to stage "operas, and all other entertainments of that nature." Opera, in the form of semi-opera or "declamatory texts and music" was not new to England: outside of pre-war Caroline masque productions which carried the germs of opera, one also finds Davenant’s discreetly staged productions, disguised as masques or operas during the Interregnum.8 Although there was some critical resistance to semi-opera and the spectacular staging it entailed,9 surely the patent holders, Davenant and Killigrew, took the stipulations concerning opera seriously, and therefore changes concerning the rewriting of the Renaissance plays listed on the patent affected content, but they also made room for the addition of music and displayed an appreciation of the newer conception of the dramatic space. Classical subjects embraced those resuscitated from Renaissance plays by Jonson, Beaumont and finally Shakespeare. It was for the latter that opera was employed throughout the period in order to gain audience approval.10 Shakespeare in unadapted form came across poorly for Restoration audiences: outside of the first Shakespearean play staged in its entirety after the Restoration, Pericles, the failures of revivals compared to the financial successes of the adaptations are proof of this.11 Furthermore, Shakespeare adaptations involving opera were considerably more successful than those without, or with only one musical interlude, to end the play.

  • 12  Roscius 33-35.
  • 13  Dobson, National 59.
  • 14  See Odell, Betterton to Irving, vol. 2, 200-01.
  • 15  See Christopher Spencer’s introduction to Davenant’s Macbeth, where he lays out the argument for D (...)
  • 16  See Guffey, "Politics" for other contemporary political references to be found in the revised text (...)

5The two most successful early semi-opera adaptations were Davenant’s Macbeth and The Tempest. Downes writes that both were successful from a financial point of view.12 Furthermore, Macbeth was the second most frequently staged Shakespearean play—in its adapted or Shakespearean form—after Hamlet for the period 1700-1750, with 287 performances, 240 in Davenant’s version and forty-seven in Garrick’s based on the original play. The Tempest, with its new characters was "the most frequently revived play of the entire Restoration period"13 and continued to be staged until 1838.14 Although much discussion surrounds the question of the authorship of the adaptations, in their original or 1674 versions, the similarities in political messages and the types of changes made to the language as well as to the dramatic structures of both plays would seem to indicate that the same person, Sir William Davenant, was the mind behind the major revisions.15 From a political standpoint, these plays were excellent choices for the new stage. Just as in Davenant’s revival of the heroic character Pericles, Charles II’s portrait can also be seen in an appealing and unquestionably honorable hero: Malcolm II in Macbeth and perhaps even the mysterious Prospero in The Tempest.16 In both plays, however, the return to power of rightful heirs must be seen as the main source of interest. This dimension is heightened in both plays: Lady Macduff, an enhanced foil character to Lady Macbeth, gives a speech on regicide in Macbeth; in The Tempest, not only does Davenant add a new character, Hippolito, a man who has never seen a woman, and rightful heir to Mantua but also he strengthens the subplot in such a manner that power struggles between illegitimate factions is ridiculed.

  • 17  Guffey and Novak, The Works of John Dryden, vol. 10, 319.
  • 18  Walking points out that witches often were used to represent Papists in Restoration literature ("P (...)
  • 19  Diary, December 28, 1666, January 7, 1667, and April 19, 1667.
  • 20  Along with other evidence, the presence of the witches’ songs in Davenant’s Macbeth has led most s (...)
  • 21  The text specifies "A dialogue within sung in parts."
  • 22  This scene bears some resemblance to the parade of deadly sins before Faustus in Marlowe’s play.
  • 23  The spelling is changed from Trinculo to Trincalo in the adaptations.
  • 24  Replacing the "sarabande" noted in the stage directions of the 1667 play.

