Management & Architecture
Management controls what plays are performed. Tragic plays expose audiences to serious issues: The Indian Emperor challengeswhether or not a colonized people are a commodity and Cato questions if people should be governed in a common wealth or by a single dictator. The structure of Drury Lane Theater attracts a wide audience demographic, so the messages of the tragic plays spread to all corners of society inevitably influencing politics.
After the death of Queen Anne in 1714, Drury Lane is financially revived by successor to the throne and theater-goer George I of Hanover. He grants a new patent to Whig politician and playwright Richard Steele who manages the theater until his death in 1729. The patent gives Steele the responsibility of ridding the stage of immoral satirical comedies that are popular at the time (Loftis; 3). Tragedies are appropriate for reforming the stage since they are viewed as “the Noblest Production of Human Nature” (Addison). In order to exercise moral responsibility, Steele stages Manley’s Lucius the First Christian King of Britain which promotes Christian over Pagan religious values. Because he founds popular journals such as The Tatler, The Spectator, and The Guardian, Steele is also a model of public taste. Thus, Steele brings his readership to Drury Lane and continues to influence them in the theatrical public sphere with serious, moralizing tragedies.
Drury Lane Theater opens in 1663 after King Charles II grants Thomas Killigrew a Letters Patent; it is rebuilt in 1673-4 by Christopher Wren after burning down. An idea of how the interior enhances the clarity of the tragedy’s messages to the audience is provided by way of one of the actor-managers of Drury Lane, Colley Cibber:
“The stage at the new Old Drury projected right forward in a semi-oval to the front benches of the pit, with side wings instead of stage boxes…the whole action could be carried out on the apron, in front of the proscenium. This enabled the players to get over their subtle effects of expression and whispers, which otherwise would not have been seen or heard” (Pope; 59).
Seating arrangements invite people of all classes to Drury Lane. The three-story house is divided into the plain upper gallery, boxes on the first tier and middle gallery, and the bottom floor pit. Box seats are used by the nobility and wealthy gentry, benches in the pit are mostly for critics and scholars, tradesmen and professionals occupy the first gallery, and ordinary people occupy the upper gallery (Stone). Because the pit extends back towards the boxes, dialogue most likely occurred among the classes.
Because audience members of different social and political backgrounds communicate during performances, Drury Lane is a live, interactive aspect of the public sphere. In a letter to John Caryll, Pope describes the performance of Cato: "The numerous and violent claps of the Whig party on one side of the Theatre, were echoed back by the Tories on the other.” (Bloom) This occurrs because Addison, “included lines on the necessity of civil freedom…[hoping] that an audience would recall buried memories of 1688, how the Whigs upheld the Revolution Settlement against Tory attacks.” (Bloom). In Act II, Scene I, Whigs presumably would have clapped while Cato attempts to “Restore the Common-wealth to Liberty” while Tories would have thundered at Decius’s attempt to reconcile “Peace with Ceasar”, a dictator and symbol of the Tory supported absolute monarchy.
Addison, Joseph. “No. 39.” The Spectator (1711). Print.
Bloom, Lillian D. “Joseph Addison.” Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 101. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. University of South Carolina: The Gale Group, 1991. Gale Database. Web. 29 Sept. 2011.
Loftis, John. Steele at Drury Lane. Greenwood Press, Publishers, Westport: 1952.
Pope, W. H. MacQueen. Theatre Royal Drury Lane. London: W.H. Allen, 1945. Print.
Steele, Richard. “No. 6.” Town Talk (1715). Print.
Stone, George Winchester and George M. Kahrl (1979). David Garrick: A Critical Biography. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press.