It is easy to oversimplify in defining the character of the Restoration period, because the comedies of the age stamp in our minds the picture of a frivolous society ready to trivialise human relationships, to treat love and marriage flippantly, and to show scant regard for the virtues of hard work, sobriety and unselfishness. Indeed the public that supported the London theatre was a very different public from the seemingly mixed cross-section of the populace who attended the Globe theatre in Shakespeare’s day. The Restoration theatre provided amusement for a leisured and dissolute society taking their cue from a dissolute court. Puritans naturally shunned it. The respectable Londoners who earned their livings by honest trade or craft could scarcely be expected to throng to see themselves made butts of upper-class mockery. The court of Charles II certainly contained more than its fair share of cynical libertines who made a mockery of virtue and assumed all its advocates to be hypocrites.
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