6Concerning The Tempest more specifically, it has been pointed out elsewhere that Pepys "did not admire the play because Shakespeare wrote it" but rather for its "variety,"17 which would refer to the inserted scenes of dancing and singing. What would appear to be "operatic" content, that is, witches,18 devils, and classical interest, was then augmented. This was already true of the 1664 staging of Macbeth, which Pepys refers to as "a most excellent play for variety," "excellent […] in all respects but especially in divertisement," and "one of the best plays for a stage, and variety of dancing and musique, that ever I saw."19 A new scene with witches (they meet Macduff and his lady on a heath in act II) was added, in which dancing and two new songs are central.20 In the 1667 version of The Tempest one finds greater attention paid to operatic possibilities. An allegorical "parade" of singing21 devils22 in act II ends in a dance while in act IV, for the final scene of the secondary intrigue, Sycorax (Caliban’s sister) conjures devils to dance while Caliban sings to entertain Trincalo23 and his visitors. For the 1674 version, a final operatic sequence provided an extravagant end to the play, "Neptune’s Masque."24 It should be noted, however, that The Tempest and Macbeth distinguish themselves from the semi-operatic adaptations that were to follow (except, of course, the updated 1695 version of The Tempest) in the fact that the inserted operatic sequences serve an outward dramatic function: the interludes were part and parcel of the main intrigue itself, save the additions, dancing or masques, at the end of The Tempest.  

  • 25  See Christopher Spencer’s discussion on the history of Macbeth; for The Tempest, see the Californi (...)
  • 26  See Orrell, Stage, on temporary, festive stages under Henry VIII and Southern on the development o (...)
  • 27  The idea of sliding scenery was not exactly new. Richards in "Scenery" documents use of moveable s (...)
  • 28  See Guffey’s edition containing both texts, 1969. The twenty-four violins mentioned are of course (...)

7Semi-operas such as The Tempest and Macbeth ostensibly benefited from French influence in songs and dances as well as new scenic possibilities; however the setting up of the new theater at Dorset Garden was also largely responsible for the restaging of these texts as well as their renewed popularity.25 Even though Renaissance court plays probably enlisted visual aids based on perspective,26 the Restoration stage, with Christopher Wren’s Dorset Garden (1671) and Theatre Royal at Drury Lane (1674) made the dramatic setting a constantly changing visual affair. As is evident from Wren’s design which has come down to us, the latter theater boasted seven sets of moveable backdrops or flats.27 Greater attention was also paid to freestanding decorative scenery. Clearly, one need simply compare the description of the 1674 Tempest stage setting to the lack of one for the 1670 text to support this fact,28 but the existence of a newer choreography for the 1664 text of Macbeth confirms it. Besides the decorative flats and scenery, new machinery designed after French models had been built into Dorset Garden and the new Theatre Royal; this is what enabled Davenant’s witches as well as Ariel and his new Restoration companion, Milcha, to fly. Michael Dobson lists these other possibilities for Davenant’s Macbeth:

  • 29  Illustrated 53.

The "Scenes" and "Machines" also remembered by Downes included not only "Flyings for the Witches" (who spent much of the play either singing, dancing, or dangling from ropes) but a cloud on which Hecate descended from the sky, a cavern for the apparition scene which disappeared beneath the stage, and two separate trapdoors for the banquet scene—Banquo’s ghost at first "descends" through one, to Macbeth’s relief, but shortly afterwards "The Ghost of Banquo rises at his feet."29

8These scenic considerations added to the new interludes were obviously financial drains but also examples of dramatic writing finely tuned to the taste of the times. Apparently the effort was worth the expense: both plays were financial successes and were staged well into the XVIIIth century in their adapted forms. Thus one may say that Shakespeare had been successfully adapted to the new tastes, or as Dryden asserted in his prologue to The Tempest, Shakespeare’s work was brought back to life:

As when a Tree’s cut down the secret root
Lives under ground, and thence new Branches shoot
So, from old Shakespear’s honour’d dust, this day
Springs up and buds a new reviving Play.

9Rhetorically he then pretends to implore the audience’s favor for Shakespeare, but only to announce that a surprise was in store for the audience:

But if for Shakespeare we your grace implore,
We for our Theatre shall want it more:
Who by our dearth of Youths are forc’d t’employ
One of our Women to present a Boy.

10This light mocking of the Renaissance practice of boys playing female roles would have reminded the audience that the play had indeed been adapted, remodeled to reflect the new sophistication of the Restoration theater.  

  • 30  Lully and Quinault’s Cadmus et Hermione was staged in 1673 in Paris, setting off the opera fury th (...)
  • 31  The opera was unfortunately staged in the midst of Monmouth’s attempt to overthrow James II. It wa (...)
  • 32  The adaptations in question were Dryden’s All for Love 1677, Shadwell’s The History of Timon of At (...)
  • 33  There is discussion as to whether all operatic productions were actually laudatory of the monarchy (...)
  • 34  See the modified reprint of A. Margaret Laurie’s thesis in Curtis Price, ed., Dido and Aeneas, 45- (...)

