Current Issue Article Abstracts

Volume 85, Number 1  Spring 2022


Introduction: Performance and the Paper Stage, 1640–1700
Emma Depledge, Rachel Willie

THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY was marked by attempts to limit access to the London theaters and by important developments in the trade in playbooks. The public theaters were closed when civil war broke out in 1642, and they remained closed for eighteen years. The punishments for performing plays during the ban were severe; as ordinances for theater closure state, punitive measures included the confiscation of profits and costumes, public whipping, arrests, and fines for audience members. The theaters were reopened shortly after the monarchy was restored in 1660, but only two playhouses were licensed for performance in London for most of the period 1660–1700, with their managers—William Davenant (Duke's Company) and Thomas Killigrew (King's Company)—to "suffer no rival companies."


Foreword: Early Printed Responses to the Closing of London's Playhouses, 1641–43
Christopher Highley

IN ONE OF EARLY MODERN ENGLAND's most unlikely volte-faces, the notorious antitheatricalist William Prynne penned a tract defending the public stage. Published in 1649, Mr William Prynn His Defence of Stage-Plays reversed the same author's landmark denunciation of theater in his Histrio-mastix. The Players Scourge, or, Actors Tragædie (1633). Prynne's reference in the earlier work to "Women-Actors, notorious whores" was widely seen as glancing at Henrietta Maria's participation in court plays; as a result, he was quickly condemned by the court of Star Chamber to stand in the pillory and have his ears "trimmed." Prynne's outrage in the 1630s at what he considered the growing authoritarianism of the king, and the threats from bishops and a Catholic queen, had turned by 1649 into alarm at "a Tyrannical, abominable, lewd, schismatical [and] hæretical Army" that not only held the king captive but also controlled Parliament following Pride's Purge of its moderate members in December 1648.


Ladies Rampant: Thomas Middleton's Two New Playes in the English Republic
Justin Kuhn

This essay examines the joint publication of Thomas Middleton's More Dissemblers besides Women (1614) and Women Beware Women (1621) as Two New Playes in protectorate England. Scholars have highlighted these Jacobean plays' sympathetic treatment of female characters and Middleton's interest in the plight of women generally. When these two plays were published together in 1657, however, their depiction of gender-based hierarchies gained new meaning and significance. Instead of critiquing patriarchal oppression, the plays helped to define the republican body politic as exclusively masculine, promoting a patriarchal model of republican governance at a time of unprecedented political participation among women.


Holland House in the 1650s: Evidence and Possibilities of Interregnum Theatrical Entertainment
Christopher Matusiak

According to James Wright's Historia Histrionica (1699), when professional stage players were prohibited from acting publicly during the English civil wars, they gravitated toward aristocratic residences, "in particular Holland-house at Kensington." This essay identifies the experiences of Holland House's principal proprietor, Isabel Rich (née Cope), first Countess of Holland, as the principal sponsor of these clandestine Kensington performances. Motivating her patronage, the essay argues, were the countess's obligations within an aristocratic moral economy; contemporary nostalgia for the prewar King's Men; the postwar affective dimensions of "mirth"; and investment in theater as a form of passive resistance to the authority of the new English republic.


The Paper Feast in Late Stuart London: Feast Tickets, Advertisements, Songs, Sermons, and Entertainments
Newton Key

Late Stuart London hosted a variety of semipublic feasts; the most common were for those born in a particular county or town, but others fêted alumni or those sharing a patronymic. Although the antecedents of these feasts extend to the early seventeenth century, the number of such feasts expanded from the 1650s onward. And the printed ephemera associated with these feasts—newspaper advertisements, sermons, printed tickets or forms, poems, songs, and even a playbook—were new. This essay explores the performative roles of this feast ephemera, from publicizing feasts, to commemorating the event, to providing charity circulars, to creating a wider community than that formed solely by commensality.


Ballads, Tudor Vagabonds, and Roundhead Reputations: The Restoration Afterlife of Cook Laurel
Rachel Willie

This essay examines how ballad song was appropriated to present the demise of the Rump Parliament and commemorate the restoration of the monarchy. Songs not only provide a tune through which words can be performed but also weave together disparate texts through memory of past utterances and performances. The tune "Cook Laurel" establishes a mnemonic connection between parliamentarian figures and ubiquitous rascals in Elizabethan folklore and in Ben Jonson's Gypsies Metamorphosed, performed in 1621. This use of song emphasizes and consolidates representations of parliamentarians as rogues, thus offering royalists a way to lament the regicide and to celebrate the Restoration.


Proliferating Performance, Propagating Print: The Many Lives of Restoration Drama
Stephen Watkins

This essay explores the myriad stage and paper engagements with one of the most popular plays of the Restoration period: William Davenant and John Dryden's The Tempest, or the Enchanted Island (1670). It examines the flurry of printed materials circulated in the wake of the theatrical production, tracing The Tempest's migration from performance to print and back again. By charting how audiences and readers encountered the play beyond the playhouse, Stephen Watkins argues that we will begin to more accurately assess the role that commercial drama played in the cultural and imaginative lives of the people it originally entertained.


Aphra Behn's Adaptations: Paper and Stage Sources for The Rover (1677) and Sir Patient Fancy (1678)
Claire Bowditch, Elaine Hobby

As early as 1687, Gerard Langbaine noted the tendency of the most prolific Restoration playwrights to borrow from a plurality of sources for a single play. While Langbaine's identifications of playwrights' source materials, or "thefts," have been widely expanded upon in recent decades, the precise nature (and implications) of such borrowings have been underexplored. This essay will demonstrate how close comparison between a Restoration play and its paper stage sources contributes to an understanding of what might be at issue in such "thefts." This essay's focus is on two plays by Aphra Behn: The Rover (1677) and Sir Patient Fancy (1678).


The King's Servants in Printed Paratexts, 1594–1695
Heidi Craig

This essay examines cast and actor lists, as well as other allusions to actors in prologues and epilogues, in plays printed and reprinted between 1594 and 1695. Heidi Craig addresses the evolution of attempts to record actors' involvement in print in the seventeenth century, focusing on three distinct moments in playbook publishing: before 1642, during 1642–60, and after 1660. Analyzing cast and actor lists in collections and in single-text playbooks printed to 1695, Craig argues that they function as marketing devices and as documents of theater history, revealing how revivals and print format influenced contemporary interest in the theatrical past.


Francis Kirkman, Theatrical Historian
Francis X. Connor

The authors staged most frequently during the first decade of the Restoration were John Fletcher, William Shakespeare, and Ben Jonson, codifying the post-Restoration critical history of the English theater around the "triumvirate of wit." However, patrons also saw plays by nontriumvirate authors, and publishers played an essential role in the formation of the English theatrical canon, notably by issuing catalogs. Francis Kirkman produced two of the most comprehensive and influential play catalogs of the late seventeenth century and can be identified as one of the first British literary figures to take an interest in theater that postdated classical writers but predated the "modern" triumvirate.