Module Identifier ENM1520  
Module Title THEATRE AND POLITICS, 1660-1737  
Academic Year 2001/2002  
Co-ordinator To Be Arranged  
Semester Available semesters 1 and 2  
Other staff Dr Paulina Kewes  
Course delivery Seminar   2 hours per week  
Assessment Essay   1 x 5,000 word essay    


How does politics influence theatre? What is the impact of the theatre upon politics? In this module we shall ask these questions of the period between the Resotration of Charles II in 1660 and the passage of the Licensing Act in 1737 which effectively terminated the theatre's engagement with politics. We shall read a variety of canonical and on-canonical tests, situating them in their immediate historical contexts.

English theatre of the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries was intensely political. Early in the period playwrights offered more or less veiled accounts of the recent trauma of the Civil Wars and regicide, invariably concluding with celebrations of the restored monarchy. Shortly thereafter they sought to affirm and glamorize the Stuart regime in a series of extravagant heroic plays. Yet there were dissenting voices too. For the republican and puritan John Milton, the Restoration settlement was unacceptable. His disaffection with the political 'status quo' and faith in its ultimate demise found expression in a closet drama, "Samson Agonistes", which he neither could nor wished to see produced on the stage.

With successive crises at home and abroad the mood of the drama darkened and political positions became polarised. In the latter part of the module we shall look at the Whig and Tory plays written during the years of the Popish Plot and Exclusion Crisis. We shall then explore the more subtle and complex political sentiments of the drama produced in the aftermath of the 'Glorious' Revolution and conclude by considering the satirical and burlesque drama of the 1730s driven by the playwrights' hostility towards the administration of the first British Prime Minister, Robert Walpole.

1. Restored Monarchy

   a) Sir Robert Howard, "The Committee"
   John Milton, "Samson Agonistes"

   b) Sir Robert Howard, "The Great Favourite", or "The Duke of Lerma"
   John Dryden, "The Conquest of Granada", Part 1

2-3   Popish Plot and Exclusion Crisis

   a) Thomas Otway, "The Souldiers Fortune"
   John Crowne, "City Politiques"

   b) Nathaniel Lee, "Lucius Junius Brutus
   Thomas Otway, "Caius Marius"

4. 'Glorious' Revolution

   John Dryden, "Don Sebastian" and "King Arthur"

5. Opposition to Walpole

   Henry Fielding, "The Historical Register" and "The Welsh Opera"
   John Gay, "The Beggar's Opera"


Dryden: "The Works of John Dryden", ed. Edward Niles Hooker et al., 20 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956

Fielding, Gay and Lee: Regents Restoration Drama Series

Milton: "Complete Shorter Poems", ed., John Carey (London: Longman, 1968, 1971, repr. 1992)

Otway: "Four Restoration Marriage Plays", ed. Michael Cordner and Ronald Clayton. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Plays by Howard and Crowne will be provided in photocopy and charged at cost.