11As said above, Macbeth as most critics agree was restaged from its original 1664 text for the new theater at Dorset Garden, while The Tempest as presented in 1674 at the same theater seems to be the product of a continual reworking of the text, a rewriting that is consistent with the greater interest in opera in England as well as in France and the greater means that were generated to stage operatic productions.30 As we have seen, these semi-operatic Shakespeare adaptations seemed to fulfill their purposes—money-making but also political as far as the creation of a feeling of nationalism among the audience was concerned. However, due, most likely, to the change in the political climate, large-scale operatic productions after Charles Davenant’s Circe, in 1677, momentarily ceased, outside of Blow’s Venus and Adonis, performed privately for the king in 1682 and Dryden’s unsuccessful attempt in 1685 with Albion and Albanius.31 Shakespeare’s plays continued to be staged, especially in the form of adapted history plays and Roman plays, strengthening his reputation as a more serious playwright, minus the opera.32 The Glorious Revolution would thus appear, in its peaceful outcome, to bridge the opera gap, offering dramatists a chance to resume operatic works as a means to dramatize tribute to the monarchy.33 Many studies consider Tate and Purcell’s prologue to Dido and Aeneas as a glorification of William and Mary’s peaceful arrival in 1689,34 and the presence of this very important work set off a second wave in operatic adaptations of Shakespearean material, confirming this time the audience’s perception of Shakespeare as a valid and saleable playwright.

Later adaptations: The new deference toward Shakespeare

  • 35  It may be wondered if and how deeply Purcell could have been influenced by the notion of speculati (...)
  • 36  Charles II was present at the opening of this play. See Marie-Françoise Christout, Ballet 72-77, 2 (...)

12The later adaptations of Shakespearean plays attract interest due to their similarities: first of all, some were retouched revivals of adaptations earlier in the period; secondly, all are Shakespearean tragicomedies turned into more patently comic structures; and finally, all demonstrate a greater deference towards Shakespeare. The role of opera in this final group first distinguishes itself by the fact that the early plays adapted with music and/or operatic sequences were chosen for restaging, and secondly by the fact that these restagings benefited from increased musical and operatic content. English interest in opera at this point was almost certainly increased due to the composer Henry Purcell, who was behind Dido and Aeneas, Dioclesian, and King Arthur, but also behind the creation of a new operatic Shakespeare adaptation: The Fairy Queen, in 1692, based on Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the interludes taken from Dido and Aeneas in Charles Gildon’s Measure for Measure as well as perhaps some of the music in the newer version of The Tempest in 1695, the year of his death.35 The other operatic adaptation which did not seem to involve Purcell but rather marked a return to French-style interludes is The Jew of Venice by George Granville (Lord Lansdowne) which made use of an insert of Peleus and Thetis, a ballet de cour composed for Louis XIV, dating from 1654.36 These semi-operas played an immense role in establishing the Shakespearean myth for theater-goers already acquainted with his works: their theatrical nature embellished the modified dramatic compositions and exalted the playwright himself, just as the monarchy was exalted through their evocation of their various heroes.

  • 37  The preface of the 1692 edition contains, amongst other points, "a plea for the encouragement of n (...)
  • 38  The 1692 text was expanded in 1693 to complete the perfect regularity of one operatic sequence per (...)
  • 39  Hughes calls this a part of the "comprehensiveness" that he argues is the message the dramatist (p (...)

