What are the main characteristics of a Restoration tragedy?
The tragedy of the Restoration period followed the return of Charles II and the Stuart dynasty after the Interregnum. The period was marked by certain distinct attributes.
It marked a clear new tradition, cut off from the previous national style by the long hiaitus that occurred during the time of Commonwealth rule, during which time the theaters of England were closed on moral grounds. Upon opening again, the new theater seemed in many ways to claim their own wicked reputation with glee. Picking up from the current Continental and French norms, women were for the first time regularly permitted on stage, and there was a resulting expansion of roles written for them. The style and manner of the writing was similarly influenced by French and Continental styles, focusing on wit, passion, and a rather cold-blooded, amoral view of society and human culture. While the good might be very good indeed, and the wicked melodramatically wicked, on the whole the characters were worldly and aware.
Tragedy of the period broke down into two main schools, one early, one arising later. The first, Heroic Drama, focused on charismatic male leaders drawn to their doom through their own driven characters. The manner was overblown, poetic, and romantic. Following this came a period of what were known as she-tragedies--similarly overwrought, but focusing on virtuous women in melodramatic traps set by a corrupt world. The style was heavy on the pathos.
The emotionality, the wordly cynicism, and the role of the virtous as targets for the corrupt are all elements of a distinctly Baroque style of writing as high-blown as the paintings of the era, filled with energy and detail and sentiment.