Womens War Drama in England in the Seventeenth Century

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Acts of the Privy Council, —78 , pp. VIII, pp. Crawford, Women and Religion in England, — London, , esp. Morrill ed. Manning ed. Astell, Reflections upon Marriage , 3rd edn London, , quoted in B. Hill ed. Amussen, Ordered Society , ch. Marshall ed. Jackson ed. Duffin and L. Morris ed. Raine ed. C2-C3; Google Scholar. Howse Stanford-in-the-Vale, , pp. Fildes ed. Rollins ed. Cambridge, Mass. Nichols ed. Palmer ed. Brinksworth ed. Quaife, Wanton Wenches , p. Rosenheim ed.

OAO Archdeaconry Papers c. Parker, Well Met Neighbour [c. Chappell ed. Taylor, Stripping Whipping and Pumping London, ; for related episodes, cf. The questions mainly dealt with love and health, but there were some bizarre and intentionally amusing questions as well e. The questions section allowed the journal to sell well and to be profitable.

Therefore, it ran for six years, produced four books that spun off from the columns, and then received a bound publication as The Athenian Oracle. He also published the first periodical designed for women "The Ladies' Mercury". The trend of newspapers would similarly explode in subsequent years; a number of these later papers had runs of a single day and were composed entirely as a method of planting political attacks Pope called them "Sons of a day" in Dunciad B.

However, changes to literary forms and content occurred much more gradually than this use of the word "revolution" might suggest. Although it is impossible to satisfactorily date the beginning of the novel in English, long fiction and fictional biographies began to distinguish themselves from other forms in England during the Restoration period. An existing tradition of Romance fiction in France and Spain was popular in England.

The "Romance" was considered a feminine form, and women were taxed with reading "novels" as a vice. Inasmuch as these novels were largely read in French or in translation from French, they were associated with effeminacy. However, novels slowly divested themselves of the Arthurian and chivalric trappings and came to centre on more ordinary or picaresque figures. One of the most significant figures in the rise of the novel in the Restoration period is Aphra Behn.

She was not only the first professional female novelist, but she may also be among the first professional novelists of either sex in England.

Acceptable Amazons? Female Warriors on the English and French Early Modern Stage

This was an epistolary novel documenting the amours of a scandalous nobleman who was unfaithful to his wife with her sister thus making his lover his sister-in-law rather than biological sister. The novel is highly romantic, sexually explicit, and political. Behn wrote the novel in two parts, with the second part showing a distinctly different style from the first.

Behn also wrote several "Histories" of fictional figures, such as her The History of a Nun. As the genre of "novel" did not exist, these histories were prose fictions based on biography. However, her most famous novel was Oroonoko in This was a fictional biography, published as a "true history", of an African king who had been enslaved in Suriname , a colony Behn herself had visited. Behn's novels show the influence of tragedy and her experiences as a dramatist. Later novels by Daniel Defoe would adopt the same narrative framework, although his choice of biography would be tempered by his experience as a journalist writing "true histories" of criminals.

Other forms of fiction were also popular. Available to readers were versions of the stories of Reynard the Fox , as well as various indigenous folk tales, such as the various Dick Whittington and Tom Thumb fables. Most of these were in verse, but some circulated in prose. These largely anonymous or folk compositions circulated as chapbooks. Along with the figures mentioned above, the Restoration period saw the beginnings of explicitly political writing and hack writing. Roger L'Estrange was a pamphleteer who became the surveyor of presses and licenser of the press after the Restoration.

In —6, L'Estrange published The News which was not regular in its appearance, see above. L'Estrange's most important contributions to literature, however, came with his translations.

He translated Erasmus in , Quevedo in , and, most famously and importantly, Aesop 's Fables in and This last set off a small craze for writing new fables, and particularly political fables. Also during the later part of the period, Charles Gildon and Edmund Curll began their work on hireling "Lives. Similarly, Gildon, who was an occasional friend of Restoration authors, produced biographies with wholesale inventions in them. This writing for pay was despised by the literary authors, who called it "hack" writing. The return of the stage-struck Charles II to power in was a major event in English theatre history.

As soon as the previous Puritan regime's ban on public stage representations was lifted, the drama recreated itself quickly and abundantly. Two theatre companies, the King's and the Duke's Company, were established in London, with two luxurious playhouses built to designs by Christopher Wren and fitted with moveable scenery and thunder and lightning machines. Traditionally, Restoration plays have been studied by genre rather than chronology, more or less as if they were all contemporary, but scholars today insist on the rapid evolvement of drama in the period and on the importance of social and political factors affecting it.