13Beginning with The Fairy Queen,37 the adapters’ policy was not only to render Shakespeare palatable and to beautify the stage through the new scenic possibilities as said above, but also to punctuate the texts regularly with operatic sequences, creating musical interludes that marked the texts structurally.38 Because of their positioning, clearly one sees that the adapters were endeavoring to create a multi-faceted dramatic extravaganza, coupling, for example, the romantic intrigues of the source text, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with ninety minutes of pastoral operatic interludes composed by Purcell. Unlike Davenant’s Tempest, The Fairy Queen supplied regular operatic entertainments—positioned at the end of each act—which mirrored the bucolic atmosphere of the original play, but which had little to do with the main intrigues themselves, if it was not simply to exalt romantic love. Obviously dances had their place in this adaptation, but they seem to serve the opera as adornment, coming at the beginning or at the end of operatic sequences. Throughout the insets, allegorical characters portray the passage from night to day, much like the progress of the main intrigue itself, while the masque ethos allows the exotic to intermingle with the pastoral, as oriental characters sing after Juno opens the scene, and monkeys dance. A chorus is present, responding to the various soloists of each sequence, pastoral and figurative. The play itself was of necessity pared down to a minimum in order to welcome these additions. The preparations for a royal wedding are omitted, and without Hippolyta, Theseus does not find a foil character in Oberon: perhaps the risk of the audience’s seeing Titania as a foil character for Hippolyta (who would then mirror Queen Mary) too dangerous. Finally, the mechanicals do not present their play in act V (it comes at the beginning of act III); rather the Oberon-Titania intrigue melds with the main in order to stage a final, more elaborate entertainment.39 The operatic insets, then, take on greater importance within the composition, and though they are related to the main action, a departure towards a more independent whole is apparent.

  • 40  It must be said, however, that by making some simple textual comparisons, it is clear he had both (...)
  • 41  In the original play, Isabella’s speeches, designed to soften Angelo’s heart, were the catalyst in (...)
  • 42  Incidentally, the original order of the scenes of Dido and Aeneas—with its encomiastic prologue—wo (...)

14Something similar may be said about Gildon’s Measure for Measure, which, despite its greater loyalty to the Shakespearean text rather than to Davenant’s original adaptation of the play40 (The Law Against Lovers, see above), modifies the text to include operatic sequences from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in an artful and unusual way. Again, the relationship between the Shakespearean text and the operatic sequences is not overt, but is rather a reinforcement of the moral question present in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Gildon uses the inserted sequences of Purcell’s opera to mirror the Claudio-Julietta and Angelo-Isabella crimes with the Aeneas-Dido offense. As Claudio does not intend to leave Julietta, by comparison he appears less guilty than does Angelo, who more heavily resembles Aeneas. The ambiguity of Tate and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and the fact that the witches were responsible for his leaving, have led many to question the role of the sequences in the play; however it would seem that, as entertainments staged by the good counselor Escalus, these interludes were to soften Angelo’s heart towards Claudio’s plight, while they in fact revealed his own sexual appetite. This is in agreement with the Shakespearean view,41 and Dido, mortified by Aeneas’ unfeeling, is a mirror to the virtue Isabella radiates. She is shown from the beginning as being reluctant to fall in love with the Trojan, and dies in the end, seemingly of her horror at misjudging his character. Accordingly, Gildon reorganizes the parts of Purcell’s opera to better coordinate with Isabella’s speeches and the plot of the play: Acts I, II and III of the opera are correspondingly placed at the ends or most dramatic moments of acts I, II and III of the adaptation, and are followed by the Prologue, which is staged at the end of act V42. The regularity of the sequences is similar to that of The Fairy Queen, however act IV of the play does not have an interlude, as Gildon wrote in a dramatic meeting between Julietta and Claudio as the high point of the scene. Concerning the composition of the sequence, Dido’s confidante, Belinda, is often looked upon as the chorus leader, with Dido taking the main role, while an insubstantial Aeneas is left with only one aria.

15Granville’s adaptation, The Jew of Venice, functions in a similar manner to the dramatic composition of Measure for Measure in that the inserted sequence performs a role of theatrical entertainment rather than an operatic sequence of the play itself. This final operatic adaptation of our period remains respectfully close to the Shakespearean text, and the inset is the only major structural alteration. Outwardly, the masque is put on privately for Antonio, Bassanio and, strangely enough, Shylock, at the signing of their pact at the end of act II. As in the case of Measure and Dido and Aeneas, the inset, Peleus and Thetis, would appear to have links to the main intrigue simply through the vulture’s eating the flesh of Prometheus, who is released by Zeus at the end, thus projecting the risk of Antonio’s suffering through the loss of flesh. Prometheus makes it possible for Peleus to win Thetis’ hand over Jupiter, anticipating Antonio’s role in effecting Bassanio’s union with Portia. This final operatic adaptation, by respecting the Shakespearean storyline, through its deference towards Shakespeare in the preface and in the page setting (any lines added by Granville were marked for the reader by an inverted comma), as well as through the high style of the operatic sequence chosen to be inserted in the work, seems to point towards new admiration for Shakespeare, admiration that one sees in the first collected works of the playwright by Rowe and Pope in the early XVIIIth century.

