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Frontispiece come The Wits, mirroring theatrical drolls (characters bring away from different Jacobean plays, consisting of Shakespeare, play together) in repair Theatre in England.

You are watching: Why was the theater closed in 1642


A product of religious fervour and also political upheaval, the banning of plays in London, and across England, in 1642 to be a moment that has concerned symbolise the grey year of Puritanical rule in England. During Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

After decades of the likes the Shakespeare, Webster and also Marlowe creating a growing theatrical step in the capital, the playhouses then dropped silent for 18 years, till the reconstruction of the monarchy in 1660.

Such a move would have actually been difficult if London had actually still resided under the preeminence of a king in 1642. Theatre and the court had long been linked and, indigenous the regime of Elizabeth ns onwards, performances put on because that the monarch and also for the ordinary human being of the city were frequent.

In this sense, theatre had noted an unprecedented type of entertainment that was appreciated by all classes. And, although this had changed somewhat through Charles I’s reign, with modern-day plays less bawdy and also aimed at higher-brow audiences, the playhouses that London to be still pack with human being enjoying the functions of vault decades.


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A 1595 sketch of a rehearsal that a play at the Swan Theatre, Southwark.

Image Credit: publicly Domain


The Puritans vs the monarchy

For Elizabeth I and her followers James I and also Charles I, theatre was a good way of maintaining the world of London happy, and also something the they enjoyed being linked with.

Charles’ enemies, on the various other hand, were fervent Puritans, united by your disapproval that the monarchy, which was seen as too Catholic, and of the theatre, which was despised for its frivolity and, like many other creates of entertainment, related to as sinful.

These views were central to the Puritans’ good news movement, which related to the reformation of the Church of England to it is in only fifty percent complete, and also aimed to stamp out continuing to be traces of Catholicism. Together traces contained what they saw as too much levity, and, if necessary, a royal family that was checked out as much too sympathetic come the Catholics.

Charles I’s grandmother mary Queen the Scots had actually been implicated in a variety of Catholic-inspired plots against the protestant Elizabeth I, and Charles was popular for doting on his French Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria, whom he allowed to listen Mass stated daily. Similarly, the English court was heavily influenced by France, which to be Catholic.

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Civil war

By 1642, there was likewise growing friction between the king, that maintained belief in his divine right to pure rule, and the Puritan-dominated Parliament, which were chafing under what it saw as Charles’ heavy-handed, incompetent and also authoritarian rule.

In January things concerned a head, when Charles damaged the legislations of brother unwritten structure by marching into the residence of Commons and also demanding the arrest of five influential Puritanical members who had actually been in strong opposition to him.

By the time he arrived, these members had fled, and, realising the range of his actions, Charles left the capital shortly afterwards, preparing because that a civil war with his own parliament the he would eventually lose, and which would price him his life in 1649.

This left London specifically under parliamentary control, and power in the hand of the unpopular yet politically gifted Puritan faction, headed up by Oliver Cromwell.


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A 1656 Samuel Cooper portrait that Oliver Cromwell.

Image Credit: nationwide Portrait collection / public Domain


The half on plays

The banning of plays on 6 September 1642 to be ordered through the ‘Long Parliament’, i m sorry would stay in power until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. It asserted that “public stage plays” to be of “lascivious merth and levity” and also therefore incompatible v “these times of humiliation” and civil war.

The playhouses themselves were no closed however used for various other events, if only really short unofficialize performances were allowed in the city. In 1648, the ban was anchored in law, though an underground scene predictably never went away.

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The wait because that the reconstruction of the monarchy may have actually been long, yet the fatality of arch-Puritan Oliver Cromwell and the accession of Charles II, that was known as the ‘merry monarch’, caused a renaissance in the English theatrical scene. This was aided through the introduction of mrs actresses on phase for the first time: previously female parts had been play by men.

These new female actresses were England’s very first modern-style celebrities: often embroiled in scandal (many actresses to be snapped up as mistresses come supplement their income), they lugged entertainment and also gossip to the masses. Charles II himself had actually a longtime mistress who was an acclaimed actress, ‘pretty, witty’ Nell Gwynne.

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With the reconstruction came a brand-new genre that play, the repair comedy, which involved bawdy and also sexually explicit language, modern-day jokes and also references come gossip and also scandal and outlandish, witty comedy: everything the Puritan regime had loathed and feared most about stage plays.