Sentimental Comedy : Reaction of Goldsmith against it

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In the brief review of the drama of the period it has been noted love and humour of the heroic drama ( the tragedy of the day ) were too highly poised and were a little off the track of human realities. The licence and de-proved elegance of the Restoration court may have some bearing upon the development of the heroic drama. 

The movement was well-defined, " with the advance of the eighteenth century, as far as literature is concerned, the more aristocratic doctrine of Sovereign Reason began to be obscured by floods of sentiment and the ' pathetic ' novels catering for a definitely middle-class taste. 

In determining the growth of the sentimental movement we have to take into account the bourgeois concept of respectability and a hard-faced, calculating commercialism. The Puritan ascendency, with which goes also the commercialism of the age, played a very important part in this give-and-take business. 

Hypocritical and calculating virtue was the outcome of it. And fielding with his fundamental common sense and unclouded perspective was the first to react against it. If we analyse any typical sentimental comedy, we find that it is divorced from realism. Emotional sense and sentimental platitudes fill it up. 

Sentimental comedy is after all a degenerated type, it is minus all comedy. Farce still held the stage, and in this, there was some hope of the revival of true comedy. It was Sheridan and Goldsmith who led the movement against sentimental comedy. The Good Natur'd Man did not suit the taste of the audience, and it was a failure on the stage. 

With The Good, Natur'd Man Gold smith led an unsuccessful assault against the sentimental comedy. The audience did not react favourably to the play. The Good Natur'd Man was produced in 1768; She Stoops to Conquer in 1773. And we may presume that the taste of the public had been veering round to true comedy in the interval, and the last play was a tremendous success.

What is the reaction of Goldsmith Against Sentimental Comedy?

The reaction against sentimental comedy started soon and there were many attacks from various quarters. But the greater attack is symbolized in the figure of Goldsmith and Sheridan. Mainly it was these dramatists who stemmed the torrent of a weeping age and taught men how to laugh once more and passed on to the nineteenth century the traditions of the comedy of earlier times. 

Goldsmith at first registered his opposition to sentimental com édy in his Essay on the Theatre; or A Comparison Between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy ( 1772 ). Goldsmith attacked the sentimental comedy also in his Preface to his first play, The Good Natured Man and indicated his own intention in comedy thus, " when I undertook to write a comedy, I confess I was strongly prepossessed in favour of the poets of the last age and strove to imitate them. 

The term, genteel comedy, was then unknown amongst us, and little more was desired by an audience, than nature and humour, in whatever walks of life they were most conspicuous. The author following scenes never imagined that more would be expected of him, and therefore to delineate character has been his principal aim. 

Those who know anything of composition, are sensible that in pursuing humour, it will sometimes lead us into the recesses of the mean; I was even tempted to look for in the master of a sponging house; but in deference to the public taste, grown of late, perhaps, too delicate, the scene of the bailiffs was retrenched in the representation. In deference also to the judgements of a few friends, who think in a particular way, the scene is here restored. "

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