16Only two more Shakespeare adaptations appeared after The Jew of Venice: Thomas Burnaby’s Love Betray’d (Twelfth Night) and John Dennis’ The Comical Gallant (The Merry Wives of Windsor). Both texts mention masques, but no details are offered as to subject matter or style. Neither production enjoyed any real success, and for this reason the period ends leaving the impression that the public wanted to move away from adaptations toward a more scientific approach to Shakespeare through more direct contact with his works, which Rowe and Pope supplied as editors. Both editions were re-edited, and other editions followed. All the same, this first, famous period of Shakespeare adaptations, marked by a desire to return to a brilliant theatrical past but also by a need to move forward in innovative ways to satisfy the new audience’s tastes, was responsible for familiarizing the new audiences with Shakespeare’s work in a way that they could appreciate. Each new adaptation added something to his fame, and although modern critics complain of the liberties the adapters took with Shakespeare’s texts, their specific vision affords new understanding of the period itself, a transition period, seeking a brilliant past, and pushing toward an inspiring future.

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Bibliographie

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DOI : 10.2307/2870307

WILLEMS, Michèle. La Genèse du mythe shakespearien, 1660-1780. Paris: PUF, 1979.

WILSON, John Harold. The Influence of Beaumont and Fletcher on Restoration Drama. Columbus: Ohio State U, 1928.

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Notes

1 Gary Taylor asserts that, "An educated reader or spectator in 1660 could be expected to know only three things at most about Shakespeare's life: that he was an actor, that he had been born in Stratford, and that he was poorly educated by the standards of Restoration high culture. [...] Notably, all of this information could be gleaned from the 1623 folio or its 1632 reprint, and all of it came from or was confirmed by Ben Jonson." Reinventing Shakespeare 12. Deference towards the Bard in the paratexts of later adaptations, 1700-1703, attests to the success of the adaptations from 1660 to 1700.

2  The word used by Dryden for this type of production, a mixture of drama and operatic sequences.

3  The music for which is now lost.

4 See Hook, "Affirmative," and Wheeler, "Dennis." In favor of the adapters, Dobson asserts, "our own reliance on editions of the play which provide explanatory glosses on precisely the sentences which [Davenant’s Macbeth] paraphrases should make us hesitate before condemning Davenant for giving his audiences a Macbeth they could readily understand" ("Improving on the Original: Actresses and Adaptations," Bate and Jackson, Illustrated 56).

5 "Shakespeare was widely regarded as not only the oldest but the most outdated of the pre-war playwrights, his writing unfashionably prone to elaborate metaphor and his cast lists inelegantly liable to include punning rustics" (Illustrated 49).

6  J. L. Styan suggests that, "There is no reason to doubt that the playwrights, like the actors, aimed their wit at the highest social level of the house, indeed, at the better-paying part of the audience" (Restoration Comedy 7). However, it is interesting to note that, during the Interregnum, as the large theaters had been either closed or torn down, theater-goers again mixed in older playhouses such as the Red Bull (Edmond, Rare 122).

7 Taylor writes, "[The companies] competed with each other in advertising their credentials as reincarnations of past dramatic glory" (14). Also see Holderness, Recycled, on adapting to regain lost social cohesion, 116.

8  It should be remembered that Davenant’s 1656 First Days Entertainment at Rutland-House, by Declamations and Musick: after the manner of the Ancients, set in Athens, was in itself in part an argument in favor of opera, with Diogenes and Aristophanes leading the debate. This would be followed in August of the same year by his Siege of Rhodes.

9  "I am no great admirer," wrote Saint-Évremond, "of comedies in music such as nowadays are in request. I confess I am not displeased with their magnificence; the machines have something that is surprising, the music in some places is charming; the whole together seems wonderful. But it […] is very tedious, for where the mind has so little to do, there the senses must of necessity languish" ("On Opera," 1676). Shadwell deplored the "trappings and ornaments of Nonsense" in plays (preface to The Humorists, 1671); Buckingham mocked, "For Dances, Flutes, Italian Songs, and rime / May keep up sinking Nonsence for a time, / But that will fail, which now so much o’re rules, / And sence no longer will submit to fools" ("Essay Upon Poetry," 1682). At the end of the period Lord Lansdowne wrote of "the varnish and the dawb of show" (epilogue, The Jew of Venice, 1702).

