Restoration comedy refers to English comedies written and performed in the Restoration period from 1660 to 1710. Comedy of manners is used as a synonym of Restoration comedy. After public stage performances had been banned for 18 years by the Puritan regime, the re-opening of the theatres in 1660 signalled a renaissance of English drama. Restoration comedy is notorious for its sexual explicitness, a quality encouraged by Charles II (1660–1685) personally and by the rakish aristocratic ethos of his court. The socially diverse audiences included both aristocrats, their servants and hangers-on, and a substantial middle-class segment. These playgoers were attracted to the comedies by up-to-the-minute topical writing, by crowded and bustling plots, by the introduction of the first professional actresses, and by the rise of the first celebrity actors. This period saw the first professional woman playwright, Aphra Behn.
Cambridge History of English and American Literature Contents index of an excellent resource with many articles on all aspects of Restoration drama.
Encyclopedia.com Entry on the Restoration in England.
George Washington University Excellent resource covering all aspects of Restoration drama, including acting styles, costumes, audiences, set design etc.
Tom Evans Worthwhile article discussing the history and characteristics of Restoration comedy.
Towson University Lecture outlines of the characteristics and events of Restoration drama.