Unless otherwise indicated, the account below is based on Hume's influential Development of English Drama in the Late Seventeenth Century , The influence of theatre company competition and playhouse economics is also acknowledged, as is the significance of the appearance of the first professional actresses see Howe.

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In the s and s, the London scene was vitalised by the competition between the two patent companies. The need to rise to the challenges of the other house made playwrights and managers extremely responsive to public taste, and theatrical fashions fluctuated almost week by week. From the production of new plays dropped sharply, affected both by a merger between the two companies and by the political turmoil of the Popish Plot and the Exclusion crisis The s were especially lean years for comedy, the only exception being the remarkable career of Aphra Behn , whose achievement as the first professional British woman dramatist has been the subject of much recent study.

There was a swing away from comedy to serious political drama, reflecting preoccupations and divisions following on the political crisis. The few comedies produced also tended to be political in focus, the whig dramatist Thomas Shadwell sparring with the tories John Dryden and Aphra Behn. In the calmer times after , Londoners were again ready to be amused by stage performance, but the single "United Company" was not well prepared to offer it. No longer powered by competition, the company had lost momentum and been taken over by predatory investors "Adventurers" , while management in the form of the autocratic Christopher Rich attempted to finance a tangle of "farmed" shares and sleeping partners by slashing actors' salaries.

The upshot of this mismanagement was that the disgruntled actors set up their own co-operative company in Comedies like William Congreve 's Love For Love and The Way of the World , and John Vanbrugh 's The Relapse and The Provoked Wife were "softer" and more middle class in ethos, very different from the aristocratic extravaganza twenty years earlier, and aimed at a wider audience. If "Restoration literature" is the literature that reflects and reflects upon the court of Charles II, Restoration drama arguably ends before Charles II's death, as the playhouse moved rapidly from the domain of courtiers to the domain of the city middle classes.

On the other hand, Restoration drama shows altogether more fluidity and rapidity than other types of literature, and so, even more than in other types of literature, its movements should never be viewed as absolute. Each decade has brilliant exceptions to every rule and entirely forgettable confirmations of it. Genre in Restoration drama is peculiar.

Authors labelled their works according to the old tags, "comedy" and "drama" and, especially, "history", but these plays defied the old categories. From onwards, new dramatic genres arose, mutated, and intermixed very rapidly.

Separate Domains? Women and Authority in Early Modern England

In tragedy, the leading style in the early Restoration period was the male-dominated heroic drama , exemplified by John Dryden's The Conquest of Granada and Aureng-Zebe which celebrated powerful, aggressively masculine heroes and their pursuit of glory both as rulers and conquerors, and as lovers. These plays were sometimes called by their authors' histories or tragedies, and contemporary critics will call them after Dryden's term of " Heroic drama ".

Heroic dramas centred on the actions of men of decisive natures, men whose physical and sometimes intellectual qualities made them natural leaders. In one sense, this was a reflection of an idealised king such as Charles or Charles's courtiers might have imagined. However, such dashing heroes were also seen by the audiences as occasionally standing in for noble rebels who would redress injustice with the sword. The plays were, however, tragic in the strictest definition, even though they were not necessarily sad.

In the s and s, a gradual shift occurred from heroic to pathetic tragedy, where the focus was on love and domestic concerns, even though the main characters might often be public figures. After the phenomenal success of Elizabeth Barry in moving the audience to tears in the role of Monimia in Thomas Otway's The Orphan , "she-tragedies" a term coined by Nicholas Rowe , which focused on the sufferings of an innocent and virtuous woman, became the dominant form of pathetic tragedy. Elizabeth Howe has argued that the most important explanation for the shift in taste was the emergence of tragic actresses whose popularity made it unavoidable for dramatists to create major roles for them.

With the conjunction of the playwright "master of pathos" Thomas Otway and the great tragedienne Elizabeth Barry in The Orphan , the focus shifted from hero to heroine. While she-tragedies were more comfortably tragic, in that they showed women who suffered for no fault of their own and featured tragic flaws that were emotional rather than moral or intellectual, their success did not mean that more overtly political tragedy was not staged.

The Exclusion crisis brought with it a number of tragic implications in real politics, and therefore any treatment of, for example, the Earl of Essex several versions of which were circulated and briefly acted at non-patent theatres could be read as seditious. Thomas Otway's Venice Preserv'd of was a royalist political play that, like Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel , seemed to praise the king for his actions in the meal tub plot.