10  One should note however that Fletcher’s Prophetess was given in an operatic adaptation by Betterton and Purcell (under the tile of Dioclesian, 1690), and was only relatively successful. See Price, London Stage, 272-73.  Downes does not write of it as a total loss, however: "The Prophetess, or Dioclesian an Opera, wrote by Mr. Betterton; being set out with Costly Scenes, Machines and Cloaths: The Vocal and Instrumental Musick, done by Mr. Purcel; and Dances by Mr. Priest; it gratify’d the Expectation of Court and City; and got the Author great Reputation" (Roscius 42). J. H. Wilson censors this type of endeavor but also points out the operatic quality of the original play: "The Prophetess was altered by Betterton in 1690 to an opera, with the addition of music and the enhancing of spectacular scenes. Usually when a good play was transformed into an opera the result was deplorable to say the least. The Prophetess, however, was so near the operatic form in its original condition that few changes were needed" (Influence 47).

11  Pericles’ resemblance to Charles II made this play an obvious choice for Davenant when deciding with which plays he should set off the Duke’s company’s historic first season.  

12  Roscius 33-35.

13  Dobson, National 59.

14  See Odell, Betterton to Irving, vol. 2, 200-01.

15  See Christopher Spencer’s introduction to Davenant’s Macbeth, where he lays out the argument for Davenant’s authorship of the Macbeth text published posthumously. For arguments concerning Davenant’s authorship of The Tempest (the 1670 text), see Mondi Raddidi, Davenant’s Adaptations of Shakespeare. It is to be remembered that a great deal of study has been dedicated to tracing the person responsible for the 1674 text of The Tempest, though authorship is most often attributed to Shadwell. For pro-Dryden authorship see the California edition of the text, as well as Hughes, English Drama 49-51.

16  See Guffey, "Politics" for other contemporary political references to be found in the revised text. Guffey also suggests that the on-stage assassination plot is removed to avoid a parallel with the Duke of York. Equivocal lines from Shakespeare (act IV, scene 3) concerning Malcolm’s character were cut by Davenant.

17  Guffey and Novak, The Works of John Dryden, vol. 10, 319.

18  Walking points out that witches often were used to represent Papists in Restoration literature ("Politics" 64).

19  Diary, December 28, 1666, January 7, 1667, and April 19, 1667.

20  Along with other evidence, the presence of the witches’ songs in Davenant’s Macbeth has led most scholars to believe that Davenant wrote his text from an early 17th-century manuscript of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. See Spencer’s reproduction of the text, 55-64. Also concerning the witches’ songs, Spencer argues that Shakespeare’s lines for the witches have direct relationships with the development of the play, whereas the later additions appear more "decorative" (68-71).

21  The text specifies "A dialogue within sung in parts."

22  This scene bears some resemblance to the parade of deadly sins before Faustus in Marlowe’s play.

23  The spelling is changed from Trinculo to Trincalo in the adaptations.

24  Replacing the "sarabande" noted in the stage directions of the 1667 play.

25  See Christopher Spencer’s discussion on the history of Macbeth; for The Tempest, see the California edition, vol. 10, 319-43. Michèle Willems remarks that "C’est pour l’année 1672 que Downes note la représentation, à Dorset Garden, de Macbeth, ‘in the nature of an opera,’ avec danses, chants et sorcières acrobates. Il s’agit toujours du Macbeth revu et corrigé par Davenant, au service duquel on a mis les machinistes du nouveau théâtre. The Tempest subit le même traitement. La pièce de Dryden et Davenant fut, nous dit Downes, transformée en opéra et présentée en 1673 ‘with new scenes and machines,’ ce qui lui valut la popularité que l’on sait. Downes note en particulier que ce fut un succès appréciable sur le plan financier" (Genèse 56).

26  See Orrell, Stage, on temporary, festive stages under Henry VIII and Southern on the development of Serlian stage settings.

27  The idea of sliding scenery was not exactly new. Richards in "Scenery" documents use of moveable scenery for the early private Caroline stage, though not its public counterpart: "We cannot, then, on the balance of available evidence, be confident that plays were not performed with changeable scenes on the stage of the Cockpit in Whitehall [...] [however,] until more substantial evidence is forthcoming, there is little good reason to assume that plays were so equipped in the Caroline private theaters, there is some reason to suppose that they were not" (18-20).

