Under the Puritan era, the English theater underwent an extremely challenging time. After Charles I’s overthrow in 1642, the theater, which had experienced tremendous popularity throughout Elizabeth’s reign, was officially shut down by an ordinance of Parliament. Drama was inactive and no public acting was permitted. Charles II ascended to the throne once more in 1660. Drama was also formally welcomed back to England with his comeback. The comedy, a social study and a replica of the pervasive sickness of the artificial, aristocratic English society of the period, is seen to be the main attraction of the Restoration theater. Congreve, Etherege, Wycherley, Farquhar, and Vanbrugh are the major creators of this new genre of comedic plays.
Under Puritan rigidity, the English theater underwent a particularly difficult time. After Charles I’s deposition in the same year (1642), the theater, which had seen tremendous popularity throughout the reigns of Elizabeth and the Stuarts, was formally closed by an order of Parliament. Up to the reinstatement of the monarchy in 1660, theater was not permitted to be performed in public and was inactive.
One of the most striking aspects of the play “Samson Agonistes” is how it demonstrates the significant effect that Milton‘s own life experiences had on the creation of this play. By the year 1652, Milton was completely blind. Ten years previously, in 1642, he had married Mary Powell. Milton was a Republican by faith, which made him hostile to monarchy. He had vociferously opposed the death of Charles I in 1640 and afterwards served as Cromwell’s Latin Secretary during the English Commonwealth era. Milton was imprisoned during the Restoration in 1660 as a result of his anti-royalist opinions and writings from the Commonwealth era. Several friends and well-wishers had toilsomely fought on his behalf to spare him from an extended detention. He had money problems, and his home’s ambiance was not conducive to his well-being. Milton had suffered from a number of setbacks, including blindness, a failed marriage, political persecution, gout, and financial problems. When he penned (during 1667-69) “Samson Agonistes“, we can only imagine how sad he must have felt.
When Martin Esslin published his book The Theater of Absurd in 1960, only then did the phrase “Theater of Absurd” become popular. The theatre of absurd illustrates an attitude and a frame of mind towards life, where human existence is a conundrum of illogical, senseless, and hopeless activity.