English Comedy before Goldsmith - Questionpur

Discuss the condition of English comedy before Goldsmith

English comedy Before Goldsmith appeared on the scene there had been a decay of true comedy and the growth of sentimentalism. Though some dramatists had a genuine talent for the stage, they possessed no definite and conscious purpose in their art. The comedy of manners which was popular in the Restoration age was rapidly degenerating. 

More and more attention was devoted to farce; sentimentalism was growing in strength, and pity was creeping into the world of intellectual laughter. Thus when Goldsmith and Sheridan began to write, the ' genteel ' or sentimental comedy had replaced the comedy of manners which was popular in the days of the Restoration. 

The comedy of manners, so called from the limitation of its subject - matter to the superficial habits and behaviour of society, had arisen with Ben Jonson and passed through a heyday of extraordinary brilliance and licentiousness with the dramatists of the Restoration.

Though sentimentalism, in its initial stages, was almost entirely an English development, it was influenced by the contemporary French sentimental ist who determined to give to mankind their beliefs in the inherent goodness of the human soul, in the corrupting ways of society, in the virtue of primitive emotions. 

But the serious purpose that the sentimental comedy was not taking up could have produced better comedies in England. The keen observations and realistic touches which had always brightened earlier comedy began, therefore, to disappear and vapid, colourless, uninteresting productions were the results. Sentimentalism, too, allied to the genteel comedy, brought about a peculiar convention. In the end, it cut out of the theatre all kinds of 'low' characters.

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