28  See Guffey’s edition containing both texts, 1969. The twenty-four violins mentioned are of course Charles II's emulation of Louis XIV: "The Front of the Stage is open’d, and the Band of 24 Violins, with the Harpsicals and Theorbo’s which accompany the Voices, are plac’d between the Pit and the Stage. While the Overture is playing, the Curtain rises, and discovers a new Frontispiece, joyn’d to the great Pylasters, on each side of the Stage. This Frontispiece is a noble Arch, supported by large wreathed Columns of the Corinthian Order; the wreathings of the Columns are beautifi’d with Roses wound round them, and several Cupids flying about them. On the Cornice, just over the Capitals, sits on either side a Figure, with a Trumpet in one hand, and a Palm in the other, representing Fame. A little farther on the same Cornice, on each side of a Compass-pediment, lie a Lion and a Unicorn, the Supporters of the Royal Arms of England. In the middle of the Arch are several Angels, holding the Kings Arms, as if they were placing them in the midst of that Compass-pediment. Behind this is the Scene, which represents a thick, Cloudy Sky, a very Rocky Coast, and a Tempestuous Sea in perpetual Agitation. This Tempest (suppos’d to be rais’d by Magick) has many dreadful Objects in it, as several Spirits in horrid shapes flying down amongst the Sailors, then rising and crossing in the Air. And when the Ship is sinking, the whole House is darken’d, and a shower of Fire falls upon ‘em. This is accompanied with Lightning, and several Claps of Thunder, to the end of the Storm."

29  Illustrated 53.

30  Lully and Quinault’s Cadmus et Hermione was staged in 1673 in Paris, setting off the opera fury that would ensue. At Killigrew’s Theatre Royal, Ariane, ou Le Mariage de Bacchus was sung in French in January of 1674. Shadwell’s Psyché, modeled after Molière’s, was to be staged the following year. Masque production continued as well, with Crowne’s Calisto, which seems to have enjoyed court favor if one may believe Langbaine: "This Masque was writ at the Command of her present Majesty: and was rehearsed near Thirty times, all the Representations being follow’d by throngs of Persons of the greatest Quality, and very often grac’d with their Majesties and Royal Highnesses Presence" (Account, 92).

31  The opera was unfortunately staged in the midst of Monmouth’s attempt to overthrow James II. It was originally written to be the sung prologue to the semi-opera King Arthur but was expanded to a full-length opera for performance.

32  The adaptations in question were Dryden’s All for Love 1677, Shadwell’s The History of Timon of Athens, the Man-Hater (1678), Tate’s History of King Richard the Second (banned, 1680) and History of King Lear (1681), Ravenscroft’s Titus Andronicus; or, The Rape of Lavinia (1678), Otway’s Caius Marius (adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, 1679), Durfey’s Injured Princess (adaptation of Cymbeline, 1682), and Crowne’s Henry VI The First Part (banned, 1681). Julius Caesar was revived by Betterton in the late 1680s and enjoyed immense success, perhaps due to its presentation of republican ideals.

33  There is discussion as to whether all operatic productions were actually laudatory of the monarchy; Dioclesian is a case in point as presented by Price in chapter 6 of London Stage. Hughes disagrees, English Drama 371. Concerning Dido and Aeneas, see Walking, "Politics."

34  See the modified reprint of A. Margaret Laurie’s thesis in Curtis Price, ed., Dido and Aeneas, 45-46. It should be noted that Dryden’s attempt at honoring the restoration of Charles II through the King Arthur tale came too late as mentioned above; the king died the year Dryden had planned to stage his semi-opera, and general dislike of James II made it no longer appropriate. King Arthur without the prologue would finally be staged in 1691, with music composed by Purcell, but rather than glorifying the monarchy, this semi-opera seems to glorify a lost noble "England."

35  It may be wondered if and how deeply Purcell could have been influenced by the notion of speculative music that informed masque creations in the early part of the century in England. See Peter Walls, Music.

36  Charles II was present at the opening of this play. See Marie-Françoise Christout, Ballet 72-77, 205-11 (facsimile of the text).