Otway's play had the floating city of Venice stand in for the river town of London , and it had the dark senatorial plotters of the play stand in for the Earl of Shaftesbury. It even managed to figure in the Duke of Monmouth , Charles's illegitimate, war-hero son who was favoured by many as Charles's successor over the Roman Catholic James. Venice Preserv'd is, in a sense, the perfect synthesis of the older politically royalist tragedies and histories of Dryden and the newer she-tragedies of feminine suffering, for, although the plot seems to be a political allegory , the action centres on a woman who cares for a man in conflict, and most of the scenes and dialogue concern her pitiable sufferings at his hands.

Restoration comedy is notorious for its sexual explicitness, a quality encouraged by Charles II personally and by the rakish aristocratic ethos of his court. The best-known plays of the early Restoration period are the unsentimental or "hard" comedies of John Dryden , William Wycherley , and George Etherege , which reflect the atmosphere at Court, and celebrate an aristocratic macho lifestyle of unremitting sexual intrigue and conquest. The Earl of Rochester , real-life Restoration rake, courtier and poet, is flatteringly portrayed in Etherege's Man of Mode as a riotous, witty, intellectual, and sexually irresistible aristocrat, a template for posterity's idea of the glamorous Restoration rake actually never a very common character in Restoration comedy.

The single writer who most supports the charge of obscenity levelled then and now at Restoration comedy is probably Wycherley. During the second wave of Restoration comedy in the s, the "softer" comedies of William Congreve and John Vanbrugh reflected mutating cultural perceptions and great social change. The playwrights of the s set out to appeal to more socially mixed audiences with a strong middle-class element, and to female spectators, for instance by moving the war between the sexes from the arena of intrigue into that of marriage.

The focus in comedy is less on young lovers outwitting the older generation, more on marital relations after the wedding bells.

The Cultural Contexts for Female Theatricality

In Congreve's plays, the give-and-take set pieces of couples still testing their attraction for each other have mutated into witty prenuptial debates on the eve of marriage, as in the famous "Proviso" scene in The Way of the World Restoration drama had a bad reputation for three centuries. The "incongruous" mixing of comedy and tragedy beloved by Restoration audiences was decried. The Victorians denounced the comedy as too indecent for the stage, [12] and the standard reference work of the early 20th century, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature , dismissed the tragedy as being of "a level of dulness and lubricity never surpassed before or since".

The Restoration spectacular, or elaborately staged machine play , hit the London public stage in the late 17th-century Restoration period, enthralling audiences with action, music, dance, moveable scenery , baroque illusionistic painting , gorgeous costumes, and special effects such as trapdoor tricks, "flying" actors, and fireworks. From the start, these shows had ill reputations as vulgar and commercial threats to the witty, "legitimate" Restoration dramas. They drew Londoners in unprecedented numbers, however, and left them dazzled and delighted.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Main article: Heroic drama. See also: She-tragedy. Main article: Restoration comedy. Main article: Restoration spectacular.

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Retrieved on February 27, Margaret Drabble. Macaulay, Thomas Babington Retrieved on 27 February Categories : Early Modern English literature History of literature. The first topic here, "Gender, Family, Household: Seventeenth-Century Norms and Controversies," provides important religious, legal, and domestic advice texts through which to explore cultural assumptions about gender roles and the patriarchal family.

English drama

It also invites attention to how those assumptions are modified or challenged in the practices of actual families and households; in tracts on transgressive subjects cross-dressing, women speaking in church, divorce ; in women's texts asserting women's worth, talents, and rights; and especially in the upheavals of the English Revolution.

The protagonists here are not martial heroes but a domestic couple who must, both before and after their Fall, deal with questions hotly contested in the seventeenth century but also perennial: how to build a good marital relationship; how to think about science, astronomy, and the nature of things; what constitutes tyranny, servitude, and liberty; what history teaches; how to meet the daily challenges of love, work, education, change, temptation, and deceptive rhetoric; how to reconcile free will and divine providence; and how to understand and respond to God's ways.

The third topic, "Civil Wars of Ideas: Seventeenth-Century Politics, Religion, and Culture," provides an opportunity to explore, through political and polemical treatises and striking images, some of the issues and conflicts that led to civil war and the overthrow of monarchical government — These include royal absolutism vs.

Anglicanism, church ritual and ornament vs.


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