The Eighteenth Century audiences changed considerably as the Restoration period ended, at the rise of the middle class. Restoration audiences were members of the elite class of London society, and the repertoire of the time reflects the audience's tastes for high-brow humor and wit. "The only conduct in the theatre that is censured or punished is an attack on the King and his retinue." [5] Because Charles II was an avid admirer of the theatre, he supported both Killigrew and Davenant's companies financially. However, at the end of his reign, the subsequent monarchs did not feel the same way. With the rise of the merchant class, theatre became a commercial activity, attracting a new breed of audience. The nuances of wit and theme so characteristic of the Restoration period were soon replaced with a less intellectually challenging repertoire. The audience wanted spectacle, since its enjoyment needs no prerequisite of intellect or wit.

"By the 1720's, there is a marked split in the interests of theatre audiences. The nobility and the gentry find themselves increasingly attracted by the musical and visual splendours of Italian opera; the less sophisticated members of London's theatre-going public are drawn to the pantomimes of John Rich; while themain attraction of straight theatre is a series of plays with clear political import."[6]

     As the audiences became more and more eclectic, the government began to place regulations on their conduct. Theatre-going became a much less sophisticated experience, and the plays reflected this lack of high-brow tastes. To the right is William Hogarth's The bad taste of the town, a satire on the commercial managers pandering to popular taste.