There have been significant movements around the 17th and 18th century that believed in changing the world’s dynamics. These reformations were considerably drawn towards literature, arts, music, visual themes, thus reviving and giving life to culture and fine art civilizations. These philosophical based cultural movements were widely acknowledged as they brought forward modern projections and ideas in the field of architecture and music as well. The notions were derived from classical antiquity, which comprises elements from the Greco- Roman world. This period was defined as the Neoclassical era deriving ancient aspects of the earliest Roman and Greek civilizations.
Neoclassical Theatre Characteristics
- The costumes and scenery were intricate and elaborate.
- Large gestures and melodrama characterize the acting.
- The neoclassical period tried to imitate the styles embraced by Roman and Greek minds.
- Neoclassicists emphasize the significance of realistic approaches and creativity.
Neoclassical theatre is defined as the revolution in theatrics and performance arts that was fundamentally based on the ideas of Ancient Greek and Roman history and intellect. This movement began in the mid 17th century to the early years of the 18th century. It was a cultural reformation movement that targeted and transformed the basic pillars of theatres, architecture, and overall arts.
Under the Neoclassical realm, playwriting rules took a different change as the performances were expected to be based on intricacy and elaboration. Melodramas became the essential pillar of Neoclassical theatre.
It called for civilized decorum and careful adherence to classical unities. The restoration movement commenced in France but spread throughout Europe. The writers and fundamentalists of the Neoclassical period tried to imitate the styles embraced by Roman and Greek minds. It consists of the Restoration, the Augustan, and the Johnstinian period. In one way, the Neoclassical age directly depends on the time of the Renaissance.
Classicism entailed the philosophy of art and life and emphasized balance and order, and simplicity in life. The history dates back to the beginning of classicism, which is related to ancient Greeks. They were the pioneers of introducing revolutionary ideas highlighting the concept of philosophies and creativity. They were known as great classicists, and the trend was followed and adopted by the Romans, French, and Englishmen who, in amalgamation with Neoclassicism, produced more classical movements. The restoration period marked the Neoclassical era’s significance, which was based on the two main pillars, such as decorum and adherence to classical unities. It necessitated that there is a new realistic formula for producing theatre. These rules were purity of form, five acts, verisimilitude or realism, decorum, and purpose.
The first principle is decorum, which directly indicates the behavior of characters on the platform. This pillar believed that the theatre participants are obliged to obey certain ideologies, representing in a certain manner suiting the character they were portraying. The behavior has to be associated with the rank of the character, age, sex, and profession. Previously actors were far from realistic standards and were not aligned to the criteria. They were accused of being overly-dramatic as they used to perform outside class status or the social setup. Neoclassicists emphasize the significance of realistic approaches and creativity. The next ideal, verisimilitude, exactly means ‘true to life,’ indicating that incidents and elements that are not physically visible such as supernatural beings, were outlawed and not encouraged to be shown to the general public, thus making this approach practical and constructive depicting the real world-like experiences only. The action, whole setting, and location have to be close to reality and not in an idealistic world. Similarly, the plays were expected to be comedy or tragedy in nature and discouraged combinational plays.
Lastly, the Neoclassicists believed that the play should be written and performed under the unities of time, implicating that the actions should occur within 24 hours. Place, highlighting that all events should transpire in the same place and action, stating that there should only be a single plot, no combination or amalgamation of genres. In the end, they believed in poetic justice, which claimed that the conclusion of the plays should endorse good and discipline evil. This approach forced the play writers to make the performances believable, including three rules of morality, reality, and generality, therefore, reviving the concept of moral judgments and ethical values. Neoclassicists believed in teaching the virtues through theatre. Their main aim was to teach and please the viewers; therefore, the amended theatrical play writers were considered to make the play purposeful in the end. The entire script and theatrical act depended on the five principles. Playhouses that fail to meet the requirements were not allowed to contribute.
The Neoclassical era’s notion was that the previous ideals that entailed theater, arts, and architecture were too lenient and easy-going. Due to which the creative aspect of the Neoclassical theme was subjected to negligence. The times before the Neoclassical era were barely focused on emotions and individual moods. The Neoclassical enthusiasts strongly derived their inspiration from the original classicists and believed in their lifestyles. People believed how restrains and certain limitations in life are necessary for better production and function. They also wanted individuals to participate and contribute to the whole society for the overall betterment, so they wanted to be closer to the original classicists who had supreme life quality and expectancy based on certain principles. Because of this approach, the Neoclassical theme entailed a stringent set of guidelines and expectations for maximum theater and arts emergence.
The sets and backdrops used in the Neoclassical era were rich in history, culture and exhibited grandeur and exquisiteness. Large alleyways, patterns, curves, fine details, and stage houses were conspicuously constructed during this period. Large sets were created, which gave prominence to new designs and scenery sets. The backdrops were designed to keep the audience’s attention intact during the entire play. Special sound effects and production angles were introduced to create voices of thunderclaps, rain, and wind. Stage lighting was also needed as most of the theatres were indoors. Candles and footlights were placed for convenience and the theatrical world transformed forever. Large Victorian chandeliers were installed for a classy look of the stage. Costumes, scenery, and stages were altered to comply with new ideas.
The philosophical concept that the plays should complement the five ties relates to Aristotle’s three tiers. As a philosopher and a thinker, he reasoned that realistic and intellectual theatre could only be achieved if time, place, and action are cohesively justified. Theatre with few or limited subplots, no change of geography, and less time consumption are more likely to serve the purpose of playwriting, which is ‘teach and please’ .settings who work opposite to these pillars are bound to failure and exclusion from the Neoclassical theatrical restoration.