37  The preface of the 1692 edition contains, amongst other points, "a plea for the encouragement of native opera" (Spencer, Improved 319). Downes writes of the play, "The Fairy Queen, made into an Opera, from a Comedy of Mr. Shakespears: This in Ornaments was Superior to the other Two [King Arthur and Dioclesian]; especially in Cloaths, for all the Singers and Dancers, Scenes, Machines and Decorations, all most profusely set off; and excellently perform’d, chiefly the Instrumental and Vocal part Compos’d by the said Mr. Purcel, and Dances by Mr. Priest. The Court and Town were wonderfully satisfy’d with it; but the Expenses in setting it out being so great, the Company got very little by it" (Roscius, 42-43).

38  The 1692 text was expanded in 1693 to complete the perfect regularity of one operatic sequence per act, towards the end of each act. In the preface to the 1692 edition, Elkanah Settle writes, "’Tis known to all who have been any considerable time in Italy, or France, how Opera’s are esteem’d among ‘em. That France borrow’d what she has from Italy, is evident from the Andromede and Toison D’or of Monsieur Corneille, which are the first in the kind they ever had, on their publick Theaters; they being not perfect Opera’s, but Tragedies, with singing, Dancing, and Machines interwoven with ‘em, after the manner of an Opera. They gave ‘em a taste first, to try their Palates, that they might the better Judge whether in time they would be able to digest an entire Opera. And Cardinal Richelieu [...] introduced ‘em first at his own Expence, as I have been informed amongst ‘em."

39  Hughes calls this a part of the "comprehensiveness" that he argues is the message the dramatist (probably Betterton) wished to communicate (Drama 371). However, the fact that the ducal marriage is removed from the play seems to challenge this interpretation.

40  It must be said, however, that by making some simple textual comparisons, it is clear he had both texts, Shakespeare’s and Davenant’s, in hand when writing his play.

41  In the original play, Isabella’s speeches, designed to soften Angelo’s heart, were the catalyst in setting off Angelo’s desire, whereas in the adaptation the operatic interludes are mentioned from the beginning as a ploy by Escalus to bring under control Angelo’s over-zealous governing:
Baltazar: How can this Sow’r Governour be pleas’d?
With Musick, Shew, and Opera’s; those
Seldom please, where Cruelty presides:
And yet, since I have come into the Palace,
I’ve heard the Tuning of various Instruments,
And the trelling of soft Melodious Voices.
Lucio: Those the Good Escalus prepar’d,
In hopes to melt, and sweeten his Sour Temper;
That when the Power of Harmony prevails,
His soul may relish Mercy, more than Justice.

42  Incidentally, the original order of the scenes of Dido and Aeneas—with its encomiastic prologue—would seem to confound Walker’s thesis that the opera allegorizes James II’s relationship with England through the Aeneas-Dido story. The allegory of William and Mary’s accession to power would need to end the opera, not open it; yet the new order of scenes in Measure may indicate a revision of this. Walker writes, "Dido and Aeneas presents a history of the process by which James II’s pro-Catholic policies had alienated his subjects and appeared to be threatening the destruction of England’s constitution and the rule of law. The masque investigates and comments upon this political situation through a searching psychological examination of the relationship between the lovers Aeneas and Dido which provides an allegorical commentary on James’s policies in England. […] here, Aeneas can be read as James, while Dido can be seen to represent England" ("Politics," 58). Walker does not mention the prologue at all in his text.

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Andrea Trocha Van Nort, « Audience Approval: The Role of Opera in the Creation of the Shakespearean Myth during the English Restoration », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, Vol. II - n°3 | 2004, 4-18.

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Andrea Trocha Van Nort, « Audience Approval: The Role of Opera in the Creation of the Shakespearean Myth during the English Restoration », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Vol. II - n°3 | 2004, mis en ligne le 27 août 2009, consulté le 02 septembre 2014. URL : http://lisa.revues.org/2953 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.2953

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Andrea Trocha Van Nort

Dr. (American University, Paris, France)
Actuellement enseignante à l’Université Américaine de Paris (AUP) et à Paris X-Nanterre, Andrea Trocha Van Nort poursuit ses recherches sur l’esthétique théâtrale de la Restauration anglaise vue à travers les adaptations des œuvres de Shakespeare entre 1660 et 1703.

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